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Mountaineers or WAC ?

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New to area and would like to take a full basic course. The Mtneers' is closed for the year. Might still get into the WAC one. Please let me know which organization offers the best combination of quality training, activities, good people, etc. They don't appear to honor each others course and there seems to be strong feelings for and against each club. Why?

Thanks in advance.

SHW

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Hi SHW, welcome to the Pacific Northwest, where you will find lots of interesting things to do, and a fun and friendly (sometimes) climbing community too! smile.gif

I had a girlfriend who has taken the WAC course and know many people who "are" Mountaineers. The basic courses are pretty comparable in that you will get a decent group-style introduction to climbing with either. Through the group and the membership organization, you can find other people of similar ability to climb and grow with.

They do not honor each others courses because, quite simply, these are rival social organizations, they are not "technical" certifications. The climbing courses only hold value to the particular organization with which you are participating - frankly, most other climbers couldn't care less whether you've completed some course or not; climbing competance can be ascertained pretty easily.

Most people (myself included) have a somewhat guarded view of WAC'ers, Mazamas and Mountaineers because novice members of these orginizations have been featured in some prominent rescues and accidents over the years and its generally thought that large groups, such as Basic Course outings, tend to impact the environment and are unsightly in the backcountry. Fair or not, thats the perception.

Given a choice, I would attend both group's meetings and see who you click with better. Outside the organizations, as I said, the membership and course graduation has dubious value...

Alex

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remember wac will have your car towed if park near their sacrd grounds in the alpental valley. truly climber brethen. rolleyes.gif

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I have not had much experience with the WAC, but I know that the Mountaineers is extremely bureaucratic. You'll learn in one year through the Mountaineers basic course, what an experienced climber could teach you in five days up in Boston Basin. Of course, finding an experienced climber willing to spend a lot of time of his/her teaching you could be quite hard. As to which organization is better, I don't know, but be prepared to be frustrated with incompetant basic students ("accidents waiting to happen" as I have heard them called).

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My personal experience is with the Mountaineers.I took the basic course 2 years ago and felt that as stated above the environment is rich in beuracracy.Also noted was the real danger of many incompetent students, I have to agree given some of the situations in which a student may find themselves.On a experience climb" with only 1 competent leader to 4/5 students and maybe one or two of these has met the wilderness first aid requirement.I think this lends credence to the term "accidents waiting to happen".One other aspect of the course that I took is it was certainly focused more on the social aspects of climbing " the singles thing" rather than the technical and other aspects of the sport.The quality of these classes lies, in my belief in having somone check over the things you already know or teach the very basics in rather long and expensive manner.The down side is that many first year students leave the course with an inflated sense of ability and maybe not the skills to back it up.All in all welcome to the area and good climbing! grin.gif

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Please define "quality" and "good".

I'll preface my comments by saying that I was invited to cease my participation in the Mountaineers Basic course.

The Seattle branch of the Mountaineers, IN MY OPINION, is very good at teaching what they teach. I happen to disagree, rather strongly, with the "what". I found it to be a very autocratic organization where I was strongly encouraged not to voice my opinion, especially if it was different from the leader's. In the end, I was ready to quit when they decruited me. To describe them in one word: "Traditional".

And welcome to the area. There is a lot of fun climbing to do here, once you get the hang of the weather. And there are lots of great people here to climb with.

-CC

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The BOEALPS (Boeing Climbing Club) offers a Basic and Intermediate climbing course. Their basic course is very similiar to the WAC. It IS open to non Boeing employees. For information contact Matt Robertson @ 425-957-5691

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SHW, I took the mounties basic class years ago, and I've also helped instruct the WAC's class. I highly recomend learning climbing some other way. In both clubs most of your teachers were students the previous year. You aren't going to learn much from folks like that. Also the mounties are pretty goofy; you can spot a group of them a mile away. I recomend taking individual classes from places like the Vertical World. There are some good glacier classes out there too. Once you get some basic knoledge try and find a partner with your skill level and go climbing. Start with climbs you both feel comfortable with and have fun. grin.gif

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I think it is also worth mentioning that there are more organizations out there offering climbing instruction, other than the socially oriented ones like WAC, Mountaineers, etc.

As mentioned above, you can take classes from climbing gyms as well. These instructors may or may not be knowledgeable, which is something that you would have to ascertain on your own.

The other route to take would be with a professional guide service. By far the most expensive way, but if you really want the highest quality instruction by trained professionals in a group with other motivated adults, this is the best way.

In this area are some of the most widely known guide services and climbing schools in the country. Seattle has Mountain Madness, Alpine Ascents Int'l, and Cascade Alpine Guides. In Bellingham, we have the American Alpine Institute, one of the longest standing in the country.

My advice, if you have the funds and want to take a course, would be to go to the professionals. The VERY best way is to find a few competent climbing parters, read instructional books, and learn yourself. If you want a social organization, which is a totally valid pursuit by the way, go that direction. It just depends on what your goals are for learning this noble sport.

And welcome to this wonderful place, please treat it with respect. smile.gif

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I'm trying to be a nicer guy in 2001, really I am, but I fully agree that you should skip both the WAC and the Mutineers, and take selected, weekend or slightly longer, glacier, rock, alpine, and first aid courses from some organization like RMI, AAI, Cascade Alpine Guides, Mountain Madness, or whatever. Then go out with good and trusted friends and practice what you've learned. Your experiences will be more rewarding and more efficient.

The many people commenting above are being charitable in their descriptions of the Mountaineers in particular. They mean well, but when you've been around them enough times, you will learn to look for their automobile window stickers in the parking lot before trying a route. Another trick is to get their bi-monthly (?) publication and see where they intend to go, then consider something elsewhere, depending on the nature of the climb.

We almost all make mistakes, get off route, underestimate the time needed to complete a route, etc. I've done all three more than once. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, a partner and I once had no snow or ice protection for a route on Forbidden because the guidebook didn't mention it, and a nice group of four guys from the Mountaineers let us work into their system. This was after they got the ropes stuck on a rappel and we got them un-stuck, but whatever. The point is that, basic, predictable human error aside, these groups seem to be magnets for trouble.

As for the WAC, they keep a lower profile, in my experience. However, we once passed 35 people in one group at the base of the Roman Wall on Baker. It's a wonder they weren't lined up wearing wool knickers and carrying extra-long fjord sticks! Talk about impacting the environment.

Anyway, I echo the sentiments above: Skip these groups and you'll probably learn the requisite skills faster, and ultimately have more fun, in our awesome mountains. Welcome to the neighborhood.

John Sharp

Swellevue

 

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I belong to the Mountaineers. Took their basic class. Learned the BASICS. Took a year off, almost have finished their intermediate course. During the year off, I did three or four courses with Mountain Madness. I agree, the guides are the pros from Dover, you'll learn more from them. More $, though, and unless you know someone to climb with once the class is finished, then you'll probably lose what you gained.

The advantage to the Mountaineers, and probably the WAC, are the people you meet share common interests as you and you will end up meeting good climbing partners for your future endeavors in the hills.

We all started out incompetent, but gradually have enhanced our skills.

You may want to check into the Tacoma Mountaineers and their basic climbing course. I think they start a bit later than Seattle, and the course is a bit smaller.

Best of luck.

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Yes I do remember that one Mike.

I must say that the Mutineers and Wacks probably do have great climbers in thier organizations. I just haven't met them yet.

I definitely will be surfing thier site to find out thier trip plans. In turn I will make plans to avoid these groups at all costs.

I kind of feel like they mught subject me to thier mobbing of the mountains in large groups and possibly creating a dangerous situation at the same time. I just can't stand going over to Icicle Canyon and finding that all the campgrounds are full of these groups. Maybe the Rangers should limit thier numbers or something...

In a nutshell,I have always prefered to avoid the crowds.

I think I would agree with Alex (and others) and say that you could possibly learn from someone else if you wanted.

I have a good friend that has taken a course or 2 and I don't hold that against him though. I just don't like the way the Wack, and Mutineers combined with REI have commercialized and overcrowded the mtns. Too bad for me.

-Ray

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I would like to try to call a polite halt to the Mountaineer bashing.

I sometimes shudder at my own incompetence in the field, and would like to humbly remind us all that we all had to start somewhere, that we were all gumbys once.

I log on here for good info and intelligent discussion. Lets try to keep the flame sessions on rec.climbing or at least to Private Messages, eh?

Thanks!!

Alex

 

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Here, here. I think SHW has probably gotten the picture, which could perhaps be summarized as "friends don't let friends join the Mountaineers," or something like that.

It's interesting the high number of people who've spoken up on this question. More even than when DPS posted his list of favorite Cascade climbs, including one in Alaska, and got us all worked up. Obviously, people have strong opinions about the Mountaineers and WAC. Either that or none of us has much work today . . .

Welcome, SHW, to the down and dirty world of the Cascade Hardman. By chance do you ice climb in Levis?

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I've been a Mountaineers member for many years. I've never taken any of their courses or joined any of their trips, but I consider membership in the organization valuable. I originally joined so I could check out books from their library (and make 10 cent copies). I remain a member because, despite their faults, they are an organization that has made great contributions in the Cascades, and I think they still have a role to play.

Another great (but small) organization if you're interested in conservation issues is the North Cascades Conservation Council (see http://www.halcyon.com/rdpayne/nccc.html). The directors of this organization were "present at the creation" of the North Cascades National Park and many wilderness areas and they know where the skeletons are buried.

Lowell Skoog

lowell.skoog@alpenglow.org

[This message has been edited by Lowell Skoog (edited 01-04-2001).]

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I was not really trying to create any animosity just speaking my mind.

I am not bashing either. Sorry if anyone is offended but I am not taking anything I said back.

I am a bumbly wink.gif

-Ray

[This message has been edited by rayborbon (edited 01-04-2001).]

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Ahhh, the PNW climber's favorite can of worms.. the +/- of the Mountaineers et al. Someone probably told you to post that question just to get a rise out of us. Like the weather doesn't give us enough to complain about...

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Ohhh, I can't resist posting to such a potentially inflammatory thread! My two cents: I have climbed with a number of WAC climbers, and have found them to be generally very agreeable partners with good climbing skills and fine attitudes. As for the Mountaineers....

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As a mounties member, I feel the pain that the club sometimes inflicts on the unsuspecting public. HOWEVER, I have met many fun and skilled climbers through the club and have learned much from their courses. I often check the schedule and avoid areas where there are basic trips but, like Lowell, consider it a minor nuisance for all the good the club has done over the years. I feel that the real problem lies not in the Mountaineers, but the extreme population growth over the last few decades. It's my guess that most of you are part of the problem, have you been here longer than the Mountaineers?

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I fully agree with Lowell on the benefits provided by the Mountaineers, and have used their wonderful library several times, though as a non-member, I pay more than a dime per copy.

Like DPS, I've climbed with one WAC instructor, and if anything, he had to tolerate my whining and mediocre abilities.

As for Heinrich, I think you're right about overcrowding in our mountains, and as a native, I too feel the pain of expansion. I've been here since birth in 1963, not including stints in CA, OR, and AZ for school etc. Obviously, most of the crowds, whether from clubs or otherwise, can be avoided by careful route selection and timing.

Still, I cannot discount the many negative comments above. The truth hurts, but it's the truch nonetheless.

John Sharp

Hellevue

P.S. This is much more fun than working.

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Right on. Way to hit the nail on the head, Cascadeclimber, especially about who was here first!

In my comment earlier in the thread, I was trying to politely suggest that SHW go somewhere else for instruction. But there isn't alot of chances like this to really let a forum of climbers, however big or small, know how the climbing community feels about the ethical tragedy of this organization.

I have to assert that no matter how you cut it, they do way more harm than good. How many of us, if we could, would choose between having a NW climbing scene that included these organizations, or one that did not? Lets be honest with ourselves.

If even one member of the Mountaineers or WAC is reading this, please take note of what you read. The very least that could be done is regulating group size, forget everything else. If a group of Mountaineers were small and inconspicuous, how would anyone be able to recognize them? What would that do for the public image? Think about it.

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I moved to the PNW just last year. My perception of the Mountaineers is similar to everyone else's. I am a member and have taken their Navigation Class and intended to take the Basic Climbing Class. I have been climbing rock for over 4 years and have done some ice climbing, all back East. I have taken similar courses through the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club), but unfortunately they don't honor that experience. On the other hand, the AMC courses didn't cover glacial travel (not too many glaciers in New England <grin> ). So I hope to learn a few things in the course, although it does concern me that there are so many accidents on the Mountaineers’ trips/climbing classes. I just looked through my copy of the 1998 Accidents in North American Mountaineering and found reports of two fatalities and several accidents.

I have had to deal with plenty of the bureaucracy of the Mountaineers, however, that is my own choice because I have chosen to be a member (for now at least). My question to the group is this: Is the frustration with the Mountaineers (or the WAC) unique to this organization? Or is it just a consequence of a group that size?

As an AMC member of several years I have not heard many complaints about the AMC. Maybe I just haven’t been aware of it. All of my experiences with that group have been wonderful. I have met a great group of climbers, hikers, backpackers, and others. Then again, this is my experience. Others may have different views.

Are there any suggestions or solutions we could suggest to the Mountaineers or the WAC? There seems to be a lot of opinions, ideas, and the such on this thread. Maybe we could get a list together of problems, suggestions, and solutions and send them to the Mountaineers. After all we all share the same public lands. We have a right to voice our opinions.

Any thoughts on this?

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Right on. Way to hit the nail on the head, Cascadeclimber, especially about who was here first!

In my comment earlier in the thread, I was trying to politely suggest that SHW go somewhere else for instruction. But there isn't alot of chances like this to really let a forum of climbers, however big or small, know how the climbing community feels about the ethical tragedy of this organization.

I have to assert that no matter how you cut it, they do way more harm than good. How many of us, if we could, would choose between having a NW climbing scene that included these organizations, or one that did not? Lets be honest with ourselves.

If even one member of the Mountaineers or WAC is reading this, please take note of what you read. The very least that could be done is regulating group size, forget everything else. If a group of Mountaineers were small and inconspicuous, how would anyone be able to recognize them? What would that do for the public image? Think about it.

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