Rock Climb Rope Leader


Rock Climb Rope Leader

Rock Climb Rope Leaders function as assistant leaders on alpine rock 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 Rock Climb Rope Leader (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. 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. Rope leaders are encouraged to pursue the frontcountry leader roles to gain further experience in leadership.

The Rock Climb Rope Leader has some experience in basic level rock climbing, along with more advanced skills that qualify them to lead. Rock Climb Rope Leaders are also permitted to participate in intermediate level rock 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

Rock Movement: are able to lead traditional climbs at a grade of at least 5.5. Rope Leaders are able to move in 3rd and 4th class terrain and can help 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. 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. 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: have completed an avalanche awareness course or better. Rope Leaders understand the risks of avalanches and can assist the trip leader in making decisions regarding travel in this terrain. 

Rescue & Assistance: understands and can perform the basics of small party rock rescue using a variety of techniques, including load releasing hitches, block & tackle, counter balance rappel, and tandem rappel. 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. 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. 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 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 rope lead 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 Leaders also ask trip leaders when they are in doubt of a routes 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. 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. Rope Leaders maintain a desire to learn and grow in their knowledge. 


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

  • 1 year of alpine climbing experience.
  • 2 alpine rock climbs (one must be with The Mountaineers)
  • 1 multi-pitch climb with leader experience (swing or block lead)

Prerequisites & Training

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

  • Mountaineers Basic Graduate or Equivalency
  • Single Pitch Trad Climbing
  • Multi Pitch Trad Climbing
  • Outdoor Leadership (Any 2 hour session or better such as the leadership development series, leadership conference, Outdoor Leadership Seminar, etc.)
  • Rescue Skills (as covered in the trad rock courses or in a supplementary class like Self Rescue 1, Rope Leader Rescue Clinic, Small Party Self Rescue, or Rescue Methods)
  • First Aid
  • Navigation
  • "Foundations of Leadership" eLearning course

How do I get this badge?

To become a rock rope lead,

  1. Be enrolled in/completed the intermediate climbing course or modules and have the required prerequisites, training, and experience. 
  2. Fill out the application for leadership, including: Resume of experience, 2 references (must be Mountaineers Peer leader or higher)

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.