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Mountaineering classes


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The Mountaineers, Washington Alpine Club and Boealps all offer comprehensive classes at very reasonable rates. The quality of instruction is variable as you get anywhere from very experienced to rank newbies teaching and you have to suffer the club mentality. I imagine most, if not all, classes are filled at this point.


A 21 day comprehensive course through one of the guide outfits like American Alpine Institute, Pro Ski and Guide, Mountain Madness, Alpine Ascents International,etc are more expensive, but the quality of instruction is excellent, much better than the clubs, but you get what you pay for.


Another option is to ask around for a mentor. I am no longer interested in pushing my personal boundaries but get a lot of enjoyment from bringing up the next generation. Find someone like that and you can get free instruction but will have to put up with old man smell and constant name dropping and stories of 'when I was your age...'


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If you don't have any experienced partners, then the Mountaineers or Washington Alpine Club both have basic classes which are popular (There's plenty of opinions out there you can google for better or worse out there; I'll just leave it at that). Most any guide service will offer some sort of basic program as well, which will cost more, but you'll have certified guides as instructors.

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I took BCEP in 2009. Because I didn't know anyone who climbed and it was one hobby unlike fishing, photography, drawing, cooking, gardening, etc that if you screw up your chances of dying or serious injury are very high, and you're likely to screw up if you're new. Didn't seem prudent to try to learn on the fly, I always imagined thumbing through Freedom of the Hills somewhere steep on the side of Mt. Hood as the wind whipped...Prior to that I was avid backpacker/scrambler.


I found 90% of it to be a waste of my time. We went on 6 or so weekend's of 'conditioning hikes' that I had all done before in order to 'test' us..because the course is so broadly geared you had people who have never done more than a flipflop walk around multnomah falls are trying to get revved up to climb Hood or such.


A lot of course time was spent talking about things like 'its important to eat while you exercise'. Waterproof layers are good. This is a gaiter. Strong boots are good. etc.


That said the parts that touched on: ropes, snow, and rock were helpful. I learned the very basics of ropes and got to practice (knots, belaying, belay device). Got to learn a bit about snow techniques (pickets, bollards, self arrest, self belay, high dagger, etc) and practice. And got to learn about basic rock climbing, setting TR anchor, rappelling off anchor, etc. And there were instructors and assistants I could ask questions to: "why does this ice ax curve a bit, what does full auto crampon mean, etc etc"


All of that info could be learned 1) from the right experienced friend(s), 2) freedom of the hills/online just fine. For me I wasn't at a place where I was so sure of myself on doing it #2 way.


The biggest benefit though was meeting my first climb partner. Shortly after the class concluded we basically said "fuck this lets go climb" in response to applying for their totally weirdo climb schedule where you're expected to brown-nose and volunteer in order to be selected to be in a group of 6, 10, 12 people to climb a mountain on a weekend months ahead of what you'll know the weather will be like, and pay $15 for the application to boot. [i hope they've changed this since then].


So we climbed a ton that first year. And when we had questions we contacted for instance the gal who did our 'rock' instruction component and she said, tell you what, why don't I meet up and we all climb, and so then we had a new friend, outside of mazamas, who educated us further. Same deal with one of the assistants who befriended us and I've climbed and skied with outside of mazamas.


But I'd like to imagine their more advanced courses get rid of a lot of the BS and are more focused, educationally speaking. I speak less great of Mazamas but for the right person/people they're solid and I still support them as a resource in the climbing community, they do a lot of good work and help a lot of people. I've specifically never been one for student government and groups of that nature and it seemed like they had a strong vein of that organizational aspect, so I bristled maybe more than the average person.

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