RMI Guide Geoff Schellens Looks Back On AMGA Ice Instructor Course
With support from the Eddie Bauer - RMI Guide Grant, RMI Guide Geoff Schellens took part in an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ice Instructor Course this winter near Ouray, Colorado. Afterward, Geoff sat down and shared some stories from the course.
Ice climbing is a unique discipline of climbing, which poses specific challenges for the climber: ice fall, rock fall, specific equipment needs, over heating, becoming too cold, and avalanche hazards, just to name a few. Guiding ice climbing requires quite a bit of preparation, awareness, and technique to mitigate these challenges.
On the third day of my five-day AMGA Ice Instructor Course, we had planned to take two groups to Eureka, Colorado, to climb long multi-pitch ice routes. Avalanches from large snow bowls above threaten many of these routes, like the classic Stairway to Heaven. On this cold, crisp morning we encountered six inches of new snow, and after driving up to Red Mountain Pass we decided that the avalanche risk was too high and opted to go with our back up plan: climbing at Dexter Falls.
Dexter is just north of Ouray, Colorado, and offers excellent multi-pitch ice routes that are exposed to less avalanche hazard. Climbing Dexter Falls with two teams of three climbers posed new guiding challenges. Namely, avoiding knocking ice onto the climbers below. We chose to climb with both teams parallel to each other to protect against this. Parallel rope technique requires that the lead climber is thoughtful about where both following climbers will be ascending. The goal to keep them on slightly separate routes, allowing any loose ice to fall without risking injury to either climber.
The climbing was fun and we topped out having done it in a safe manner. Climbing ice in Ouray, Colorado, or anywhere for that matter, is easy and enjoyable after acquiring a relatively straightforward skill set.
I hope you enjoy the photos!
Geoff Schellens is a senior guide for RMI Expeditions, leading trips in Argentina, the North Cascades, Alaska, and Colorado. Geoff is currently climbing Dhaulagiri, an 8,000 meter peak in the Himalayas. See more of Geoff’s mountain photography on his website The Exposed Edge.
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