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Climbing Course

Compressed Basic Alpine Climbing

The Compressed Basic Climbing Course is designed for those interested in experiencing alpine climbing and learning fundamental mountain skills in a condensed format.

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.

Course leaders are making every effort to offer the course as outlined below, however we may need to alter the structure of the course, or cancel the course, if significant changes occur. Please understand this before committing to the course.  Students from the cancelled 2020 Basic Climbing course will receive priority.

The Compressed Basic Alpine Climbing course is a combination of online lectures and activities, field instruction and climbing experiences with an emphasis on active, hands-on learning to achieve the goal of teaching students to safely climb rock, snow and the glaciated peaks of the Pacific Northwest.

The course begins with the prerequisite course Wilderness Skills.  Wilderness Skills is included at no extra charge for Basic Climbing students, and the Basic Climbing Chair will register climbing students -- do not self-register. The Wilderness Skills course is two half-day events and Basic Climbing students are required to attend both days.

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.



  • Graduate Wilderness Skills
  • Mastery of required knots and hitches
  • Conditioner hike within 2 months  prior to the start of the course
  • Attendance at the pre-meeting

Basic Climbing students must:

  • Attend all lectures and practice sessions
  • Attend all field trips
  • Complete all homework in Google Classroom
  • Pass quizzes and exams
  • 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 

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.


There are no refunds after the first lecture. 


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.

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.

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

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.
  • Please have the free Zoom desktop client or mobile app installed and account created. One unique account per student please. 
  • Please have an email address able to utilize Google Classrooms. If this is not your email on your Mountaineers profile please let the course leader know. One unique email address per student please.

Gear required for the course must be purchased prior to the first lecture. Please see Course Materials for a detailed list of required gear, and reach out to course leadership with specific questions.

Students are required to be proficient in knots and hitches prior to the first lecture.

A conditioner must be completed before the beginning of the course, and within two months of the start of the course. A conditioner hike is a hike that is at least 3 miles in 2 hours on the ascent, at least 800' elevation gain per mile, carrying a 30-40lb pack. Example: the summer summit of Mount Rose should be attained within 2.5 hours carrying a 35lb pack.

Wilderness Skills, WFA/MOFA, Navigation, and Stewardship requirements can be completed after the course has ended but must be completed before graduating the Compressed Basic Climbing Course.

Course Materials

There are no materials for this course.