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3-Day Alpine Climbing Fundamentals

Climbing Photography Clinic
August 22, 2022

Introduction to Alpine Climbing

The high peaks in Yankee Boy Basin located in the San Juan Mountain Range offers one of the best venues in the country during springtime for aspiring alpine climbers to build upon their alpine climbing and mountaineering skills. The 3-Day Alpine Climbing Fundamentals Course in Ouray utilizes world class climbing areas as the classroom to teach vital alpine climbing skills on mixed snow, ice and rock terrain. This venue will provide the perfect setting for you to learn the necessary skills and leave the course as a competent climbing partner with the knowledge and ability to begin your own alpine endeavors.

Our 3-Day Alpine Climbing Fundamentals Course is designed for those who are new to alpine snow & rock climbing and would like to experience what the backcountry has to offer and gain valuable skills for future mountain adventures. This is the perfect course to satisfy your curiosity if you’ve been thinking about transitioning to more backcountry climbing routes in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains or other mountain west destinations such as the North Cascades, Sierras, or Tetons.

The Course Progression

This course is designed for the person looking to learn the skills and techniques to start climbing in alpine environments. These skills will be learned in the perfect alpine climbing setting of Yankee Boy Basin, where you will be climbing on spring snow, possibly some ice, and moderate alpine rock surrounded by some of the most beautiful vistas and wildlife Colorado has to offer.

rexerBelaying & Rappelling methods in the alpine
rexerRock, Snow, & Alpine anchors and application
rexerSnow climbing basics & ice axe use
rexerCrampon techniques and application
rexerRoute planning, maps, and GPS nav techniques
rexerTrip planning and packing
rexerWilderness travel and LNT principles
rexerPacing and time management
rexerTechnical climbing instruction on mixed alpine terrain

2023 Dates

June 24 – 26


$899 per person

rexerNo Hidden Fees


  • Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
  • All alpine climbing gear (harness, helmet, boots, crampons etc.),
  • Transportation to/from our Ouray office to the trailhead and back





3-Day Alpine Climbing Fundamentals Course Itinerary

Day 0

Arrive in Ouray the day before the trip begins and check in to your hotel.  Ideally you would want to arrive in the late morning or early afternoon to help aid in your adjustment to the altitude (if necessary).

Day 1

The course starts off meeting at our Ouray office to talk about the course, the participant’s expectations and their goals. Right after intros we’re going to discuss the gear needed and issue any missing gear. From there we will travel to a nearby local crag and get right into learning alpine skills. At the crag you will learn all the skills and techniques needed for the next two days of climbing. Depending on the participant’s ability and comprehension of the skills needed there maybe time in the day to finish off with a multi-pitch climb. Stay in a hotel.

Day 2

We meet in the morning and head up to Yankee Boy Basin to focus on snow school for the day. We will drive up to about 11,000′ where we will find an ideal snow slope to learn the fundamentals of walking on snow, crampon technique & application, ice axe use, self arrest & more. We will also take time to focus on snow anchoring menthods for belaying and rappelling in a snow/ice environment. Finally we will slide around and practice the crucial skill of self arrest! Have no fear, this will be fun and on inconsequential terrain! After we wrap up skills, we’ll head back

to Ouray to chat about trip planning, packing for an alpine objective & formulate a plan for the next day’s climb in Yankee Boy Basin. Stay in a hotel.

Day 3

The last day begins early with an alpine start to do our chosen alpine objective in the beautiful Yankee Boy Basin. Potential objectives include the Snake Couloir on Mount Sneffels, the North Couloir on Gilpin Peak or a route on Teakettle Mountain. Afterwards we will meet together and finalize the course with a debrief and discuss your performance on the course and next logical steps for you to take in the progression. Depart.

Intro to Alpine Climbing Equipment List

Duffel BagDescriptionGuide's Pick
1 - 2 Large, durable bags for oragnizing and transporting your gear during airline travel etc.
BackpackDescriptionGuide's Pick
Osprey’s Variant 52 is the ultimate pack for expedition and high alpine climbers. Designed to carry specialized mountain gear such as skis, wands, ice protection, and ice tools, this pack can be easily stripped down to minimize weight for a summit push.
ThermosDescriptionGuide's Pick
Coffee is the lifeblood of champions. We highly encourage the consumption of coffee on our programs. The darker the better.
Water BottlesDescriptionGuide's Pick
We recommend wide mouth Nalgene (or similar) water bottles for the majority of our programs. Two 1 liter bottles is the standard for days in the mountains.
Bottle InsulatorsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Insulating water bottle parkas are recommended in the winter months, for ice climbing or cold weather alpine trips.
Stuff SacksDescriptionGuide's Pick
Stuff sacks are a great way to organize your gear in your pack and help to keep things tidy in a variety of ways. A great addition to any of our programs.
Personal FoodDescriptionGuide's Pick
Lunch begins when breakfast ends and ends when dinner begins. Bring what you like to eat and consider the length, relative difficulty, weight, and other factors when deciding what to bring in the mountains with you. A variety is always best. Don't be afraid of Mr. T.
SunglassesDescriptionGuide's Pick
A good pair of wrap around sunglasses are an essential item for all of our trips. When the sun shines brightly on fresh snow in the mountains your eyes will thank you for a quality pair of shades. Looking good is important too.
SunscreenDescriptionGuide's Pick
Essential for all of our programs. SPF 30 would be our minimum recommendation. Typically a 4 oz. bottle will suffice but consider trip length when deciding how much to pack.
Lip BalmDescriptionGuide's Pick
Lip balm is important to bring on all trips. SPF 15 or higher is recommended.
HeadlampDescriptionGuide's Pick
A headlamp is recommended for all of our programs and is an essential piece of equipment you will use in a variety of circumstances. Most LED type headlamps will do but we recommend the Black Diamond Storm for its versatility.
First Aid KitDescriptionGuide's Pick
An excellent investment for all of our programs. Our guides always carry a comprehensive medical kit but it's nice to have your own as well.
Small KnifeDescriptionGuide's Pick
A small knife is an indispensable tool to carry with you in the mountains. We like the Spatha knife for its size, weight, versatility, and ability to clip onto a harness.
Digital CameraDescriptionGuide's Pick
While phones these days offer excellent quality, nothing beats the reliability of a dedicated digital camera. You'll be glad you brought it and your guide will make sure to help capture the moment of you being awesome.
Hand WarmersDescriptionGuide's Pick
An optional item, but nice to have on cold weather climbs and courses. Consider having a few stowed away in your pack and you can break them out if you feel you need them.
SocksDescriptionGuide's Pick
Synthetic socks area must for all outdoor activities. Select a pair that fits well, is warm, and is comfortable. Bring 2-3 pairs depending on the type of trip.
Base Layer TopDescriptionGuide's Pick
Choosing the right base layer really makes a difference in comfort, moisture-wicking, and the balance between cool and warm at the right time and in the right places. The Outdoor Research Echo Hoody also offers good sun protection.
Base Layer BottomDescriptionGuide's Pick
Similar to the base layer top. These are wear all the time in all conditions base layer pants. A must have for alpine and ice climbing trips and objectives.
Mid Weight TopDescriptionGuide's Pick
A midlayer for anything from ski tours to alpine ascents, the CoEfficient Hoody features Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency fleece with a gridded interior for increased wicking performance and added breathability. The under-the-helmet hood and full-length zipper let you regulate temperature on the go, so you don’t find yourself overheating a half hour into the day. A slim cut helps the CoEfficient Hoody fit comfortably under your shell, and with a redsigned, trim fit, this layer takes up little space in your pack.
Soft Shell JacketDescriptionGuide's Pick
Our most ruggedly built Ferrosi piece is an alpine focused style that can really take a beating. Using Cordura® fabric in the main body, this hooded jacket provides additional abrasion-resistance while shrugging off wind and light rain. The Halo Hood™ seals out bad weather without limiting peripheral vision.
Soft Shell PantsDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Cirque Pants are a durable, heavy-weight technical soft shell pant built for high-energy climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing. The highly breathable, wind and weather-resistant double-weave stretch fabric excels in high-mountain conditions. The zippered thigh pocket ensures energy bars and maps remain easily accessible.
Insulated ParkaDescriptionGuide's Pick
Pack it for those days where you need just a touch of down insulation, or on those cold days on the chairlift when an extra layer might be crucial. Our new hooded version of the Filament has the same design as the popular hood-less version and a DWR-treated shell of ultralight 10D Pertex® Quantum GL keeps moisture away from premium 800-fill down inside.
Insulated VestDescriptionGuide's Pick
Same spirit, same guts, and same award-winning hybrid-mapped design of the Cathode Hooded Jacket, minus the sleeves and hood. An insulated vest is an optional item on our programs but we do think vests offer excellent flexible layering options in a variety of circumstances, weather conditions, and trip types.
Shell JacketDescriptionGuide's Pick
Our Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal “Gear of the Year” award-winning storm shell is engineered for fast-and-light alpine climbs and all-day backcountry tours. You need at minimum either a soft shell jacket or hard shell jacket for local Ouray based winter courses and programs.
Built for flash-storm protection, the 100% waterproof, super-breathable Helium II weighs an incredibly light 6.4 ounces. An ultra-compressible piece you’ll never leave behind, it’s so light and packs down so small you’ll forget it’s clipped to your harness until you throw it on to ward off a sudden mid-route downpour.
Shell PantsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Waterproof, breathable and lightweight, the GORE-TEX® Foray Pants provide dependable rain protection and shrug off the wear-and-tear of the trail and cityscape alike.
Warm HatDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Booster’s reversible design lets you choose. The soft yarn blend will provide a cozy sanctuary throughout winter’s chill.
Baseball CapDescriptionGuide's Pick
A required item on the majority of our programs, a baseball cap helps to keep harmful sun off your face. The Radar Pocket cap is packable, durable, and looks great!
Lightweight GlovesDescriptionGuide's Pick
Updated for touchscreen compatibility, the StormTracker Sensor Gloves are equally at home alpine climbing, ski touring or ice climbing. Low-profile GORE® WINDSTOPPER®. Soft Shell fabric deflects biting gusts, and a tricot lining retains valuable heat.
Midweight GlovesDescriptionGuide's Pick
Built to handle cold mornings on the up-track and powder turns all the way back down, these versatile gloves feature a new stretch nylon shell outer, a goat leather palm with textured fingertips, and a warm, quick-drying wool blend lining.
Belay DeviceDescriptionGuide's Pick
A belay device is a required item on any of our technical climbing or mountaineering courses. While not necessary to have the Guide ATC specifically, we think owning one of these offers additional versatility as you progress and gain additional knowledge about the various levels of functionality provided by a device of this type.
HarnessDescriptionGuide's Pick
The BD Aspect Harness is a great all around performer for all types of climbing - ice, rock, alpine etc. The adjustable leg loops and integrated ice clipper loops make this a solid investment as your do-all harness.
Locking CarabinersDescriptionGuide's Pick
We recommend at minimum 2 - 3 personal locking carabiners on our climbing courses and any technical private guided program. We prefer classic screw gate carabiners over other types of locking mechanisms.
Climbing HelmetDescriptionGuide's Pick
A versatile, hybrid-shell helmet for lightweight protection in any discipline, the Vector features excellent ventilation and a ratcheting adjuster.
Balaclava or BuffDescriptionGuide's Pick
Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, Original BUFF® headwear is the product that started the multifunctional headwear revolution. At its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. We recommend the BUFF for all of our programs as a multi-purpose insulation piece and trendy headgear!
Non Locking CarabinersDescriptionGuide's Pick
A selection of non-locking carabiners is recommended on all of our technical climbing programs. Consider at least 4 - 6 and we prefer wire gate carabiners over more traditional gate carabiners. Many options exist so just consider a variety when putting your carabiner rack together!
Climbing BootsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Light and fast this boot makes you feel like a wood nymph bounding through the mountains. All synthetic and designed for spider like alpine climbing performance; it is waterproof and ready for a semi-automatic crampon. The Vibram® Mulaz outsole, has an edging platform and sticky Supertrek Rubber. The 3D Flex™ ankle provides supreme ankle maneuverability for technical routes.
Adjustable Trekking PolesDescriptionGuide's Pick
This is an optional item on our programs. However, a good pair of trekking poles is a worthy piece of gear to have with you for long approaches or treks through the mountains. There are many added benefits to trekking poles. The new BD Distance series poles are light, collapsible, and adjustable.
CordelletesDescriptionGuide's Pick
Accessory cord or cordelette material is essential equipment that offer great versatility in use and application. Consider getting a few for your climbing rack.
SlingsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing slings or runners are an excellent compliment to your climbing gear. Versatile in their use and applicability, consider having a few of each length on your rack.
Sleeping PadDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season mattress is lightweight, durable, extremely warm, and the ultimate solution to year-round backcountry comfort. Stable construction and 2.5-inch thickness offer greater comfort for a full night of sleep, so you won't feel the uneven, rough terrain beneath you.
Sleeping BagDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30 Degree Sleeping Bag large cut sleeping bag for bigger folks or those seeking plenty of space. Have a fear of being closed in or perhaps a wide set of shoulders? This 850+ down fill sleeping bag has a 64" shoulder girth and 39" foot girth. Lay back and enjoy being wrapped in soft, fluffy down on nights down to 30°F.
Mountain CramponsDescriptionGuide's Pick
A classic 10-point crampon for mountaineering and glacier travel, the Contact features a durable stainless steel construction and a stable, lightweight design. Available in a Strap or Clip version.

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.

Before Your Trip

Familiarity with basic climbing principles such as knots, belaying, rappelling, and rock climbing technique can be very helpful for our Intro Course participants. Though not required, prior multi-day backpacking experience will help you to acquire and assimilate the information covered in our mountaineering course progression as quickly as possible.

For the Intro to Alpine Climbing Course you should be ready for:

  • Hiking approximately 4 – 6 miles per day with up to a 30 lb pack at altitudes between 8,000′ – 11,000 ‘
  • 5 – 7 hour summit days with a lighter “day pack”
  • Wilderness travel and backcountry ethics

Follow Up Climbs

  • Denali Prep Course
  • Alaska Mountaineering Seminar
  • Private Alpine Guiding
  • Long’s Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park


Ouray, Colorado: Getting Here

Ouray is located in the SW corner of Colorado, approximately 30 minutes south of Montrose. Known as “The Switzerland of America”, the town of Ouray is a vibrant outdoor oriented community. All local businesses are very friendly to the ice climbers who flock each winter to climb in the Ouray Ice Park and surrounding areas.


The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, CO, however, many airlines now offer direct flights into Montrose – especially during the summer and winter months.

It is also possible to fly into Grand Junction, Durango, Telluride, or Denver CO. It may be necessary to rent a car and drive to Ouray if you’d like to fly into one of these airports.


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: 45 minutes
  • Durango, CO: 2 hours
  • Denver, CO: 5.5 hours


Ouray 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 suit you best for this trip!


Program Policies

Registration & Cancellation

Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone 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.


  • Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
  • All alpine climbing gear (harness, helmet, boots, crampons etc.),
  • Round-trip transportation to and from trailhead


  • Transportation to Ouray, CO
  • Hotel costs before, during, or after the program
  • Guide gratuity
  • Lunch food or snacks
  • Personal hiking/climbing clothing
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
  • Costs associated with weather delays or other variables beyond the control of San Juan Mountain Guides


This program will be run by SJMG Guide Suzanna Lourie. Suzanna has been with SJMG since 2019. A mountain lover for as long as she can remember, Suzanna honed in on a passion for alpine rock and ice climbing after she joined SJMG in 2019 as a member of the Administrative Team. Over the past several years, Suzanna has pursued her passion for climbing and guiding by developing herself as a professional.

Suzanna is an AMGA Apprentice Alpine & Ice Guide who aspires to be a fully certified Alpine Guide by the year 2025. She is taking her AMGA Rock Guide Course this fall, and is committed to rounding out her skill set as a climber and mountain guide in all realms. Suzanna came to technical climbing as a self-proclaimed “scrambler” and mountain runner who has loved exploring unknown corners of remote mountain ranges for as long as she can remember. After moving to Ouray in 2019, Suzanna discovered her true passion: ice climbing. Within 3 years we watched Suzanna go from having never swung a tool to leading multi-pitch ice routes and ultimately taking an Ice Instructor Course in 2022 and guiding backcountry ice for SJMG in 2023. If there’s ice in these hills, she’ll find it!

Suzanna loves complex alpine terrain because of the inherent challenge it presents. She enjoys the puzzle of moving through mixed terrain where snow, ice, rock and sometimes even glaciers, are all part of the equation. Suzanna thrives on high alpine missions in remote places and is passionate about empowering others to learn the skills they need to develop self-sufficiency in alpine environments. Learning to climb and move independently in the mountains is something that Suzanna feels transformed her own life drastically, and she is passionate about helping others gain these skills to realize their full potential in the mountains or in whatever natural environment they might be called to.

Suzanna wanted to run a local alpine climbing course before heading to the Cascades for a month because there is an abundance of amazing terrain in excellent condition that is ripe for this sort of opportunity. SJMG has not offered a group alpine course of this nature since before COVID and Suzanna hopes this program might bridge a gap for the aspiring alpine climbers and peak baggers out there with their sights set on snowy peaks in the greater ranges.

Book This Trip!

Online Registration

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Or, call 800.642.5389 to register