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KaiLarson

Thoughts on The Mountaineers?

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What are your experiences with The Mountaineers?

 

For a person who is new to the area, is it worth it to join up?

 

I browsed through the club trips and other offerings and some of them looked interesting.

 

Wondering if joining would be a good way to meet folks to climb with and if their various training programs are worthwhile.

 

 

Edited by KaiLarson

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Your location says SLC, UT, where are you living now?

 

The different chapters all have their own character and characters. It won't be a waste of your time if you're new to town, you'll meet a lot of great people and can find some good partners to get out with.

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You're probably going to get the full spectrum of responses here. They are a bit old-fashioned, but I took several courses with them (late 1990's, early 2000's) when I was starting out and thought them a great value. I met some motivated and skilled climbers whom I learned a lot from by doing climbs outside the club. I even met my wife in a Mountaineers course!

 

Maybe that is why I have fond memories, now that I think about it.....

Edited by JasonG

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Agree with what was said above. It's a good value if you want to learn and a good way to meet people, but they are very old school (or at least were when I took it ~13 years ago). I asked the then president (can't remember his name) when he came on a rock field trip and was an instructor for my group about if it was safe for him to use his harness that he has had for 20 years. He proceeded to put me in my place as there was no way a 17 year old could give him any advice as he's been climbing for 20 something years and knew it all.

 

In hindsight some of my gripes were the over emphasis on hip belays, how many are like "purist" that were very rigid in their views about climbing only in boots and with chocks rather than using rock shoes and cams.

 

Also, the groups are notoriously large and slow and is painful when you get stuck behind them.

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Your location says SLC, UT, where are you living now?

 

 

I'm currently in SLC, but things may change at some point.

 

Thanks for the replies everyone.

 

I've had mixed results with outdoor groups. When I lived in Colorado, I really enjoyed the Colorado Mountain Club's backcountry ski outings. Some winters, I averaged more than one outing a week with them. Met a lot of really cool people and had some great times.

 

Here in Utah, I've had less success with the Wasatch Mountain Club. It's been easier just to do things with people outside the group.

 

 

 

 

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same response from mazama land. good intro when your baseline is only backpacking, and solid route to meet folks. My first climbing partner we were in class, did a 'sanctioned' climb then said hey, wanna screw this whole bureaucratic bs and go climb together? ok yeah! my wife did a pretty in depth member/non-member survey and analysis for mazamas and it sounds like they are not too far afield from mountaineers in a lot of attitudes.

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I agree with much of what the previous posters have already shared.I didn't use the mountaineers, but I went for Boealps instead (nearly 10 years ago). I was the youngest person in my class. My father was an engineer at Boeing so I got a good discount.

 

Boealps is very similar to the mountaineers (on a smaller scale). I think both orginizations are similar, so I think I can offer some perspective on this.

 

I think the mountaineers (and orginizations like it), are a great place to start climbing safely. I remmeber the Boealps basic mountaineering class taking up quite a bit of my free time. We had class every week.

 

I learned quite a bit about knots, anchors, glacier rescue; and I gained much needed confidence on how to climb safely. Once you reach a certain level though, you start to outgrow the orginization, and you will probably want to move on.

 

My biggest gripe with the mounties/boealps is that they are very rigid.

 

Whenever we would go on group climbs, they would insist that you carry a bunch of cr#p you don't need. Some of the instructors are so serious that they take the fun out of climbing.

 

In conclusion I think you get a good value out of doing a basic/intermediate class with the mountaineers. Much better than just a 2 or 3 day class with a guide service. Mainly because you have months (weeks) to refine your skills.

 

Once you feel confident in the basics, you will probably outgrow the whole thing.

 

That is my two cents.

Edited by Seraphim

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I think that climbing clubs (mounties, WAC, Boealps etc) are a great place to get started and to meet people/future climbing partners if you have no baseline. At a certain point, you'll outgrow it if you keep developing your skills, but that's to be expected; these aren't professionals teaching with these clubs and they can only offer so much.

 

Another plus, or minus depending on how you look at it, of taking a climbing class through one of the clubs is that it forces you to get out multiple weeks in a row. You get a bunch of mileage through them with the same group of people. It's a good thing for getting the basic skills dialed in, and making some lasting friendships. A few of my best climbing partners I met through one of the club classes, where we became friends and subsequently outgrew the club. Now we just climb, spray, and heckle each other.

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I'll bite.

 

These programs are driven by volunteers. Anyone who has ever worked with a volunteer organization knows that being staffed by volunteers is a blessing a a curse: wages are non-existent but you can't quibble about who you "hire". As such, those long-time, active members--the ones that truly give of their time and the resources--start to define the program, for better or worse. While the rest of us are spending the weekend doing our personal trips, they are giving up their precious days to share their love of the sport with those that want to join the climbing community.

 

When a newly minted Mountie or Mazama decides that the program is too rigid or old-school for them to stay with and heads off to pursue their own objectives, they are not doing anything to help redefine and modernize the program. I think it is incorrect to assume that these programs are static and old-fashioned by nature. They simply need individuals to help redefine the mission. An example that comes to mind is the course that John Frieh (perhaps he can chime in) taught to some Mazamas about training for alpine climbing. That one, small course really helped redirect how alpine climbing is seen and approached by a decent number of Mazamas.

 

Most of these clubs have committees that direct the content and direction of various areas of the club mission. Who serves on these committees, their vision, and their initiative are what transform the quality of the program from mediocre to superlative. As well, the courses are taught by members of these committees, and even if one isn't willing to make that long-term commitment, they usually welcome volunteers to assist and thereby offer a broader, more complete picture of what climbing/mountaineering could be.

 

-Jonathan

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Yupp. Met my wife in the Mountaineers in 76. Dropped out 3 years later, when our small group of Mounties friends decided we wanted to climb more than we wanted to teach. I ran low on partners in 2009 and rejoined for a year, dropped out immediately after meeting a few new partners.

 

I have a bunch of friends who learned to climb in the WAC. I think this is them: http://www.wacweb.org/default.view

 

They seem to be doing as good a job as the Mountaineers. It's true that a volunteer club is only as good as it's members, and those members rotate in and out. There does seem to be a tendency for people who are on a power trip to stay in longer, based on the thrill and power inherent in "being the teacher".

 

But that is a worst case scenario. I'd recommend either organization if you are new in town, or to the sport.

 

Best option of all is to find a mentor who will teach you the ropes. Go to the climbing gym and make friends with an older climber who is still leading. Chances are good they need a partner and will be happy to teach you what they know.

 

 

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FWIW, I think Kai is an experienced climber, not someone just looking to get into the sport.

 

Most of these posts are accurate. I have experience with two north sound chapters and have run into Boealps and WAC groups in the mountains and am a current member of both the Mountaineers and Skagit Alpine Club.

 

I asked where you are or will be living because that makes a difference as to which chapter of the Mounties is most conveniently located to you and what outings that chapter offers. The Everett chapter has an active back country skiing community, the Bellingham chapter does not officially have a BC skiing component right now but there are serious BC skiers that are members.

 

I can't comment on any of the other branches as I don't have any experience with them.

Edited by Jason4

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Jason4 makes a good point. It really depends if you're new or experienced. I visited the three main clubs when I first moved here but didn't stick with any. I was already an experienced climber and they were pretty unfriendly. (I'm also small, a bit older and don't look like a typical climber so there's all that.) It might have just been the people I met but they didn't want anything to do to me. A bunch of them just pointed me to the classes. I considered taking one except they are a huge time commitment AND they cost money. I'm not broke but the idea of paying someone for a class when I had already climbed more than most of their instructors seemed silly. In the PNW I had already climbed Rainier twice (Liberty Ridge and Emmons), Baker twice (Coleman Deming and N. Ridge), Shuksan, SEWS, Liberty Bell, etc, etc along with a bunch of mountains elsewhere (Ama Dablam, Aconcagua, etc), could lead trad/sport on rock and WI3...so already in what they would consider "advanced" in their courses.

 

Then I ran into one of the clubs on the Apron at Squamish. We got to the route a few minutes before them and they started up right behind us. The leader kept asking me for beta on a really easy climb. He seemed nervous and like he was barely making it. It was a slab and he leaning in, not putting his weight on his feet so he kept slipping. Then when I met him later I found out he was teaching a lead course for one of the clubs. I mentioned that I tried the club but found it hard to meet people. Then he actually suggested that I take the course that he was teaching! (The guy who was asking ME for beta on a climb I was leading in front of him with no issues.) When I told him I was all good, that I had a partner that I met here on cc.com, he said that was dangerous and he couldn't believe I would climb with someone I met on the internet. (She was totally safe and solid...more solid than he looked.) In the end, that was the issue for me with the clubs - that they seemed so judge-y. They were even judge-y of each other (like the Mountaineers people told be the WAC people were a bunch of yahoos.) It was weird. I totally agree with being careful and learning skills but I don't agree that someone who took a club course is inherently safer than someone who didn't. Training is great but experience is important also.

 

That being said, if you are a total newbie and don't know anyone, you'll meet a group of people in your course who are at the same level that you are and learn the same technique so you don't have to deal with variations. Seems like you would form a natural group that you could keep climbing with through the years.

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If you're experienced, rustle up a partner here in the partners forum, and odds are you'll meet more people quickly.

 

If you're learning, the Mounties can be okay. I know some really great people in the Olympia area who are/have been in the Mountaineers. Really, its just the sort of thing for people who like that sort of thing.

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You'll find lots of opinions about the Mtneers and other orgs.

 

Ultimately, you need to take responsibility for your own safety in the mountains no matter who else is on your trip.

 

Veteran climbers can make mistakes and should welcome someone checking their knots, systems, weather decisions, avalanche assessments, etc. If you trust someone else completely and aren't thinking for yourself you're setting yourself up for trouble down the road. If you find an organization where inexperienced climbers are actively or subtly discouraged from questioning the decisions of the "elders" you should run away as fast as you can.

 

Learn to think for yourself and assess risk and manage it for you and your team.

 

And you can find some solid partners on this site. Have fun!

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I took the Mountaineers' Basic Climbing course many years ago--it was, for the most part, horrible (and put on by some of the most dysfunctional people I've ever met).

 

There are probably Mountaineers out there who are nice and who can actually climb (that being said, I've yet to run into any). I've been climbing for 17 years and, during these 17 years, I've had the displeasure of running into the Mountaineers many times in the hills. Almost without exception, the Mountie groups I have run into have epitomized the term "shit-show." Most Mounties don't have a clue what they're doing (and most Mountie leaders should NOT be leading anyone; the fact is, most Mountaineers are woefully unqualified to teach anyone how to climb).

 

Incidentally, of the handful of Mountie "leaders" who instructed me, three ended up in accidents that were highlighted in Accidents in North American Mountaineering, and two of those leaders were later killed in the hills.

 

I have a profound dislike of the Mountaineers; I recommend staying far, far away from this dangerous group.

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I've had a wonderful experience with The Mountaineers, I joined the Tacoma branch in 1998 to take the Basic class. Met a great bunch of life long friends, took the Intermediate course, became a long time leader and instructor. I decided to be involved and help change the culture from one slightly "militaristic" to one that safely gets people into the outdoors and has a lot of fun. I volunteer a couple of weekends a year instructing at the Intermediate level to develop the next round of leaders, then lead a few trips for the students to get experience, and then do many private climbs with Mountaineer friends.

 

It's a great organization for those that want to learn, and then give back over the years. And I've seen the techniques and culture change as new volunteers step up and influence the organization in a positive manner. I would highly recommend if you want to be part of a community.

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