Climbing Equivalency - Tacoma - 2023/2024

Climbing Course

Basic Climbing Equivalency Evaluation

Alpine Scrambles and Basic Climbing Course Equivalency - Tacoma - 2023/2024


Equivalency is for experienced climbers who have not taken the Mountaineers Scrambles or Basic climbing courses. This is an opportunity for those climbers to gain access to and participate in many of the club’s climbing activities. These activities may include but are not limited to alpine scrambles, Basic level climbs, climbing seminars, and additional/advanced climbing courses. In addition, if applicants are granted equivalency, one will qualify to participate in snowshoe tours, hikes and will have the opportunity to 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 - this allows 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 Scrambles and Basic Mountaineering courses).

Information about the current learning objectives and course material can be found here:

Equivalency Overview:

Course equivalency may be granted to applicants that:

  • Submit a resume of their climbing experience that shows that they have mountaineering training and experience that meets or exceeds the requirements for course graduation, and
  • Demonstrate through a practical examination, and through in-field demonstration, proficiency in the required skills for course graduation, and
  • Demonstrate physical fitness by completing a climbing conditioner with The Mountaineers, and
  • Participate in Mountaineers Climbs to demonstrate competency in the mountains, and
  • Other requirements as indicated

The Equivalency Committee will follow a standard equivalency process as published on The Mountaineers website and here within.

Scrambles Equivalency:

Equivalency will be granted to students who:

  • Demonstrate through a practical examination, and through in-field demonstration, proficiency in all required skills
  • Complete a Mountaineers Navigation Course or Equivalent
  • Complete a Wilderness First Aid Course (or show current certification)
  • Complete a climbing conditioner with The Mountaineers
  • Participate in a Stewardship activity
  • Participate in (3) Mountaineers Scrambles

Required Skills:

  • General: Equipment and clothing selection, including the ten essentials; Mountain safety, including identification of hazards such as exposure, rock fall, avalanches, and changing weather; and actions to minimize risk; Emergency preparedness (including emergency bivouacs and how to summon help should it be needed); “Leave no trace” principles & skills
  • Snow travel: evaluation by a designated Scramble Leader. Equivalency candidate must demonstrate: Avalanche Awareness; travel on steep snow, including step-kicking, plunge stepping, self-belay and self-arrest (self-arrest head first on stomach and on back, right-handed and left-handed)
  • Rock travel: evaluation by a designated Scramble Leader. Equivalency candidate must demonstrate: rock scrambling on non-technical terrain, ascend, traverse, and down climb steep rock; use of emergency hasty harness to protect a down climb using either a prussic or klemheist knot, including the use of safety lines

The Applicant will be granted Student status once proficiency is demonstrated in all required skills. Once all other requirements are met, the Student may apply for graduation and receive Course Equivalency.

Basic Equivalency:

Equivalency will be granted to students who:

  • Demonstrate through a practical examination, and through in-field demonstration, proficiency in all required skills
  • Complete a Mountaineers Navigation Course or Equivalent
  • Complete a Wilderness First Aid Course (or show current certification)
  • Complete a climbing conditioner with The Mountaineers
  • Participate in a Stewardship activity
  • Participate in (2) Basic Mountaineering climbs, including:
    • (1) Glacier
    • (1) Rock

Required Skills:

  • General: Equipment and Clothing; Packing Wisely; Ten Essentials; Mountain Weather, including lightning; Etiquette & ethics on crowded climbs; Decision Making Skills; Teamwork; Risk Management & Mitigation
  • Knots: Overhand, Water Knot, Girth Hitch, Figure 8 on a Bight, Rewoven Figure 8, Bowline, Modified Device Mule knot, Butterfly, Clove Hitch, Munter Hitch, Flat Overhand Bend, Double Fishermans, Prusik Hitch, MMO, Butterfly coil knot, Mule Knot, Autoblock knot, Creating texas prusiks,  Klemheist
  • Anchor systems: Rigging Belay Anchors (i.e.: using a cordelette or webbing to sling existing natural anchors like trees and boulders or 2 or more bolt hangers); Recognizing power points, connecting to it with clove hitch, and pull-testing; Placing snow anchors including pickets, bollards & deadman/T-Slot; Running belays on snow; Mid-clip vertical picket anchor
  • Belaying: Toprope belay with PBUS on a device; Lead belay with a device using PBUS; Belaying a follower including body belay with SSS and munter belay off an anchor
  • Belay Escape: Tie off using a modified device mule, transfer the load using prusik and figure eight overhand in the belay device (making it non-releasable system), create a back-up.
  • Related Belay Skills: Following a leader including cleaning pro, Climbing Commands in the alpine
  • Optional Belay Techniques: Belaying a follower using a device and a redirect; Lead Belaying with a Munter using SSS
  • Rappelling: Double strand extended rappel on an ATC using a dedicated extension; Sit & Spin Rappel; Autoblock; Fireman’s Belay
  • Optional Rappelling Techniques: ATC Double Strand (non-extended); Arm Rappel (recommended); Leg Wrap
  • Rock Skills: Strategies for avoiding party-caused rock fall; Rock Climbing Techniques
  • Snow Skills: Avalanche Awareness; Snow Emergency Shelter Construction; Ice Ax Self-Belay; Snow Travel and assessing runout; Self Arrest using feet (with a discussion of scenarios where using feet could be dangerous); Snow Camping
  • Glacier Travel: Shortening the rope on a glacier climb (Kiwi Coil vs putting the rope in the pack); Seat Harness prusik belay; Roped Glacier Travel
  • Responding to a Crevasse Fall: Roping up for glacier travel; Holding the fall; Anchoring the rope including backup; Communication between ropemates; Safely approaching the crevasse; Communication with fallen teammate; Making a plan; Executing a raising system
  • Crevasse Rescue Raising Systems: All students will learn both 3:1 Z-pulley and 2:1 drop-loop C-pulley. Students will demonstrate proficiency in at least one raising system.
  • Optional Introductory Alpine Ice Skills: High Dagger; Step Cutting; Chopping Steps; Front Pointing; French crampon & ice ax techniques; German crampon & ice ax techniques; Effective ice tool swing; Effective cramponing on steep terrain; Placing Ice screws; building v-thread anchors; building multipoint ice anchors; Rappelling off of ice anchors; using an autoblock on ice rappels; Ice bollards; Descending walking forward

The Applicant will be granted Student status once proficiency is demonstrated in all required skills. Once all other requirements are met, the Student may apply for graduation and receive Course Equivalency.


Climbers wishing to obtain Equivalency should submit a comprehensive climbing resume with relevant climbing experience and education related to scrambling, rock climbing, and glacier summits to POC listed on page, expressing interest. You should include the peak / route / date / your role (i.e. private, guided, leading or following) and whether or not the climb was successful. In addition, please note any of the other requirements that you have already completed. If your resume appears to have experience equivalent to that of graduates of our courses, you will be invited to sign up for the Equivalency Skills Assessment. At the assessment the climber's knowledge and skills are reviewed.

Basic skills reviewed at the evaluation include but are not limited to: 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 to necessarily be able to climb 5.8 face or 5.9 crack for instance. The emphasis in our mountaineering course work is safe travel in alpine environments, including hazards such as steep ice, hard snow, loose rock, wilderness route finding and inclement weather. In our experience, success is more often found in developing good judgment for those situations, as opposed to gymnastic climbing abilities. Though of course, instruction on specific climbing techniques are a part of our courses.

A document containing references for techniques we teach at our field trips is available to equivalency applicants and will be provided prior to the evaluation. In the evaluation, the standard of comparison will be the skills and experience required of a graduate of the  Scrambles or 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, effective and modern. The typical successful candidate has completed a comprehensive formal climbing course and has extensive recent 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 made the summit 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 descend 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.



-Why have an Equivalency Field Trip?

The Mountaineers climbing courses have an international reputation of excellence and are the starting point for those aspiring climbers who wish to participate in club climbing activities. An Equivalent is expected to perform at the same high standard that is met by our course graduates. The field trip/trip's are necessary to ensure equivalent experience, aptitude and safety. We must be sure that all participants in club climbing activities are capable, proficient and practice safe climbing techniques.

-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 or a "Scrambles Student" badge if you are a member of The Mountaineers. This enables you to sign up and participate in climbs with The Mountaineers in the same way students in our Scrambles or Basic Mountaineering course can. You will be considered 'pending graduate' of the Equivalency, until you fulfill the remaining requirements listed above. You will have one year to complete Equivalency. Once you have successfully completed all requirements, notify Equivalency and we will review your application and update your status accordingly. If you do not complete the requirements within the given time, or fail to notify Equivalency, your '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 Basic Equivalency! Can I enroll in the Intermediate Mountaineer course?

Applying to the Intermediate Mountaineering course requires applicants to be Basic Graduates or Equivalents. A detailed application is required. Successful applicants will have experience well in excess of the minimum required to graduate Basic Mountaineering. For example, one might have 6-8 successful alpine summits, rather than the 2 required for graduating Basic Mountaineering. For those without this experience, continue to participate in basic level Mountaineers climbs, familiarize yourself with our protocols and make friends. Applying for the Intermediate program at a later date with additional experience only makes you a safer, strong and more capable climber.

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 contact the leadership subcommittee of the specific activity. 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 ones self, the climbing party and may not enjoy the experience at all. Mountaineers parties make extensive use of public lands; it behooves us to give back. Stewardship activities are listed in the Mountaineers website, and may involve activities like trail work, tree planting, community outreach or habitat restoration.

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

You may find that the evaluation is difficult or you may lack the necessary experience. Earning Equivalency is tough. If you do not pass, there are a number of options.

  1. 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 space in Mountaineers courses is limited.
  2. The Alpine Scrambling Course is an alternative to the Basic Climbing Course. It is an excellent program covering alpine travel on non-technical terrain and routes.

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

No. Basic Equivalency is not a make-up session for the requirements of the Basic Climbing course. Applying for and completing Basic as a 2nd year student is an option. However, each application will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

-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 that individuals wishing to join our climbing activities come from many different regions, we do attempt to accommodate for this. For those with equivalent mountaineering experience other than glacier travel, we suggest getting formal glacier travel training either from The Mountaineers (Glacier Travel course), or from one of the commercial mountaineering outfits in the region. We do not recommend attempting to learn from online videos - there is no substitute for formal education.

-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?

No. We 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, focused on traditional map and compass work. 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, individuals 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 (Wilderness First Aid)?

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

-I have much more experience than graduates of your Basic Mountaineering course and/or Intermediate Climbing 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 may meet or exceed the requirements of even our Intermediate Climbing Program. Please reach out to the Intermediate Climbing Chair(s). We would love to make your acquaintance!

-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. Likewise, if crag climbing rather than mountaineering is more your thing, please contact the Crag Climbing group for details on their equivalency.

Should you have further questions, please feel free to reach out.

Badges you will earn:

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Additional badges needed to graduate


Course Materials

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