Intermediate Alpine Climbing

Intermediate Alpine Climbing

Learn the techniques necessary to lead climb the rock, snow, or ice typically found in the Cascade and Olympic mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

What was formerly known as the the Intermediate Alpine Climbing Course, this course teaches the techniques necessary to lead climb the rock, snow, or ice typically found in the Cascade and Olympic mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to climbing techniques, the course emphasizes leadership, safety, and climbing instruction. Course graduates will have the knowledge and skills to organize and lead basic-level climbs and to participate in intermediate-level alpine, rock, and ice climbs. The Intermediate Climbing Course is also offered by the Everett, Kitsap, Olympia, and Tacoma branches of The Mountaineers.  Many intermediate students go on to successfully become climb leaders.

Starting in 2018, the Seattle branch will offer the Intermediate Alpine Course as a series of modules which can be taken individually or as a whole. This will allow students to go at their own pace and to focus on the type of climbing they are passionate about if they prefer to do so.  In addition, we also would like to make it easier for students who already have skills the traditional intermediate course used to cover to jump right in wherever they are rather than having to re-learn skills they already possess. We will continue to offer the Intermediate Modules as a package (referred to as “Intermediate Package”) for those who are ready and "want to do it all”.

Modules and  Content

  • Intro to Group and Self Rescue focuses on group rescue techniques and introduces simple scenarios for self rescue (1 evening lecture, 3-4 evening practice sessions, 2 all day field trips)
    • Intermediate Glacier Travel: includes winter mountaineering skills, trip planning, moving efficiently on moderate to steep terrain (1 evening lecture, 1 overnight field trip)
  • Single Pitch Trad Climbing teaches building anchors and leading on traditional (trad) gear in a single pitch setting (1 evening lecture, 2 evening practice sessions, 3 all day field trips)
    • Multi Pitch Trad Climbing teaches leading on gear in a multi-pitch setting (1 evening lecture, 2 evening practice sessions, 3 all day field trips)
    • Small Party Self Rescue cements the skills of the first rescue module and adds more skills to cover a larger variety of self rescue scenarios (1 evening lecture, 3-4 evening practice sessions, 2 all day field trips)
    • Intro to Alpine Ice Climbing teaches techniques for leading on alpine ice on moderate terrain (Grade II, up to 45 degrees) (1 evening lecture, 1 overnight field trip)

While it is not necessary to take to take all of the modules, some modules constitute prerequisites for other modes.. The below flow chart is a simplified representation of how the modules build on each other.

In addition to the lectures, practice sessions and field trips, students will need to participate in club climbs both at the basic as well as the intermediate level in order to graduate from some of the modules. Furthermore, each module has specific volunteer instructor prerequisites, so that students cannot progress through the modules without volunteering as an instructor. This is both instrumental to the learning experience of the student as well as our success as a volunteer organization. 


Each module has specific prerequisites which will be included in the more detailed module descriptions at a later time. In general these will include:

  • Membership in The Mountaineers,
  • All prerequisite skills specific to each module including those taught at The Mountaineers' Basic Alpine Climbing Course or equivalent experience,
  • Wilderness First Aid or equivalent,
  • Wilderness Navigation or equivalent,
  • Scrambling and climbing experience (preferably two seasons or more with at least 10 scrambles and/or climbs at the basic level)
  • Ability to lead 5.7 on bolts outdoors or gym lead and lead belay card (rock modules only)
  • Ability to clean a sport anchor (rock modules only)
  • Number of volunteer instructor hours with a qualifying  Mountaineers' module or course.

Intermediate Package

We will offer an Intermediate Package to accommodate experienced students who are aiming to become a well rounded climbers. The package is designed for aspiring alpinists who are looking to advance their skill set and take it to the next level. In order to succeed in the Intermediate Package, students want to have a fairly extensive level of experience in hiking, backpacking, scrambling, and basic climbing. Having done three basic climbs as part of The Mountaineers’s Basic Alpine Climbing Course is NOT sufficient to succeed in the Intermediate Package (or to get you admitted). Here are some guidelines to what is expected:

  • Very comfortable scrambling skills on class 3 and 4 terrain with exposure.
  • At least one (better two) full season(s) of basic climbs or scrambles with at least ten scrambles or climbs including several glacier, rock and alpine climbs. The more the better.
  • Regular leading in the gym (requires  gym  lead certification which is usually tested on a 5.9 route), plus  comfortable leading  on bolts outdoors on 5.7 routes.

There is an application process for the Intermediate Package. Applicants for the package need to meet the prerequisites for all modules at the time of their application. Please find the application form for the package here. Applications are due October 15.

Advantages of the Package

  • Students in the package will be assigned to a mentor group that will offer additional practice and instruction as well as companionship and mentor climbs; students in the package are expected to actively participate in their mentor group.
  • The package will be offered at a discount compared to the price for all modules combined.
  • Students will get automatically into all the Intermediate Modules the year that they applied to the package.


  • Students in the package are expected to participate in all the Intermediate Modules the year that they applied to the package, it is therefore a substantial time commitment.
  • Students need to meet all the prerequisites (excluding those taught in the course) at the time of the application to the Intermediate Package (in the fall) while students taking the modules need to meet the prerequisites at the time they apply to the module (generally in the spring).
  • Students in the package have five years to complete all the requirements to graduate, after that they can remain enrolled at an additional yearly fee.

Criteria for Admission to the Package

  • Depth and breadth of technical and non-technical climbing experience with and without The Mountaineers with a minimum of six alpine climbs or scrambles.
  • Meeting the prerequisites to all Intermediate Modules (excluding those taught during the course); specifically, ability to comfortably sport lead at least 5.7  outside plus  gym lead certification.
  • Number of volunteer hours with The Mountaineers (or other non-profit organization if new to the club).
  • Duration of Mountaineers membership.

Continuing Students

There will be no changes in graduation requirements for students already enrolled in the Intermediate Course as of 2017. The new course structure mirrors that of the Intermediate Course closely enough that students may substitute required intermediate field trips with the corresponding new modules. This typically applies to the Winter Mountaineering (now Intermediate Glacier) and Alpine Ice 1/2 (now Intro to Alpine Ice) field trips.

Students taking the modules may take as long as they wish as long as they keep their skills fresh by instructing, participating in any mandatory training (to update the instructor pool on new techniques for example) and participating in club climbs. Students in the Intermediate Package may take up to five years to complete all the requirements, after that an annual continuation fee is required to remain enrolled. In order to add another year to your Intermediate Package, please contact the Intermediate Administration Subcommittee at and sign up online for the extension.