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FAQ

About the Class


What kind of trips will this class prepare me for?

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 lead rock or ice 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 ShuksanEldorado Peak, Sahale Mountain, Dragontail Peak, and Mount Stuart.


Are there any prerequisites or requirements for the class?

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. 


How much climbing experience should I have to apply?

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.

How physically fit do I need to be for this class?

Mountaineering is much more enjoyable and fun if you're fit. You should be able to comfortably carry a heavy load (roughly 30+ lbs.) 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!

How much gear do I need? How much should I expect to spend on gear?

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.

Who teaches the class? How much experience do instructors have?

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. 

What level of rock climbing will we be attempting in 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. Most climbing in the class requires students to climb in mountaineering boots outside to gain an understanding of alpine climbing (including SPIRE weekends, Mt. Erie, and Alpine weekends). For the Vantage climbing weekend, students will be grouped by climbing ability, which may involve higher than 5.6 climbing grades and is the only weekend that allows rock climbing shoes.

I've rock climbed a lot, but don't have much glacier experience. Would this class be appropriate for me?

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.

Time Commitment


What is the time commitment?

The class has a total of 15 Tuesday night lectures and 10 weekend field trips over a period of 15 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 Tuesday 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.

How flexible is the schedule?

Since you're required to attend all classes and field trips and all of them are only offered once, the schedule is not flexible. 

Application Process


Does everyone who applies for the class get in?

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.

Is the applicant selection process first-come, first-served?

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.

Do I need any first aid training to take the class?

No, we don't assume first aid training, but it helps to have some, especially wilderness first aid.