AN INTRO TO MOUNTAINEERING IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
This 6-Day Course is the Premiere Introduction to Mountaineering in Canada. With the curriculum constantly refined, this foundational skills course will provide you with an incredible week, capturing the skills you need to begin safely exploring Glaciated and Snow & Ice environments, and opening the door to challenging Alpine Rock Climbing ascents. As we cater to current trends in mountain travel, this course is purpose-built to cater to those with hiking, scrambling, trekking, as well as indoor and crag-based rock climbing experiences, providing you with a complete base of skills to open up the high alpine climbing world.
Opt-in for either the 3-day Ice or 3-day Rock portion of the BMC.
OPEN TO ALL ABILITIES
BRING YOUR ALL DAY HIKING FITNESS & GET READY FOR A WEEK OF ALPINE ADVENTURE
3 DAYS SNOW & ICE + 3 DAYS ALPINE ROCK
A COMPLETE FOUNDATIONAL SKILL SET FOR MOUNTAINEERS
2 TECHNICAL SUMMIT ASCENTS
ASCENTS OF MOUNT ATHABASCA OR ANDROMEDA + CASTLE MOUNTAIN ON COURSE
LOW GUIDE TO STUDENT RATIOS
1 GUIDE : 2 GUESTS ON SUMMIT ASCENT DAYS*
COURSE DATES AVAILABLE ALL SUMMER
JUNE TO OCTOBER
What sets us apart? C9G IS Canada's Premiere Intro to Mountaineering Course.
There is no shortage of course options available out there. Get the straight goods on what sets this C9 Flagship Course apart from the others. It's all about getting a fun and authentic experience, that fits your needs like a glove.
The following information provides the most likely itinerary for our Beginner Mountaineering Courses. Please note, however, that changes to the following logistics may be possible for reasons which include but are not limited to: higher risk mountain weather or climbing conditions, and unexpectedly high volumes of visitor traffic in the National Parks.
Please contact our Program Managers for updated information on potential impacts to any of our programs.
Day 1 – Snow & Ice • Snow Travel Foundation
0900hrs - Course Open. Columbia Icefields Campground, HWY 93N.
Student Welcome & Introductions
Review of Course Agenda & Logistics
Technical Gear Sign Out
Update on Expected Conditions
Student Risk Profile Discussion
Review of Emergency Response Methods & Resources if Required on Course
0945hrs - Depart for Snow School - Field Day Venue (Parkers Ridge).
1000 to 1530hrs - During the Field Day we will cover the following:
Safe Movement, Track-setting, Footwork, and Ice Axe Techniques for Moderate Angle Snow Travel
Carrying the Ice Axe
The Rest Step & Step Kicking
Descending Moderate Angle Snow
Self-Arrest - With and without Ice Axe
Limitations of Self-Arrest
Snow Anchors including:
Snow Picket Placements - Top Clip & Mid Clip
Pitched Climbing on Steep Snow
Introduction to Belay Station Management
1600hrs - Return to Icefields Car Park
Review of Pre-Course Route Planning for Day 2
Day 2 – Snow & Ice • Glacier Travel & Ice Skills Foundation
0800hrs - Meet at Icefields Car Park for 2nd Field Day on Athabasca Glacier
0900 - 1600hrs - Approach Field Day Site on Athabasca Glacier. Skills delivered will include the following:
Learn how and where Crevasses form
Learn the basics of how Glaciers flow, and the effects of terrain on Crevasse formation
Learn to plan routes in Glaciated Terrain to minimize the likelihood of unexpected crevasse falls
Crampon Use and Footwork including:
French Technique (flat footing)
German Technique (front pointing)
Vertical Ice Climbing Techniques
Ice Axe Techniques - General & Technical Ice Tools
Roping Up for Glacier Travel (Glacier Travel Mode)
When to Apply the Rope?
How to Divide the Rope for the Climbing Team
Tying & Clipping In - Attaching Climbers to the Rope Team
When and How to Apply Prussiks to the Rope Team
Identifying Hidden Crevasses & Snow Plugs during travel
Technical Ice Climbing Skills
Learn the basics of climbing vertical ice inside the crevasses of the Athabasca Glacier
Crevasse Rescue Systems
Drop Loop 2:1 System introduced for all Students
Learn to add mechanical advantage increasing to 6:1
Day 3 – Snow & Ice • TECHNICAL ASCENT
This Technical Ascent will take place on one of the high alpine Snow & Ice Capped peaks in the Columbia Icefields area. The focus of this day is to bring about an understanding of how to apply the skill sets taught on Day 1 and Day 2, using your newly acquired skills in context during a full-day summit attempt.
Peaks ascended on course can include Mount Athabasca and Mount Andromeda as primary objectives, or A2 and Boundary Peak as secondary objectives should conditions or the group require it.
The Itinerary as follows is susceptible to change pending current conditions at the time of your course, or as the group requires, to provide the best chances of success while on ascent. (Please note that timings for the day are condition-dependent).
0330hrs - Arrival at car park
0345hrs - Review of essential equipment, our intended routes, and plan for the day.
0400hrs - Team departure for the Technical Ascent.
Mid-Afternoon Return Times - See below for average ascent times. An early to mid-afternoon return time is generally the norm on our ascent day.
Ascent times will vary on the selected route chosen by Students and our Guides in collaboration. In excellent conditions, with exceptionally fit students, ascent times can be expected to be between 6-8 hours return. On average, ascent times between 9-11 hours should be considered the norm. During periods of exceptionally challenging or physically intensive conditions on the mountain, or for teams requiring additional time, ascent times can extend upwards of 14hrs. This should, however, be considered to be a rare exception for most students.
The end of our Snow & Ice Technical Ascent Day officially wraps up the Snow & Ice Components of the program, with a switch to Alpine Rock Skill Sets for Day 4.
Day 4 – Alpine Rock • Traditional Climbing Systems
Our day will begin by departing the Icefields Campground at approximately 0630hrs for travel to the Back of the Lake Crag in the Lake Louise area.
The Traditional Climbing Systems component of the course will provide the skills required to place and assess your own removable (non-bolted) protection, essential for protecting rope teams in technical rock terrain. An essential skill for travelling in technical rock terrain in the high alpine.
We cover the following:
0730hrs - Meet at the Lake Louise Townsite
0800 - 0845hrs - Approach the Back of the Lake Rock Climbing Crags
0845 - 1200hrs - Our first session will cover and provide you with the following:
Gear and Equipment Introduction
Discuss essential equipment for Traditional Climbing, including camming devices, nuts, and pitons.
Learn to assess the strengths and limitations of each piece of gear presented in a variety of circumstances.
Introduction to Placing Traditional Gear & Assessment Processes
Is the size of the piece correct?
Have you assessed the likely direction of pull?
Learn to assess rock quality supporting your placements
Can you ID any potential for multiplied forces within your protection systems?
Learn to grade each placement systematically
Learn to build and assess Traditional Anchors (anchors you build yourself with removable protection)
Learn to create equalized or "IDEAL" anchors using a variety of materials and formats
Learn a variety of belay methods for use in technical climbing, and understand how and when to apply them:
Direct Anchor Belay (multi-pitch)
Redirected Belay (multi-pitch)
Fixed Point Belay (multi-pitch)
Standard Leader Belay (single pitch and multi-pitch)
Learn to construct and rig your own rappel systems for use as an individual or teams while descending either single or multi-pitch technical terrain
1200 - 1245 - Lunch
1245 - 1530hrs - Introduction to Leading Traditionally Protected Rock Climbs
Introduction to Traditional Protection Strategies for pitched climbing
Follow a process from our Guides which will take you from your first steps on Traditional routes through a tactic we call "mock-leading", allowing you to practice on both lead and top rope at the same time, and progressing toward your very first live Traditional Lead.
*** Lead Climbing traditional routes presents a substantial increase in risk, over and above leading on bolted protection. Students who demonstrate requisite levels of competence will be given the opportunity to lead a pitch live during this session, however, this will be at your Guides' discretion. If the option is not presented during this session, our Guides will work to provide clear direction for you on areas to focus on, which will facilitate progression towards this goal, and work to provide you with the option to do so before course close.
Again - please note: any leading taking place on course will be at the sole discretion of the lead guide in the field.
1530 - 1630hrs - Return to Lake Louise Car Park - End of day
Day 5 – Alpine Rock • Short Roping & 4th Class Protection techniques
The goal of Day 5 will be to introduce the principles of peer team short roping. While more commonly viewed as a Guiding Technique in North America, short roping provides a reliable system for teams to protect themselves while moving through 4th class and easy 5th class terrain. These techniques focus on protection strategies that will help students to understand how rope and climber positioning in the terrain can take advantage of the friction available in the system to protect the team commonly without the need to place removable (traditional) protection for anchors or running protection. Venue TBD on course, but will be central to the Lake Louise region. Commonly we will use areas in the Castle Mountain region or above Moraine Lake for this module.
0700hrs - Arrival at Venue
0730 - 0900hrs - Approach from Parking / Trailhead to Venue
0900 - 1500hrs - Short Roping and 4th Class Protection Techniques Clinic. Learned skills to include:
Picking up (body) coils for travel Short Roping.
Essential commands / communications for team travel
Body Belay's - Strengths and Limitations
Standing Hip Belay
Hand Belay (incorporating terrain friction)
Building Traditional Anchors & Short-roping
Anticipating Transitions (short-roping to short-pitching to pitching)
Limitations of Short Roping Systems
Day 6 – Alpine Rock • Technical ASCEnt
This Technical Ascent will take place most commonly around the Lake Louise area, and could include ascents of Castle Mountain or even closer to Lake Louise. Routes for Castle Mountain could include The Eisenhower Tower, Brewers Buttress, or Bass Buttress. Routes closer to Lake Louise could include The Tower of Babel or The Grand Sentinel. The focus of this day is to bring context and an understanding of how to apply your newly learned Traditional Climbing Skills and Short Roping Protection strategies on a full-day Alpine Rock Ascent.
The Itinerary as follows is susceptible to change pending current conditions at the time of your course, or as the group requires, to provide the best chances of success while on the ascent.
The itinerary provided below outlines for our ascent of Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain - the most common objective completed on the Alpine Rock Technical Ascent Day.
0330hrs - Arrival at Rockbound Lake (Castle Mountain) Trailhead. Discuss plan for the day.
0400hrs - Depart Rockbound Lake Trailhead for Eisenhower Tower
0530hrs - Base of Climbing Reached - Short-roping & Short-pitching work begin through the lower tier of Castle Mountain
0645hrs - Goat Plateau reached; the halfway point between the lower and upper tiers of Castle Mountain
0700 - 1100hrs - Ascent of Eisenhower Tower via the Dragons Back (5.3)
1130 - 1600hrs - Reverse Route from Summit and Descend back to Trailhead via Rockbound Lake Trail
1630 - 1700hrs - Course Close & Week Debrief
Cloud Nine Guides and the majority of our Guiding Team are based in the mountain town of Canmore, Alberta; a short 15 minute drive from the East Gates of Banff National Park. The course will be based primarily from the Columbia Icefields and the Lake Louise regions, within the boundaries of Banff National Park
TRAVEL TO BANFF NATIONAL PARK:
For those arriving Internationally or from locations outside of Alberta or British Columbia, arriving at Calgary International Airport (YYC) will provide the most direct access to our course locations.
TRANSPORTATION ON COURSE:
Transportation is not included in your Course Fee. Students are expected to arrive with their own or pre-arranged group transportation. Short commutes will be required nearly every day of the course, and it is important to come prepared.
Students wishing to carpool with others should prepare for this well in advance, and have a plan for shared transportation prior to course start.
A personal vehicle or rental car is our suggested transportation mode.
Cloud Nine Program Managers are happy to provide you with options for Rental Cars, or Group Transfers from Calgary to Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise in advance of the course. Please contact us for details.
ARRIVAL IN CANMORE / LAKE LOUISE & ACCOMMODATION PRE-COURSE:
Commonly, our Students arrive a day or two in advance of the course to get settled and prepare for the program. Generally, we would suggest basing yourself in the Canmore or Banff area prior to the program. These two towns are where you will find the broadest accommodation options and amenities to aid you in preparing for the course. We would suggest the following accommodation options pre-course:
We can provide local food outfits that provide complete meal programs for your selected program. They offer the perfect diet and calorie count for your day in the mountains. Please contact our Program Managers for more information on this.
NATIONAL PARK ENTRY PASSES:
Students are responsible for obtaining a National Park entry pass for the duration of the course.
GEAR PURCHASES PRE-TRIP:
For those looking to purchase gear and equipment prior to your course, we would suggest the following local Bow Valley retailers:
Located in Canmore, SkiUphill is a collective of experience driven individuals each with their own history, knowledge and stories of getting out there and getting after it. They offer expertise in backcountry skiing, trail running, climbing and any combination of those activities all while offering the best selection of curated equipment.
Black Diamond Equipment has been providing skiers and alpinists with technical equipment since 1989, and is a supporting partner of C9G and our guided ski programs.
On Course Logistics
DURATION & PROGRAM FLOW:
The Beginner Mountaineering Course is a 6-Day Program, offered between June 1st and October 1st each summer season.
The Course is divided into 2 main modules, each providing 3 days of focused training. During each three day module, the course provides two training and skills work days followed by a technical alpine ascent for a total of 4 days, or dedicated skills training and 2 full-day alpine summit attempts during the program.
Module 1 - 3 Days / Snow & Ice Foundation + Technical Alpine Ascent
Module 2 - 3 Days / Alpine Rock Foundation + Technical Alpine Ascent
Students are to provide their own accommodation throughout the program. Below is some recommendations for accommodation sites, for each of the programs.
HERE, you find the campground location for reference. This campground is limited to tents only (no RV's), and typically in the past has been considered to be the "climbers' campground". There are outhouses, cooking shelters with wood burning stoves, bear-proof food storage lockers, and a water source that is treated and available for camper use. This campground makes for an excellent base for the Snow & Ice Modules of the course as it is only a short 5min drive from our trailheads, its location allowing us to be on the glacier ice in under 40min from departure.
This accommodation option serves us well during the Alpine Rock Modules of the course. Returning to indoor accommodation mid-week allows for restful evenings, showers, and ample space to pack and prep for your next course day. It should be noted that accommodation will be shared with other course participants during our time here. Private room options exist, and you can upgrade your stay by contacting our Program Managers for pricing and availability.
The following is and Gear, Clothing and Equipment list. You will be required to arrive with these items on course.
Water Bottle or Collapsible Water Bladder (1L)
Topographic Maps (optional)
Smartphone GPS App (Gaia & FATMAP)
We suggest a subscription to both products for better functionality in the field.
Mountaineering Boots (Contact our Program Managers for suggestions)
Light Mountaineering Boot (optional - for Alpine Rock Ascents)
Sunglasses + Spares (CAT3-4 Protection Suggested)
Personal Blister Kit
Personal First Aid Kit
Sunscreen (min. SPF 50+)
Camera, batteries, memory cards & accessories
Daypack (at minimum, 1x 35-40L backpack. In addition a 30L option may be appropriate for some days)
Camp Footwear (flip-flops or similar)
Laptop & Charger with Google Earth downloaded to hard drive
Merino Wool Blend Socks (no cotton please)
Long Underwear (bottoms)
2 X Buff Style Neck Tube / Headband
Sunhat (ball cap or full brim bucket style)
Large Gloves (ski gloves or similar)
Thin Insulated Gloves (multiple pairs [3 min] for rope work)
alternatively, you can opt in to rent one from us for $25
if needing a full camping setup, check out the 'Magog Package' available through Snowtips Bactrax in Banff
3-Season Rated Sleeping Bag (rated to -7˚C / -9˚C)
Alarm Clock (or Smartphone)
Lighter / Matches (optional)
Toiletries + Personal Hand Sanitizer Supply
Headlamp with 3 spare sets of fresh batteries
iPod, Book or other Personal Entertainment for Camp (optional)
Provided by Cloud Nine:
The following gear and equipment is generally provided by us, and included in your course fee. However, if you have the following items, please feel free to bring them with you on course:
Lightweight Mountaineering Harness
120cm Sewn Slings
3 Locking Carabiners
3 Non-Locking Carabiners
Belay Device (We suggest the ATC Guide or similar)
Climbing Rope (selection of lengths and diameters)
Traditional Climbing Protection (cams, nuts, pitons, hammer etc)
Technical Ice Tools
Avalanche Transceiver, Probe, and Shovel if required
All cooking equipment, including stoves, will be provided. There is no need to bring your own.
Some students like to have small, personal canister stoves along with them for the week. Models we like are the MSR Reactor or Jetboil Products. Choosing a "winter mix" fuel will often give better performance at higher elevations where temperatures are colder.
Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance
Portions or the balance of your Beginner Mountaineering Course may be non-refundable. The best method to protect your investment with us should unforeseen arise is to purchase a Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance Policy. We strongly recommend purchasing coverage.
Lifestyle Insurance has covered many of Cloud Nine Guests on trips all over the world, and we have first-hand experience seeing these policies activated by our Guests.
For Canadian Residents, coverage is suggested but not required to register.
For Non-Canadian Citizens, coverage is suggested but not required. It is strongly suggested that your policy includes Emergency Medical Coverage, unless you carry alternative policy which will respond in the event of medical emergency.
WAIVER - Release of Liability & Indemnity Agreement
Prior to booking you will be required to acknowledge that you have been provided a copy of our Waiver of Liability Agreement for your review. All participants, or their legal guardians wishing to participate on any Cloud Nine Programs, must acknowledge that they have been presented this document in advance of booking, have read it in its entirety, and understand the agreement being entered into by signing. While there is no obligation to enter into this agreement with us, it is a condition of our service provision.
Before you book your course, please review our Booking Terms & Conditions. We do not accept bookings without your voluntary acceptance of these terms. Please read carefully as these terms outline specific policies and guidance for both our staff and clients with respect to refunds, cancellations, rescheduling etc.
Book A PRIVATE GROUP Beginner Mountaineering Course.
For those who prefer our smallest and most focused learning environments. Groups of 4+ can book a Private Group Beginner Mountaineering Course on course dates that suit you and your crew best, and one of our ACMG / IFMGA Mountain Guides will join you on your terms. You pick the Group Size, and have the option of alternative venues and dates outside those available on our Public Courses.
Group Booking Discounts of between 5-15% are available depending on total participants.
How Do We Book It?
Contact our office to confirm availability for your preferred dates. We'll provide you with a private booking link for you and your group to register either together or individually.
This is a foundational level skills course, and while there will be benefit for both entry level and intermediate level students, the course has been designed to build skill sets from the ground up.
The curriculum has been built primarily to cater to those with day hiking, backpacking, scrambling, and single pitch rock climbing experience (even if limited) as we've aimed to provide a logical seguay from these other gateway mountain pursuits into mountaineering and alpinism.
Ultimately, the 2 most important things to bring with you are a level of fitness that allows you to be outdoors and on the move for 7-10 hours consistently throughout the day, and most importantly, and openness to a week chock full of adventure!
The most important asset you can bring on course is a sound level of cardiovascular fitness. This will mean different things to different individuals, but if you're accustom to being in the mountains, carrying a pack and moving for full days at a time, you'll be ready physically to participate.
The course is structured so that our biggest days are followed by physically lighter duty days.
Most people new to the sport will have different ideas about what mountaineering or technical alpinism entails prior to taking a course like this. In part an Intro to Mountaineering style course will help you calibrate and provide good direction for your future plans and adventures, and give you the skills to engage in the activity at a level of risk you're comfortable with.
Again, keep in mind this is a foundational level skills course. The idea is to provide you with a broad tool (skill) set, an ability to identify alpine hazards and associated risk, and to acquire a more systematic framework for traveling, climbing, making decisions, and planning your trips in a technical alpine environment.
Never been Mountaineering before? No problem. An appetite for adventure and good all day travel fitness will be your best assets.
Please read our Booking Terms and Conditions carefully as outlined above. These outline all terms for cancellation, and governs the provision of credits or refund. We'd encourage you to get in touch with our Program Managers to clarify prior to booking.