WAC Basic Climbing Class 2014

March 11 – June 8 | 90 days of pure learning, joy and glory

This class is run every spring by an army of awesome volunteers from the Washington Alpine Club, based in Seattle. For $425 I got an instruction that far exceeded my expectations and got me completely out of my comfort zone.

When I started looking for a class in December I already had this one in mind because friends had recommended it, and after comparing its schedule and philosophy with those of the Mountaineers and Boealps, I knew that the WAC was the way to go.

It was fantastic to realize how different our backgrounds and motivations were. Some students had considerable rock experience but wanted to start venturing into glaciated terrain, others were avid hikers and backpackers and wanted to explore the mountains on a higher level. In my case, a guided climb of Mount Rainier was the ignition to a passion for the mountains. The happiness I felt when coming back from the summit was addictive; but of course, guided climbs are not scalable in cost and skill, and the inflexible timing is not very convenient when the weather gets in the way. I thought it would be great if I could climb on my own.

The class by the numbers

  • 32 students, 50+ instructors
  • 13 classroom classes, 9 field trips
  • 10 packs of cliff bloks consumed
  • 3 overnight experiences
  • 1 climb of Mount Baker (10,781 ft.)

This is all we learned: rock climbing, belaying, rappelling, knots, snow ascending, self-arrest, crevasse rescue, winter camping, ice climbing, glacier travel, navigation with map and compass and trip planning. I look back and I almost cannot believe it.

Favorite skill: knots

Favorite moment: self-rescue from a crevasse using the Texas prusik system

Scariest moment: first rappel

Happiest moment: staying at the Paradise Inn after a full day of training on the Nisqually glacier

Somehow it’s the smallest moments that I remember the most, like the time when we spent five hours at the top of Mt Si and my toes were freezing, or when I ran out of food at the end of the Snow 1 training and an instructor gave me one of his energy bars, or when I woke up to a beautiful sunrise at high camp on Mount Baker.

If I summarize what I got out of the class in one sentence, it reads like this: the class gave me the freedom of mind to go out and explore the mountains safely. If I make a video out of it, it looks like this:

Climbing mountains to conquer my fears, enjoy the views and reach inner glory

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