Complete Mountaineering

Our Complete Mountaineering course sets the standard for instructional Mountaineering programs in Alpine climbing and travel skills. Our most comprehensive and popular course for over 30 years, Complete Mountaineering gives climbers a solid foundation in all aspects of mountaineering. Our 7-day format split between two different locations allows extra time to thoroughly cover all skills. If you want to develop the experience and skills to become self-reliant in the mountains, this is the course for you!

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2024 Program dates below. Private dates also available, contact us for details on arranging a Custom Complete Mountaineering course.
Pre Requisites:
Overnight backpacking experience is required. Participants must be in very good physical condition and be comfortable hiking for 6-8 hours each day. No previous technical climbing experience is required for this course
  • Complete Mountaineering delivers all the skills required for general alpine mountaineering and climbing. The first two days prepare you for the mountains by teaching rope management and rock climbing skills in Squamish, BC. Next, five days are spent in an alpine region learning and applying skills for mountaineering. Snow and glacier travel, ice climbing, rock climbing, map and compass, mountain navigation, route planning, weather evaluation, hazard assessment, and crevasse rescue techniques are all covered thoroughly, in addition to summit objectives.

    The 5-day alpine training portion of the Complete Mountaineering course is held in the Coast Mountains of Southwest British Columbia, including 5 days and 4 nights working from a basecamp in a remote alpine region, with all training being held in the mountains.

    Gondola and/or lift access fees on Whistler/Blackcomb or the Sea to Sky Gondola may be required to access course areas and are not included in the course fee.

    After this intensive program, you should be ready to head out into the mountains on your own multi-day mountaineering trips.

    At the conclusion of this course, students will have been taught:

    • methods for planning and preparing for a multi-day mountaineering objective
    • how to recognize mountain hazards, and methods of avoiding or minimizing those hazards
    • navigation techniques using a map, compass and altimeter
    • rope management skills related to rock, snow and ice climbing
    • glacier travel techniques
    • climbing and movement skills for rock, snow, and ice
    • alpine travel skills for moderately technical terrain and glaciers
    • crevasse rescue fundamentals with a three-person rope-team
    • Minimum Environmental Impact camping and travel practices
    • methods to practice and refine each set of skills taught on the course, on their own time
  • The first 2 days of the Complete Mountaineering course are held in Squamish, BC.

    The 5-day alpine portion of the Complete Mountaineering Course will be conducted in one of a variety of locations such as the Sky Pilot Region; north of Pemberton in the Duffey Lake Road area; or, the Spearhead Range behind Blackcomb Mountain out of Whistler, BC.

    Specific course meeting times and locations will be confirmed a few days in advance of the first day of the course via email notification

    Participants are responsible for transportation to and from the course area. If the course is held on Sky Pilot or behind the Whistler/Blackcomb ski areas, additional lift access fees may be required and are not included in the course fee.

  • All of our Alpine and Mountaineering programs are taught by some of the best climbers and Guides in Canada. All are certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) and each one has a passion for teaching that will inspire you in your climbing pursuits.

    Visit Guides and Instructors Page for complete details and background on each of our Guide Team.

  • The following is a brief possible schedule for the Canada West Mountain School 7-day Complete Mountaineering course. Many different variables (such as weather, snow conditions, group experience levels, etc) influence the actual day-to-day schedule and the order in which topics are presented, so the following should be considered a general outline only

    Pre-trip planning
    All course logistics and preparation are planned in advance in direct consultation with our office via phone, e-mail and/or in person. A comprehensive pre-course package is sent out to everyone well in advance of the course dates.
    Day 1
    Meet in Squamish - Preparation and tone setting (1/2 hour) Skills covered: communication, safety awareness, logistics planning
    Rock climbing and rope skills instruction (7 hours) Skills covered: rope handling, rock climbing, anchor building, hazard awareness
    Day 2
    Rock climbing, rope skills and rescue instruction in Squamish (6-8 hours)
    Skills covered: rope handling, rock climbing, ascending/descending ropes, anchor building, rope-rescue principles, hazard awareness
    Evening session - optional (2 hours)
    Skills covered: logistics, navigation, equipment, pre planning for the out-trip
    Day 3
    Approach to Alpine region base camp (approx. 2-3 hours )
    Skills covered: Navigation, map reading, pacing, group management, route finding, hazard awareness
    Camp set up (2 hours)
    Skills covered: Camp selection, hazard awareness, sanitation, environmental awareness, food storage, water, campcraft tips
    Introductory snow travel session (3-4 hours)
    Skills covered: Hazard awareness, navigation, off-trail travel, basic ice ax use, walking on snow, self-arrests
    Evening debrief (1 hour)
    Skills covered: overview of day, tomorrow's objectives, pre-planning, sort and pack gear for next morning, weather
    Day 4
    Backcountry travel skills (2 hours)
    Skills covered: Navigation, pacing, group management, route finding, hazard awareness
    Snow travel skills (6 hours)
    Skills covered: Review of previous lessons, self arrests of all sorts, roping for snow, belaying on snow, anchors team travel, team arrests
    Lunch time options: Navigation, route planning, glacier study, napping
    Evening debrief (1 hour)
    Skills covered: overview of day, next day's objectives, pre-planning, sort and pack gear for next morning, weather
    Optional skills: Demo and discuss crevasse rescue basics
    Day 5
    Steep snow and alpine travel skills (3 - 4 hours)
    Skills covered: steep snow climbing, team rope skills, navigation and route finding
    Glacier travel and rescue skills (3 - 4 hours):
    Skills covered: Rope skills for glacier travel, route finding on glaciers, travel techniques for "dry" glacier and for snow covered glacier, crevasse rescues, general glacier travel
    Day 6
    Peak objective/travel day (10 - 12 hours)
    Skills covered: Application of all of above plus whatever else may come up. Focus on hazard assessment and use of skills/tools to achieve objectives. This is the "put it all together" day
    Day 7
    Wrap up of loose ends (4 - 6 hours)
    Skills covered: Finishing off main objectives, ascending ropes, rappelling, more rescue, serac climbing, orienteering, whatever the instructors and/or students feel they need
    Break camp/hike out (3 hours)
    Skills covered: Navigation, map reading, pacing, group management, route finding, hazard awareness.
    Wrap up and student assessments (1 - 2 hours)

    Here is a link to our Complete Mountaineering Pre-planning document - Complete Mountaineering Pre-planning

  • Here is a link to our Mountaineering Gear list - Mountaineering Course Gear List

    Plan on using the same personal clothing and camping equipment that you would take on an overnight backpacking trip. Your Base Camp on the Mountaineering courses will often be in an alpine or sub-alpine location and exposed to the weather.

    You will be working each day in and on snow, so it is important to have proper boots suitable for snow travel. Boots also must be appropriate for use with general mountaineering-style crampons (See the FAQ section for details on Boots), and review this article here - Boots for Mountaineering courses

    In order to best prepare for the weather, you should always plan for the worst which includes temperatures below freezing at night, and likely precipitation of rain and/or wet snow each day. Please ensure your clothing and gear is suitable for these conditions, even though it may be hot, dry, and sunny as well!

    Technical gear is listed on the Mountaineering Course Gear List. All technical gear is supplied if needed (with the exception of crampons), provided participants request in advance what they will be needing. Crampons are required, there are many styles of attachment systems yet any general mountaineering crampon will work, as long as they are compatible with your boots. Crampons are available to rent at many outdoor stores such as MEC.

    In regards to communal gear such as tents, stoves, and cookware, participants may choose to share tents and cooking gear/stoves to save weight. This can be arranged during the first 2 days of the course, prior to heading into the alpine. If you are attending the course on your own, you will need to plan on supplying your own tent and cooking supplies for the program.

  • Questions about Complete Mountaineering course

    What are the best boots for my Mountaineering Course?

    Do I need to bring special gear?

    What happens if the weather is not good?

    Where is the Complete Mountaineering course conducted?

    How long are the days?