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The WAC Way

  • The WAC Way is a set of standards for the Basic Class. Safety is the main objective.
  • Freedom of the Hills, 8th edition, is referred to as FOTH below.
  • If there are any questions, please contact a co-chair for clarification.



  • Buckle up, tie-in, belay, and rappel using the manufacturer’s recommendations. 
    • When in doubt, ask to see the instructions. 
  • Harness is snug enough around waist that it won’t come off during an upside down fall.
  • Appropriate buckles doubled-back, with approximately a 3-inch tail on the waist band after doubling-back. 
    • Note: Some modern harnesses are “pre-doubled" with speed buckles.
  • All gear on harness is racked neatly, tightly, and hangs no lower than mid-thigh.
  • Harnesses without belay loops will require the use of a locking carabiner to attach the leg loops and the waist loop in the front.
  • Always double check each other’s harnesses before climber leaves the ground or after tying in for glacier travel.

Belay Device

  • Black Diamond ATC, ATC-XP, ATC Guide, or similar tube type belay device.
  • One HMS-type (large, pear shaped, stamped with "H" in circle) carabiner for use with the Munter hitch for belay and rappel. 
    • Smaller locking carabiners are not suitable for this application.

Personal Anchor

  • Everyone needs a personal anchor with a locking carabiner on the end, girth-hitched through the waist and leg loops of the harness (not the belay loop). 
  • The Metolius PAS (Alpine or 22) is recommended as a personal anchor but not required. 
    • Advantages: easy to adjust length, easier racking. Disadvantage: cost.
  • Tubular webbing loop (length of 7'-6" tied with water knot) or a 36" sewn runner can be used as a cheaper alternative.
    • Advantage: cheap. Disadvantage: Not as easy to adjust and rack.
    • Regular sewn runners used as personal anchors should be 36". Standard 24" and 48" lengths are too short and long respectively. You must to be able to reach the end of your personal anchor in order to escape a belay. 
    • Overhand knots tied every 5-6" on the runner can allow for adjustment of the anchor point. Tie an overhand knot near the end to more easily access the carabiner at the end of the anchor.
  • The Purcell prusik is also appropriate as a personal anchor. 
    • Advantages: extends easily, cheap, dissipates loads well. Disadvantage: tying the knot?
  • The personal anchor is girth hitched to the harness through the tie-in points (through leg loop and waist loop, not through the belay loop).
  • No daisy chains.


  • A UIAA/CE certified climbing helmet is required. 
  • No hockey, bicycle, motorcycle, or construction helmets. 
  • Helmets are worn by all students and instructors when there is hazard from fall, rock-fall, or other flying objects.
  • All climbers, belayers, rappellers, and observers in the climbing area are to wear helmets.
  • Helmet is buckled securely and forward enough to provide forehead protection.

Rock Climbing

Set-up for Rock Climbing

  • Tie the climbing rope into the harness waist and leg loops (not the belay loop), with a rewoven figure-eight knot. The rope is not clipped into a carabiner.
  • Dress and cinch the figure-eight knot.
    • Dressed means that the parallel strands don't cross each other. 
    • Cinched means you've yanked all 4 exiting strands hard. 
  • Tie the tail into a backup overhand or double-fisherman's. 
    • The tail needs to be 5-8" long. If you can't tie the tail into an overhand, it's too short.
  • One locking carabiner will be at the end of the personal anchor opposite the girth hitch. All students (and instructors) should climb with a personal anchor girth hitched on their harness in the tie-in points and fitted with a locking carabiner. 
  • The personal anchor is used for anchoring at the top of a climb, setting up for a rappel, and for belaying.

Glacier Travel

Set-up for Roped Glacier Travel

  • For harnesses with a belay loop, two large locking carabiners on the harness belay loop.
  • For harnesses without a belay loop:
    • Two large locking carabiners on the harness through the tie-in points (leg and waist loops).
    • Gates down and out for most efficient use.
  • All climbers, regardless of place on the rope (middle or ends of rope) tie into the rope by clipping into a locking carabiner on their harness using a figure-eight on a bight, and locking the carabiner.
  • The Texas prusik waist loop is attached to the rope (towards the middle of the rope for the climbers in the middle) with a prusik knot and clipped through one of the two locking carabiners. Carabiner is then locked.
  • The Texas prusik foot loops are carried (neatly stowed) on the harness.
  • Chest harness on. 
    • Clip rope into chest harness only after a fall as needed for support.
  • Personal anchor or other similar leash is attached to the climber’s pack (girth hitched onto pack's haul loop) and equipped with a carabiner to allow attaching the pack to an anchor or the climbing rope as necessary.
  • In crevasse rescue (z-pulley), carabiner on carabiner connection is used in the z-pulley to connect to the anchor. Locking carabiners must be used.

Crevasse Self-Rescue


Set-up for Belay

  • The belayer must be firmly anchored (using the personal anchor). 
  • The anchor is on the brake hand side (for both belaying with a belay device as well as with a Munter). This keeps you from unwinding out of the brake position in a hard fall.
  • Once attached to the anchor, ensure that the personal anchor has little slack. This is especially important if the belayer is significantly lighter than the climber.
  • Pass the rope through the belay device and belay carabiner and lock it.
  • Verify that the belay carabiner is NOT cross-loaded. 
  • All students will be given an inline belay backup by an instructor until belay competency is demonstrated.
  • Clear climbing signals with names are used (“Mary, on belay?” “John, belay on.”).

Belaying Technique with Belay Device

The belay technique that is used with a belay device is the PBUS (Pull-Brake-Under-Slide):
  1. Pull up rope (with brake hand), other hand guides rope through belay device by pulling down.
  2. Brake the rope by bringing brake hand down towards hip, below belay device.
  3. Guide hand grabs rope under the brake hand.
  4. Slide brake hand back up towards belay device.
  • Your brake hand NEVER opens or leaves the rope; it just slides.
  • When not taking in (or letting out) rope, the brake hand is in the brake position, BELOW belay device.

Belaying Technique with Munter Hitch

  • The belay technique for a Munter Hitch is the "palm-up" method described in FOTH, pages 163-165, as this method facilitates braking when the hand's grip strength is at its highest.


Set-up for an Extended Rappel

Gear needed:

  • Harness, Metolius PAS, Sterling HollowBlock (13.5” size), two locking carabiners, one non-locking carabiner, belay device, 
  • One locking carabiner with belay device in low-friction mode rappel position attached to the PAS at the first loop.

  • Second locking carabiner further out on the personal anchor, which is attaching the student to the anchor.
  • Pass both rope strands through the belay device in the rappel position and lock the carabiner. 

  • Students should be able to use either hand as a brake hand.

  • Use a non-locking carabiner to attach the HollowBlock to the belay loop. Wrap 2 times around both strands of rope, and clip the other end into the same carabiner.

  • Auto block is mandatory on all rappels, both with a belay device and Munter.

Rappelling Technique

  • Always, before throwing the rope, knot the ends separately and cinch the knots hard, using double-fisherman's knots. 

    • The tails should be at least 6” long.

  • Never let go of the rope with the brake hand! Hold it in brake position whenever you are not moving.

  • Before un-anchoring to rappel, verify the rappel setup, including weighting it.

  • After the autoblock is engaged as part of testing the system, it must be released. To demonstrate that the autoblock is no longer engaged, the climber should show that the hitch is loose and floppy with their free hand.

  • A fireman's belay can be provided for any student with either belay method (device or Munter).

  • Before starting to rappel, the rappeler is to yell "<rappeler name>, on rappel" to alert people down below.

  • After the rappeler has detached from the rope, the rappeler yells "<rappeler name>, Rappel off."

Climbing Communication

  • Refer to FOTH, page 183, for the standard voice commands. 
  • Always use names with the voice commands.

Traveling as a Group

  • Climbing class parties travel as a group. For all-class outings (Mt. Si, Snow 1, Snow 2), “the group” is “the whole class”. For the alpine climbs, “the group” is the specific climb group (Tooth, Kendall, etc.). 
  • No one from a group leaves base camp or the trailhead until the whole group is back.
  • We are the first line of help in case of an accident. We are prepared in equipment, training, and planning for the trip at hand.
  • All students and all instructors check in at the beginning of the trip and check out at the end of the trip.

Trip Planning and Leadership

  • Before any outings, the trip leader verifies the party is ready with the following checklist:
    • pack checks
    • radios (if appropriate – FRS channel 5.10)
    • maps
    • emergency contact information, local hospital information, and appropriate emergency services contact information (SAR, etc.)
    • avalanche conditions and forecast, weather forecast
    • trip parameters:
      • planned itinerary
      • turnaround time
    • medical issues for all party members (any injuries, illness?)
    • party capabilities:
      • who has appropriate first aid training and what level?
      • who has avalanche assessment training and what level?