The Thrill of the Skill

Climbing, Mountaineering, and Canyoneering

Apr 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
adventure sports camps Climbing, Mountaineering, and Canyoneering

The long way down: Finding your next step on Yosemite's Cathedral Peak    Photo: Abrahm Lustgarten

Tip #1:

"You need to leave things behind and pack only things you can use multiple times. Don't worry about clean clothes. Experienced climbers know it's OK to smell a little."
—Martin Volken, certified Swiss mountain guide and owner of Pro Guiding Service, North Bend, Washington

American Alpine Institute
Bellingham, Washington
A 29-year-old outfit with some of the most rigorously trained guides in the industry, AAI offers dozens of camps in six states and 13 countries. The THREE-DAY INTRODUCTORY ROCK course at Red Rocks, Nevada, teaches proper footwork and technical skills like rigging and equalizing a top rope. More adventurous rock rats can lead on a trad climb up 1,500-foot, 5.6 Solar Slab.
End Game: Setting up and climbing top ropes with confidence.
Info: $470 (instruction only), October to April; 360-671-1505,
Or Try: International Mountain Climbing School, in North Conway, New Hampshire, for sport-, trad-, and ice-climbing instruction in the White Mountains; one- to three-day clinics, $95–$360; 603-356-7064,

Rainier Mountaineering INC.
Ashford, Washington
The venerable Avalanche institute runs avalanche and backcountry ski seminars in five locations across Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado—including a three-day level 1 Course at Red Mountain Pass, in Colorado's slide-prone San Juan Mountains. From the warm bunks inside the St. Paul Lodge, at 11,500 feet, you can talk surface hoar and slab avalanches with AAI's wilderness pros. Then snowshoe or skin up to 12,500 feet on telemark or randonnée skis to assess real-time avalanche conditions and practice beacon-assisted rescues.
End Game: Developing a healthy respect for volatile winter terrain—and the smarts to travel safely.
Info: $470 (all-inclusive), December to April; 307-733-3315,
Or Try: Pro Guiding Service, in North Bend, Washington, for novice to expert snow-safety workshops in the Cascades; two- to four-day trips, $180–$340; 425-888-6397,

American Canyoneering Association
Cedar City, Utah
ACA's laid-back guides are masters at teaching safe travel in the narrow sandstone canyons outside Cedar City, Utah, and Globe, Arizona. On the Three-day Basic Canyoneering course, you'll begin by practicing belay technique, rope deployment, and rigging. Explore area slots on succeeding days, learning to safely descend into and ascend out of canyons, swim in swiftwater, and prepare for—and avoid—flash floods.
End Game: Rappelling and splashing your way through a descent of three-mile-long Mystery Canyon in Zion National Park.
Info: $265 (instruction only), March to September; 435-590-8889,
Or Try: Zion Adventure Company, in Springdale, Utah, for a primer on pothole swimming and self-rescue; three-day beginner course, $495; 435-772-1001,