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Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 1 worth it?


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Bob Ross · · Virginia · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0

Looking to take this course next season. I was hoping to get some information into if it's worth it or not.

The class is almost 3k, with flight and hotel looking at 4500 easy.

Worth the money?

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

Which company offers this course?

SinRopa · · parts unknown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 30
chris magness · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 590

Two questions:

What is your background and experience?

What are your goals?

Matt Zia · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 157

Depends on how easy it is for you to go alpine climbing on your own. If you can get out for weekends or overnight trips from home in your normal schedule, and have regular partners who can support you, then maybe $4500 is better spent on a couple tanks of gas and a metric shitton of Snickers bars. But if you need to take vacation time and fly or drive a long way to go alpine climbing with a partner who also has to get the same time off, and make the flight to the destination, then you might be looking at more than $4500 to gain the equivalent level of experience as you'd get in 12 days of focused work with an instructor who's really good at their job.

One way or another at the end of it you'll probably end up wanting more, whether that's personal trips or another guided trip. So consider the $4500, whether spent on gas or the AAI trip, a down payment on a life of shiver bivvies, dehydrated meals, and getting scared, cold, wet, and tired in the mountains.

EDIT: your location tag says Virginia. Not a ton of alpine climbing close to Virginia...

Bob Ross · · Virginia · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
chris magness wrote: Two questions:

What is your background and experience?

What are your goals?

I've done 14ers, but no alpining. The course is catered to beginners with backpacking experience...or so the description says.


In terms of goals, I want to be on top of kilamonjaro in 3 to 4 years.
Bob Ross · · Virginia · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Matt Zia wrote: Depends on how easy it is for you to go alpine climbing on your own. If you can get out for weekends or overnight trips from home in your normal schedule, and have regular partners who can support you, then maybe $4500 is better spent on a couple tanks of gas and a metric shitton of Snickers bars. But if you need to take vacation time and fly or drive a long way to go alpine climbing with a partner who also has to get the same time off, and make the flight to the destination, then you might be looking at more than $4500 to gain the equivalent level of experience as you'd get in 12 days of focused work with an instructor who's really good at their job.

One way or another at the end of it you'll probably end up wanting more, whether that's personal trips or another guided trip. So consider the $4500, whether spent on gas or the AAI trip, a down payment on a life of shiver bivvies, dehydrated meals, and getting scared, cold, wet, and tired in the mountains.

EDIT: your location tag says Virginia. Not a ton of alpine climbing close to Virginia...

Your edit nails it. I don't have any alpining out here and I want to really get into the lifestyle in the coming years 


I would like to network while I'm in the course as well... Maybe find a couple people down to do 1 or 2 expeditions a year.
Jeff B · · San Diego · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

If your goal is kilamonjaro I would say not worth it for you.  That "climb" has no technical requirements.  It's more of a strenuous backpacking trip and most groups have porters...  If you were working up to do more mountaineering/glacier travel then I would say similar to above, if you don't have it near by or a way to have a partner teach you, then yes go for it.

Ben Pellerin · · Spaceship Earth · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0

For the money this course will cost you and your stated goal you might be better off spending time and money on experience. I'm sure this class will have its merits but for the cost of the class you could gear up and fly out here to the cascades and do a couple smaller mountains. Baker Hood and Adam's are all very approachable for a beginner and would give you real experience. As stated above kilamonjaro has no real technical climbing. In the end it comes down to your comfort level and how much you think you can gain from the course over how much you think you could gain from climbing experience. I'd hit up hood or Baker with you!

Forthright · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 130
Bob Ross wrote:

I've done 14ers, but no alpining. The course is catered to beginners with backpacking experience...or so the description says.


In terms of goals, I want to be on top of kilamonjaro in 3 to 4 years.

If that's your goal, not worth it. Kilamonjaro is a hike, that requires you to have a porter. Now any of the other 7 summits... 

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 332

I haven’t taken the course myself, but I know some of the guides who instruct it and a few folks who have taken it. It seems like a great intro and very worth it if you want to get on the road to climbing independently.

For Kilimanjaro, the course won’t hurt, but it definitely leads to a different goal. You’ll likely climb much harder objectives during the span of the AMTL1 course haha

Pat K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 40

I thought the class was pretty good.  I’m also in Virginia and there isn’t access to that type of Climbing here.  The guides were great and the other people in my class were awesome.

chris magness · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 590

What others have said.  Killi isn't technical, and you're required to hire a local.  If that's your goal, keep your money and skip the course.  Not necessary.

You've done 14ers and have backpacking experience.  Do you have much climbing experience?  This is the sort of course you would benefit from if you were interested in technical mountaineering.  It is, however, a good chunk of money.  You could hire a private guide for several days in Boston Basin or on Shucksan and possibly come away with a higher level of learning.  Especially if you could swindle a friend into joining you.  You'd lose the networking benefit though.  AAI has a pretty good Cascades program.  

You could do a lot to advance a mountaineering and alpine climbing career in Virginia: train hard and become a good technical rock climber.

Braden Downey · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Feb 2007 · Points: 105

I don’t know what skills Kilimanjaro requires, but if you want a solid foundation of skills, knowledge and experience, so you can build your own metaphorical skyscraper of alpine experience, it’s totally worth it. There might be cheaper ways for an aspiring alpinist to quickly get up to speed for moderate alpine objectives, but I doubt it. On the other hand, developing your sport and trad climbing skills is also a prerequisite for climbing hard* alpine routes in the long-term. The latter is also cheaper and more accessible to you. 

Alternatively, you could come out to Baker and gain experience by wandering off route, getting lost in a whiteout, walking underneath hanging seracs, stumbling above poor run-outs with crampons, crossing weak snow bridges at 4 in the afternoon, etc; The reality is that many ambitious climbers don’t survive the school of hard knocks. 
You might also consider taking individual classes through “The Mountaineers”. I have no direct experience with them, but I’ve heard good things. 
For full disclosure, I used to guide for AAI. They’re a solid outfit. Sorry for all the edits, btw. 

Bob Ross · · Virginia · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
chris magness wrote: What others have said.  Killi isn't technical, and you're required to hire a local.  If that's your goal, keep your money and skip the course.  Not necessary.

You've done 14ers and have backpacking experience.  Do you have much climbing experience?  This is the sort of course you would benefit from if you were interested in technical mountaineering.  It is, however, a good chunk of money.  You could hire a private guide for several days in Boston Basin or on Shucksan and possibly come away with a higher level of learning.  Especially if you could swindle a friend into joining you.  You'd lose the networking benefit though.  AAI has a pretty good Cascades program.  

You could do a lot to advance a mountaineering and alpine climbing career in Virginia: train hard and become a good technical rock climber.

I regularly rock climb in and outdoors. Probably twice a month outdoors and twice a week indoors.


Edit just lead right now. Haven't gotten into trad, though I'm not opposed.
Bob Ross · · Virginia · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Ben Pellerin wrote: For the money this course will cost you and your stated goal you might be better off spending time and money on experience. I'm sure this class will have its merits but for the cost of the class you could gear up and fly out here to the cascades and do a couple smaller mountains. Baker Hood and Adam's are all very approachable for a beginner and would give you real experience. As stated above kilamonjaro has no real technical climbing. In the end it comes down to your comfort level and how much you think you can gain from the course over how much you think you could gain from climbing experience. I'd hit up hood or Baker with you!

Is that a serious offer or just a friendly gester?


If you seriously wouldn't mind bringing a newbie up Baker then I would totally take you up on that in the next few months.
Jason4Too · · Bellingham, Washington · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

I think Braden nailed it.  You can learn everything taught in the AMTL through mentors and books but you won't learn it as quickly and you'll like get off-route along the way.  The AMTL series is a very good way to get experience in very real terrain with a good progression of skills and decision making under the guidance of someone who is there to help mitigate risk.  Work on your rock and rope handling skills ahead of time, you can practice those just about anywhere, and you'll get a lot out of the time with a good instructor/guide.  Show up familiar with as many of the skills as possible and ask for feedback on your execution and application of the skills to get the most for your time and money.

Jeff B · · San Diego · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Completely agree with Jason and Braden.  I have hired guides and taken classes through certified guide companies and while they have been pricey they are great!  From a perspective of climbing goals... if Kilimanjaro is your "goal" this class or level of training may be overkill.  If you were gearing up for a NZ hut trip, climbing a technical route in the Cascades or Canadian Rockies, etc... then this class would be great.

Matthew Wells · · Healdsburg, CA · Joined Jul 2018 · Points: 0

I’m looking into taking the AMTL next year as well. I’ve already climbed Baker guided and saw some unguided groups doing some sketchy stuff. We summited in a whiteout... I’d eventually like climb unguided so AMTL seems like a viable way to go. 

chris magness · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 590
Bob Ross wrote:

I regularly rock climb in and outdoors. Probably twice a month outdoors and twice a week indoors.


Edit just lead right now. Haven't gotten into trad, though I'm not opposed.

You NEED to learn to place gear and begin understanding more advanced roped systems if you are going to entire the alpine rock environment.  You won't find many bolts!  Or anchors of any sort for that matter.  These are things you can do at home.

Would like to reiterate the private guide option, especially if a buddy would join you.  You'd have a greater experience at a lower cost and you wouldn't be subject to a stranger's shortcomings (you'd be taking the AAI course with a bunch of random folks, some may not be as prepared or capable as you).  This suggestion is based on my experiences as a guide who has taught seminars such as the one you're considering, and as a guide who has worked with private clients.  As I already mentioned, AAI has good Cascades programming and capable guides.  Worth discussing all options with them and doing a cost analysis.

As for the school of hard knocks: not something I'd strongly advocate either.  But, there are many benign routes to start on with little or no objective hazard.  Many climbers follow this path.
Bob Ross · · Virginia · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
chris magness wrote:

You NEED to learn to place gear and begin understanding more advanced roped systems if you are going to entire the alpine rock environment.  You won't find many bolts!  Or anchors of any sort for that matter.  These are things you can do at home.

Would like to reiterate the private guide option, especially if a buddy would join you.  You'd have a greater experience at a lower cost and you wouldn't be subject to a stranger's shortcomings (you'd be taking the AAI course with a bunch of random folks, some may not be as prepared or capable as you).  This suggestion is based on my experiences as a guide who has taught seminars such as the one you're considering, and as a guide who has worked with private clients.  As I already mentioned, AAI has good Cascades programming and capable guides.  Worth discussing all options with them and doing a cost analysis.

As for the school of hard knocks: not something I'd strongly advocate either.  But, there are many benign routes to start on with little or no objective hazard.  Many climbers follow this path.

Awesome, thanks for the advice.


I think we're going to go with the 6 day guided climb / complete noob training course instead of the technical leadership one.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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