Fast & Light Seminar

Fast and Light Climbing Course

5 day Alpine Climbing Instruction

The Five Day Fast & Light Alpinism Seminar is designed for those that want to more highly develop their alpine climbing and mountaineering skills. Specific emphasis is placed on identifying the type of gear required to effectively and efficiently move quickly in the mountains with a light weight pack. The emphasis on speed in the mountains can have a profound effect on achieving your goals and increasing safety margins in the process. Successful completion of this course will allow you to travel and climb competently in other major mountain ranges such as the Tetons, Sierras, or North Cascades.

Program Venues

The Sneffels Range

In May and June our courses are conducted in the Sneffels Range where we focus our efforts on ascents of objectives such as the Snake Couloir on Mt Sneffels, the Gilpin Peak Couloir and other routes such as those found on Teakettle Peak.  Due to it’s location and altitude, the Sneffels Range holds snow longer than other mountain areas throughout the San Juans. Therefore, courses in the Sneffels Range focus on general principles of alpine snow/ice climbing, including the use of crampons, ice axes, etc.

The Grenadier Range

In July and August our courses are conducted in Vestal Basin, the home of the Grenadiers and classic routes such as the Wham Ridge (III, 5.4). Course curriculum during this time of year focuses on alpine rock climbing skills up to 5.7 in difficulty. Both courses will prepare you for other technical alpine mountaineering ascents in Colorado, and qualifies you to participate in our International Programs in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Alaska, and beyond. The course culminates in at least one, and usually two, technical mountain ascents that afford you the opportunity to apply the skills and techniques that were covered during instructional portions of the course.

Low Client-to-Guide Ratios

We offer small group sizes (4:2) and low client-to-guide ratios for this program.  Our 2:1 ratio allows our guides to customize the instruction and itinerary to each individual’s specifications – insuring that you receive comprehensive instruction and excellent risk management in a complex alpine environment.  Personalized, professional instruction makes all the difference in terms of helping you to gain both technical skill and confidence in yourself for future alpine endeavors.

Have been to Chicago Basin with SJMG twice. Could not have been happier with both guides. You run a great program and your guides really do represent SJMG well! – Bob A. Chicago Basin 14’ers 2010

Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online

Fast and Light Climbing Itinerary

Day 0

Arrive to Durango or Ouray mid-afternoon. This is an important step in your acclimatization as both Ouray and Durango sit above approximately 7000′.  Stay in a hotel.

Day 1

We meet early at the San Juan Mountain Guides’ office. From there, we drive to X-Rock, one of our local rock climbing crags where we will learn the basics of belaying, rappelling, knots, and climbing technique. The foundation of alpinism has always been a background and understanding of basic rock climbing principles.

Day 2

After an early breakfast, we hitch a ride on the D&SNGRR where we will eventually be dropped off at Needleton. We begin the hike to Chicago Basin here, and will spend most of the day making our way up to our base camp, nestled amongst the home of the 14’ers in the southern San Juans.

Leading up Wham Ridge

Day 3

Today we will cover snow travel, cramponing, ice axe use, team roped travel, snow anchors, and self arrest as we prepare for our ascents of either Sunlight Peak (14,008 ft.), Mt. Eolus (14,034 ft.), or Windom Peak (14,025 ft.).

Day 4

Rising early for an alpine start, we’ll begin the ascent of one of the nearby 14’ers. Spring snow conditions characterize our route selection on this day, and depending upon conditions we may be able to climb to the summit via steep snow couloirs.

Day 5

Rising early for an alpine start, we’ll begin the ascent of one of the nearby 14’ers. Spring snow conditions characterize our route selection on this day, and depending upon conditions we may be able to climb to the summit via steep snow couloirs.

*Please note that itineraries are general and may be changed due to current conditions and participants experience and ability.

Alpine Climbing Equipment List

  • Backpack: Internal frame, 45 – 60 liters. Guides’ pick: Osprey Variant 52
  • Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-30 degrees with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
  • Sleeping pad: Guides’ pick: Thermarest NeoAir
  • Bowl, spoon, cup: Plastic/lexan
  • Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
  • Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Osprey
  • Water purification system: We recommend simple iodine tablets, but pumps are acceptable. Guides’ pick: Potable Aqua

Clothing and Personal Equipment

  • Hiking/Alpine boots: Sturdy, waterproof, comfortable boots. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
  • Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
  • Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
  • Soft shell pants: warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
  • Soft shell jacket: light weight. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
  • Insulated vest and/or jacket: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
  • Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Helium
  • Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
  • Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
  • Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
  • Camera
  • Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…

Climbing Equipment

  • Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
  • Locking carabiner: Pear shaped, wide mouth.
  • Helmet
  • Boots: Hiking boots, or alpine boots – many options. No tennis shoes.
  • Crampons: General mountaineering crampons (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)
  • Mountaineering Axe: 60 – 70 cm mountain axe (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)

Training & Follow Up Climbs

As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.

1Before Your Trip

Climbing Wham Ridge

This trip is a strenuous trip conducted at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Therefore, previous experience hiking in the mountains and/or multi-day backpacking experience will be very helpful to you on this program. Though the actual climbing level required for this trip is not difficult, the best training regimen would include a mixture of cardiovascular fitness training (running, biking, hiking etc.), and muscular/core fitness exercises. The addition of some Yoga/stretching exercises will help to insure that you maintain good muscular flexibility as well.

For the Fast & Light Alpinism Seminar you should be ready for:

  • Hiking approximately 6-7 miles per day with up to a 40 lb pack at altitudes between 8,000′ – 11,000 ‘
  • 8 – 10 hour summit days with a lighter “day pack”
  • Wilderness living

2Follow Up Climbs

I found this to be a great experience and enjoyed all of the personnel and guides associated with San Juan – particularly Matt Pickren! – Steve K. 2011 Private Program

Durango, Colorado: Getting Here

Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip. The SJMG Durango office is located at 1111 Camino Del Rio, Durango, CO 81301.

View Larger Map

Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.

Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.

  • Montrose, CO: 2 hours
  • Ouray, CO: 1.5 hours
  • Denver, CO: 6 hours
  • Albuquerque, NM: 3.5 hours
  • Salt Lake City, UT: 6 hours

Hotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.

Additional Information

  • Cost Includes:

On the summit

  • Guiding and trip leadership
  • Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
  • Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
  • Harness, helmet

  • Not Included:

  • Transportation to Durango, CO
  • Hotel costs before or after the courses
  • Trip Food (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • Train tixx if applicable
  • 5% land use surcharge
  • Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
  • Personal backpacking climbing clothing
  • Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
  • Guide gratuity

  • Registration and Cancellation:

Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.

The guides were professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. The office staff was also great and very helpful. Thanks for a great trip and I look forward to more trips with San Juan Mountain Guides. – Trevor Y. Chicago Basin 14’ers 2011


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