What Climbing Course is right for me?

What Climbing Course is right for me?

Are you interested in learning how to climb? What type of climbing? Read on!

"Climbing", as defined on Wikipedia, is "[...] the activity of using one's hands, feet, or any other part of the body to ascend a steep topographical object. It is done for locomotion, recreation and competition, and within trades that rely on ascension; such as emergency rescue and military operations. It is done indoors and out, on natural and man-made structures."

The Mountaineers offer many courses that may fit this description, but your definition or interests may be different than our definitions! Lets go through each and determine which type of "climbing" might be right for you!

ScramblingIntro to Rock ClimbingSport ClimbingTrad Climbing Alpine Climbing




Alpine Scrambles are off-trail trips, often on snow or rock, with a 'non-technical' summit as a destination. A non-technical summit is one that is reached without the need for certain types of climbing equipment (body harness, rope, protection hardware, etc), and not involving travel on extremely steep slopes or on glaciers. However, this can mean negotiating lower angle rock, traveling through talus and scree, crossing streams, fighting one's way through dense brush, and walking on snow-covered slopes.

Scrambles are usually done without ropes, but ropes may be used in emergency situations. Typical scrambles may include

  • Snoqualmie Mountain (Winter Scramble) - Snoqualmie Pass
  • Steamboat Prow - Mount Rainier
  • Del Camp Peak - Mountain Loop Highway
  • Freedom & Navajo Peaks - Teanaways

This course might be right for you if you

  • have never hiked off trail before
  • have done some off trail hiking, but are not completely comfortable crossing rocky fields or ascending steep slopes

Learn more about Foothills Scramble Courses here!

Intro to Rock Climbing

Intro to Rock Climbing Courses consists of indoor and outdoor climbing. Participants will learn how to belay others on a top rope as they climb. 

This course might be right for you if you

  • are interested in top rope belaying (indoors or outdoors)
  • want to learn the basics of rock climbing

Foothills Climbing does not currently offer an Intro to Rock Climbing Course. Please visit our Seattle Climbing Committee Page to learn more!


Sport Climbing

Sport climbing is a form of rock climbing that may rely on permanent anchors fixed to the rock for protection, in which a rope that is attached to the climber is clipped into the anchors to arrest a fall, or that involves climbing short distances with a crash pad underneath as protection

Some sport climbing areas include

  • Blackstone Wall - Little Si
  • World Wall - Little Si
  • Neverland - Exit 38
  • The Feathers - Vantage

This course might be right for you if you

  • have some experience rock climbing on top rope (5.9 recommended)
  • want to learn how to lead climb a rock route without a top rope
  • want to improve your climbing technique

Foothills is planning to offer a sport climbing course in summer of 2021. Stay tuned for more!

Trad Climbing

Trad climbing is a form of rocking climbing that may rely on removable anchors and protection placed in the rock as a climber ascends a route. Removable anchors, like cams or chocks, are placed into cracks; the climber, who's attached to a rope, will clip the protection as they ascend, which will arrest the climber in the event of a fall. 

Some trad climbing crag areas include

  • Clamshell Cave - Leavenworth
  • Royal Columns - Tieton
  • The Chief - Squamish
  • Red Rocks

This course might be right for you if you

  • are comfortable sport climbing at least 5.6
  • want to learn how to climb cracks
  • want to learn how to climb using cams, chocks, or other gear

Foothills Climbing plans to offer a trad climbing course in spring of 2021. Stay tuned for more!

Alpine Climbing

Alpine climbing generally refers to climbing routes in the alpine or wilderness, many miles from the trailhead. These can include rock climbing, steep snow climbing, glacier travel, or ice climbing. Protection may include the use of bolts, pitons, trad gear, or other, natural features. Often times climbers will need to scramble a portion of the approach to reach the actual climbs.

Alpine Climbing courses will teach some rock climbing techniques, but the focus is on all technical skills that may be required to obtain a summit, including steep snow climbing, rock climbing, or glacier travel

Alpine Climbs can include

Rock climbs

  • The Tooth - South Face
  • South Early Winters Spire - South Arete
  • Prusik Peak - West Ridge

Glacier Climbs

  • Mount Rainier - DC or Emmons Routes
  • Sahale - Quien Sabe Glacier
  • Mount Baker - Coleman Deming Route

This course might be right for you if you

  • want to learn how to climb mountains that require use of ropes or other climbing techniques

Foothills offers a Basic Alpine Climbing Course that teaches both Alpine Rock and Glacier climbing. If you're interested in just climbing Glaciers, please visit Seattle's Glacier Climbing Course page!



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