Alpine Ice Climbing Seminars

California is well known for a sunny climate and fantastic rock climbing but less well known for its alpine ice climbing. In years of old, it used to be that come late summer and fall the snows of the past winter melted off and we had a great fall ice season. Now climate has meant that the snow and ice just keep on melting, so we are undertaking these courses earlier in the year when we have better conditions. Success with this type of climbing requires proficiency with crampon and ice axe skills so the goal of this program is to introduce a variety of techniques and put them to use on some good climbs.

If you are interested in doing either of these climbs individually and/or on different dates, please look at our pages for Mt Thompson via a North Couloir and Mt Gilbert via the North Couloir.

Day 1

We will travel into the Treasure Lakes area out of the South Lake Trailhead west of Bishop. The approach to camp is about 3.7 miles, taking about 3-4 hours with 2400 feet of gain. We plan to have time to set up camp and work on skills later that day.

Skills covered will include:

  • Ascending and descending crampon techniques
  • French/flatfooting and American technique
  • Ice axe use
  • Placing ice anchors
  • Multi-pitch climbing skills and belay stance management
  • Selection of equipment
  • Belaying on snow and ice
  • Hazard recognition and assessment

Day 2

We will get off to an early start and ascend Mt. Thompson. There are 3 options for ascending, and our choice will depend on conditions and the group. In general, the ascent offers some six pitches on moderate snow and ice. Along the way we will continue to work on skills for ascending snow and ice, as well as roped travel and rappelling.

Day 3

We head to Mount Gilbert with its steeper ice and a couple of rock pitches to the summit. There is also a more
difficult descent back to camp than our previous day.

Day 4

After two big climbing days we can have a leisurely breakfast, enjoying our remaining time in the high mountains. We plan to pack up and head down the trail, arriving at the vehicles around midday.


Program Prerequisites:

You do not need to have climbed steep ice before but you need basic snow skills (our Snow Skills Course would cover those skills). Experience with overnight backpacking and off trail travel is required. Prior rock climbing experience will enhance your enjoyment of this course. At a minimum you should know how to tie into a rope and be familiar with belaying. If you are not familiar with these then spend an hour or two at a local gym to get up to speed. We will review belay skills prior to the start of the climbing and coach movement through out the program.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Alpine Ice Seminar Map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.