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August 1, 2011
8 Day Alpine Leadership Course
August 7, 2011
Morgan and Tom at the Beaver Ponds on the Colorado Trail. Behind them stand Vestal and Arrow Peaks.

Morgan and Tom at the Beaver Ponds on the Colorado Trail. Behind them stand Vestal and Arrow Peaks.

Father and son duo Tom and Morgan came out from North Carolina this mid July to test their knowledge against, and learn more in, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. We began with rock climbing at one of our local Durango crags; X Rock. Here we covered anchors, belaying, knots, safe climbing skills and a handful of other rope work tricks and tips. Day 2 we utilized everything covered on Day 1, as well as added multi pitch climbing, building more natural anchors, and more efficient climbing technique. Now that our arms were sufficiently tired, Day 3 brought on the leg workout. We planned on climbing Snowdon Peak’s, 13,077, West Buttress. However around 12,650 feet, the weather gods decided otherwise. Thunder turned us around, but this change in events allowed us to cover more efficient alpine climbing skills that Tom and Morgan could take with them on other climbs in the future.

The next three day leg of the course were spent in Vestal Basin. Here we climbed Arrow Peak’s, 13,803, Northeast ramp. We snuck this climb in between rain drops as it rained all the previously night and began again around 11:30 AM. Luckily, with such a highly spirited couple of climbers, morals were never threatened. We played Rummy for hours, practised rope work during lulls in the rain and had fun watching the mountain goats in our camp. The Durango – Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad brought us back to Durango where we added crampons and ice axes to our assortment of gear.

Day 7 we hiked into the breath-taking Ice Lakes Basin. We set up camp at 12,240 feet on the shores of the blue-green Ice Lake and relaxed. Later that afternoon we covered how to walk in crampons, including the important rest step. Next, we slid on the snow and ice practising ice axe arresting. Tom and Morgan did awesome, perfecting all four body positions. Morgan couldn’t stop smiling!

The next morning Morgan and I climbed Fuller Peak, 13,761, Vermillion Peak, 13,894, and Golden Horn, 13,780. This cirque is a great place to practise snow skills and get the chance to ridge-run from summit to summit. That afternoon we hiked back to the car and had lunch in Ouray. The last day we had a “check out day” as we called it. This settled any unsure thoughts Tom and Morgan had about anchors and climbing. Now they were able to climb safely on their own back at home. Good work in Colorado and enjoy your new skills back East.

Morgan and Tom halfway up 'I Need a Shower' 5.8

Morgan and Tom halfway up 'I Need a Shower' 5.8

About to rappel

About to rappel

Harnessing up at the base of Snowdon's West Buttress

Harnessing up at the base of Snowdon's West Buttress

12,200 feet at 6:15 AM. "You awake Morgan?"

12,200 feet at 6:15 AM. "You awake Morgan?"

Summit shot on Arrow. Looking Southeast.

Summit shot on Arrow. Looking Southeast.

East face of Pigeon through the clouds. Come and climb it!

East face of Pigeon through the clouds. Come and climb it!

Morgan getting some late season skiiing in July.

Tom getting some late season skiiing in July.

Vestal Basin welcome party.

Vestal Basin welcome party.

Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad picking us up at Elk Park in the heart of the San Juan mountains

Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad picking us up at Elk Park in the heart of the San Juan mountains

Son and father standing in front of Island Lake just above Ice Lakes. Still ice on some of it.

Son and father standing in front of Island Lake just above Ice Lakes. Still ice on some of it.

Yours truly and Morgan at the Ice Lake camp. Fuller on the left, Vermilion in the middle and Golden Horn on the right.

Yours truly and Morgan at the Ice Lake camp. Fuller on the left, Vermilion in the middle and Golden Horn on the right.

Morgan on the summit of Vermilion, looking north towards Golden Horn.

Morgan on the summit of Vermilion, looking north towards Golden Horn.