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American Alpine Institute - Alpinism 1 - Intro to Mountaineering (6 day)

Original Post
Joe FIshel · · Denver, CO · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Hello everyone, I'm looking to take AAI's 6 day mountaineering course this coming summer. I'm new to mountaineering/alpinism and so I'm looking to start off with some solid training. I've heard good things about the AMTL but that's not going to be feasible this summer due to time and money.

Does anyone have experience with this 6 day course?

Also, what would be the best time during the summer to take it in order to have the best chance of good weather.

Thank you.


FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I took this as a private course for my introduction to climbing in 1998. It looks like it's offered at Mt. Baker in Washington. Is that the course you're looking at? (I took it in the Sierra in February)

It will be a fine intro to mountaineering. Any of the months will be fine (it's offered May through September) . I think in July or August you will have better weather. Do it!

Also, private instruction, although much more expensive, is better for learning. If you can afford it.

Edit: The course I took was Winter Mountaineering, so that may have been a bit different than your course.

Joe FIshel · · Denver, CO · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Thanks for the reply, FrankPS. Yes, I'm looking at the Mount Baker course. I forgot to clarify that I was referring to the American Alpine Institute. However, I've been reading that Alpine Ascents International also offers a similar 6 day course. From what I can tell those are both good companies to go through. Any thoughts?

I'll probably be taking the course at the beginning of June, so hopefully I'll get lucky with weather!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I took it from the American Alpine Institute, although they're both well-known companies (I have no experience with Alpine Ascents, though).

Here's a better company than either of those. They are also in Washington and I can't recommend them highly enough:…

Joe FIshel · · Denver, CO · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Ah cool. I haven't looked at them before. From their site, it looks like they offer some great courses. What has your experience been like with them? What sets them apart?

greggrylls · · Salt Lake City · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 36

Private instruction is awesome if you can afford it.
That being said it has it's limitations. I took a formal mountaineering class through my university. We learned fixed line travel, basic knots, movement with crampons, self arrest etc. I took the course because I struggle with diagrams and even with YouTube videos couldn't grasp crevasse rescue.

My buddy attended the course and while I practiced and learned more he was complacent. Did a refresher before a rainier climb and he had forgotten everything(he ended up not coming.). My point is that classes are awesome but with networking you can learn just as much or more. If you do take the formal classes (I'm sure they are awesome). Practice practice practice after. It's amazing how fast knots and techniques are forgotten when not implemented.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 311

AAI is awesome, and that course is pretty much their flagship. Go for it!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Joe FIshel wrote:Ah cool. I haven't looked at them before. From their site, it looks like they offer some great courses. What has your experience been like with them? What sets them apart?
Knowledge and experience set them apart.

Although AAI is fine, it's somewhat of a "guide mill." Meaning, a lot of newer guides, lower pay and higher turnover. That was my understanding back when I used them a few times.

I use NCMG, to this day.
Andrew Yasso · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 215

As a guide of the Alpine Institute, I'd like to offer my thoughts. I got my start through the AMTL Part 1 course as a climber, so you can either look at me as in-bred, or proof that the courses are incredible building blocks to a long and fruitful climbing career. I felt like the courses were almost like 'cheating,' in that I had such a jump start over most other climbers, seeing as I learned from guides who had years of experience and could pass that down to me in a concise and clear way. Having a great mentor is awesome if you can find one, but having a guide who's sole job is to stay up to date on the most current systems and techniques is pretty awesome too.

Turnover at the Alpine Institute is down in the past 7 years I've been at the company. NCMG is an excellent service and you certainly won't go wrong with them, however I think our culture has changed a bit since FrankPS last took a course with us. I don't take his comment personally and completely understand why he would say we are a 'guide mill,' however in recent years we have instituted an internal mentorship program (among other things) and as such we have better retention, wages have gone up, and the requirements to get hired in have increased significantly. Even though many of our long term guides have gone on to either run their own business or climb professionally full time, I think it's a pretty awesome testament that so many of the big names in climbing and guiding got their start at the Alpine Institute.

Clearly I'm biased, but I thought I would offer my thoughts. I love the AMTL/Alpinism series and find teaching those classes incredibly rewarding. Giving people a good first introduction into the mountains is so important, and the fundamentals taught in that class are pivotal to a safe and productive climbing career.

The time of year you choose to take the course will dictate the type of experience/the things the course focuses on. In earlier season (May/June) there is more snow, so camping high on the glacier, snow belays and anchors, and even some avalanche science is often included in the course. Later in the season as snow melts and more ice becomes exposed, the course tends to have a bit more of a focus on that. If you are super interested in camping on snow and learning those techniques, June is a great time. If that is less important to you, than the slightly more consistent weather of July/August is a better choice.

Regardless of what you choose, hope you have an awesome summer and enjoy getting into alpine mountaineering. It can be a pretty rewarding endeavor.

Fan Zhang · · Washington, DC · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 793

I took AMTL 1 with the American Alpine Institute this past summer, late July to early August. Our instructors were fantastic, and I learned a lot and had a great time. The weather was perfect the whole time, and every one of our summit attempts was successful. (Baker during week 1/Alpinism 1, the course you're looking at, plus three objectives in the WA Pass area during week 2/Alpinism.) I have a friend who took AMTL 1 in mid-June several years ago and they got shut down on every summit bid because of bad weather. So that's a sample size of two, for what it's worth, that backs up Andrew and Frank's comments about the weather being more stable in July/August than June. By late July of this year the crevasses had not opened up too much on Baker and there was still enough snow to camp high on the (Easton) glacier and go over all the skills for safe glacier travel. But the snow was melting fast by late July, and of course, conditions may vary year to year.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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