Course Outline

This page outlines the classroom topics and field trips covered in the course. There will be other optional class and WAC events along the way, but they are not included here. Refer to the Schedule for specific dates. Do the reading before class to get the most out of it.

Students: You will need to log into whatever account you use in the google group to access the slides.

Below, when listing readings: FOTH = Freedom of the Hills (9th edition)

Classroom Topics

Class Logistics & Leave No Trace

Welcome! We'll meet each other, get oriented, get on the same page with Leave No Trace (LNT), and start diving into the extensive gear list.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 1 First Steps, Ch. 4 Physical Conditioning, Ch. 7 Leave No Trace

Gear & Equipment

Continue review of all relevant gear. You'll have enough information to research the things you don't have yet, but you don't need to rush too much on gear which won't come into play until later.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 2 Clothing and Equipment, Ch. 3 Camping, Food, and Water


Learn about backcountry navigation and how to use a map and compass.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 5 Navigation, Ch. 6 Wilderness Travel


Introduction to rock climbing fundamentals: basic safety systems, belaying, rappelling.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 9 Basic Safety System, Ch. 10 Belaying, FOTH Ch. 11 Rappelling, Ch. 12 Alpine Rock Climbing Technique

Review to the Knots Test for the list of required skills. Reference resources on the Knots and Skills page for help.

Weather & Nutrition

Introduction to weather: How to read forecasts and plan. How to respond to various kinds of inclement weather.

Nutrition: how to set yourself up for sustained energy levels.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 28 Mountain Weather; also: pp 512-514 Mountain Maladies

Climbing Anchors

Introduction to climbing anchors of various kinds, including how to assess them for safety.

Pre-reading: Climbing Anchors Ch. 1 & 2.  optional: FOTH Ch. 13 Rock Protection, Ch. 14 Leading on Rock

Class: Rock 1: Anchors

Cleaning Anchors: Thread & Lower

Introduction to the thread & lower technique for removing (aka "cleaning") a climbing anchor.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 26 Mountain Geology. optional: Climbing Anchors Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6

Knots Test & First Aid

You'll be tested individually on all technical skills covered so far.  For any that need more work, we'll work together to practice and fill out those gaps. 

Introduction to first aid in a backcountry setting.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 24 First Aid

Review the Knots Test document

Snow Travel & Snow Camping

You'll learn to operate effectively and efficiently on snow covered terrain, which includes snow camping and skills related to safe backcountry snow travel. Among these: ice axe arrest, efficiently ascending and descending snow slopes,  and how to use snow as a medium for creating an anchor. 

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 3 Camping, Food, and Water, Ch. 16 Snow Travel and Climbing

Avalanche Awareness & Trip Planning

Before class: Trip Planning Assignment.
Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 17 Avalanche Safety, Ch. 21 Expedition Climbing

Glacier Travel & Crampons

Another real climb to further cement your learnings and skills in the real world. 

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 27 The Cycle of Snow & pp 333-337 (crampons)

Glacier Rescue & Z-Pulley

We'll learn about glacier self-rescue andn partner rescue (via the z-pulley technique) and start to get a sense of the kinds of situations that can happen. Everyone unplanned situation is unique!

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 18 Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue

Prusik & Z-Pulley Practice

More practice on glacier self-rescue and partner rescue (z-pulley).

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 19 Alpine Ice Climbing

Mountain Safety & Compounding Errors

Bring it all together in your final class-organized field trip. You'll camp on snow, climb a glacier, and summit a volcano.

Pre-reading: FOTH Ch. 22 Leadership, Ch. 23 Safety, Ch. 25 Alpine Rescue

Beyond the Class

Celebrate a successful class and spark up the beginnings of future trips. This is only the beginning. 

Class: Beyond the class

Field Trips

Mt. Si

Hiking up Mt Si as a group. We'll spend the day at the top, where you'll learn with smaller teams over a variety of stations. You'll be practicing navigation by map and compass, getting 1-on-1 instruction of core climbing knots, as well as some other applied skills.

Ground School

This is an opportunity to practice your skills in a low-angle environment where it's very easy to pause and ask lots of detailed questions.

Climbing at Mt. Erie

The first class outing on real rock: a weekend at Mt. Erie. You'll take the skills you practiced at ground school into a high-angle setting. This outing includes plenty of opportunities to assess climbing anchors, as well as practice your belaying, rappelling, and climbing.

Climbing at Vantage

The class will be broken up into smaller groups. You will choose one day to participate. Many camp out nights before or after their assigned day. The goal of this outing is to solidify the skills that will make you a competent and trustworthy rock climbing partner.

Snow 1

We'll practice the snow travel/camping techniques that we discussed in the classroom. You'll get plenty of practice and detailed feedback on your ice axe arrest, ascending/descending snow slopes, and anchor building in snow.

Alpine 1 & 2

These two outings (Alpine 1 & Alpine 2) each entail a real alpine climb with a small group of your classmates, along with a few instructors. For one of these climbs, students will take the lead on navigation.

Snow 2

For your last instruction-oriented field trip, we'll travel to a real glacier to practice crevasse rescue, roped glacier travel, and climbing techniques on low-angle ice.

Mt. Baker (Kulshan) Climb

Bring it all together in your final class-organized field trip. You'll camp on snow, climb a glacier, and summit a volcano.