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Alpine Climbing Schools/Guides in US/Canada

I am from Nashville, TN and want to get into alpine climbing. Currently reading "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills" but eager to learn in the alpine environment.

From previous mountaineering/ alpine climbing topics on this forum, I understand that for someone from a place like TN a beginner course or hiring a AMGA certified guide is the best way to learn the basics of alpine climbing.

As I was searching for courses I came across this post on and thought of sharing it with the community -

I haven't registered for any course yet, but I am planning to do a 6/7-day alpine climbing course starting sometime around 20-26 June, 2010. On an average a 6 day course fee is $1200. Hiring an AMGA certified guide seems to be an expensive option for an individual.

I would be happy to know if anyone has any tips/ recommendations for a beginner.

Thank you for your time.

- shashi

There are several schools and guide services on the list that I would recommend, based on direct experience (including having friends and climbing partners who were professional guides with the school), observing them when I was on a mountain at the same time, or having climbing partners who had experiences of the same type. There are also several on the list I would recommend against, but I won't mention those.

My suggestions of groups I know to be excellent :

Bothe AAIs (American Alpine Institute and Alpine Ascents International), Alaska Mountaineering School, Colorado Mountain Club, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, NOLS (and their subsidiary WMI for your Wilderness First Aid course), International Mountain Climbing School (formerly IME), and Exum Mountain Guides. I would also add Mountain Adventure Seminars, which is not on the list (it is far from a complete list). I believe all these are AMGA certified guide services, using AMGA certified guides for their staffs. Something to check on. (but I am biased, being an AMGA member).

I will note that whether you personally find a guide service or school to be good, bad, or indifferent is largely dependent on whether you personally mesh with your instructors' personalities and style. I have had climbing partners who were great as partners, but I would not want as instructors, and I have had instructors I would not want to climb with, but taught me a lot. One other thing that comes into play is who else is in the course with you. In the few guided climbs I have done, I have found that, unfortunately, there always seems to be someone in the group who, by the middle of the climb, everyone else is wondering who invited this person. Less of a problem with small groups. But anyway, it does largely depend on your personal attitude.

Thanks Bill for providing all the information. I will check Mountain Adventure Seminars in addition to the other schools you have mentioned.

I will keep the post updated with the information.

I'm too much of a weenie for alpine, but I had a good experience with a pure rock course from American Alpine Institute, back at the beginning of my climbing career.

Thanks T'Bill for the information.

You will learn alot in a six or seven day course.
I've worked as a Alpine Guide, the schools in the US and Canada are in the business to teach and have you come back and go on more difficult tours as your experience and skills grow.
For learning alpine climbing I would recommend Outward Bound, they have a school that goes into the North Cascades of Wasington State as well as one in Colorado, One of their instructors is Laurie Skeslet one of the first Canadians to summit Mt. Everest.
If your interested in climbing a volcano like Mt. Rainier, Rainier Mountaineering Inc (RMI). has had the most experienced Mt. Guides working for them, more Mt. Everest summiters. There are other good guide services on Mt. Rainier and alot of these guides worked as guides for Rainier Mountaineering in the past. IMHO this is the best place to learn glacier Ice climbing techniques, and Preasure breathing a technique for high altitude climbing. They can prepare you tp climb in the great ranges of the world.
If your interest is in the Tetons Exum is a good guide service with very experienced guides that know the high alpine rock with some snow climbing and a little ice.
The Association Of Canadian Mountain Guides climbs alot of the very big mountains around Banff the climbs in this area have good access and the guides are very good. These mountains are limestone for the most part around the Rockies and some good climbing granite can be found further west in the Bugaboos. These climbs are in a much bigger range than the Alps.

Mt. Guide,

Thank you for your response. I will check the institutes you mentioned for more information on the courses they offer.

I am checking for the courses offered in alpine climbing in June last week.

I will update the post soon with the details.

Does anyone know anything about Mountain Madness? I know a little of it's history from Into Thin Air, but I am looking into their 8 day mountaineering course. Didn't know if anyone in this community had some feedback on the company or the course.



If I recall correctly, Mountain Madness was founded by Scott Fischer and Christine Boskoff. Scott died on Everest in the infamous 1996 set of tragedies that is described in John Krakauer's book. Christine died in an avalanche, along with Charlie Fowler several years later.

MM is very much geared toward the 7 Summits game. That's something to keep in mind while signing up with their courses. Based on personal observation plus comments from people I know who work for various other guide and training companies (including competitors in the 7 Summits game), for what you seem to be aiming for at this point (based on your various posts in other threads), I would recommend Alpine Ascents International (a competitor in the 7 Summits game) or American Alpine Institute (more aimed toward thorough training for people intending to climb independently). A lot of the 7 Summits guide services (including MM) seem to be more geared toward getting people in their mid-life crisis up as many of the 7 Summits as possible, especially Everest, rather than a life-long involvement with mountaineering in general and technical climbing in particular. That is not to say that these companies do not have excellent instructors in their courses. Rather, it is more the focus, which is driven by competition among the companies, along with the goals of their clientele and potential clientele.

Thank you all for providing feedback on different courses and institutes....

I finally have a full time job and know my schedule for summer.

I have done a phone registeration for the 12-day Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership - Part 1 course


Will be completing the registration by first week of April.


Let me know if you are interested in this course.

That looks like an excellent program. I have a lot of respect for AAI (as noted in my comment above), and my guess is that you'll learn a ton and have a great time as well.

Hope you can find time to post a report when you get back.

Good luck!

Shash, would love to attend that session with you, but I don't have enough vaca time or money saved up to go on this one. I'm already spending 10 days scrambling some 14ers in CO during July. I am probably going to be looking for next summer for a course to attend. You will have to let me know how it goes.


I think you made an excellent choice of course to take. American Alpine Institute will teach you well. Keep in mind that a lot of what you get out of a course depends on the attitude you carry into the course. You will get the most out of any course if you go in with an open-minded attitude and don't approach things with "I know everything already" (I had someone in the course I taught last weekend who "knew everything", but spent a lot of time fumbling with what I consider to be basics). From your earlier posts, I don't think you will have that problem.

Good luck, and hopefully I will see you one day on some hill.


Good luck with CO climbs. Hope to climb with you later this year.

T'Bill and Bill S,

Thanks again. I am very excited about the course and will definitely post the course details on completion.

- shashi

November 28, 2020
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