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Home » Classes » CMC Classes and Schools » Alpine Scrambling Course

image of hikers scrambling up the side of a mountain.


Alpine Scrambling Course


Enrollment Opens March 1st, 2019 (at 12:01am)
Should the course fill, CMC members can get on the Wait List by going through the standard enrollment process.  No tuition money will be paid until that member is moved to the official Participant List.  Should there be an opening, moving to the Participant List is not automatic but will be done by the course director.  Individuals will be notified by email and will be asked to contact the CMC office to now pay their enrollment tuition.

Beginning with 2018 there was a reconfiguration of the traditional ASC curriculum: The new ASC Program now consists of two parts:  The ASC Course and the ASC Elective Scrambles.

ASC Course Safety Lecture #1:      Thu, May 16       Location: CMC Conference Room A        Time: 6:30pm – 9:45pm
ASC Course Safety Lecture #2:      Thu, May 23       Location: CMC Conference Room A        Time: 6:30pm – 9:45pm
Contingency Day:      Thu, May 30       Location: CMC Conference Room A        Time: 6:30pm – 9:45pm
Skills Field Day:      Students select Sat, June 1 or Sun, June 2    Location: TBD     Time: 5:00am – 6:00pm
Contingency Field Day in case of bad weather:  Sat/Sun, June 8/June 9 (5:00am)

On a space-available basis there is an option for the Skills Field Day to be Fri, May 31 (5:00am).  Students enrolled in the Friday option are expected to remain with their Friday group when doing their follow-on Elective Scrambles.  Contingency day for the Friday group will be Fri, June 7 (5:00am).

Attendance at both Safety Lectures and the Skills Field Day are a prerequisite to participate in the Elective Scrambles field days.  Within the current session there is no provision to make-up a missed ASC Course event so please ensure you are available for all these dates (including the potential contingency dates).

ASC Elective Scrambles:

Throughout the summer, students that successfully complete the ASC Course will be provided the opportunity to participate with the ASC Elective Scrambles.  Successful completion of at least three, each progressively more challenging, Elective Scrambles will be required for the student to complete the ASC Program.  Completing the ASC Program will then be noted in the student’s CMC profile under “My Schools.”

The Elective Scrambles will be arranged so that the month of June will be dedicated to the easier scrambles (CATegory 1) which will help the student immerse more gradually, as well as helping the instructor team determine suitability for the more challenging follow-on scrambles.  July will be dedicated to scrambles of moderate difficulty (CATegory 2) and August will be focused on the harder, more challenging scrambles (CATegory 3).  Students are expected to work through this progression in a sequential logical manner.  On a best-effort basis there may be make-up opportunities throughout the summer.

The Elective Scrambles will typically be rated at the Denver Group “Hard C” hiking classification level, but some may even be in the “Easy D” classification range.  C classified trips can be up to 15 miles roundtrip and/or up to 3,500 feet in elevation gain; D trips can be over 15 miles roundtrip and/or over 3,500 feet in elevation gain.

And as an important note of clarification:  The scramble difficulty for every trip is based only with respect to climbing exposure; even the June easy trip will be rated at a C or D hiking level.  Said differently, students must enter the ASC Program already possessing a good hiking pace and good hiking stamina.  The instructors will then build upon this physical baseline to help you get comfortable with that exposure while they teach the technical and proactive skills necessary to safely scramble Colorado’s more challenging highest hundred.


  • Course Tuition:  $115 for Denver Group and non-Denver Group members

Required Equipment:  Approximately $270

  • Ice axe with waist leash – $85
  • Adjustable climbing helmet – $60
  • Seat harness – $65
  • Locking carabineers (one large and one small) – $26
  • Webbing and accessory cord – $13
  • Text book:  A Hiker’s Guide to Scrambling Safely by Tom Morin – (Hardcopy book out of print; E-book available at no additional cost once accepted into the ASC Course)
  • Guide book:  Colorado Scrambles by Dave Cooper – $21 at the CMC office – (The guidebook will be an important aid during the Elective Scrambles)

The required equipment will be discussed in the first Safety Lecture, so please refrain from buying until after that date. However, if you get an REI 20% coupon and would like to purchase early, then consult the Supplemental Equipment Information document (link below).  The last page (page 14) in this document provides specific brand and model equipment recommendations.


  • CMC Wilderness Trekking School (WTS) with successful ice axe self-arrest during the WTS snow day
  • Denver Group C hiking classification (contact the CMC office with questions)
  • Very good physical condition (refer to the ASC Self-Evaluation Process link below)
  • Age 14 or older

Course Overview

Alpine scrambling is a form of mountaineering that primarily involves off-trail travel.  Off-trail travel can consist of steep rock, loose rock, loose talus, scree, low angle snow, stream crossings, and bushwhacking; sometimes all on the same trip.

Since most Colorado summits are only accessible by scramble routes, the skills acquired in this course will provide the means to reach the summits of the Colorado 14ers as well as hundreds of other peaks.  The Alpine Scrambling Course is also a great choice for those interested in climbing semi-technical or non-standard routes.

While much of the enjoyment of scrambling is freedom from technical gear and complicated rock climbing techniques, unroped scrambling in exposed situations is potentially one of the more dangerous aspects of mountaineering.  For this reason, education and training specific to scrambling is important for safe and confident climbing.

The ASC student will practice elementary technical techniques in preparation for the more challenging scrambles.  An initial review of ice axe self-arrest, basic map and compass, and the fit-and-usage of the seat harness and helmet will all provide for a more confident and safe climbing environment.

Leaders of scrambling trips will carry a rope and some protection gear during the field days.  The technical gear may be used for security on exposed sections, or to facilitate a safer retreat in case of difficulty.  Sustained use of the technical gear is not taught in this course.  ASC students need to be comfortable, or plan on getting comfortable, with exposure since that is a significant aspect of scrambling.

Although many find the ASC a comfortable bridge between WTS and the harder modules within the Technical Climbing School, others find the ASC an end in itself.  For those with modest goals and aspirations, the ASC will provide a rewarding experience.  For those with more lofty ambitions, the ASC will add skills, confidence, and conditioning in anticipation of moving to the TCS program.

In addition, CMC members currently taking TCS modules, or for graduates of the TCS, the ASC also offers real-world scrambling experience allowing those individuals that prefer to learn while doing an additional opportunity to broaden their suite of skills.

Caution:  It is not advised for CMC members to enroll in multiple CMC courses simultaneously.  If you desire to be enrolled in the ASC while currently enrolled in WTS/TCS/HAMS, understand that these courses do not coordinate their lecture and field day schedules which can result in a conflict.  Although some CMC members have been successful doing this, just has many have had to withdraw from the ASC.  Please don’t underestimate the overall commitment necessary to participate with multiple courses, as well as the physical effort required for potential back-to-back field days.

And as a few final comments, the physical and mental demands of the ASC are not to be underestimated.  A typical 4:00am meet time, long approach hikes while carrying a 20 lb pack, challenging scrambles with exposed climbing, and a late afternoon return to the trailhead, can take its toll on the mind and body.  Please consider this when applying.

 For those individuals who have never scrambled or believe they may have issues overcoming their concerns with exposure, understand that the scrambling team leaders will schedule easier scrambles early in the season allowing students to gradually increase their comfort level with this new activity.  Missing one of these early easier scrambles may result in attempting a later and more difficult climb before you are mentally prepared for it.  This can be discouraging, and has led past students to resign prematurely.


Learn More

You may consider the following sources of information beneficial:

For additional information, please contact the ASC Director, Rich McAdams:

Support Aid for Leader Training (SALT)

If you are a Denver Group trip leader, working toward becoming a trip leader, or an instructor in a Denver Group school, you may be eligible for free tuition for this course under the SALT program.  Click the link for more information as well as access to the SALT application form.  Please note, for this tuition assistance you will receive a promotional code from SALT that you will use to enroll in this course.  Click here for more information.