A multi-disciplinary sport, alpine climbing generally involves scaling rock and ice faces and hiking long distances while carrying heavy backpacks filled with a range of practical and safety items. Commonly-used items include hiking shoes or boots, camalots, pitons, ice axe and screws, gloves, and a helmet.
Experienced alpine climbers have already invested hundreds if not thousands of hours of training and preparation into the sport. Those with little to no experience should pursue a comprehensive safety and training plan that includes practice at a climbing gym. They should also look into services similar to those provided by these seven reputable training and tour companies.
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.
An iconic Washington landscape, Mount Rainier extends more than 14,000 feet above sea level. As the most glaciated peak in the continental United States, it presents a challenging and adventurous journey for experienced climbers. Those lacking experience but still seeking the thrill of ascending the mountain range should sign up for the Expedition Skills Seminar offered by Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.
The six-day seminar is led by experienced guides and teaches participants crucial climbing skills while climbing the mountain. Based in Ashford, Washington, the company also leads expeditions in the Himalayas, Alaska, and other parts of the world.
Colorado Mountain School
Colorado Mountain School offers an affordable two-day weekend course that teaches individuals the basics of alpine climbing. This includes the proper form and techniques for using a mountaineering axe and belaying, which is a climbing process that uses a rope system to protect climbers from falls.
The second day of the course involves instructor-led climbing at Rocky Mountain National Park. The course is $599 and includes all group climbing gear as well as personal gear such as a harness, helmet, rock shoes, and ice axe.
Headquartered in Lake Tahoe, California, Alpenglow Expeditions was created in 2004 and has since become one of the world’s most innovative mountaineering companies. To that end, it employs a range of techniques and technology to provide high quality training and guided mountain tours.
In particular, its Rapid Ascent™ program leverages hypoxic training and precise logistics to ensure efficient and successful international climbing expeditions. Rapid Ascent™ expeditions, on average, are between 30 and 50 percent shorter than traditional expeditions, which can last upward of one month.
In addition to guided expeditions worldwide, Alpenglow offers a variety of training programs in California. Introductory courses focus on areas such as multi-pitch climbing, rock anchoring, gear placement, and self-rescue. The High Sierra Alpine Climbing Course, offered at $495 for one-on-one instruction and $100 per additional climbers, involves personalized guided trips throughout the High Sierra mountain range.
Chicks Climbing & Skiing
Launched in 1999, Chicks Climbing & Skiing is a woman-led instruction and tour company specifically for women. Striving to empower women, the company offers ice climbing clinics and back-country guided sessions in Colorado and Wyoming as well as at Mount Baker in Washington. It has 14 guides, all of whom are certified by the American Mountain Guides Association.
Exum Mountain Guides
Primarily focusing on rock climbing, Exum Mountain Guides is an ideal company for beginner climbers looking to improve their skills. Based in Jackson, Wyoming, the National Park Service authorized company offers a range of instructional programs, but its Multi-Pitch Climbing – Level I is best suited for beginners.
Instruction occurs on cliffs at Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park and covers core climbing fundamentals including rope management, rappelling, belaying, and equipment. Participants are prompted to complete Multi-Pitch Climbing – Level II before scaling the Grand Teton with guides.
Exum also offers a Snow School course for more experienced climbers seeking to embark on early season mountaineering trips when the Grand Teton is still covered in snow. The range itself can receive more than 400 inches of snow during the winter and often won’t completely melt until July.
Based in Seattle, Washington, and offering guided expeditions to all seven summits, Mountain Madness caters to the more experienced alpine climber. The company has been in business for more than three decades and, in regard to training, is known for its eight-day Alpine Climbing Course.
Taking place in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, the course goes beyond introductory instruction to prepare mountaineers with the necessary skills to climb ranges all over the world. Topics covered include advanced route finding and crevasse rescue training. Participants can even complete an optional four-day extension course through which they can lead their own expedition.
Outward Bound International
A global operator with schools in 35 countries and six continents, Outward Bound International has been in business for 80 years. It operates under the philosophy of promoting self-confidence, compassion, resilience, and environmental responsibility.
As opposed to the aforementioned companies, it focuses on comprehensive outdoor education via a blend of adventurous and experiential learning activities. It does, however, lead mountaineering trips worldwide. Selected trips include expeditions in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine.