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. 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 branch offers the Intermediate Alpine Course as a series of modules which can be taken individually or as a whole. This 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. 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

  • Intermediate Glacier Travel: includes winter mountaineering skills, trip planning, moving efficiently on moderate to steep terrain (1 evening lecture, 1 overnight field trip)
  • Self Rescue 1   focuses on the fallen follower scenario (1 evening lecture, 3-4 evening practice sessions, 2 all day field trips)
  • 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)
    • 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)
      • Self Rescue 2 cements the skills of the first rescue module and adds the fallen leader scenario (1 evening lecture, 3-4 evening practice sessions, 2 all day field trips)

    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 club climbs both at the basic and 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. 

    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 (rescuing a follower)
    • 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 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
    • Self Rescue 1
    • 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
    • Self Rescue 1
    • Leadership Seminar

    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 Package

    The Seattle Branch offers 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 or harder.

    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 [LINK TO 2019 APPLICATION FORM]. Applications are due October 30.

    Advantages of the Package

    • Students in the package will be assigned to a mentor group. Mentor groups 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 is offered at a discount compared to the price for all modules combined.
    • Students get automatically into all the Intermediate Modules the year that they applied to the package.

    Disadvantages

    • 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 modules) 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 outside The Mountaineers with a minimum of ten 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).

    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. 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 intermediate.climbing@gmail.com and sign up online for the extension.