Our goal is to provide you with the skills and experience necessary to allow you to plan your own climbing trips in the Pacific NW and become safe and self-sufficient. Students don't learn to rock or ice lead in this class, but you will learn the skills to be a competent climbing partner and will gain an understanding of wilderness navigation, snow camping, glacier travel, and rock climbing. After the class, students have climbed such peaks as: Mount Rainier (via the Disappointment Cleaver and Emmons), Mount Shuksan, Eldorado Peak, Sahale Mountain, Dragontail Peak, and Mount Stuart.
Yes, having some recent wilderness backpacking experience (hiking, carrying a heavy load to camp, sleeping overnight in a tent, etc.) is required for this class. If you don't have this yet, there are a number of local organizations (like the Mountaineers) that will teach you backpacking and introduce you to some beautiful areas. In addition, you must have solid physical fitness (see 'How physically fit do I need to be for this class?'), be at least age 18 at the start of the class, and have health insurance for the duration of the class.
We don't assume any prior climbing background, but it does help to have some. Being familiar with some of the techniques will make it that much easier and faster for you to understand the class material.
Mountaineering is much more enjoyable and fun if you're fit. You should be able to comfortably carry a heavy load up a steep slope for several hours at a time. If you're not already on a cardiovascular and upper-body weight training program, it's not too late to start!
Depending on how much outdoors gear you already own (you may already have a lot of the clothing just by living in the Pacific NW!) and how much you may be able to borrow and rent, you can spend as little as $500 and as much as $2000. We encourage you to wait until the class starts before you start purchasing gear, as you will receive discounts from some of the local gear stores and instructors can provide good advice. You will need everything required on the gear list.
Note that we are not a guiding service. The class is run and taught by volunteers who are passionate about mountaineering and want to teach others about it. Some of us have decades of climbing experience, while others have just graduated from the class.
The rock climbing that we do in the class will not exceed 5.6 (Yosemite Decimal Scale), which most physically fit people should be able to climb with no prior climbing experience.
Yes, although the first portions of the class involving rock climbing might be a bit slow for you. The two alpine climbs can have some rock climbing (depending on what climb you end up doing), although the emphasis is on backcountry travel. There are a total of three weekend field trips on snow and glacier travel, including the climb of Mount Baker, so you should be able to obtain a good background in glacier travel technique.
The class has a total of 12 Tuesday night lectures and 9 weekend field trips over a period of 14 weeks. Three of the weekend trips are overnighters. You are also expected to complete the weekly reading and homework assignments. There is quite a significant time commitment.
I'm going to have to miss a night class or a weekend field trip. Should I still apply for the class?
No, since the skills acquired each week build on each other, all class lectures and field trips are mandatory.
Since you're required to attend all classes and field trips and all of them are only offered once, the schedule is not flexible.
No, we have a very competitive application process, and unfortunately we can't take everyone who applies. We strive to keep a high instructor-to-student ratio, so we have to limit the number of people we can accept. Each year, we typically accept 32 students.
No, the application process is not first-come, first-served, although we do appreciate when people get their applications in much earlier than the deadline. :-)
No, we don't assume first aid training, but it helps to have some, especially wilderness first aid.
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