Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing


Coiling the rope after a successful climb of the North Peak Couloir.

Coiling the rope after a successful climb of the North Peak Couloir.  Andrew Yasso

This program runs primarily on a private basis, and is somewhat conditions-dependent. Alternatively, we offer our 6-day Alpine Ice Climbing course in Washington throughout the summer.

The Eastern Sierra is famous for its golden granite, but it is equally famous for its steep and cold ice couloirs. Hidden in the rock folds beneath the stunning granite spines of the Sierra-Nevada range are literally dozens of beautiful blue ice lines, which provide intermediate to advanced level ice outings.

In this six-day alpine ice program, we start with fundamental ice climbing competencies and then progress to more advanced techniques. You will begin with foundational skills in the use of an ice axe and crampons in steep terrain, and then proceed to the study of two-tool ice climbing and multi-pitch technique. Participants are instructed in a highly refined, hybrid ice climbing technique that combines the most effective aspects of American, German, and French approaches to snow and ice. Groups are very small and there is flexibility in emphasis according to individual interest and need. With each ascent more skills will be taught and participants will be given more independence.

One aspect to this program that is somewhat different from other ice climbing courses, is that every participant will not only have to develop ice climbing skills, but will also continue to develop his or her rock climbing technique. Nearly every ascent requires an ability to climb both rock and ice. Pitches of moderate rock cap most of the ice couloirs in the Sierra range. The ability to transition from steep snow, to steep ice, to rock is one of the most valuable skills that will be developed throughout the course.

Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing

Course Objectives and Highlights

A climber making quality ice axe placements while leading on steep alpine ice

A climber making quality ice axe placements while leading on steep alpine ice.
AAI Collection

Possible course objectives include: Dana Couloir, a 40-degree introductory route; U-Notch Couloir, a 45-degree, nine pitch line with some rock climbing at the top; North Peak Couloir, a six-pitch, fifty-degree route; and V-Notch Couloir, a fifty-degree line with a vertical step at the base and 5.6 rock climbing at the top. Routes will be selected based on participant interest and current conditions.

At the end of the course, participants should have a solid understanding of the art of couloir ice climbing and should have the fundamental skills required to lead moderate level alpine ice.

Combine the Sierra Mountaineering course with the Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing course to develop a solid foundation in each of the individual skills that you might encounter on a climbing trip in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.


Curriculum Highlights

Alpine Travel and Climbing Skills

  • Design concepts, performance and selection of ice axes and technical tools
  • Application of American, French and German cramponing techniques
  • Proper choice between the application of the nine primary ice axe positions
  • Proper selection and placement of ice screws, snow flukes and pickets
  • Specialized designs and uses of alpine and technical tools in high angled ice climbing
  • Multi-pitch rock and ice climbing technique
  • Multi-pitch rappelling technique


Leadership Skills

  • Managing protective systems
  • Problem solving; gathering data and assessing techniques
  • Rope team leadership on snow and ice
  • Advanced use of a map, compass, guidebook and GPS
  • Facilitating team descents/retreats
  • Leave No Trace travel, camping and climbing skills

Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing


V-Notch and U-Notch Couloirs in the Palisades offer great alpine ice climbing opportunities.

V-Notch and U-Notch Couloirs in the Palisades offer great alpine ice climbing opportunities.  AAI Collection









This trip is currently unavailable.

We currently do not run this program due to alpine ice conditions in the Sierra. Alternatively, we offer our 6-day Alpine Ice Climbing course in Washington throughout the summer. 

Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing

Cost and Details

Max Ratio - 2:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 4


  • Backpacking experience
  • Good physical condition

Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions


  • Guide fees
  • All group technical climbing equipment
  • Permit and access fees


  • Personal equipment such as clothing, boots, personal climbing gear (e.g. harness, helmet), sleeping bag, tent, etc. Personal climbing and camping gear is available for rent at a nominal charge.
  • Transportation to the program's meeting location and during the program. We ask that you provide transportation for your guide from the point of rendezvous, and if there are other climbers in your program we encourage you to carpool.
  • Lodging costs (if any)
  • Meals
  • Fees for changing air itineraries because of canceled or delayed programs
  • Gratuities to guides
  • Personal health, baggage, and trip cancellation insurance

Rental Equipment

For beginners and other climbers who do not have their own personal climbing equipment, we offer rental equipment.  The following items are available to rent in the Sierra:

  • helmets
  • harnesses
  • ice axes
  • crampons
  • ice tools
  • tents
  • avalanche gear (beacon/probe/shovel)
  • cooking gear (stove/pot/fuel)
  • snowshoes
  • backpacks


Please note that we do not rent boots, sleeping bags or sleeping pads in the Sierra; your best option if you need this gear for your course is to contact Wilson's East Side Sports in Bishop, CA or Mammoth Mountaineering in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  Regardless of what you need, please be sure to alert all parties of your rental needs as soon as possible.

Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing

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