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Bdubs

Which basic class to take?

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I am currently torn between which introductory mountaineering course I should sign up for. I am between the Tacoma Mountaineers basic course, American Alpine Institute, and Alpine Ascents. I know the AAI and AA courses are better, but the Mountaineers course is cheaper and seems to allow for good climbing opportunities afterwards. I wont be able to climb much until I graduate high school in June, and being so young I am a bit worried about finding climbing partners/opportunities in the summer (hence the attractiveness of the mountaineers). I would appreciate if you all would share your opinions and knowledge of the different classes with me, along with any tips you may have. Thanks!

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Just from my observations of other climbers, having never been directly involved with the parties you mention, I can give you some advice.

 

Generally the Mountaineers are viable. They are very methodical to the point of being tedious for people who are quick learners. Also you will find they try to make anyone into a climber, even if they are not really capable. Typically people who you wouldn't consider to be athletic or coordinated. You can generally train someone for strength and aerobics but when it comes to coordinated skills some people just don't have it. This means that even if you are skilled you can be on rope with someone who is not. Usually this doesn't cause problems because the leader is usually competent, but it just helps to know this going in so you can avoid problems.

 

Not too much advice for the guided services other than all guides are not equal. Some are super competent but there's no guarantee. I was on the lower town wall one time and a guide came up with a client to do some aiding. First he lead hogged the best first pitch, then sent the client on the 2nd pitch which is not a good pitch for aid. It has some mandatory free and the client went off route, of course it was over a bulge so no one could see where he was. Well the client got to the belay and the guide following jugged up cleaning the gear, he followed the off route rope and got into some loose boulders and knocked a big one down on us on the ground at the base of the cliff. Hardly professional.

 

Ask for a guide's resume and maybe avoid rookies, I'm pretty sure this guy was a rookie.

 

Guides will get you up bigger stuff quicker and the Mountaineers will be more methodical with maybe better long term contacts. If you have higher level skills you will eventually want to graduate from the Mountaineers and hook up with other higher level climbers.

 

Once you get a few climbs under your belt you can post here on CC in the "Climbing Partners" forum and find partners pretty reliably.

 

If you are in Tacoma get some rock shoes or boots with sticky rubber and go down to Spire Rock in Spanaway and traverse around the base.

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Thanks for the response! Part of me is leaning towards the mountaineers for the contacts, but another part of me is leaning towards a guide because I feel I may learn more. Also, what I have found on the site about the mountaineers worries me a bit to be honest.

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I have climbed with quite a few partners over the years who learned through comprehensive courses by American Alpine Institute, Alpine Ascents International, etc. and clubs including The Mountaineers, Washington Alpine Club, the BOEALPS, etc.

 

I've had super solid partners who came up through both clubs and from guided courses. I've had lousy partners who came up through both clubs and from guided courses. The key difference was how they applied themselves and to what extent they dedicated themselves to learning on their own. You will get out of whatever course you decide to take what you put into it.

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I would suggest a private guide.

 

They are more expensive, but you can abuse the hell out of them, in a good/fun way. You will basically have your own textbook resource for information, as long as you can keep coming up with questions and continue to ask "why?" you will continue to learn. They might eventually get tired of it, but they will be energetic about your enthusiasm.

 

Additionally, you help fund a guide who loves to work one-on-one with the clients.

 

Caveat, you should, if possible, check to verify the credentials.

 

I have only done one-on-one guided things and the value/benefit I think far exceeds anything you could get if the guide was dividing his/her time with more than one client.

 

The AMGA has a list of guides qualified to whatever standard you are seeking on their website. Most/all of the local guide services cater to one-on-one guiding as well if you don't want to contact someone directly.

 

Like Buckaroo said, you can find partners on this site. If you're honest about your ability and realistic about your goal/aspirations you should not be led astray.

 

Good luck, you're in a great place to find competent partners who are willing to team up with you, just make sure you aren't deceptive about your ability, but don't undersell yourself either.

 

Dave

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The strength of the Mountaineers is the size of the club but it's also the biggest weakness. There are lots of opportunities to find partners and you know what kind of an education someone coming out of their basic class has. Because of the size of the club there is a lot of bureaucracy and they have to instruct more or less to the lowest common denominator which means that students that excel are more likely to get bored. I think the Mounties basic class is worthwhile as long as you have the time to commit to going to class and getting out on the climbs. Having been involved with the Bellingham branch and the Everett branch I'll also say that each branch has it's own cast of characters and it's own branch personality. Don't judge the entire club based on the big branches.

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Alright...I'm leaning towards the Tacoma mountaineers course again. Mostly for potential contacts

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You will learn more in 1 day with am AMGA certified guide than in a month with any club. You will not meet many people but you will learn to climb well, be challenged, and be safe. Have a big experience and meet contacts later.

Edited by matt_warfield

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I took a course through the American Alpine Inst. when I was in high school and I have nothing but the greatest of memories and learned skills that I use to this very day (20 years later). But as with instruction, ask questions, ask for your guide's resume, and be sure to practice your skills as often as you can after.

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Alright, thanks again for all the suggestions! I turns out I can't take the mountaineers class anyway, so I'm thinking I will take a course through American Alpine Institute. However, how do you guys suggest I try to meet people to climb with?

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how do you guys suggest I try to meet people to climb with?

Partner wanted ads right here.

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