Glacier Climb Rope Leader


Glacier Climb Rope Leader

Glacier Climb Rope Leaders function as assistant leaders on glacier climbs that are within their technical abilities. Rope leaders are typically in charge of a rope team on climbs.

Scope - What does this badge allow me to do?

The Glacier Climb Rope Leader is an entry-level assistant leadership role for backcountry climbs. This leader can participate in climbs by helping the trip leader in a variety of ways. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders are expected to be able to travel competently through the terrain in which they are assisting a trip leader. While not all rope leads will choose to become a trip leader, this position is intended to be a development role on the path towards leadership. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders are encouraged to pursue the frontcountry leader roles to gain further experience in leadership.

The Glacier Rope Leader has some experience in basic level glacier climbing, along with more advanced skills that qualify them to lead. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders are also permitted to participate in intermediate level glacier climbs that are within their ability.

To learn more about the different climb leader roles, visit our climbing leadership page. 


The rope leader is able to demonstrate competency in the following skills:

Technical Skills

Snow Travel Movement: display skill in travel on a variety of snow surfaces on basic level outings and are able to coach novices through this terrain. 

Terrain Identification & Management: are aware of environmental and weather hazards. This includes avalanche and third and fourth class terrain, terrain traps, rockfall, water hazards, and more. Rope leaders can use both digital and traditional navigational tools to move through terrain.  

Rope Management, Knots & Hitches: display adequate rope management skills. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders have proficiency in basic rope management and knots, and they strive to hone and develop more advanced skills. They also are able to assist novices on basic level skills. 

Protection Systems & Anchor Building: are able to select, place, and evaluate a variety of protection types, including terrain itself, in the climbing environments in which they travel. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders understand the general principles behind an item’s construction and functionality and common mechanisms of failure. They also understand and use appropriate and modern belay techniques.

Avalanche: has completed an avalanche awareness course and has spent time moving through avalanche terrain. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders can perform basic search and rescue with avalanche equipment.

Rescue & Assistance: understands and can run a crevasse rescue using a variety of techniques. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders have completed a wilderness first aid course (or better) and understand the concepts of basic wilderness medicine.

Leadership Skills

Communication: can communicate clearly to the trip leader and other members of the group. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders are attentive to the questions of basic students and are willing to help when they can. They direct questions they cannot answer to the trip leader. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders understand the importance of good communication and they work to improve their communication skills. 

Risk Management: have an understanding of the risks involved in participating in climbing outings. They also identify, communicate, and manage those risks when appropriate. The Glacier Climb Rope Leader works to understand the abilities of participants, and communicates this to the trip leader as needed.

Group Management & Leadership: can manage trip participants for the majority of the outing. When asked and when within their ability, the rope leader may take over some leadership responsibilities including leading through terrain, organizing, problem solving, and a variety of other tasks. Rope leaders strive to be role models for participants. 

Trip Planning and Facilitation: may be asked to participate in a number of planning and facilitation tasks. Generally, rope leads are able to assist in a climbing outing, including planning and preparation, execution of the outing, and any communications, debriefs, and reporting. A Glacier Climb Rope Leader is expected to ask for help from the trip leader when they are unsure of what to do. 

Route Selection: understands their own abilities and chooses to participate on routes based on that information. Rope leads also ask trip leaders when they are in doubt of a route's difficulty. 

Learning & Development: understands that climbing is an activity that requires continuing education. Skills that are not practiced are lost, and there are a multitude of variations for many techniques. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders understand that they, like all climbers, must always review and refresh their skills. They also understand that in most cases there are several ways to safely execute a technique, and they are open to a variety of different methods from both trip leaders and participants. When desired, rope leads communicate their leadership aspirations to their mentors and develop a plan to become a trip leader. Glacier Climb Rope Leaders maintain a desire to learn and grow in their knowledge.


To apply for Glacier Climb Rope Leader, the candidate must have at a minimum the following field experience:

  • 1 year of alpine climbing experience
  • 2 glacier climbs (one must be with The Mountaineers)

Prerequisites & Training

To apply for Glacier Climb Rope Leader, the candidate must have the following training (Mountaineers or equivalent experience):

  • Mountaineers Basic Graduate or Equivalency 
  • Outdoor Leadership (Any 2 hour session or better such as the leadership development series, leadership conference, Outdoor Leadership Seminar, etc.)
  • First Aid
  • Navigation
  • Avalanche Awareness
  • "Foundations of Leadership" eLearning Course

How do I get this badge?

To become a Glacier Climb Rope Leader:

  • Fill out the application for leadership.

Apply Now

Applications will be reviewed by the branch climbing committee. Generally, rope leads are enrolled as students in our Intermediate Climbing courses. Under special circumstances, applicants with equivalent experience from outside The Mountaineers who are not enrolled in the intermediate climbing course  may be considered if their skills and experience are extraordinary and the committee deems them ready for this leadership role.