Stay Alive — Colorado Summer Mountain Safety

Post by blogger | June 7, 2018      
From Maroon Lake, the face drops down—right side of the frame above—through tiers of cliffs that seemingly guard any possibility of sane ski…but there is a line and it goes.

One of our ‘local’ peaks, Maroon Bells, where tragic accidents are all too common.

We published this a short time ago, thought I’d bring it to the front one more time as a public service.

We have a problem here in Colorado with people not treating our mountains (especially the “14ers”) with due respect. Consequently, we had a tragic summer last year with numerous climbers’ deaths.

What is respect? The list is long. In my opinion “respect” means learning the craft of alpine climbing in reasonable increments, and including a broad scope in your concept of “craft.” It’s not about slipping on a pair of running shoes and firing up your GoPro; peak climbing is so much more…

Examples: Learn how to use your GPS app effectively when you don’t have a data connection; learn first aid; learn to start a one-match fire with damp wood; learn how to effectively contact authorities during an emergency. More, plan a gradual escalation in your climbing goals. Gradation is the only way you’ll learn how to move and navigate on steep sometimes loose terrain, where route choices of mere yards (and sometimes inches!) can mean the difference between life and death.

There is no substitute for real world experience in learning the actual act of climbing, thus the need to increment in difficulty (and perhaps climb with guides or experienced friends). But the intellectual side of the equation can be solved by taking courses, attending seminars, and reading more than glorified success stories on social media. To that end, a variety of our Colorado public and private entities are kicking of an “awareness campaign” that’ll target Colorado peak climbers.

First event in the awareness campaign will be a full day of seminars presented June 9 by Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA). Subjects covered during the “Backcountry Basics Workshop” will range from map reading to survival. The event is affordable ($30 donation) and you get a first aid kit for attending. Time: 08:00 to 16:00 as they’d say during a rescue mission… oh, and yes they will teach fire starting tricks.

news item here and details-registration here

I highly recommend this event, Mountain Rescue Aspen members comprise a remarkable depth of experience both as rescuers and climbers (not to mention ski mountaineering). The all volunteer MRA membership includes numerous IMGA certified guides, and numerous men and women with up to 50 years of mountaineering experience both in rescue and recreational climbing! Attend the workshop, get familiar with MRA, learn something, meet new people!

(We have quite a bit of safety content here at WildSnow, for example this article about snow climbing.)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


10 Responses to “Stay Alive — Colorado Summer Mountain Safety”

  1. Lou Dawson 2 May 24th, 2018 11:31 am

    Rumor has it MRA is serving complimentary donuts and coffee to Workshop participants and that lunch is included as well.

  2. wtofd May 24th, 2018 1:03 pm

    Great post. Good for you.

  3. See May 24th, 2018 7:30 pm

    “(L)earn how to use your GPS app effectively when you don’t have a data connection…learn how to effectively contact authorities during an emergency.” Absolutely. But I’m starting to think that modern mountaineers may be getting too dependent on apps and other technologies to save their bacon when things go south.

  4. Darren Jakal May 25th, 2018 11:59 am

    Might be regional or maybe just me, but I’d start with good map & compass abilities, understanding how weather works and a real appreciation for the alpine start.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 May 25th, 2018 1:49 pm

    Indeed Darren, the alpine start is so so key. Some of our accidents over the years could have easily been prevented simply due to the victims not being rushed to make decisions, not to mention everything from thunder storms to thawing snow. Lou

  6. See May 25th, 2018 7:20 pm

    As the world has gotten warmer spring conditions have gotten less predictable in my experience. These days, temps often don’t drop below freezing overnight and conditions can be sloppy early and the corn cycle is less reliable. I’m all for the alpine start, but assess the conditions as you find them regardless of what time you hit the trail (obviously). Conditions may be not good well before noon.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 June 7th, 2018 8:44 am

    As a reminder for anyone in Colorado, I brought this post up to the front. If possible, come to the seminar this weekend, Saturday, at the astounding MRA HQ just outside of Aspen. Starts at 08:00. The event will be presented by super qualified individuals such as IMGA certified guides, medical professionals, and a guidebook writer might even show up.

  8. Kris Walker June 7th, 2018 11:30 am

    Side bar question, are you the Lou Dawson that climbed the Nose with Ray and myself in the early 70s? If so, my contact info is on

  9. Lou Dawson 2 June 7th, 2018 11:51 am

    Yes of course! Actually been doing some writing about that adventure, serendipitous that you’d contact. I’ll email you right away. Thanks, Lou

  10. Lou Dawson 2 June 10th, 2018 8:20 am

    All, the Mountain Rescue Aspen event turned out wonderful. Kudos to all who worked so hard to put it on. If you’re in Colorado and couldn’t make it to this one, apparently there are more educational events planned for the greater Denver area. Stay tuned on the MRA website:



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