The most comprehensive one week climbing course in the usa

Alpinism 1 - Intro to Mountaineering

Join us on a rigorous alpine climbing course with small groups in a remote wilderness setting.

It is one of our partner AAI's classics and perhaps the most comprehensive one week climbing course in the USA, unbeatable for its combination of fun, learning, and achievement. The course provides a complete introduction to off-trail alpine travel and to all the fundamental skills of rock, snow and ice climbing.

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Difficulty Level Low ?
Fitness Level Low ?
Duration 6 days
Elevation 3,286M / 10,781FT
Large view

Crevasse Rescue Drills - Dylan Taylor - AAI

From April to September
Departs from Mt Baker, Washington, USA
1:5 $1,775 USD $
  • Overview

    The Outdoor Life Network included this course in a recent series on America's Top 10 Adventure Sports Camps; although, this is definitely not a "camp" in the traditional sense. It is a rigorous alpine climbing course with small groups (maximum 10 climbers) in a remote wilderness setting.

    We spend one day in an easily accessible rock climbing area, and five days learning and applying the skills of glacier travel and snow and ice climbing. On the fifth day, we set up a high glacier camp (with some of the most remarkable mountain and ocean views in America), and on the final day, we climb to the rugged, ice-encrusted summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker.

  • Why AC / AAI?

    In 2006, Adventure Consultants, based in Wanaka, New Zealand, and the American Alpine Institute, headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, USA, were pleased to announce their formation of a worldwide alliance.

    Over the years the owners of both organisations - Dunham Gooding from AAI and Guy Cotter from AC - have regularly discussed ways to strengthen both organizations by working together, sharing expert guides, and utilizing the special areas of expertise that each company had developed over three decades of work. While both companies were recognized internationally as leaders in the field of mountain guiding, both Guy and Dunham feel that both companies are now even stronger because of the alliance.

    The cooperative efforts of these two companies offer direct and tangible benefits to climbers. Together they offer the world's most comprehensive array of instructional programs, guided ascents, and expeditions. In every category of climbing, from instruction to expeditions, trips are offered at every skill level. Additionally, this spectrum of climbing opportunities is offered on every continent. Once you climb with us, wherever in the world you want to climb in the future, you will have the comfort and assurance of dealing with an organization you already know and trust.

    Because of this alliance, climbers who come to either company have ample opportunity to learn climbing skills or join an expedition from anywhere in the world, in any season. With the two companies based in opposite hemispheres and each operating throughout the world, your choices in terms of both timing and location are nearly limitless.

    Now you might ask yourself, "If I want to call AC, do I call AAI or vice versa? Can I sign up for trips for one with the other?" The answers are a resounding "yes!"

    Our admissions departments maintain daily contact in regard to trip requests, registrations, and climber preparations. What does this mean for you? Let's say you climb Mt. Baker, Rainier, or Whitney one summer with AAI, have a wonderful time, and decide that you would like to climb something higher. You call AAI and ask about options. Depending on what your "next step" will be (driven by your skill level, interests, and schedule), we will then offer you options that may direct you to an alliance trip that is run by AAI or AC.

    If you'll be joining an AC trip, all preparations will be handled by AC's Wanaka, New Zealand office. If it is an AAI trip, we will alert the AAI office in Bellingham about our discussions and your choice of a trip and have them contact you. AAI will know about your background, how your last trip went, your skill level, and your current plan for a next program. AAI and AC will work together to assure that you are well taken care of and that all your planning and preparation goes smoothly, and that everything is in place to help you achieve your goals.

    This is a three-way alliance that you will be joining: AAI, AC, and you. We will assure that from your first phone call or email to us, to the flight home from your course or expedition, you feel supported, encouraged, perfectly prepared, and successful in the pursuit of your goals.

    Join our alliance and let's head to the mountains!

    Best Regards,

    Guy Cotter, Director, Adventure Consultants
    Dunham Gooding, Director, American Alpine Institute

  • Payment Conditions


    The price of your trip includes the following:

    • Group technical climbing equipment
    • Transportation to the climbing areas from our partner American Alpine Institute's headquarters
    • All permits and camping fees
    • The guide fee


    The price of your trip does not include:

    • All personal clothing and climbing gear (including crampons, ice axe, harness, helmet, tent, etc. - personal climbing equipment is available for rent at a nominal charge)
    • Gratuities to guide
    • Meals while on the course
    • Travel insurance
  • Curriculum

    • To make mountain enthusiasts with little or no previous climbing experience capable of gaining safe access to trailless, wilderness alpine areas.
    • To make them proficient in all basic alpine mountaineering skills for rock, snow, and ice.
    • To help them understand and protect the fragile alpine environment. We work hard to instil in participants an appreciation of both specific concepts and specific techniques that will allow them to travel through and climb in alpine areas skillfully, confidently, and without leaving a trace.

    Upon completion of the programme, each participant should be qualified as a technically competent rope team member capable of making alpine mountaineering ascents on routes of intermediate difficulty.

    This course is intended to serve as an intensive and complete introduction to off-trail alpine travel, and to all of the fundamental alpine mountaineering skills of rock, snow, and ice climbing. The course is presented in the most highly glaciated area in the conterminous forty-eight states and offers exposure to an unusually large variety of landforms and climbing surfaces. Groups are small and individual attention is high, allowing instructors to respond to participants who are progressing at different rates or who want emphasis on different parts of the curriculum.

    Climbing Skills

    • Selection and use of personal equipment
    • Selection and use of ropes, knots and harnesses
    • Selection and use of rock, snow and ice anchors for belays and intermediate protection
    • Belaying techniques on rock, snow and ice
    • Free climbing techniques on low and high angle rock, snow, and ice
    • Principles of glacier travel and route finding
    • Self-arrest; rappelling and prusiking
    • The concept and application of the self-belay
    • Individual and team crevasse rescue techniques

    General Knowledge

    • Leave No Trace travel, camping, and climbing
    • An introduction to alpine ecology
    • Map, compass, altimeter and GPS use: reading, intersection and triangulation
    • Evaluation and prediction of mountain weather patterns
    • Introduction to avalanche hazard evaluation
    • Introduction to first aid and the evacuation of injured climbers
    • Overnight backpacking experience
    • Good physical condition. See our Fitness Training Programs for information on how we can help you prepare for your course.

    We meet at American Alpine Institute's headquarters in Bellingham, WA to check gear and take care of any rental equipment needed. We spend several hours on equipment, answering questions, and making sure everyone has what they need to make the week a success.

    By mid-morning we head for the climbing, driving south just an hour to Mt. Erie, a coastal crag overlooking northern Puget Sound and the beautiful San Juan Islands in three directions, and looking out to glacier covered Mt. Baker in the other. The rock at Mt. Erie is excellent, and the moderate routes provide a perfect training area for covering all the basics of free climbing, rappelling, anchor placement, and belaying. We practice hand and foot placements and knot tying, and each team member spends substantial time belaying and climbing a variety of short routes. By the end of the day, you should feel confident on mid-fifth class rock, have a clear sense of how ropes and protective systems work, and be able to climb moderate rock with ease.

    The next day we make the short drive to Mt. Baker. We drive a Forest Service road to an elevation of 3200 feet, and then make a moderate hike of about five miles through climax fir forest and sub-alpine terrain to the Easton Glacier. Depending on the time of year, the trail can provide views of a remarkable array of wildflowers in the sub-alpine zones. We set up our Base Camp on a lateral moraine of the Easton which gives us easy access to the glacier and views across it to Mt. Baker's summit and impressive nearby peaks. As the week progresses, we cover a complete repertoire of alpine skills, starting with each technique on gentle ground and gradually applying it to steeper terrain. We continue our practice of anchor placement and belaying, but spend a lot of time perfecting cramponing technique and the use of the ice axe in a variety of positions.

    Throughout the program, we discuss the ethics of Leave No Trace (LNT) travel, camping and climbing and employ LNT techniques in all that we do. In addition to working on the "hard skills" of snow, ice, and glacier climbing, we also cover the complexities of route finding and hazard assessment. We help each participant become proficient in the use of map, compass, and altimeter, perceptive in route finding and evaluation skills, and thorough in the assessment of objective hazards.

    Glacier travel skills, including proper rope techniques and crevasse rescue, receive thorough attention. By the end of the practice sessions, each participant should be able to climb or prusik out of a crevasse and rescue a partner by using the mechanical advantage of a pulley system.

    On the final two days of the program, team members apply all the skills they have been practising as we establish an advanced camp high on the Easton Glacier and then make a climb to the summit. On the climb to high camp, we will travel through crevasse fields where good route finding is crucial and climb over both easy and moderate terrain where we apply a range of snow and ice climbing skills.

    The next morning we'll start climbing by 2:00 am, taking advantage of the cool nighttime temperatures to give us the best possible footing on the glacier. Ascending slopes that are a little steeper than the previous day, we'll first climb to the lip of ice-choked Sherman Crater where we will see steam fumaroles rising from fissures in the ice. Continuing up Grant Peak, we will summit shortly after sunrise, and from Baker's highest point enjoy sweeping views that stretch from the Canadian border peaks in the north, across the islands in the San Juan archipelago to the west, and out to the hundreds of peaks in the Cascades to the south and east for a spectacular climax to a great week of climbing.

    After bringing together all the techniques you have acquired in a rewarding individual and team effort to reach the summit, you'll be leaving this course with a strong set of skills that make you capable of gaining safe access to trailless, wilderness alpine areas, proficient in all basic alpine mountaineering skills for rock, snow, and ice, and skilled in Leave No Trace travel, camping, and climbing techniques. Upon completion of the program, you should be qualified as a technically competent rope team member capable of making ascents of alpine routes of intermediate difficulty.

  • Travel & Rescue Insurance

    Finding the right travel and rescue insurance for your mountaineering adventure can be tricky! Rest assured when you book with the expedition specialists here at Adventure Consultants we'll help by sending through advice on what you'll need, including:

    • Travel insurance including trip interruption and cancellation cover
    • Medical Evacuation and Rescue Insurance

    For further information check out our Travel and Rescue Insurance page or contact us.

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