Foothills Sport Climbing Course

Foothills Sport Climbing Course

The Foothills Sport Climbing Course introduces the fundamental skills necessary to lead climb single pitch routes protected by bolts

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This course introduces the fundamental skills necessary to lead climb single pitch routes protected by bolts. Please read this information in total before applying. Info on the application process is at the end.


This course is targeted at students who have been top rope climbing, inside or outside, and want to lead climb bolted sport routes, outside, at places like Exit 38, Vantage, Mt. Erie, Leavenworth, etc. If you successfully complete this course, then by the end you will be able to safely and confidently plan and execute a trip where you lead single-pitch sport routes that are within your climbing grade.

You do not need to have taken the Mountaineers Basic Alpine Climbing course, and you definitely do not need to be an expert climber. In fact, we want students who have little-to-no experience leading routes outside.

The Foothills Climbing Committee is committed to building and fostering a representative climbing community that reflects the spaces in which we live and recreate. We recognize that outdoor recreation has historically excluded communities of color, women, and LGBTQ people. Hence, we strongly encourage applications from people with these identities or who are members of other underrepresented communities.


  • Safe top rope belaying. For us to admit you into the course, you will need either the top rope belay skill badge from the Mountaineers or a top rope belay card from a climbing gym granted created within the last 2 years. Students will be asked to demonstrate their top rope belay skills at the beginning of the course.
  • Confident climbing ability. Much of our educational time will be spent with you climbing rocks. To get the most out of this course, the routes we climb will need to be well within your climbing ability so that you can focus on the mechanics of leading. We'll spend most of our time on routes rated 5.7 and below at areas like Exit 38 and Vantage, venturing into more difficult terrain as time and skills allow. All climbing grades are subjective and are relative to the local area and historical context when the route was graded. A 5.7 outside can feel much harder than a 5.7 you'd find at the gym.

    You should be able to comfortably top rope climb 5.8s in the gym and be able to successfully complete some 5.9s in the gym without falling.


The following skills will be covered.

  • Lead belay technique, dynamic belay
  • Lead climb essentials, clipping, rope management
  • Climber / Belayer communication
  • Sport Anchor systems and top-rope rigging in straightforward environments
  • Route cleaning
  • Strength training and general fitness


This course consists of an introductory lecture and three days outside. Because of the progressive nature of the course, it is difficult to make up any missed days. Please do not sign up for the course unless you can attend all events. We understand that unexpected things happen, but we cannot allow you to continue if you miss any day or the substantial part of any day.

The course will provide climbing ropes, but the rest of the gear is personal and usually essential. You will need to purchase several hundred dollars worth of gear. We've outlined this in the required gear section below. If you cannot afford the gear please get in touch with the course leads prior to applying and we can see what we can do.


Successfully completing this course means that, by the end of the course, you have demonstrated comfortable proficiency in the following skills. The instructors are committed to teaching each student with the required skills. Unfortunately, sometimes students do not progress quite to the level necessary to receive a graduation badge. Instructors will work with those students on a case-by-case basis to help develop a plan for them to be able to graduate.

  • Belaying/rappelling/cleaning/equipment
  • Clipping techniques
  • Route risk assessment
  • Clipping
  • Face climbing techniques
  • Leading a route


Applications usually open at the beginning of the calendar year. At that point the Foothills Climbing committee will meet to evaluate all applications. We will evaluate applications, following these values:

  • Creating a diverse student cohort, including considering access issue for traditionally under-represented groups.
  • Prioritizing Mountaineers members who volunteer or donate to the club.
  • Prioritizing applicants who volunteer in their community.


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