Classes scheduled to try to boost safety in Aspen’s Elk Mountains this summer

Staff report
Capitol Peak stands out in the Elk Mountain Range. There were five deaths on the mountain last summer. Pitkin County officials aim to build awareness of mountain safety issues this year.
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative/courtesy photo


Below is a list of classroom sessions scheduled so far. Details are still being worked on two other sessions.

• Wednesday, June 27 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Upslope Brewing in Boulder.

• Thursday, June 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. The host is the Colorado Mountain Club.

• Wednesday, July 18 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs. The host is Hike for Life.

• Wednesday, July 25 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Denver REI store.

• Thursday, July 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder.

• Thursday, Sept. 6 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Aspen Mountain Rescue’s rescue center.

Aspen Alpine Guides and Aspen Expeditions will also offer field planning and skills courses, which will include time in the field. The cost is $50 because the Forest Service, sheriff’s office and Mountain Rescue Aspen are subsidizing the fieldwork to make it more accessible.

Aspen Alpine Guides will host its field courses on Saturday July 21, Aug. 25, Sept. 8 and 22.

Aspen Expeditions Worldwide will host its sessions on Sundays July 15, Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and Sept. 16.

Find additional details and registration at ElkRangeSafety on Facebook.

A coalition of public and private sector entities with a mission to improve mountain safety in the Elk Range has finalized the lineup of presentations it will make in the Front Range and Roaring Fork Valley.

The Mountain Safety classroom course will debut in Boulder on June 27. There will be a total of eight classroom sessions over the summer — six in the Front Range and two in the Roaring Fork Valley. They will be free. (See factbox for the lineup.)

The White River National Forest, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen are teaming with two alpine guide companies from Aspen to offer classroom and field sessions throughout the summer.

The classroom seminars will be led by Stephen Szoradi, managing partner of Aspen Alpine Guides, and Amos Whiting, owner and lead guide for Aspen Expeditions Worldwide.

“For beginning climbers, we want to offer the tools to start safely — what gear to bring, how to map out a route, what are the components of a rescue, etc.,” Szoradi said in a prepared statement. “And for fellow experts, through the components of the core curriculum, we hope to offer an easy way to broaden the conversation so that they can engage their friends, family, and followers to ensure a safer summer.”

Whiting said there appears to be an increasing number of backcountry adventurers who are not fully prepared to tackle some of the tougher peaks.

“Because Aspen offers one of the most amazing natural playgrounds in the world, we attract a range of summer visitors with varying levels of outdoor knowledge,” Whiting said. “With the population swell in Colorado in recent years we also are seeing an increased number of residents that are enthusiastic about the state’s outdoor offerings but have minimal knowledge when it comes to planning and executing a safe trip.”

The goal of the Elk Mountain safety campaign is to help to better prepare and inform people hitting the trails this summer.

The safety coalition was formed last winter after there were eight deaths in the Aspen-area backcountry, including five on Capitol Peak alone.

Mountain Rescue Aspen President Justin Hood said the goal is to make people understand they are in charge of their decisions.

“In today’s world, too often there is an expectation that you have to summit, because you took the time off of work, got on the plane, rented the car, lugged the equipment, camped and need the picture for Instagram,” Hood said.

“Through the knowledge provided by the Elk Range Mountain Safety Initiative, we want to coax people into being free from expectation and instead embrace better, safer and in-the-moment decision making.”