Equivalency Evaluation


Equivalency Evaluation - Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

Equivalency Evaluation - Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

  • Thu, Nov 16, 2023
  • Seattle Climbing
  • Climbing
  • Basic Alpine
  • Adults
  • Casual

Seattle Program Center - outside on North Plaza at 6pm

PLEASE READ ALL THE FOLLOWING NOTES....Basic Equivalency is an opportunity for experienced climbers who have not taken the Mountaineers Basic Climbing Course to become eligible to participate in many of the club’s climbing activities, including Basic Level Climbs, Climbing Seminars, and Intermediate Climbing Course. In addition, Basic Climbing Equivalents qualify to participate in Alpine Scrambles, Snowshoe Tours and Hikes and become involved with certain leadership activities.

Given that The Mountaineers is a club and not a professional guide service or climbing school, the process is necessarily somewhat bureaucratic - but it does allow us to get to know you better, and for you to become connected to the
Mountaineers climbing community (each of these is also a requirement for our Basic Mountaineering course)

1. A Practical evaluation of climbing skills (scheduled several times a year at the Magnuson Program Center)
2. Current WFA/MOFA (wilderness first aid) status
3. Current wilderness navigation status
4. A stewardship requirement
5. Successfully complete a climbing conditioner hike with the Mountaineers
6. Successfully complete a basic level Mountaineers climb
7. A separate snow skills evaluation may be required from applicants who have not undergone formal training in this area (scheduled on demand).

Climbers wishing to obtain Basic Equivalency should send a resume of recent climbing involving alpine rock and glacier summits to the Basic Equivalency email box expressing interest. You should include the mountain/route, date, your role (e.g. following a lead climber), and whether or not the climb was successful.  In addition, please note any of the other requirements you have already completed.  If your resume appears to have experience equivalent to that of graduates of our Basic Mountaineering course, you will be invited to sign up for the Basic Equivalency Skills Assessment. At the assessment, the climber's skills are reviewed.  Your resume should include completion of a minimum of two alpine summits: at least one rock and one glacier route.

Skills reviewed at the evaluation include: belay techniques, rope handling, knots, climber tie-off, mountain safety, crevasse rescue systems and rappelling.  You will notice that rock climbing skills are not explicitly evaluated; we do not expect our applicants necessarily to be able to climb a 5.8 face for instance.  The emphasis in our Basic Mountaineering course is safe travel in alpine mountain environments, including hazards such as steep hard snow, loose rock, wilderness route finding and inclement weather. In our experience, success is more often found in developing good judgement for those situations, as opposed to gymnastic climbing abilities, though of course, instruction on specific climbing techniques are a part of the courses.

A document containing references for techniques we teach at our field trips will be sent to equivalency applicants in the week before the evaluation.  In the evaluation, the standard of comparison is the skills and experience of a graduate of the Basic Climbing Course; the specific techniques you demonstrate do not have to be identical to those in our classes, but they do have to be safe and effective.  The typical successful candidate has completed a comprehensive, formal climbing course, and has extensive technical mountaineering experience.  The following might be a sample climbing resume:


I learned to rappel, and undertook formal training in crevasse rescue and ice axe skills when I took the Basic Mountaineering class with the Mazamas (Portland).  In addition, I did a summer course in wilderness survival including navigation, with Outward Bound in the North Cascades.  I was also a member of my college outdoors club.

In the past two years, I have completed the following mountaineering climbs:

Mt Shuksan via Fisher Chimneys route (glacier, plus 3/4 class scrambling); I was a follower on a rope team and we summited in 2 days with a camp at lake Ann.

Mt Sneffels/NW ridge (San Juans, Colorado); I was a follower on the mid 5th class route, over two days, camping at Blue Lakes.

Grand Teton/Owen-Spalding (Wyoming); I was a follower on this mid-5th class route. We spent the night at the upper saddle in order to descent from the mountain before the lightening shows.

I have done numerous sport rappels, and our party rappelled the summit block of Mt Shuksan and the Grand Teton.  I can follow 5.8 on sports routes, though I have not learned to lead on gear yet.

My WFA certification expires a year from now, and I am a volunteer for Washington Trails Alliance.


Frequently Asked Questions

—— Why have an Equivalency Field Trip?

The Mountaineers Basic Climbing Course has an international reputation of excellence and is the starting point for those aspiring climbers who wish to participate in club climbing activities.   A Basic Equivalent is expected to perform at the same high standard that is met by our Basic Graduates. This field trip is necessary to ensure equivalent experience.  Another major reason for the field trip is safety.  We need to be sure that all participants in club climbing activities are capable and practice safe climbing skills.

—— What can I expect at the Equivalency Evaluation?

After a round of introductions, we would normally run through evaluation of knots, alpine belay setup, belay commands, rope handling, and simulated fall, belay tie-off, climbing up to the rappel ledge, rappels, crevasse rescue, and mountain safety knowledge.  This is a place to demonstrate your knowledge - there is no formal instruction, though hints and prompts may follow unexpected situations.  Knots to be evaluated are water knot, double fisherman's, bowline, figure 8, rewoven figure-8 (tie in knot), munter hitch, clove hitch, prusik, slip knot, girth hitch, butterfly.

—— What gear should I bring to the evaluation?

Please bring a harness, helmet, belay gloves, belay device, pulley, prusik slings, carabiners, slings and whatever you need to establish an alpine belay, pack, a snack and the ten essentials, which may be discussed along with your equipment. Rock shoes are optional, and the climbing asked of you will not be so taxing as to require them.

—— OK, I passed the Equivalency evaluation, what now?

Successful completion of the evaluation will result in your being granted a "Basic Climbing Student" badge if you are a member of The Mountaineers.  This enables you to sign up and participate in basic level climbs with The Mountaineers, in the same way that students in our Basic Mountaineering course can.  You don't have to attend the lectures or field trips the students do (that's the purpose of the evaluation). You will be considered 'pending graduate' of the Equivalency, until you fulfill the remaining requirements listed above, one of which is to participate on an actual Basic level Mountaineers climb.  You will have one year to complete these, but you shouldn't delay in getting your required climb in, since climbs are often over-subscribed.  Once you have completed all the requirements above, you should notify Basic Equivalency and we will 'graduate' you.  This will grant you a 'Basic Climbing Graduate' badge on your profile. However, be aware that if you do not complete the requirements, or fail to notify Basic Equivalency, your Basic Student status will expire, and you will no longer be able to sign up for climbs.

—— Whew, I finally completed all the requirements and I graduated Equivalency! Can I enroll in the Intermediate Mountaineer course?

Applying to the Intermediate Mountaineering course requires applicants to be Basic Graduates or Equivalents, but enrollment is by invitation only.  Successful applicants normally have experience well in excess of the minimum required to graduate Basic Mountaineering.  For instance, one might have 6-8 successful alpine summits, rather than the 2 required for graduating Basic Mountaineering.  For those without such experience, it might be a great advantage to participate in basic level Mountaineers climbs, which will familiarize you with our protocols in addition.  Applying for the Intermediate program in a subsequent year might be better.

You are also eligible to apply to lead some Mountaineer activities. Each activity committee maintains a leader list. If you feel that you have leadership skills and/or have experience, you should apply for leader status.   In order to apply, you must cotact the leadership subcommittee of the specific activity. Obviously, it helps if people involved in that activity know you and your abilities.  This means that you should participate in the activity before you apply to lead.

—— Why are there conditioning and stewardship requirements?

Mountaineering is a strenuous activity involving moving heavy packs over miles of approach trails and significant elevation gain.  Participants who are not in good physical shape can be a liability to themselves and the climbing party and may not enjoy the experience at all.  In addition, since Mountaineers parties make extensive use of public lands, it behooves us to return something. Stewardship activities are listed in the Mountaineers website, and may involve activities like trail work, tree planting, community outreach or habitat restoration.  A recent example is just to the south of the Mountaineers
program center, where an area of native plants was recently restored from thick blackberries.

—— What if I don't pass the Equivalency evaluation?

You may find that the field trip is difficult, or you may not have the necessary experience - earning Basic Equivalency is tough. If you do not pass, there are a number of options.  

  • 1. If the reason was a deficiency in some specific skill, the evaluators may offer the option of enrolling in a specific Field Trip with the Basic Class and being re-evaluated at the next equivalency session.

    2. If there was a general lack of alpine experience, a logical next step to climbing with The Mountaineers might be to enroll in the Basic Climbing Course. Registration for the course typically opens in the fall. Enrollment in the Basic Climbing Course is limited.
    3. The Alpine Scrambling Course is an alternative to the Basic Climbing Course. It is an excellent program covering travel on non-technical terrain (without ropes for instance).

    —— I took the Basic Mountaineering Course this year, but could not complete my required climbs.  Can I apply for equivalency?

    In general, no.  Basic Equivalency is not a make-up session for the requirements of the Basic Climbing course.  However, if you didn't complete the class some year, but went out and did significant climbing subsequently you may be eligible to apply in a following year.  Each application will be evaluated on its merits.

    —— I have a good deal of mountaineering experience in my past home state, but there are no glacier travel opportunities there. How can I become a Basic Mountaineering Equivalent?

    We recognize folk wish to join in our climbing activities from many different regions, and try to accomodate them. For those with equivalent mountaineering experience other
    than glacier travel, we suggest getting formal glacier travel training either from The Mountaineers (Glacier Travel course below), or one of the commercial mountaineering outfits in the region.  We do not recommend attempting to learn from online videos - there really is no substitute for learning in the mountains.

    —— I have climbed in New England and really would like to climb Mt Rainier, but I'm not sure I want to take the Basic Mountaineering Course; what should I do?

    We have just the class for you!  The Mountaineers Glacier Travel Course will give you all the skills needed to safely travel the glaciated terrain of the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.
    It's significantly less time commitment than the full Basic Mountaineering course, but still requires good physical fitness and climbing gear purchases.  It usually begins early spring each year.  Search for "Glacier Travel" in Learn/Find Courses.

    —— I have climbed Mt Rainier with a guide service, and I have done many climbs at the crags, should I apply for Equivalency?

    We would normally advise against this, since climbing with a guide service doesn't normally leave you with the experience to participate as a full member of a Mountaineers glacier climb. In addition, while crag climbs can be technically very demanding, they don't require the same approach skills (e.g. steep, hard snow), as alpine rock climbs of more modest rock challenges.

    —— What is the wilderness navigation requirement?

    The Mountaineers offers a stand-alone wilderness navigation class offered a number of times a year, focussed on traditional map and compass work, but if you have undertaken formal navigation training as a component of a mountaineering class offered elsewhere, provide us with documentation of the requirements, and we will evaluate its applicability.  In many cases, folk who are comfortable navigating are welcome as instructors in our navigation classes, and will be paired up with experienced instructors to satisfy this requirement.

    —— What is WFA/MOFA?

    Every member of a climb is required to possess the skills necessary to aid an injured climber. Because our activities take place miles away from hospitals, roads, or telephones, Mountaineering Oriented First Aid (MOFA) was developed. In a nutshell, MOFA is what to do until help arrives. As a successful candidate you will be required to complete such a course or the very similar Wilderness First Aid (WFA). Course information is found online (Search for "First Aid" in Learn/Find Courses), though WFA courses are offered outside The Mountaineers and are accepted.  

    —— I have much more experience than graduates of your Basic Mountaineering course; how can I climb with The Mountaineers?

    From time to time, climbers of regional or national reputation have been invited to participate in our programs; interested parties should consult the current chair of the Seattle Climbing Committee.

    —— I have decided that Basic Mountaineering equivalency is not for me, but would like to apply my outdoors skills to participate in Mountaineers activities; what would you suggest?

    It may be that Alpine Scrambling Equivalency is the right path for you. Contact the Alpine Scrambling Committee for details on the process.  Likewise, if Crag Climbing rather than Mountaineering is more your thing, contact the Crag Climbing group for details on their equivalency.



Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials, plus normal climbing equipment such as harness, belay/rappel device, carabiners, helmet, prussiks, etc.

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