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.

Intermediate Alpine Climbing consists of a series of modules that combined teach  the skills 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. These course modules are a good next step for those who have completed the basic climbing program and have gotten additional climbing and scrambling experience in addition to the basic climbing courses 2 required 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 with The Mountaineers.

The Seattle intermediate program modules can be taken all in one year or in individual modules that allows students to go at their own pace and to focus on the type of climbing they are passionate about.  In addition, this also allows for new entry points for students who already have some of the skills the intermediate course used to cover so they can jump right in wherever they are rather than having to re-learn skills they already possess.

The modules are a great way to focus your efforts on a more specific set of skills. For example if you want to focus on doing more glacier and steep snow and ice consider taking Self Rescue 1, Intermediate Glacier Travel and Intro to Alpine Ice. Or if you are more interested in rock consider taking Self Rescue 1, Single Pitch Trad, Multi Pitch Trad and Self Rescue 2.

Got questions after reviewing this page? Sign up for the Nov 9 info session.

Modules and  Content

  • Intermediate Glacier Travel: includes winter mountaineering skills, trip planning, moving efficiently on moderate to steep terrain, advanced crevasse rescue techniques, group glacier travel techniques and leadership
  • Self Rescue 1   focuses on the fallen follower scenario including escaping a loaded autolocking device, counterbalance rappel to a tandem rappel.
  • Single Pitch Trad Climbing teaches gear placement and gear spacing techniques and crack climbing in a single pitch environment.
    • Multi Pitch Trad Climbing teaches leading on gear in a multi-pitch setting including efficient transitions, gear anchors, multi pitch rappel considerations etc
    • Intro to Alpine Ice Climbing teaches techniques for leading on alpine ice on moderate terrain (Grade II, up to 45 degrees)
      • Self Rescue 2 cements the skills of the first rescue module and adds the fallen leader scenario

    While it is not necessary to take to take all of the modules, some modules constitute prerequisites for other modes. Please refer to the current Intermediate Alpine Climbing Handbook for details.

    In addition to the lectures, practice sessions and field trips, students will need to participate in mountaineers sponsored climbs both at the basic and intermediate level in order to graduate from the intermediate climbing course package. 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. 

    To participate in a basic or intermediate rock climb as a rope leader you need to have graduated from:

    • Single Pitch Trad
    • Multi Pitch Trad
    • Self Rescue 1
    • A leadership seminar with The Mountaineers. Students who are part of the package have a teaching and leadership evening lecture. If you are not part of the package and taking the modules separately you can attend this seminar but it only happens once a year so we suggest the "Becoming a Mountaineers leader" e-course or checking out leadership course options here and double checking with the course leaders to make sure it counts (generally we want students to do one of the general leadership courses not a navigation or hiking specific instructor training etc). 

    For intermediate rock climbs we highly recommend Self Rescue 1 and Self Rescue 2

    To participate on basic alpine climb as a rope lead (could be something like Shuksan or Olympus that has glacier and a bit of rock) you need

    • Intermediate Glacier Travel
    • Single Pitch Trad
    • Multi Pitch Trad
    • Leadership seminar (see notes above on specifics)

    To participate on a basic glacier climb (something like Baker or Glacier, no rappel/rock portion) you need:

    • Intermediate Glacier Travel (Leadership seminar is incorporated in 2021 curriculum)

    To participate on an intermediate alpine climb (sometimes these are winter or ice climbs like Lane Peak/the zipper, Chair Peak NE Buttress in the winter or N. Ridge of Baker etc) you need the full set of modules because you may encounter snow, rock and ice

    • Intermediate Glacier Travel
    • Single Pitch Trad
    • Multi Pitch Trad
    • Self Rescue 1
    • Self Rescue 2
    • Intro to Alpine Ice

    Please note that each branch has modularized their intermediate courses in slightly different ways so the Mountaineers website is not fully standardized yet with all the skill badges and course badges across the badges but based on Seattle's modularization breakdown these are the requirements. We also sometimes have leaders who choose basic alpine for something like the Tooth or Ingalls when it should really be basic rock but that is because the basic rock template didn't always exist. If you are a modular student and have taken the course work above please don't hesitate to reach out to the leader if you are having trouble signing up online. 

    Prerequisites

    Each module has specific prerequisites outlined in detail in the Intermediate Alpine Climbing Handbook. In general these 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),
    • Ability to hike Mount Si to the bottom of the haystack in under 2 hours or Mailbox Peak in under 2.5 hours with a 35 lbs pack (30 lbs for people weighing less than 130 lbs)
    • Number of volunteer instructor hours with a qualifying  Mountaineers' module or course.
    Intermediate Glacier Travel
    Pre-reqs: Basic Climbing Course or Basic Glacier Course or Equivalency (you gotta understand 1 form of crevasse rescue and how to prussik up a rope)
     
    Single Pitch Trad
    Pre-reqs: leading on bolts outside at 5.7 or indoors at the gym (have gym lead card) usually means you are climbing 5.9 inside
    Multi Pitch Trad
    Pre-reqs: Single Pitch trad course or similar previous experience
    Alpine Ice-  you should have glacier travel/steep snow experience and have swapped leads on a multi pitch climb of some sort. We have mostly only been offering this class to folks who want to be fully involved with our intermediate program so pre-reqs have been volunteering with our climbing programs. 
    Self Rescue 1
    Pre-reqs - you should be familiar with a full belay escape and lower and ideally you should have multi pitch trad experience since the scenarios are related to rescuing a climber on a multi pitch rock climb
    Self Rescue 2
    Pre-reqs- Self Rescue 1, or a full understanding of rescuing a follower on a multi pitch climb which involves lowering, counter balance rappel and tandem rappel. 

    To be successful with multiple modules we recommend that students have a fairly extensive level of experience in hiking, backpacking, scrambling and basic climbing.  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 or harder.

    Registration for Self Rescue 1, Intermediate Glacier Travel, Single Pitch Trad and Multi Pitch trad will open December 1, 2021.

    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 Rescue Methods (now Self Rescue 1 and 2) 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. If you were previously involved in the intermediate program before modularization and are missing badges please email Tess Wendel at tesswendel@gmail.com. If you have completed your rope lead requirements, volunteering with the basic program and all the modules please email intermediate.climbing@gmail.com to apply for graduation from the full intermediate program.

    Intermediate Graduation

    The following requirements must be met to graduate from the full Intermediate Alpine Climbing Course: 

    • Attend in a safe and competent manner all Intermediate Modules, including lectures and field trips

    • Graduate from all modules (or marked as successful for relevant field trips if taken the course pre-modules)

    • Complete AIARE Level 1 Avalanche training

    • Complete all volunteer requirements. This includes volunteering for 6 events for Seattle climbing, one volunteer instructor day for each module taken. And then volunteering once a year while completing the rest of the requirements once the curriculum is complete. We recommend volunteering for basic level field trips.

    • Complete six (6) basic climbs as a rope leader or climb leader in a safe and competent manner, including at least three (3) rock and two (2) glacier climbs. Each climb must be of a separate and distinct route. 

    • Complete five (5) intermediate climbs in a safe and competent manner, including at least two (2) alpine ice and two (2) alpine rock climbs. Each climb must be posted on the Mountaineers website before the event takes place, the student must have been registered for the climb and each climb must be a separate and distinct route. 

    • Have current Wilderness First Aid certification or higher when applying for graduation, maintaining WFA is highly encouraged. 

    • Students taking the Intermediate Alpine Climbing Package need to either meet the graduation requirements established for the year that they started the Intermediate Alpine Climbing Package or the most recent requirements at the time they apply for graduation. For students taking the individual modules the most recent graduation requirements apply. 

    • Students taking the Intermediate Alpine Climbing Package need to submit a graduation application to the Climbing Committee within five years of the date that they began the Intermediate Alpine Climbing Course (see next section for extension). The application must present the dates, leaders and events that fulfill the above intermediate package requirements. In order to submit a complete application for graduation, students need to maintain a detailed record of their climbing activities as a student.