Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 4


Men's Journal calls this program "the country's most respected and thorough rock and mountaineering course." It has four 12-day segments, and you can choose to take one, two, three, or all four. Part 1 provides a comprehensive introduction to all the skills of alpine mountaineering, general team leadership, and leading rope teams on glaciers. Part 2 develops techniques for leading multi-pitch rock routes while further advancing technical and evaluative skills on snow, ice, and rock. Part 3 allows you to continue to develop your technical leadership skills while providing an opportunity to focus those skills on one of three areas. Part 4 is an expedition in which all of the skills developed are employed in a remote and complex big mountain setting.


Part 4 - Remote Expedition

The final portion of the program offers participants the opportunity to take part in an expedition to one of three places, Little Switzerland in Alaska, the Bravo Glacier on Canada's Mount Waddington, or in the winter Cascade backcountry.

Little Switzerland is an alpine rock climbing mecca found nestled in the heart of the Alaska Range. Dozens of peaks surround a basecamp that can only be reached via a ski plane. Each day your party is on the glacier, you will have the opportunity to attempt a different alpine rock, snow or ice climb and then return to your base camp at the end of the day. Grade III and Grade IV alpine climbs jut up from the glacier in every direction. It is a true climber's paradise. 

Mount Waddington, at 13,177 feet (4017 m.) is the highest mountain in British Columbia. The first ascent of the Northwest (false) summit was in 1934, however most modern parties approach from the south or east now to reach the true summit.  The Main Summit was claimed by Fritz Weissner and William House in 1936.  In 1942 Mount Waddington was climbed by then-teenagers, Fred and Helmy Beckey, whos footwear consisted of "felt pullovers on tennis shoes."

Climbers return to base camp on an AMTL 4 Course

Climbers return to base camp on an AMTL 4 Course.
AAI Collection

The Cascade backcountry in the winter is as remote as either of the other objectives. Areas that are teeming with people in the summer are incredibly remote in the winter. This third option for AMTL 4 provides climbers with a completely new set of skills. They will learn ski mountaineering, avalanche and winter expeditionary skills that they will use to access some of the most secluded terrain in the Lower 48.

Students who complete all four parts of the AMTL series will receive a certificate of Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Expedition Leadership. Students may also elect to take a second version of Part 3 as a substitution for these Part 4 options to receive this certificate. 

In order to participate in this high-end expedition, you must first complete Parts 1, 2, and 3. If you took Part 3 more than a year and a half prior, you will need to take a four-day refresher course. If you have engaged in a significant amount of climbing in the interim this may be waived.

Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 4


Alpine Mountaineering Skills:

  • Development of mixed climbing skills - participants will transition from snow climbing to rock climbing on most routes.
  • Continued development of movement skills on moderate ice and technical rock
  • Development of simul-climbing skills on lower angled ice with running belays
  • Study and practice of transitions between glacier travel mode and technical climbing mode
  • Continued study of the proper choice between and application of the primary ice axe Positions: piolet canne, panne, manche, poignard, ramasse, rampe, ancre, and traction
  • Specialized designs and uses of alpine and technical tools in high angle climbing
  • Free climbing technique on alpine rock
  • Advanced concepts in the proper selection and placement of snow, ice and rock gear for belays and intermediate protection
  • Integration of specific skills with the general goals of efficient, safe, and self-dependent climbing


Expeditionary Skills:

  • Continued training on the use of maps, compasses, GPS, and guidebooks
  • Strategizing for multi-day backcountry tours in a remote setting
  • Practical application of expeditionary staged camp techniques


Mountaineering Skills:

  • Review of glacial and ice structures
  • Continued development of mountain sense and the ability to follow a "line of weakness"
  • Development of advanced technical protective systems in an alpine setting
  • Advanced study of movement over complex alpine terrain


Objective Hazards Evaluation & Self-Rescue Skills:

  • Evaluation & prediction of mountain weather patterns
  • Introduction to the assessment of natural hazards
  • Individual & team crevasse rescue techniques


Leadership Skills:

  • Continued study and practice of individual technical leadership skills
  • Development of technical leadership strategies on complex terrain
  • Technical & personal functions of individuals on an ascent: roles & responsibility
  • Problem solving: gathering appropriate data & assessment techniques
  • Evolving leadership roles: individual leadership vs. collective decision making
  • Large and small team expeditionary leadership strategy


Ski Mountaineering Skills (for those who choose the ski option)

  • selection and use of personal equipment for ski mountaineering
  • snowpack study of snowpack formation, metamorphosis, and stability assessment
  • cross-country and downhill skiing skills; methods of ascent and descent
  • adjustment in technique for challenging snow conditions
  • route selection and hazard assessment
  • roped skiing and travel skills
  • constructing snow anchors with ski equipment and operating belays
  • basic skills for the use of ski crampons
  • Leave No Trace travel, climbing and camping skills
  • use of electronic tranceivers; avalanche rescue procedures

Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 4

Course Options

Little Switzerland

Structure and Goals:

Italy's Boot Towers over the Pika Glacier.

Italy's Boot Towers over the Pika Glacier.  Kurt Hicks

Little Switzerland is the name given to a series of dramatic granite spires jutting up out of the Pika Glacier like broken teeth. Found just 35 miles south of Denali, this sub-range provides ample opportunities for climbers to ascend dramatic towers in single pushes from a basecamp on the glacier. Little Swiss is an alpine playground in a grand setting. Routes require varied skills as climbers must apply glacier travel, ice climbing and moderate rock climbing skills to successfully ascend these spires.

Ascents off the Pika glacier give one a glimpse into what it is like to be on a longer more remote expedition in a backwater of Denali National Park. Not only will you learn expeditionary tactics and techniques, but you will have the opportunity to design and plan multiple ascents throughout the duration of the course. If your long-term goals are more in line with an expeditionary style that attempts multiple peaks over a short period of time, then the dramatic and complex terrain of Little Switzerland will be the perfect place to explore expeditionary climbing.

Ascent options in Little Switzerland include, but are not limited to:

  • The Munchkin - II, 5.2
  • Dragonspine, First Buttress - III, 5.7
  • North Troll, South Ridge - III, 5.7
  • Hobbit King - Hobbit Arete - III, 5.7
  • Hobbit Footstool, East Ridge - II, 5.8
  • Middle Troll, South Face - III, 5.8, 45-degree snow
  • The Throne, The Lost Marsupial - III, 5.8
  • The Royal Tower, East Ridge - IV, 5.8
  • South Troll, South Face - IV, 5.9
  • The Royal Tower, Gargoyle Buttress - IV, 5.10a


Mt. Waddington Expedition

Structure and Goals:

A climber on the approach to basecamp on Mt. Waddington with the expansive Coast Mountains in the background

A climber on the approach to basecamp on Mt. Waddington with the expansive Coast Mountains in the background. AAI Collection

In this fourth 12-day segment of the program you will develop more sophisticated technical skills on rock, snow and ice while making an expedition style ascent of Mount Waddington. This is one of the rare courses in the world that finishes on such a remote, technical and beautiful mountains.

Mount Waddington is a very serious objective. This expedition will draw deeply on all of your skills. Climbers must be able to move effectively on glaciers, rock climb, ice climb and ascend mixed terrain to be successful on this mountain. A successful ascent of Mount Waddington is the equivalent of a PhD in Alpinism. It is a remote and highly sought after objective.

During this expedition, your instructors will continue to help you to refine expeditionary skills and techniques. With guidance, you will plan every part of this expedition and will be a co-leader in the decisions that will be made. It is our goal that you emerge from this program as a qualified rope team leader on both rock and glacier routes. It is also our goal that upon completion, you have the skills and the understanding to put together an expedition to one of the greater ranges of the world.


 Ski Mountaineering and Remote Alpine Ski Tour

Structure and Goals:

In this fourth 12-day segment of the program you will develop more sophisticated skills on glaciers and on steep snow. Additionally, participants will develop the skills to move effectively on both glaciated and non-glaciated terrain on backcountry skis. The course will culminate in a multi-day backcountry ski tour or high traverse.

A skier is rewarded for their climb with an exciting descent.

A skier is rewarded for their climb with an exciting descent.
Ben Traxler

All participants will learn the skills specific to crevasse rescue with skis, they will learn about the care and maintenance of backcountry skis, they will learn the rudiments of snow science and avalanche evaluation and they will develop the skills to plan both single and multi-day peak descents.

This particular course has additional prerequisites beyond Parts 1-3. Skiers who participate in this course should be comfortable on moderate to steep terrain when skiing inside of a ski resort. At minimum, skiers should be comfortable on tricky blue runs or easy black runs. This course was designed for competent in-bounds skiers who are ready to move into the backcountry.

Your instructors will work with you on all of the specific skills needed for route selection, route finding, and hazard evaluation required for ski mountaineers. It is our goal that you emerge from this program as a qualified rope team leader and a qualified skier in technical backcountry travel. 

Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 4

Dates & Details

Waddington Expedition

  • Jul 7 - 18, 2019

Max Ratio - 4:2 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 5


Little Switzerland Expedition

  • Jun 12 - 23, 2019

Max Ratio - 2:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 6


Ski Mountaineering Expedition

  • April 6 - 18, 2019

Max Ratio - 2:1 (Skier:Guide)

Capacity - 6



If you are looking to use GI Bill® Benefits to pay for your courses, they can be used only on the Ski Mountaineering Expedition. GI Bill® benefits can not be applied to the Waddington or Little Switzerland Expeditions.



AMTL Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 or equivalent experience

To participate in the ski mountaineering option, skiers must have successfully completed a AIARE Level I Avalanche Course or the equivalent. 


Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 4


Men's Journal calls this program "the country's most respected and thorough rock and mountaineering course."

"The 4-part course was just what we were looking for: a systematic way to learn how to lead on rock and glaciers, starting from minimal experience on those media. By going through the course, we now have a whole new dimension to explore on our backcountry trips."
Myron and Adele (Laramie, WY)

Mt. Waddington is among the most remote, beautiful, and seldom seen climbs in N. America.

Mt. Waddington is among the most remote, beautiful, and seldom seen climbs in N. America.  Dylan Taylor

Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, Part 4

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