Rock Climb Leader


Rock Climb Leader

Rock Climb Leaders can lead alpine rock climbs that are within their technical abilities and can include basic students and other novices in their groups. This leader cannot lead any climbs involving glacier or significant snow travel.

Scope - What does this badge allow me to do?

Rock Leaders can lead any type of rock climb that is within their technical abilities with novice and experienced climbers alike. The types of trip a Rock Climb Leader runs may include technical travel on rock, including substantial third and/or fourth class terrain or notable navigational challenges or travel hazards. The Rock Climb Leader may encounter some minimal snow travel without significant hazard. Leading novice and basic climbers on routes with glacier or significant snow hazards requires a Glacier Climb Leader designation. 

Because this leader is responsible for groups that may include novices, this role requires a significant amount of experience in the terrain in which they lead. The Rock Climb Leader also serves as a mentor to aspiring leaders. The Rock Climb Leader may also lead summer scrambles, crag rock climbs, and other rock frontcountry outings sponsored by their branch climbing committee. The Rock Climb Leader does not operate in glacier or snow climbing terrain in the frontcountry or backcountry unless they have obtained the required leader designations for that terrain.


The Rock Climb Leader is well versed in a variety of skills necessary to lead trips in a range of complex terrain. Rock Leaders are proficient in all of the following skills:

Technical Skills

Rock Movement: experienced in climbing on a variety of terrain and features, and displays fluid and efficient movement technique while rock climbing a grade of at least 5.6. Rock Leaders move efficiently and confidently on 3rd and 4th class terrain and are able to coach novices through this terrain. 

Terrain Identification & Management: is adept at identifying appropriate routes and terrain, as well as objective hazards. This includes avalanche and third and fourth class terrain, terrain traps, rockfall, water hazards, and more. They are also aware of and manage environmental and weather hazards. Rock leaders are skilled in using both digital and traditional navigational tools to move through terrain.  

Rope Management, Knots & Hitches: displays adequate rope management skills. In third and fourth class terrain, Rock Leaders can employ fixed/hand lines, terrain belays, running belays, and/or manage as fifth class terrain. Rock Leaders are efficient at transitions, and managing the rope through a variety of complex terrain and anchor systems. They are able to take over and instruct rope management and knots to basic students who may struggle with these concepts. 

Protection Systems & Anchor Building: adept in selecting, placing, and evaluating a variety of protection types, including terrain itself, in a wide array of climbing environments. Rock 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 a knowledge of avalanche terrain and how to avoid. Rock Leaders do not run trips in active avalanche terrain, and they have the knowledge and experience to determine how to avoid these issues. 

Rescue & Assistance: understands and can execute basic rescue techniques including small party rock rescue techniques. Rock Leaders have completed a wilderness first aid course (or better) and understand the concepts of basic wilderness medicine.

Leadership Skills

Communication: excel at communicating in a variety of ways. Rock Leaders convey information that is clear and relevant. They are attentive to questions and can deliver difficult information when needed. They understand the importance of keeping the group informed and the value of good communication. 

Risk Management: have an understanding of the risks involved in facilitating climbing outings. They also understand and can demonstrate the skills needed to identify, communicate, and manage those risks. The Rock Climb Leader can create and adhere to emergency action plans, determine others risk tolerances and experience levels, and properly set expectations for an outing. 

Group Management & Leadership: are adept at many aspects of group management. The Rock Climb Leader is skilled in planning and preparation, is responsive to the needs of the group, and creates a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone. Rock Leaders can keep a group moving efficiently and can stay attuned to the changing needs of the group. They are also skilled at managing rope leads (assistant leaders).

Trip Planning and Facilitation: are able to facilitate the full scope of a climbing outing, including creation, planning and preparation, execution of the outing, and any communications, debriefs, and reporting. 

Route Selection: understands their own abilities and that of the group, and selects routes based on that information.

Mentoring & Coaching: is able and willing to mentor aspiring leaders. The Rock Climb Leader is also able and willing to coach novices through difficult situations and deliver feedback in a way that is positive and helpful.


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

  • 2 years of alpine rock climbing experience.
  • 2 mentored rock leads
    • Cannot all be with the same leader.
    • Must be of different routes
    • At least 1 mentored lead must be a basic climb
  • 5 leadership experience climbs *
    • Must have done 5 rock climbs in a leadership role (as a rope lead or assistant leader). 
    • At least 2 of these climbs must have been done with The Mountaineers.
    • Mentored leads count towards this number.

Requirements if candidate is already a Glacier Climb Leader:

  • 2 years alpine rock climbing experience
  • 1 mentored rock lead
    • Must be a basic climb
  • 3 leadership rock climbs. *
    • At least one of these climbs must have been done with The Mountaineers.
    • Mentored leads count towards this number.

Adding a Rock Climb Leader designation to the Glacier Climb Leader will grant the applicant full Climb Leader status.

Prerequisites & Training

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

  • Single Pitch Trad Climbing
  • Multi Pitch Trad Climbing
  • Small Party Self Rescue
  • Outdoor Leadership Seminar
  • First Aid
  • Navigation
  • Avalanche Awareness or better
  • "Foundations of Leadership" eLearning course

How do I get this badge?

To become a Rock Climb Leader,

  • Fill out the application for leadership

Apply Now

Applications will be reviewed by the branch climbing committee. 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. 

Leadership experience climbs are defined as an outing in which the applicant was not a follower. For example, the applicant swung leads, lead a trip, or otherwise participated in a leadership role. These outings could be Mountaineers trips or private.