Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Your survival guide to INTENSE Basic Alpine Climbing

Answers to many of the questions you might have ...

•     Do I need to have prior climbing experience to apply for this course?

•     I haven’t climbed but I’ve camped and hiked: does that help my application?

•     How fit do I need to be to climb?

•     What are the course requirements?

•     What is the time commitment?

•     How flexible is the course schedule?

•     What level of rock climbing will we be attempting?

•     Will I learn to place protection and lead climbs?

•     Will we be ice-climbing?

•     I’m not sure I’m ready to climb rock faces and glaciers, but I want to get up in the mountains. Are 

there other options?

•     What books do I need?

•     How do I apply and register for this Intense Basic Course? 


Do I need to have prior climbing experience to apply for this course?

Climbing experience isn’t required, but it helps. We have a competitive application process and unfortunately we aren’t able to accommodate every student who wants to take Basic Alpine Climbing.


I haven’t climbed but I’ve camped and hiked: does that help my application?

Absolutely! Our ideal students have a well-tested passion for the outdoors and are looking to expand that passion into more challenging pursuits. If you’re not sure how you feel about carrying a backpack or sleeping overnight in a tent, then this course probably isn’t for you.


How fit do I need to be to climb?

Every little bit helps. Cardiovascular conditioning, a strong back and core for carrying heavy loads, and the endurance to walk long distances are all very important for climbers.

Some of the physical challenges you’ll face in training include the following:

               Climbing a rope using special slings called prusiks

               Climbing rock walls with a pack

               Climbing rock walls in boots

               Walking up snowy slopes like you see at ski areas

               Using ice axes and crampons

How much gear will I need to buy?

At $1,050, the course is very affordable compared to commercial options and guide services. However, it’s important not to overlook the cost of gear when you’re thinking about whether you can afford this class.

One challenge of the 9 day intense course is that you will need to have acquired most of your gear by June 13th.  You’re encouraged to borrow as much gear as possible from friends.  Ask around before making big purchases—the Mountaineers have relationships with prominent vendors, and lots of great advice for finding good deals on quality gear.

That being said, the typical cost of outfitting yourself can be substantial—anywhere from $500 to $2,000 depending on what you already own and what kind of gear you buy. The required gear can be found under the Required Equipment tab near the bottom of the Intense Basic course home page.

This list is provided only so that you can get an idea of how much you might need to spend for this course. Please do not start shopping for gear until after you’ve been accepted into the class and had the opportunity to talk to your instructors about gear.


What are the course requirements?

See the requirements section.


What is the time commitment?

The course curriculum includes five class meetings, seven field trips which will occur June 13~21.  Then a minimum of three basic experience climbs.

In addition, there are required classes in navigation and first aid, which are taught outside the formal course structure, a stewardship requirement, and self-study. See the requirements section for more information.


How flexible is the course schedule?

You are expected to attend all sessions starting June 13 through the full day and evening of June 21.


What level of rock climbing will we be attempting?

This will vary depending on your skills and abilities, but in this course you will not be climbing above 5.6 on the Yosemite Decimal Scale.


Will I learn to place protection and lead climbs?

No. You will be learning how to climb rock as a follower and how to remove protection placed by leaders. After completing Basic Alpine Climbing, you’ll be eligible to apply for our Intermediate Course. It’s there that you’ll advance your trad climbing and learn to place protection on lead.

If you’re only interested in climbing rocks and not glaciers, you may want to check out our Crag Climbing course instead of Basic Alpine Climbing.


Will we be ice-climbing?

No. You will learn to use a single ice axe and crampons to climb on steep, crevassed snow with a rope team, but you will not be climbing on vertical water ice. An advanced Water Ice Class is available to those who have completed both Basic Alpine and Intermediate Climbing.


I’m not sure I’m ready to climb rock faces and glaciers, but I want to get up in the mountains. Are there other options?

Yes! Many of our climbers have started off with our Alpine Scrambling Course. It’s a great way to learn some of the same tools, techniques and terrains you’ll encounter in climbing, but with lower-angle routes and fewer hazards than technical climbing.


What books do I need?

You will need a copy of the course textbook Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills - 8th Edition, published by The Mountaineers. A soft cover and ePub version of Freedom of the Hills is included in the course fee.  

How do I apply and register for the Intense Basic Alpine Climbing Course?
Applying and registering is a 2 step process.

  1. First, step 1, you must complete and submit the Intense Basic Application and be accepted.  
    1. within a day or 2 you will receive an email from the course leader asking for any clarifications, additional information, or accepting you into the course.  Once accepted go to Step 2. 
  1. Second, step 2, go to the Intense Basic course page and follow the registration process. 

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