Mountain Skills Essentials
This course is an excellent introduction to the skills required for moderate alpine routes involving snow or glacier travel. Four days in the field cover all aspects of basic mountaineering techniques such as ice axe and crampon use, self-arrests, snow and glacier travel skills, rope handling, hazard assessment and crevasse rescue fundamentals. A peak ascent will be attempted if time and conditions permit.
The Mountain Skills Essentials course is designed to build a solid foundation of the essential skills required for basic general Mountaineering objectives. At the conclusion of this course, students will have the skills and knowledge to travel off-trail and into snow covered and glaciated terrain above treeline. Participants on the Mountain Skills Essentials course will have been taught:
- methods for planning and preparing for a multi-day
- how to recognize mountain hazards, and methods of
avoiding or minimizing those hazards
- navigation techniques using a map, compass and
- rope management skills related to basic snow
- glacier travel techniques
- alpine travel skills for moderate terrain
and non-technical glaciers
- crevasse rescue fundamentals with a three person
- Minimum Environmental Impact camping and travel
- methods to practice and refine each set of skills taught on the course, on their own time
- methods for planning and preparing for a multi-day mountaineering objective
The Mountain Skills Essentials courses are conducted at a variety of Alpine locations in the Coast Mountains of BC. Specific locations are chosen close to the course date, based on current conditions and weather forecasts. Typical areas include the Joffre Range near the Duffey Lake road; Spearhead Range in Garibaldi Park behind Whistler; and, Brohm Ridge near Garibaldi Peak, above Squamish.
Course meeting times and locations will be confirmed one week in advance of the first day of the course
Our 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 4-day Mountain Skills Essentials 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
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.
- Meet at the trailhead - Preparation and gear check (1/2 hour)
- 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
- Backcountry travel skills (1 - 2 hours)
Skills covered: Navigation, pacing, group management, route finding, hazard awareness
- Snow and glacier travel skills (6 - 8 hours)
Skills covered: Introduction of snow travel basics, self arrests of all sorts, roping for snow and glaciers, belaying on snow, anchors, glacier travel, route finding on glaciers, travel techniques, crevasse rescue.
- 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: Review and discuss crevasse rescue skills
- Practice and refine steep snow and glacier travel skills, possible summit attempt (8-10 hours)
Skills covered: steep snow climbing, team rope skills, navigation and route finding, glacier travel and rescue skills
- 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)
- Please prepare you gear with the goal of reducing the weight of your pack as much as possible.
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)
As for weather, you should always plan for the worst which includes temperatures of close to freezing or slightly below at night, and possible precipitation of rain and/or wet snow each day. Please ensure your clothing and gear is suitable for these conditions.
Technical gear is listed on the Gear list. Students are asked to supply their own basic slings and cords, as these items may experience wear on each course. These items are available at outdoor stores such as MEC. All other technical gear is supplied, with the exception of Crampons, which 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, we encourage people to share tents and cooking gear/stoves. If you already have a team or partner planned, this is great. If you wish, we can help coordinate this for you and put you in contact with other students - just let us know when you book your course.
Questions about Mountain Skills Essentials course
Review these documents, and bring signed copies of the Waiver and Medical Form to your program.
Canada West Mountain School Refund Policy - Refund Policy
Canada West Mountain School Waiver and Medical disclosure form - Waiver & Med form
Mountain Skills Essentials Pre-planning document - Mountain Skills Essentials Pre-planning