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Climbing Course

Basic Alpine Climbing Course

The goal of the Olympia Basic Alpine Climbing Course is to teach students to safely climb rock, snow, and the glaciated peaks of the Pacific Northwest using a combination of online and classroom lectures, field instruction, and climbing experiences with an emphasis on active, hands-on learning.

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers course.

11.10.21: All applications have been finalized.

Please complete the application to be considered for the waitlist:

Applications accepted October 13 through October 31. 

Application results  by November 12.

REFUNDS If you cancel the course within these timelines:

  • November 12 through December 31 - refund minus $10
  • January 1 through January 15 - 50% refund
  • After January 15 - no refunds

NOTE ABOUT LOCATIONS: We are making every effort to keep the field trip locations as they are outlined below, however lecture locations may change to online instead of in-person, depending on updated COVID guidance at the time of the lecture. This determination will be made closer to the event start date. All locations are subject to change.

Students are encouraged to take the Wilderness Skills course prior to Basic Climbing. Wilderness Skills is offered in January and is an online course. This course is offered for free to Basic Climbing students - contact the Basic Climbing course leader if you would like to enroll.

Interested students are urged to consider taking the Alpine Scrambling course prior to Basic Climbing. Completion of Scrambling allows the student to master a portion of the skills that will be taught in Basic Climbing, as well as provide even more opportunities to meet like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. Additional courses such as MOFA and Navigation will also be completed prior to taking Basic Climbing, meaning fewer requirements for graduation in the same year.

There is an optional pre-course meeting on January 19 at 6pm to give students an opportunity to go over gear requirements, practice knots and hitches, and discuss various components of the course. 

The course lectures and field trips begin Tuesday, February 1, 2022, consisting of  lectures, field trips, the final exam, and additional activities (see below, "requirements and commitments"). Students are expected to put in the necessary practice outside of structured course time for becoming proficient at skills. Topics covered include equipment/gear, backcountry travel and camping, snow camping, glacier travel, belaying, rappelling, rock climbing, crevasse rescue, and more. Previous experience in off-trail hiking and camping is helpful.


All students (and instructors) must be fully vaccinated against COVID to participate in the course and must be able to show proof of vaccination upon request.

Basic Climbing students must:

  • Attend all lectures
  • Attend all field trips
  • Pass the final exam
  • Successfully complete physical conditioning requirements
  • Participate in three experience climbs (glacier, rock, alpine)
  • Complete Mountaineering Oriented First Aid (MOFA) or equivalent – you must self-register and pay the separate course fee for first aid courses
  • Complete Navigation course – you must self-register and pay the separate course fee for Navigation
  • Complete a stewardship requirement 

Optional events:

  • Attend the optional Pre-course Workshop
  • Attend the additional practice session at SPIRE Rock 
  • Attend the climbing clinic at Cirque Climbing (date tentative)

Additionally, students must purchase a copy of “Freedom of the Hills, 9th Edition.” Note that there are significant gear and equipment needs for this course that will be required in order to participate in activities. Some examples: mountaineering boots, harness, helmet, crampons, ice axe, etc.

Unfortunately scheduling conflicts with the scheduled course components  cannot be accommodated, so please ensure you can commit to the dates of the course and that you are able to travel to the various regions of Washington State to participate in all activities and gatherings. Unpredictability due to changing COVID restrictions means that locations may change with minimal notice.


In addition to having a desire to learn technical rock and mountaineering skills, successful graduates possess solid overall physical conditioning, good cardiovascular strength, and psychological commitment. This course is challenging; however, the payoff will be opportunities to connect with lifelong climbing partners and friends as well as life-changing outdoor experiences, while learning the skills that can be used to safely travel in the wild for a lifetime.

The Olympia Branch climbing program is committed to supporting a diverse climbing community in spaces in which we live and recreate. We strongly encourage applications from people from underrepresented communities. 

For more information about Basic Climbing, potential students are encouraged to contact the Basic Climbing Chair Julie Dasso (

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

Refer to the Student Manual.

Students will need access to a computer with reliable internet access to participate in the course:

  • Students must have a camera and microphone in order to participate in the course if lectures occur over Zoom.
  • Please have the free Zoom desktop client or mobile app installed and account created. One unique account per student please, including couples and friends.
  • Additional material may be offered in Google Classroom, and a compatible email account will be required to be invited to Google Classroom. 
Course Materials

You must register for this course to see course materials.