Following Alpine Rock - 2023

Climbing Course

Following Alpine Rock

This course prepares you to participate safely as a follower on basic rock climbs that reach alpine summits in the Pacific Northwest.

Welcome to Following Alpine Rock!

The 2023 Following Alpine Rock application period has closed. If you are interested in joining the waitlist, please email

If you are familiar with other Mountaineers courses, this course is effectively the rock component of the larger Basic Alpine Climbing course. It's useful for students who want to participate on Basic Rock climbs, but do not wish to take the entire Basic Alpine Climbing course to do so, as they either do not currently have an interest in glacier travel, or, they already have glacier-travel experience and don't want to repeat that portion of the larger Basic course.  Either way, you are welcome here!  🏔🥾 🧗‍♀️


To be successful in this course, it’s important that applicants have experience and proficiency with the following skills prior to taking this course:  

  • Moving through 3rd class and 4th class scramble terrain* (Applicants need to either be a graduate from the Mountaineers Scramble course or have equivalent experience.)
  • Traveling on steep snow using an ice axe and crampons*
  • Self arrest*
  • Top-rope belay experience (i.e., a belay card from any indoor climbing gym)
  • Physical fitness

* If you don't yet have experience with scramble terrain, along with basic ice axe and crampon usage, you would be better served by the Mountaineers Scramble Course.

For more details about prerequisite skills, see the 2022 course page.

Application Process

  • Applications can be submitted via this form between January 1 – January 31, 2023. The order that applications are received will not matter, we wait until the end and then look at all of them.
  • After the application window closes, we'll review the submissions, and rank them based on their content. This may take a week or two, and we will share results via email by mid-February. Since we only have capacity for a limited number of students, the applicants that are the best fit will be offered spots in the course first.  The remaining well-qualified applicants will be placed on a waitlist. Or, if we feel an improvement is necessary in order for you to be ready for the course, we'll try to send you an email with the suggested improvement and encourage you to apply again in a future year. For better or for worse, it looks like the number and quality of applicants we'll receive are both quite high, and it's likely we'll end up in the difficult position of having to turn away some well-qualified applicants.
  • After the application review, if you are accepted (we'll let you know by email,) only then do you return to this page and go ahead and register as a student, which will charge you the course fee at that time.
    • In the unlikely event that we accept someone, notify them, and then don't hear back from them at all for over a week, we'll give the next person down the waitlist the option to take that student spot instead.  If you know you'll be traveling/offline around that time, send us an email heads up about that so we know to expect a longer response time from you.
  • Course activities will start in March.

Skills taught in this course

  • Discussion of gear appropriate for alpine climbing.
  • Some basic knots relevant to climbing, especially rope coiling
  • A brief review of belay skills, how to belay a lead climber
  • A backup technique for belaying if you've lost your belay device
  • Belay escape.  (A skill that's an element of self rescue, although complete rescue skills are beyond the scope of this course.)
  • Rappelling  (how to setup an extended rappel, and how to maximize safety)
  • A backup technique for rappelling if you've lost your belay device
  • Cleaning trad gear  (i.e., how to remove trad gear from the rock)
  • The multipitch sequence and multipitch transitions 


Sometimes more clarity can be gained by explaining what a thing is not.  This course does NOT teach:

  • How to belay, starting from scratch. We welcome relative-beginners, but we really need you to come in with some belay experience. If you've never belayed before at all, consider asking a local rock gym (like Vertical World or Stone Gardens.) They offer brief courses that teach how to top-rope and belay in the gym. 
  • Scramble skills. Students are expected to come into the course with some prior experience moving through some 3rd and 4th class scramble terrain.
  • Ice axe and crampon usage. Along with the scramble skills, we are going to encounter sloped snow at times on our way to alpine rock climbs, and we need students to come in with some experience using these tools. 
  • Glacier travel. Glacier-travel skills are neither taught in this course, nor are they a prerequisite. Most applicants to this course either have previous glacier-travel experience, or have no interest in glacier-travel. Otherwise, those applicants would be better served taking the larger Basic Alpine Climbing course.
  • How to lead climb. Neither leading on bolts, nor leading on trad gear is taught during this course. However, if your ultimate goal is to learn to lead trad, this course does cover a lot of skills you should know before you get into trad climbing and is still a valuable stepping stone on your journey to get there.
  • Self rescue. Or at least, not a complete skill set to fully prepare you for self rescue in a multipitch rock setting.  The course does teach belay escape, which is a key part of self rescue, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Time Commitment

  • The core instructional content of the course will take place during March and April 2023:
    • 5 weekday evenings
    • 2 full days on different weekends
  • At least one actual alpine rock climb during this summer that successfully reaches the summit (may require a couple of summer weekends)
  • Additional supporting courses and activities are required that you'll have to schedule yourself:
    • Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification. (A 16-hour weekend course.  Separate sign up.)
    • Low-Impact Recreation course (a 1-hour online course)
    • Spend one day doing an activity that represents Stewardship of the wilderness.  Participating in a WTA Trail Work Party is the most popular option.
  • Ongoing self-driven physical conditioning is strongly recommended:
    • Doing something to gain at least 2000' at least once every week is strongly recommended as a minimum bar to build and maintain fitness
    • We gently recommend climbing at an indoor climbing gym once a week or so.  It's not required, but it will likely increase your enjoyment of the course.
  • Optional extras:
    • An evening meet and greet before the core course begins
    • Optional skill-practice evenings (TBD)
    • Optional conditioning hikes (TBD)

For more detail about the time commitment, see the 2022 course page.

FINANCIAL Commitment

  • The course fee (scroll to the top of this page)
  • There is a gear list of things students need to bring. Depending on how much of the appropriate gear you already own, you may have to spend anywhere from a couple hundred to up to $1,000 buying the necessary gear for yourself.
  • Unless you're already WFA (or WFR) certified, you'll need to take a WFA course.  For example, RMI offers them for $325


The Mountaineers is committed to making our courses accessible to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Our courses are priced to cover our costs, but we know that costs add up quickly, especially when students also need to purchase gear.  We encourage students to apply for our scholarship program, which is funded by generous donors to make courses more accessible. Applications may take up to 2 weeks to process and Financial Assistance can not be applied to courses or activities already registered for. You can learn more about and apply for a scholarship

Additional information

Graduation Requirements

This Graduation Form outlines the requirements for graduating from this course.

What is a Basic Rock climb?

A "Basic Rock" climb is shorthand the Mountaineers use for trip categorization.   To learn what we really mean by that, click here.

Additional FAQs

This FAQ for the larger "Basic Alpine Climbing" course can also be a helpful resource. Nearly all of it is the same for this "Intro to Alpine Rock" course.

If you have any questions about the course or want to talk about ways to meet the prerequisites, please email us at 😊

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

👉 Here's the Gear List document. 👈

In the document, the left column on the first page are the hard-requirements for the course. You will need to bring everything listed under Technical Gear for Rock Climbing and the 10 Essentials to every workshop in the course and every Basic Rock alpine climb.

The right column on the first page lists items that may be required for the Basic Rock alpine climbs we'll eventually go on. Note that the list isn't exhaustive and will be specific to the climb.

Only the first page lists the required gear.  All pages of that document beyond the first one just go into detail about what that gear means, with some suggestions and recommendations on what to look for, in case it's helpful.

Course Materials

You must register for this course to see course materials.