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EMS Winter Climbing School

Mt Washington in Winter

The Alpine Garden, Mt Washington

Next week, I'm going to be taking a series of Ice Climbing and Mountaineering Classes offered by the EMS Climbing School in North Conway, New Hampshire, near the foot of Mt Washington. EMS has asked me to do some guest blogging for them about their winter educational offerings and mountaineering curriculum and I *have* to go to school to be able to write about my learning experience.

During the course of the winter, I'm hoping to take a bunch of classes from EMS working up into some more advanced areas of mountaineering that I don't have experience with like climbing up Washington's Alpine Gullies (Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines) and Glacier Skills. EMS also offers Level 1 and Level II snow science and Avalanche training classes, accredited by AAIRE, the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, that I hope to take.

I'll be starting with a class called Winter Climbing 101. This is the first class EMS offers in their winter curriculum and it is taken by people who want to specialize in ice climbing or mountaineering, in more advanced courses. The class teaches students basic ice axe and crampon technique before moving to higher angle climbing using ropes and harnesses. I took a class like this a few years ago, but I know I can use a freshener on winter rope work.

The following week I'm signed up to attend Mountaineering 201, where the focus is on doing a long group climb up higher angle terrain and ice with an emphasis on route selection, hazard assessment, and descent options. The instructor to student ratio on these classes is 1:3 so I know that I will be receiving very personalized instruction.

I'll be bringing my own gear along for both of these classes since I'm used to it and I know it works, but tuition includes free gear rental in case you're missing something or just want to try out the gear that the school uses.  This includes mountaineering boots, step-in crampons, ice axes, harnesses, helmets, and technical climbing gear.

If you're interested in tagging along, I'll be taking these classes is mid-December, so call the school and sign up if you're interested. Both of the classes are one day courses, and start early, but there are cheap and clean overnight accommodations available in North Conway at the Colonial Motel for only $56/night.

EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) schools have a great reputation for quality instruction so I'm really looking forward to taking these classes and then writing about them. Winter in New Hampshire is always great, and this season is already getting off to a great start.


  1. Excellent, I look forward to reading your reports! I'm already sharpening my axes, counting my quickdraws…

  2. Phil,

    Hopefully you can comment on the physical conditioning a person should have before attending.

    Something quantifiable like, hiker needs to be able to hike xx miles with xxx ft of ascent and xx lbs of gear in the course of xx hours.

    I have a multi day winter Presi traverse as a long term goal with these classes as some of the bigger steps to accomplishing that BUT I want to attend confident that I can handle the workload.



  3. Will do. I'll include this info in my next post after the first class.

  4. I would like to read about all the gear you take along and what is required by the schools.

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