On April 26, 1912, a dedicated group of service-minded, outdoor oriented people gathered in Denver to form the Colorado Mountain Club. James Grafton Rogers, a Denver attorney who would be integral to the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park, was the first President of the Club. The CMC's very first trip was to Denver s Cheesman Park, now in the heart of the capital city. On May 30, 1912, the Club conducted its first official mountain trip, a hike to the top of South Boulder Peak.
From twenty-five charter members united in their love of the mountains, the Club rapidly grew to two hundred members barely a year later, when the CMC became a nonprofit corporation. Charter members included Enos Mills, whose efforts were influential in establishing Rocky Mountain National Park; Roger Toll, who held the prestigious positions of superintendent at Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, and Mount Rainier National Parks; and Carl Blaurock, who along with William Ervin was the first to climb all of Colorado's known 14,000-foot peaks.
In 1974 the Club purchased its first permanent home on West Alameda Avenue in Denver. In 1993 the CMC elected to partner with the American Alpine Club to found the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado. The building houses the largest mountaineering library in the Western Hemisphere and the nations only museum dedicated to mountaineering history.
Reflecting the growing complexity of its affairs, the CMC welcomed its first Executive Director in 1994 and now has a staff of dedicated employees to supplement the Club's volunteer efforts.
Imagine the efforts required to hike in Colorado at the time of the CMC's founding in 1912. The Club's archives reveal a fascinating story of that era in the form of written accounts and photographs.
Maps of nearly one hundred years ago showed precious little detail. Transportation was certainly less convenient and reliable. Clothing of the time commonly consisted of cotton and wool, high hobnail boots and long skirts for women. Heavy wool blankets were used rather than lightweight sleeping bags. Rain-soaked gear and blistered feet were part of the experience. But still those early challenges cannot mask the smiling faces in the photos of the CMC's earliest pioneers.
A Rich Legacy of Volunteerism
Throughout the years volunteerism has been the Club's lifeblood. Volunteers have guided the direction of the Club, managed local CMC Groups, organized and conducted schools and programs, led trips, and spoken out on environmental issues.
CMC's Board of Directors, officers, Group officers, instructors and trip leaders are all unpaid volunteers. In its earliest years, only the Club's "qualified members"-- or members who had climbed just one Fourteener -- could serve on the Board.
The Organization of Other Clubs in Colorado
Around the time the CMC was organized in Denver in 1912, mountain enthusiasts were also organizing clubs in Colorado Springs and Boulder. The Colorado Springs club joined the CMC in 1919 and became the CMC's Pikes Peak Group; the following year the Front Range Club joined and became the Boulder Group. The Fort Collins Group was formed in 1921.
The Denver Group did not come into official existence until 1938 because until that point the CMC's Board of Directors also managed local matters for the Denver membership. The Western Slope Group was formed in 1950, the El Pueblo Group in 1962, a Longmont area group--the Longs Peak Group--in 1963, and the San Juan Group in 1965.
Other CMC Groups include Aspen, Colorado Wilderness Kids, Gore Range, Shining Mountains, Friends of Routt Backcountry, and for out-of-state CMCers the Friends of Colorado.
CMC Schools - teaching mountaineering techniques since 1939
Realizing that every expert was once a beginner -- but the beginner may always remain so unless taught -- the CMC formed its first school in 1939 to teach mountaineering techniques. In 1947 the Denver and Boulder Groups organized their first climbing schools, closely followed by the Pikes Peak Group in 1950.
The Denver Group started its Basic Mountaineering class in the 1950s, followed by an avalanche awareness course. Today, CMC members continue to benefit from the invaluable instruction of CMC volunteers, many of whom were themselves beginners when they joined the Club.
The Beginning of Trips
The CMC's very first trip was to Denver 's Cheesman Park, now in the heart of the capital city. The first of the Club's ten mountain trips in 1912 was in May to South Boulder Peak. The trip description reads:
"Take 9 a.m. Interurban car at Arapahoe St. terminal. Round trip ticket to Eldorado Springs $1.25. Get off at ranch one mile east of Eldorado. Carry noon lunch. Returning car leaves at 5 p.m. Summit of Peak and return 8 miles."
Another early trip description includes the following suggestion about clothing:
"Footwear is an all-important question. Woolen hose and heavy well-fitting shoes are essential in hard tramping and climbing. Stout, easy wearing shoes, with extra soles containing hob-nails, are found to afford the greatest degree of comfort and service in tramping. If two pairs of medium weight or one pair of heavy woolen hose are worn the feet will not suffer from chafing and blistering."
Now, 3000 Trips a Year
From the Club's modest first trips, volunteers proceeded to lead five hundred trips during the Club's first sixteen years of existence. In 1962 the Club celebrated its fiftieth anniversary by scheduling climbs for each of Colorado 's 14,000-foot peaks. Today, CMC volunteers lead approximately 3,000 activities a year.
A Passion for the Environment
The Club's volunteers have influenced environmental issues since 1921, when the CMC spoke out against a proposed national policy that threatened National Parks. In another early effort, the Club was instrumental in helping to establish Rocky Mountain National Park.
Over the years the Club has continued to tackle tough environmental issues, both large and small. These efforts have led to numerous successes, including planting trees in the 1940s and 1950s, opposing construction of more dams, supporting the federal Wilderness Act of 1964, and influencing policies on open space, timber sales, and water diversions.
Relying on the tried and true strength of its volunteer corps and the Club's conservation director, the CMC expects to continue its successful conservation record into the 21st century.
The CMC truly has a rich and colorful history, but as interesting as the past is, the future promises even more.