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Mountain Club members in Aspen keep on climbing

Jeremy Heiman

Aspen’s chapter of the Colorado Mountain Club is 44 years old this year, and still as active as ever.

The club’s Aspen volunteers lead wilderness trips from Memorial Day through September, ranging from easy day hikes to mountaineering on some of the area’s highest peaks. The club has also planned cross-country ski and snowshoe trips and a hut trip for next winter.

Members are between the ages of eight and 78, former chapter president Jack Depagter said, but hikers and climbers are encouraged to turn out only for trips suited to their abilities.

Current chapter president Carol Kurt said the club welcomes new members who are interested in discovering the beauty of the area’s backcountry. The club is a good way to learn backcountry travel skills, see some of the most beautiful geography in the world, and make new friends, she said.

Statewide, the club, which is more than 75 years old, has 12 chapters and offers 2,500 activities throughout the year. Chapters in the more populous Denver and Boulder areas offer mountaineering classes and overseas climbing and trekking trips, and Aspen chapter members often take advantage of these opportunities.

Kurt said though the Aspen chapter doesn’t offer formal classes, members practice mountaineering skills with ropes, ice axes and crampons in the early summer, in Montezuma Basin at the base of Castle Peak.

Depagter, who retired as president in November, led the chapter for 42 years, and was there at the beginning. A climber in the Aspen area since 1951, Depagter first joined the Denver chapter, then founded the Aspen chapter in 1955 with 12 or 15 dedicated outdoor lovers.

Kurt said Depagter was also often involved in rescues in his earlier years, and taught mountaineering skills to countless climbers in his time with the club.

“I wouldn’t have gone on to climb all the 14,000-foot peaks [in Colorado] if he hadn’t given me confidence on Pyramid,” Kurt said.

With 88 members today, chapter members schedule regular hikes, alpine climbs and rock-climbing trips, led by an assortment of capable volunteer leaders. In addition, the group traditionally does a desert trip in the late spring, often the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Trips scheduled for this year include a climb of La Plata Peak, a “fourteener” on the east side of Independence Pass; a hike to Siberia Lake on the back side of Snowmass Mountain; a hike over East Maroon Pass; a hike to Pierre Lakes near Capitol Peak and a climb on Grizzly Peak, a mountain just under 14,000 feet near Independence Pass.

New members are always accepted, Depagter said, but must prove they are fit enough to be capable of completing the trips they choose to undertake.

Club trip leaders like to be acquainted with their group members. “We’re not a guide service,” Depagter said. “We like to know the people who come with us.”

For more information, contact Carol Kurt at 925-6648, or Barbara Buettner at 927-3611.


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