Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction


A climber enjoys the superb granite in Leavenworth.

A climber demonstrating the use of a hand jam to gain a hold in a crack. Most gyms lack the variety of cracks necessary to learn this technique.
Jason Martin

Whether you are new to rock climbing or have climbed indoors previously, outdoor rock climbing presents unique athletic and mental challenges, and demands a wide range of technical and judgment skills that can only be learned outdoors.

This course is designed as a comprehensive introduction to rock climbing, both for beginners who have never climbed before and for indoor climbers who want to transition into outdoor rock climbing or alpinism.

The course has three primary components:

  • Movement skills, including techniques that are hard to learn indoors, such as jamming and friction climbing
  • Technical systems, including knots, anchors, belaying, rappelling, and top-rope site management
  • Judgment skills, including route-finding, recognizing hazards, and risk management


Goals and Objectives

The Outdoor Rock Climbing course was developed to provide you not only with the experience of rock climbing, but with the technical skills required to go climbing without the oversight of an instructor or guide. By the end of the course, you will have the knowledge required to set up and manage your own single-pitch climbing site independently.

Indoor climbing gyms have made it possible for many people to try, and even master, the most iconic type of rock climbing – steep face climbing – without going outside. Outdoor rock climbing, however, demands a much larger repertoire of movement and problem-solving skills than gym climbing.

Outdoor rock climbs don’t announce themselves with colored tape and holds. Learning to route-find often challenges beginners and indoor climbers, who don’t yet know how to recognize usable rock features like underclings, parallel-sided cracks, and small irregularities of the rock surface. Gym climbers who have advanced to the higher number grades can still be stymied by outdoor climbs with features such as jam cracks, chimneys, and friction slabs.

Course Highlights include:

  • Introduction to Equipment: Design, Care, Use, and Selection
  • Introduction to Knots and Hitches
  • Techniques for Belaying and Rappelling
  • Climbing Commands
  • Development of Full Repertoire of Free Climbing Technique for Moderate Ground
  • Introduction to both Passive and Active Traditional Protection
  • Anchor Construction
  • Techniques for Setting Up and Managing Top-Rope Sites

Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction

Curriculum & Locations


Basic Rock - Leavenworth

The end of another great climb in Leavenworth.  Margaret Utgoff

The Outdoor Rock Climbing Intensive Introduction course is offered throughout the year in some of the most beloved climbing locations in North America.

Winter locations (October - April) include:

  • Red Rock Canyon, NV - located just minutes outside the city of Las Vegas.
  • Joshua Tree Nationa Park, CA - approximately an hour away from Palm Springs, CA and right next to the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, CA. The climbing at Joshua Tree is very high quality, and because of its legendary parallel-sided cracks it is ideal for people who want to learn to lead climb on granite walls like those of Yosemite.
  • Moab, UT - near both Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park in southeast Utah.


Summer locations (April - September) include:

  • Leavenworth, WA - about forty minutes from Wenatchee or three hours from Seattle on the east side of Washington's mountains.
  • Mount Erie, WA - located an hour and a half north of Seattle, near Anacortes, WA.
  • Squamish, BC - located one hour north of Vancouver, BC.
  • Boulder, CO - roughly 45 min outside of Denver, CO in the front range mountains.
  • Mammoth Lakes, CA - located in the eastern Sierra, forty minutes north of Bishop, CA, and three hours south of Reno, NV.


Course Itinerary and Curriculum

Day One:

  • Meet your guide at the program location at 8:00am.
  • Selection, use and care of climbing gear.
  • Introduction to basic knots and hitches. Knots to be covered will include but not be limited to the figure-eight follow-through and the clove-hitch.
  • Introduction to climbing commands and belay technique.
  • Develop an understanding of climbing grades.
  • Develop techniques for climbing beginner and intermediate rock climbs.


Day Two:

A beginner climber works on movement skills while on top-rope in Red Rock

A beginner climber works on movement skills while on top-rope in Red Rock. Dana Hickenbottom

  • Review knots from the previous day and then continue the development of your knowledge of knots by learning the figure-eight on-a-bite, the munter-hitch, the overhand, the water-knot, the barrel knot and the autoblock hitch.
  • Introduction to climbing guidebooks and route topos.
  • Learn how to place and remove both passive and active rock protection.
  • Introduction to the concept of SRENE and 12-point anchors.
  • Develop the skills to build both pre-equalized and self-equalizing anchors.
  • Learn how to set up simple top-ropes using bolts.
  • Practice and discuss bouldering technique in an outdoor environment.
  • Introduction to basic rappelling technique.
  • Continue the development of movement skills for intermediate rock climbs.


Day Three:

  • Review knots from the previous days and then continue the development of your knowledge of knots with the double-bowline, the double-fisherman's knot, the mule-hitch, the kliemhiest, and the prussik-hitch.
  • Learn how to use traditional climbing gear to set up a simple top-rope anchor.
  • Develop the skills to belay a lead climber.
  • Learn how to follow a route that has been lead with traditional gear and clean the equipment off the route as you climb.
  • Develop advanced techniques for rappelling.
  • Continue the development of movement skills for intermediate rock climbs.


Day Four:

  • Review all of the knots and hitches from the previous days.
  • Use traditional climbing gear to set up a complex top-rope anchor.
  • Learn how to use a static rope or webbing to set up a multipart top-rope anchor.
  • Practice the rappel techniques that have been developed over the preceding days.
  • Continue the development of movement skills for intermediate rock climbs.

Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction


Mount Erie, WA

  • Aug. 15 - 18, 2024
  • May 10 - 13, 2025
  • May 15 - 18, 2025
  • May 21 - 27, 2025
  • May 29 - June 01, 2025
  • June 21 -24, 2025
  • June 26 - 29, 2025
  • July 26 - 29, 2025
  • July 31 - Aug 03, 2025
  • Aug 09 - 12, 2025
  • Aug 14 - 17, 2025
  • Aug 30 - Sept 02, 2025
  • Sept 04 - 07, 2025


Leavenworth, WA

  • June 21 - 25, 2024
  • June 27 - 30, 2024
  • July 20 - 23, 2024


Squamish, BC*

  • Aug 1 - 4, 2024
  • Aug 10 - 13, 2024
  • Aug 31 - Sept. 3, 2024
  • Sept. 5 - 8, 2024
  • Oct. 1 - 4, 2024

 * All participants in Squamish-based courses must first rendezvous at the AAI Offices in Bellingham and the group must cross the border together. We cannot meet climbers in Squamish.

Red Rock Canyon, NV 

  • Sept. 27 - 30, 2024
  • Oct. 25 - 28, 2024
  • Nov. 22 - 25, 2024
  • Dec. 27 - 30, 2024 - Women's Only
  • Jan. 24 - 27, 2025
  • Feb. 21 - 24, 2025
  • Mar. 14 - 17, 2025
  • Apr. 18 - 21, 2025

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

  • Nov. 29 - Dec. 2, 2024
  • Feb. 10 - 13, 2025

Boulder, CO 

  • Sept. 12 - 15, 2024

Mammoth Lakes, CA

  • Sept. 26 - 29, 2024

Moab, UT

  • Oct. 4 - 7, 2024
  • Apr. 4 - 7, 2025


Rock Climbing Course Series:

Below is the progression for our rock climbing course series:

  1. Outdoor Rock Climbing Intensive Introduction
  2. Learn to Lead
  3. Technical Self Rescue for Climbers
  4. Multi-Pitch Skills Course

Climbers have a number of potential options for their continuing education, including, but not limited to, the Aid and Big Wall Climbing course and Private Guiding.

Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction


Max Ratio - 4:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 8

Minimum Enrollment - 3 

A note on enrollment:

Confirming the 4-day course at the regular cost and length requires at least 3 registrants.  With two participants, we can run the course as a 3 day itinerary without changing the pricing; with just one individual we will consider this a 'private course' and charge private rates. 

Private Courses:

A private Learn to Lead course can be arranged with the location, length, and dates of your choice. Though the group course is generally preferable for learning, a customized course can be superior for some climbers. The cost for a private course is determined by the private rate for the location.



Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions: Included in the course cost is group technical climbing equipment, climbing permits, and the guide fee.

Exclusions: Not included in the course cost is all personal clothing and climbing gear, gratuities to guide, transportation, lodging/camping fees, meals while on the course, or travel insurance.

Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction

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