Intermediate Course

Course Description

The Seattle Mountaineers' Intermediate Alpine Climbing Course presents the techniques necessary to lead climb the rock, snow, and ice typically found in the Cascade and Olympic mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to climbing techniques, the course emphasizes leadership, safety, and climbing instruction. Course graduates will have the knowledge and skills to organize and lead basic-level climbs and to participate in intermediate-level alpine, rock, and ice climbs. The Intermediate Climbing Course is also offered by the EverettKitsapOlympia, and Tacoma branches of The Mountaineers.  Many intermediate students go on to successfully become climb leaders.

The goals for graduates are to have the skills to:

    1. Swing leads and descend safely on multi-pitch alpine rock on routes rated at least Grade II, 5.5,
    2. Swing leads and descend ice and hard snow safely on alpine routes that are rated at least Grade II and 45 degrees,
    3. Apply rope rescue techniques to safely raise or lower an injured climber with a team of 4-6 people,
    4. Swing leads on a basic climb in winter conditions including evaluation of avalanche hazard,
    5. Organize and lead basic level climbs, and
    6. Instruct students in the basic crag and alpine climbing course curriculum.


    1. Completion of the Mountaineers' Basic Alpine Climbing Course or Basic Equivalency,
    2. Membership in The Mountaineers,
    3. Mountaineering Oriented First Aid or Wilderness First Aid or equivalent (needs to be current by the Int. Rock II field trip)
    4. Scrambling and climbing experience at the basic level

Am I ready for the intermediate class?

I'm sure you're asking yourself whether you are ready for the intermediate class and what does it mean to have prior "scrambling and climbing experience"? In order to succeed in the intermediate class, you will want to have a decent level of experience in hiking, backpacking, scrambling, and basic climbing. Having done 3 basic climbs as part of your basic class is not sufficient to succeed in the intermediate class (or to get you admitted). Here are some guidelines to give you an idea whether you are ready.

Scramble skills:

You need to be very comfortable in your scrambling skills; especially around class 3 and 4 scrambles with exposure. Remember, when you are in the intermediate class, you will be the person who needs to set up hand-lines for students and then be the last scrambling down without that support yourself. You also don't want to be the slowest on the team when crossing boulder fields or descending climbers trails.

Alpine climbing skills:

Our advice is that you have at least a full season of basic climbs behind you (several glacier, rock, alpine climbs). Be sure to have your navigation skills down; you'll be mapping out the routes and be the main navigator on climbs (with the assistance of the leader of course). Remember, in case your leader gets incapacitated, you will be in the lead role. This is a big responsibility and you will want to draw on prior experience of having done a good number of climbs in the past.

Rock climbing skills:

Good rock climbing skills are critical before being able to lead comfortably and safely. The easiest basic rock climbs are alpine 5.4's; intermediate climbs start at alpine 5.5 but many are alpine 5.6 and 5.7+. In order to comfortably lead a 5.5 alpine climb, you need to be able to top-rope at least 2+ levels higher (in this case 5.7 alpine). A 5.7 alpine rock climb compares to a 5.9+ gym climb. So be sure that you can easily top-rope 5.9 to 5.10a in the gym and that you have significant indoor and outdoor rock climbing experience. This can either be by having followed alpine rock climbs or also cragging.

Remember that for most intermediate climbers, you will be leading on rock for the first time.  For many, this is a very daunting and challenging experience and the consequences of a fall can be severe. To effectively lead, you need to work diligently on your climbing skills before Rock 1 so that you are not learning how to climb at the same time you are learning to lead.   Developing your core climbing skills in the gym or outdoors are critical to leading safely.

We do recommend the crag class strongly prior to joining the intermediate class. The crag class will teach you leading on rock in detail and will give you solid experience prior to attempting alpine rock climbs. As a crag graduate, you may skip the intermediate rock lecture and field trips as an added benefit.

We, the intermediate sub-committee, look at all three components when reviewing your application and expect to see all three of them at the level specified. This is to ensure your enjoyment in the class as well as your safety and your climbing students' safety. Feel free to contact us if you have questions about this.

Course Content and Fee

The course consists of both classroom and field components. Lectures and field trips begin in November 2013 and extend through September of 2014. Course content consists of:

    • Seven Intermediate Climbing lectures,
    • Nine Intermediate field trips,
    • Instructing or assisting at seven Climbing Course events,
    • Rope leading on six Basic climbs (rock and glacier), and
    • Swinging leads on five Intermediate climbs (rock and ice).

Most students take three to five years to complete the course requirements depending upon how much time is devoted each year. The intermediate course is intended to serve as a resource in the broader scheme of ongoing learning and enjoyment of climbing rather than as an end in itself. Students are encouraged to take as much time as is needed to comfortably complete and master each component of the course at their own pace.

The course fee is $300.00.  The fee does not cover the cost of AIARE Level 1 avalanche training, covered below.

2014 Course Schedule (subject to change)

Intermediate overview lecture               11/13/2013       

Intermediate Evaluation (One day)       12/08/2013        

Intermediate Evaluation (One day)       12/14/2013 

Ropes and Anchors (One day)              01/11/2014       

Ropes and Anchors (One day)              01/12/2014           

Teaching and Leadership lecture           01/14/2014                 

Level 1 Avy. Lecture (evening)              01/27/2014            

Level 1 Avy. Lecture (evening)              01/30/2014            

Level 1 Avy. Lecture (evening)              02/03/2014            

Level 1 Avy Field Trip                           02/08–02/09      

Rescue Methods lecture (evening)         02/19/2014           

Winter Mount. Lecture (evening)           02/27/2014            

Rescue Methods (weekend)                  03/01-03/02/2014       

Rescue Methods (weekend)                  03/08-03/9/2014        

Winter Mountaineering (weekend)         03/16–03/17/2014       

Rock lecture:                       04/02/2014                        

Rock lecture:                       04/03/2014                         

Rock lecture:                       04/08/2014                         

Rock lecture:                       04/10/2014                   

Rock 1 (Weekend)               04/12-04/13/2014      

Rock 1 (Weekend)               04/19–04/20/2014

Rock 1 (Weekend)               04/26-4/27/2014  

Rock 2 (one day)                 05/03/2014            

Rock 2 (one day)                 05/04/2014       

Rock 2 (one day)                 05/10/2014

Rock 2 (one day)                 05/11/2014       

Ice lecture:                          05/13/2014              

Ice 1 & 2 Field Trips - tbd - Summer 2014

 How to Register

Download the application form (2014 Intermediate Application), fill out, and email to  If you have questions, please contact Stan Hummel, Program Chair, at  Note that registering on-line and submitting an application form does not guarantee that you have been accepted into the course. After your application has been received, it will be reviewed by the Intermediate Administration Subcommittee; you will receive a reply letting you know whether or not your application has been approved. If there are more students submitting applications than there are available spaces in the course, we will review applications and select the candidates most likely to succeed in the course. If we are not able to admit you into the course, you will receive a full refund of the application fee.

Level 1 Avalanche Skills:

Students are required to complete a Level 1 Avalanche Course certified by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) in order to graduate the intermediate climbing course. This requirement is waived for intermediate students who have completed an AIARE-certified Level 1 Avalanche Course within five years of beginning the intermediate program. AIARE Level I equivalent certification such as from the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) or National Ski Patrol (NSP) is also acceptable.

The Seattle Mountaineers will offer an AIARE-certified Level 1 Avalanche course which includes 24 hours of instruction (3 lectures and a field trip) this upcoming winter 2013/2014. Please sign up for the Level 1 Avalanche course separately; the course fee of the Level 1 Avalanche course is not included in the intermediate class fee. To satisfy this requirement, you may take this course from any other provider in the community that offers an AIARE-certified Level 1 avalanche curriculum.

2014 Avalanche Level 1 Class Schedule:



Avalanche Lecture 1 (evening)

Jan 27, 2014

Avalanche Lecture (evening) 

Jan 30, 2014

Avalanche Lecture (evening) 

Feb 03, 2014

Avalanche (Weekend)

Feb 8 & 9,2014

Continuing Students

There is no limit on the number of years a student may take to complete the course; however, an annual continuation fee is required to remain enrolled after five years from when you started the course. In order to add another year to your intermediate course, please contact the Intermediate Administration Subcommittee at and sign up online for the extension.

Questions, Comments and Suggestions

Please contact the intermediate subcommittee at