PCE Communications Quarterly - Spring 2019

A quarterly update of what is happening with the Progressive Climbing Education Committees, Alpine Ambassadors, and national climbing educator standards.
Nick Block Nick Block
Volunteer Collaborations Manager
March 29, 2019
PCE Communications Quarterly - Spring 2019

Progressive Climbing Education (PCE) is a strategic initiative to advance our Mountaineers climbing programs, make our suite of volunteer-led Climbing Programs more fun for volunteers to run, easier to recruit volunteers for, more attractive to new climbers (especially those coming out of the gym), and more advanced for our highly-skilled volunteers and students. This quarterly communication is intended to provide regular updates about each committees' projects, offer transparency, and ensure that all branches are able to provide feedback and input to proposed changes to the climbing programs.

The PCE  initiative includes four PCE committees, the Alpine Ambassadors Program, and a partnership with climbing clubs across the country to develop national climbing education standards as key components of success. 

For a detailed history of the progress we made through the PCE process, read our historical blog posts on PCE.  We also invite you to learn more about PCE and Vision 2022 to get a better understanding of how this fits into our greater plan to lead innovation in outdoor education. 

PCE Committees

Our PCE committees work to advance our organization as one team, working with representatives across all climbing committees to find common ground. We have four committees:

Each PCE committee works on unique aspects of our climbing programs, and partner with one another when needed to accomplish their charge. These committees are run by committed volunteers who dedicate their time to improve Mountaineers climbing programs.

This work aims to reduce confusion for our members, leaders, and students by creating a more consistent and clear climbing program. The PCE Committees report to the climbing summit group, who votes to approve any proposed changes.

Leadership Development

The Leadership Development Committee (LDC) identifies new ways to create leaders and increase the number of active leaders. Additionally, the LDC works to find new opportunities for continuing education and leader training.


The LDC is currently working to identify new leadership roles in an effort to reduce barriers and ease the burden on our already busy volunteers. They have been developing a modular leadership track that would allow prospective leaders to pursue a variety of leadership tracks such as Alpine Rock, Glacier, Intermediate Leader, or a Front-Country role that focuses on conditioners and crag trips.

This project is still in its early stages, but the hope is that a variety of leadership tracks will draw more people to leader roles, and make it easier for someone to become a leader if they have an interest in leading one type of climb rather than becoming a full climb leader.

The project also aims to make the path to become a leader clear and transparent. The process to become a climb leader is currently not well defined or outlined, and many potential new leaders may not know where to go or how to start down a leadership path. The LDC hopes to increase the number of leaders by making the process easy to follow and understand.

Questions or feedback about what Leadership Development is working on? Please contact your branch representative or the committee chair.  

Current Members:

Chase Gruszewski (Chair, Kitsap), Dennis Kiilerich (Seattle), Elizabeth Muller (Olympia), Sean Albert (Seattle), Jason Speer (Bellingham), John Mackey (Kitsap), Michael Lai (Everett), Pete Stamper (Everett), Sara Holt (Tacoma)


The Curriculum Committee (CC) spends its time reviewing course curriculum content and evaluating how to improve the experience each student receives. They work to ensure climbing courses have relevant information and are set up to produce high-quality graduates who feel empowered to pursue their climbing career within The Mountaineers.

Additionally, the CC works with other PCE committees and the organization at large to develop new curriculum, when appropriate.

What is happening now?

The CC has been creating an outline of the goals and objectives of each course offered with the end goal of clearly stating the expectations and outcomes for all Mountaineers climbing courses. These documents help students and instructors alike understand what each course accomplishes. Curriculum is cataloging every climbing course the club offers, with the long term goal of making these documents available to the public on the website.

Current Members:

Nick Mayo (Chair, Everett), Natalia Martinez-Paz (Tacoma), Mike Riley (Olympia), Bob Keranan (Olympia) Janette Zumbo (Olympia), Ben Brown (Tacoma), Jim Nelson (Seattle), Ralph Wessels (Kitsap), Scott Braswell (Everett), Stefanie Schiller (Seattle), Wesley Witt (Everett), Rich Irwin (Olympia)

Technical Advisory

The Climbing Technical Advisory Committee (CTAC) provides recommendations on new and existing skills/techniques and equipment through research and testing.  This includes research of existing standards and equipment, as well as new innovations. CTAC works closely with Curriculum Committee to provide expertise and input on the skills and techniques taught in Mountaineers climbing courses.

What is happening now?

This year, CTAC created a new and comprehensive vetting process to ensure the committee is following an improved process for evaluating and reporting skills, techniques, and equipment. This new process is designed to help create consistency and transparency in how the group comes to decisions. The process will also help CTAC create standardized reports on the work that was done, so everyone can see how a decision was made.

The committee is in the process of completing a trial run of their first technique vetting, and is hoping to publish a report soon!

Current Members:

Nick Hunt (Chair, Seattle), Nathan Reed (Bellingham), Deling Ren (Seattle), Gregg Gagliardi (Tacoma), Jeff Hunt (Seattle), Mark Goodro (Kitsap), Nick Mayo (Everett), Tim Nagle (Olympia)

Access & Stewardship

The Climbing Access and Stewardship Committee (CASC) is tasked with identifying new teaching and climbing areas for Mountaineers climbing programs both outdoors and in urban areas. Permitting, access, and crowding are issues that are only getting worse, and CASC is trying to find new solutions to the problem.  CASC works with new and existing partners on stewardship opportunities to take care of the places we use and ensure they are available in the future

What is happening now?

CASC has created an inventory of potential climbing teaching areas for field trips. This year, the committee would like to scout and document several new field trip locations and provide that information to course chairs. The group just completed a trial run of their first scouting trip at Marymoor Park in Redmond! They are working to prepare a report on the results and what kind of climbing courses could make good use of this area.

Future scouting trips will include a mix of new urban area, new outdoor rock areas, as well as providing more detail on well established but lesser used places.

Current Members:

Michael Walther (Chair, Olympia), Laurel Baum (Everett), Glenn Eades (Seattle), Breanna Duffy (Bellingham), Amanda Virbitsky (Staff)

 Alpine Ambassadors

Alpine Ambassadors are a group of climbers looking to push their limits together, learn from the mentorship of guides and highly accomplished climbers, and mentor others. This talented group is comprised of leaders from all branches with climbing programs and committed to helping our leaders push their climbing limits. 

Alpine Ambassadors is designed as the next step for our climb leaders. It's an opportunity for those who spend so much time mentoring students to continue to push their own climbing abilities with a community of strong and motivated Mountaineers climbers.

As this is first and foremost an investment in our top volunteers, there is no fee to be a part of this program.


  • Program Definition: A group who volunteered to be a pilot Leadership Committee has worked hard on putting some definition around this program. Please check out the Alpine Ambassadors pages on our website. This winter we had two great Ambassadors-hosted trips - one to Ouray in partnership with Colorado Mountain Club, and one to Bozeman. We also had an outstanding Canmore trip, despite the polar vortex! The stoke is high and we're really looking forward to what's to come this summer.
  • Squamish Dates: The Squamish trip this year will be led by Krissy Fagan and Stefanie Schiller. We have the same great guides as last summer. The dates are July 10-16, and applications are open. All information can be found on this page Please spread the word! Note: We’ve tried to make it easy for applicants to apply multiple times, but this means a bit more up-front work on the initial application. For Squamish 2019, current Ambassadors can choose to write “see previous application” for the Climbing Experience and Volunteer Experience sections.

Want To Get Involved?

If you’d like to be a part of the work happening within the PCE, contact the committee chair or Nick Block at nick@mountaineers.org the Volunteer Collaborations Manager. Your feedback and input is critical to the success of these PCE programs.  

Tags: ,

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.
Nick Mayo
Nick Mayo says:
Apr 26, 2019 09:31 AM

Thanks for the update Nick - very helpful!