Climbing to New Heights: Alpine Ambassadors Complete Inaugural Trip to Canmore

Our Alpine Ambassadors group completed their inaugural journey to Canmore. Despite extreme cold and challenging avalanche conditions, the group persevered and worked together to learn a ton of new ice climbing techniques and skills to bring back to The Mountaineers!
Steve Smith Steve Smith
Education Manager
February 26, 2018
Climbing to New Heights: Alpine Ambassadors Complete Inaugural Trip to Canmore

Over a frigid week in mid-February, seventeen Mountaineers from across the organization converged in the warm and welcoming Canadian Alpine Club Lodge in Canmore, Alberta, to spend a week working on ice climbing skills in this penultimate North American ice destination.  


Our Canadian hosts and guides were warm and friendly, but conditions were not exactly accommodating. Due to a large storm system that moved through in the 48 hours prior to our arrival, avalanche conditions were high and temperatures were frigid (to negative 15 Fahrenheit). Occasional wind storms and more precipitation throughout the week didn't help us stay warm. You could routinely see entire groups stomping feet, swinging arms, and running in circles in the deep snow in ongoing efforts to generate body heat and rejuvenate frozen digits back to life.

Climbers were grouped differently each day to maximize personal skill development, alternating between climbing in larger groups at ice cragging areas, and in pairs to ascend multi-pitch waterfalls.


The goal of the program was to help our climbers improve their water-ice climbing grades while providing skills to become more safe and efficient. With additional support from local Canadian guides, all 17 Mountaineers got six full days on the ice. We learned a lot! Many climbers improved at least one full grade in their leading abilities. This trip also helps us achieve our broader objective: to form a new group of skilled alpinists within The Mountaineers to serve as mentors to others in the organization - a group which voted to name itself the Alpine Ambassadors.


Our goal is to grow the skills and expertise of the Alpine Ambassadors, whose ranks will grow and evolve as they give back to the organization by: 

  • developing new classes which we're not currently offering
  • posting more advanced climbing trips
  • developing and mentoring future climb leaders
  • recruiting new climbers into the organization

We thank The Mountaineers Board of Directors  for making this important investment to support the personal and leadership potential for our Mountaineers. Learn more about this and other Progressive Climbing Education related initiatives. 

join Alpine Ambassadors

Alpine Ambassadors started with 17 of our top climbing volunteers, but we know many others give an unbelievable amount of time to this organization and are excited to take their climbing to the next level (while mentoring others along the way).

Next up we will usher in Phase II  of the 2018 program when the current group of Alpine Ambassadors, along with a new crop of climbers from across the organization, go to Squamish to develop higher-level rock climbing skills with the support of skilled volunteers and professional guides.  

We will post information about how to apply for the Summer 2018 Squamish program in March. 

Save the dates for Squamish:  July 27-Aug 4, 2018. 

Thank you Leaders! 

In true Mountaineers spirit, this program was inspired by volunteers and led by volunteers, supported by local Canadian guides. An incredibly talented pool of skilled volunteers, including Board member Steve Swenson, Alan Kearney of the Bellingham Branch, Dustin Byrne of AAI, Jim Elzinga, Alik Berg, Chris Mutzel, and Margo Talbot, committed their time to mentoring our climbers. Thank you!

Photo Credits: Nick Block, Ian Lauder, STEVE SMITH

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Vik Sahney
Vik Sahney says:
Feb 28, 2018 10:03 AM

This sounds like a great trip and program! I'm super pleased that the Mountaineers is helping to grow the skills of its volunteer leaders through expert instruction. A big thank you to Steve Swenson and all those involved in developing and delivering this program!

Ian Lauder
Ian Lauder says:
Mar 01, 2018 10:02 AM

This was an outstanding program even if there were some glitches to be worked out for next time. A learning experience all around. The weekend this program ended I posted an intermediate water ice climb that would have been outside my comfort level to lead before the program. Was able to lead the hard pitches and get one of our branches intermediate students her final ice climb to complete her intermediate program graduation requirements.