Colorado Mountain Camp – Permitting for Summer 2015 Expeditions
Rocky Mountain National Park – There’s no place quite like it.
Every year there is nervous excitement in the air as our many months of prepping and planning for summer RMNP expeditions can literally disappear in a heartbeat. March 1st marks the start of one of the busiest days of the year for Rocky Mountain National Park – one where hundreds of business and individuals fight their way into the backcountry offices and overwhelm phone lines to reserve their 2015 backpacking permits.
As I approached the backcountry office early in the morning, I was greeted with a light snow and a seemingly never-ending line of people. With very few group campsites in the park and extremely limited availability for the summer season, competing for the same locations and dates has become a nightmare of a tradition. For those who make the journey and show up in person, you are rewarded by being placed into a lottery system- the number you draw is key. Unfortunately, Lady Luck was not on my side this year so plan B was quickly put into motion. Armed with four cell phones and enlisting the help of my wife, cousin, and friend, we proceeded to place over 500 combined phone calls in an effort to get through to a ranger before my lottery number was called and our summer plans washed away. Busy tone after busy tone plagued us for an hour and a half, until a backcountry angel named Marguerite answered the phone! Marguerite was awesome, very friendly and extremely patient. As you can imagine, it becomes very complicated to schedule our expeditions and how to best string together 24 days of travel without conflicting with another group. Back in December, when I spent a solid week fine-tuning the 2015 schedule, I had to consider several factors including age of the groups, snowmelt dates, crowds, distance of travel, campsite selection, weather, evacuation routes, and much more. Of course, the 2014 counselors also left me with wish list of locations that they wanted to head to, what worked, what needed modified (based on trail conditions, amount of snow, large crowds, views), etc. Finally, after taking into consideration all of the factors, a solid schedule was set- at least until I was on the phone with Marguerite.
It took me right about an hour to reserve all of our campsites and trips for the season. We got almost every trip we were after, with a few roadblocks thrown our way with several sites already booked, as well as a later snowmelt date and avalanche danger. With a majority of our sites secured and in the spirit of collaboration, we even conceded a few sites to accommodate a couple smaller groups who were inexperienced and would be utilizing RMNP for the first time this year. Even with re-working routes on the fly, it all worked out for the best and provided us a great opportunity to travel to a new part of the park for CMC. A few lucky trips will be headed to the Mummy Range in the North where they will be treated to some incredible views, stellar campsites, no crowds, and the opportunity to summit several 13,000 foot peaks all in a row. Of course, our other trips are treated to an amazing experience as they head deep into the heart of RMNP. March 1st is always a very hectic but memorable day. To me it officially marks the beginning of the 2015 season, as this is the last permit that we need. I am thrilled with our routes and look forward to the incredible memories that will be made in 2015.
Learn more about our Expeditions and overnight camp – Colorado Mountain Camp. Blog Author: Ian Roberts, Colorado Mountain Camp Director. A bit about Ian – Ian’s connection to camping and the outdoors is deeply rooted in exploring the many mountain ranges surrounding his childhood home in California. Ian has spent much of his adult life leading participants of all ages in many disciplines of outdoor recreation and education. He was the Director of Camps and Classes at the Great Lakes Science Center in Ohio, Executive Director of the Bedford, Ohio YMCA, and Adventure Specialist for adjudicated youth for Lodegmakers. Along the way, he has been an outdoor education teacher, camp counselor and director, international trip leader, backcountry guide, canoe & kayak instructor, and more. Ian is a certified CPR/AED/ First Aid Instructor, Wilderness and Remote First Aid Instructor, American Canoe Association Canoe Instructor, American Camp Association Visitor, Lifeguard, Challenge Course Facilitator, and Leave No Trace Trainer. Ian earned his B.S. in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education from Brevard College in North Carolina, graduating Summa Cum Laude and M.A. from Prescott College in Adventure Education. When not at work, you can find Ian caving or surfing some whitewater along with his wife Stephanie and daughter Kaya.