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zpm

Mountaineering/Alpine Climbing Classes

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I'm a relatively inexperienced climber, though I do have exposure to it. Attempted Rainier last year, did Stuart in May, Dragontail in July, and Adams in August. Met up with a great dude from CC to attempt Rainier last year, and he helped teach me a lot of stuff, but I'm far from experienced.

 

I was looking into the Basic Climbing Course put on by the Mountaineers up Olympia, but do to my work schedule, I don't think I'd realistically be able to attend all of the classes.

 

Do any of you know of other options? Perhaps something a bit more flexible?

 

I moved out here in July of last year, and instantly got hooked on the mountains. I still plan on reading and learning as I go, but really wan't to hone my skills so I can start doing some bigger, longer trips.

 

I really like the the outline and content covered in the Mountaineers course, and those are the skills I'm trying to get better at.

 

Thanks.

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Find a partner who's at your skill level and figure it out yourself. Just pick objectives that are challenging but reasonable and safe for your skill level. There aren't a whole lot of "skills" that you can't learn on your own with practice.

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This advice has been addressed before on this site - maybe surf around a bit.

But the short version is to get a copy of "Freedom of the Hills", and a good buddy - and go for it.

A lot of self-taught climbers on this site are still alive.

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Check out the Washinton Alpine Club. I have some great climbing partners who went through their program. I believe they are a tad less "regimented" than the mounties, but I have no personal experience with either org.

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based on your experience thus far, and assuming you have a solid hiking/backpacking background don't waste your time taking a long drawn out 'intro to climbing' class..if the mounties are anything like the mazamas, 95% is trash unless you've literally never done anything more than walking a mile in flipflops to a waterfall.

 

can you wear crampons and use an ice axe? if the answer is yes keep on with helens, adams, maybe find a friend or keep partner hunting and give something like hood a go where you can get a bit more steeps. read, research...

 

or if I had to do over again and I had the $ when I didn't know as much as I wanted, taking a 3-5 day intensive with one of the SEA based climbing/guiding co's would have been worth it.

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Check out the Washinton Alpine Club. I have some great climbing partners who went through their program. I believe they are a tad less "regimented" than the mounties, but I have no personal experience with either org.

 

Not necessarily. Regimented in a different way is a better way to put it. All organizations have set policies or their own approach to doing things. Both organizations could help you learn climbing and may be a benefit for the short or long term but that's up to you to figure out.

 

Learning on your own is possible as long as you spend time reading texts that others have mentioned and have a good sense of your ability levels. Basically don't expect to climb everything that looks cool in one season.

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Get a guide and find an appropriate adventure to your ability (IMHO there is a ton of BS in clubs, many people use it as an ego trip and a dating service). Maybe an alpine multi-pitch in the 5.9 realm. Tell him/her what your into and that you want to learn. You'll be able to be in an environment where you can soak it in and be safe. Basically learn from a pro then seek like minded partners (I'm of the Twight school of thought on partners- its sacred in the Alpine) That being said I'm self-taught like many others, but the learning curve took a bit longer by doing so.

 

Shoot I'd love to have Barry Blanchard guide me around a day just to hear the stories.

 

2 cents.

 

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I can 2nd the recommendation to learn on your own. Find a partner who you can talk things through with and read Freedom of the Hills over and over. Go find some snow to practice and spend MULTIPLE sessions practicing self arrest, crampon/ice axe technique, and crevasse rescue systems. I have met plenty of people who learned in a class how to do these things but only practiced them for an hour at the tail end of class and promptly forgot everything instead of drilling the muscle memory for the techniques.

 

The technical rock climbing stuff you can learn at an easy crag. Have a friend put you on top rope while another friend puts you on lead, whether it's bolts or trad gear you are using for protection. This way you don't even need a guide since when you inevitably mess things up you are on top rope anyway.

 

Also hiring the occasional guide for a climb is a better idea than taking a course. The courses go over the skills that you can learn in a book and simply watching a guide climbing and copying their movements will be more useful than all the home theory learning you can ever have.

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I'd agree with most of what people have said. I've taught myself to climb trad, and have spent 2 years doing so. I don't have the cash to hire a guide, but climbing with better partners is key.

 

A lot of technique can go into one day in the alpine. My suggestion, like others have said, is find a partner about your level, and get lots of routes in. Read and re-read freedom and other "manuals", immerse yourself in different climbing literature, read about accidents, read about successes, and try and learn from them. When you can't get into the alpine, try and practice techniques in easily accessed areas. Push yourself when conditions are safe, and stay conservative when they're not. Be a proficient, strong climber in all terrain, not just 5th class. Don't depend on the rope, it's not always as safe as you imagine and impractical on certain terrain. Once in a while, guides are a good idea, they can give you useful tips gleaned from many trips, which you probably won't pickup in a useful way in an intensive week long course.

 

The biggest challenge for me is the mental side of mountaineering, overcoming irrational fears. Once you have a solid foundation in the basics for a variety of techniques, this will become the biggest obstacle. A 5.7 alpine route can still be challenging with all the right techniques, but the wrong head.

 

Question everything, think it through with a straight head, and stay stoked.

 

Sorry for the long post.

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I'm half self-taught, half class-taught. I'm glad I did both.

 

I'll put in a plug for taking a good class. If the class is a good one, you'll learn more much more quickly and safely than by yourself. A good instructor/guide/course-leader will have decade-scale experience and can give you a taste of the perspective one gets from being in the mountains for a lifetime. That perspective is hard-earned and better gotten the easy way.

 

I think you'll find that the WAC and the Mountaineer-branch courses require comparable time commitment. Many guide services offer shorter-duration courses. To get the most out of the guided courses, extensively practice what you can ahead of time, and come to the class prepared to soak in knowledge.

 

I took the Seattle Mountaineers basic-course in 2006, and am active with the WAC's backcountry travel course. The WAC is somewhat less-regimented than the Mountaineers of '06 (things may be more flexible now, I hear), but you should enjoy working with and learning from other people.

 

TL;DR: Find common-sense comparable-skill climbing partners and seek good mentors. Play the long game. A good class can help. Also, this.

Edited by trumpetsailor

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