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Home » Classes » CMC Classes and Schools » Technical Climbing School

Technical Climbing School


The Colorado Mountain Club’s Technical Climbing School connects aspiring climbers with their vertical ambitions.

Classes and trips are designed to teach the technical elements of rock and snow climbing, including the use of ropes, anchors, ice tools, protection, crampons and specialized skills to safely negotiate challenging terrain. The class modules are ideal for individuals with goals such as leading fifth-class rock, ice climbing or ascending difficult peaks.

The entry-level courses provide a foundation, covering such topics as belaying, movement techniques, gear and navigation. More advanced courses build upon those basics and teach students everything they need to climb throughout Colorado. The modular approach to the curriculum allows students to select classes and dates that fit their schedule and specific interests. The classes can be taken individually or as packages to achieve certificates in Climbing, Basic Mountaineering and Intermediate Mountaineering.


Basic Mountaineering Certificate

Within the Technical Climbing School, you can take 6 of our 19 classes to earn a certificate in Basic Mountaineering. Think of the Basic Mountaineering School as an academic/vocational degree within the Technical Climbing School.

You have two options when it comes to Basic Mountaineering:

  • Modular format: you simply look at the CMC calendar and select the class sessions that fit your calendar.
  • Traditional format: allows you to work with the same small group of classmates through all the Basic Mountaineering classes. The traditional format is slightly less expensive (you pay for 5 classes but get 6), but the dates are more rigid.        

There are two sessions of Basic Mountaineering offered each year. In the CMC calendar, filter for classes and look for Basic Mountaineering. The two sessions will almost always be offered in March. When you click on the class the Event Details will give you all the dates for that session.


The infographic below shows the recommended progression through CMC Technical Climbing School:

Basic Climbing

Basic Climbing is the best class to start with! It is a prerequisite for all the rock, snow and ice climbing classes (not required for navigation courses). Upon completion of this class you’ll be able to climb indoors at any rock climbing gym. You’ll learn:

  • How to use climbing helmet, harness, belay device, safety leash
  • How to tie in to the rope using a Figure Eight Retrace
  • How to tie an Overhand Knot, Clove Hitch, Girth Hitch
  • How to top rope belay using Pull-Brake-Under-Slide method
  • How to use climbing commandsHow to coil a climbing rope

Intermediate Rock Climbing

Building off of Basic Climbing,intermediate focuses on climbing safety: equipment (and using it properly), communication, belaying, lowering, and rappelling.

You’ll learn:

  • How to use hands and feet efficiently on rock
  • Experience climbing outside
  • How to tie a Double Fisherman, Water Knot, Muenter Hitch, Figure Eight On a Bight
  • How to rig an Autoblock
  • Multile methods of rappel

Navigation Level 1
Navigation courses have no prerequisites and can also be a good place to start taking TCS classes.

 You’ll learn:

  • How to procure & read topographic maps
  • How to measure a bearing on the map
  • How to plot a bearing on the map
  • How to take a bearing in the field and follow it

Navigation Level 2
Level 2 allows you to build off of your Level 1 navigation skills and apply them in an intensive field application and extension of material taught in Navigation Level 1.

You’ll learn:

  • How to match terrain to the map
  • How to travel from point to point using map and compass together
  • How to follow a bearing in zero visibility
  • How to navigate around obstacles
  • How to measure slope angles

Basic Snow

Snow is the third portion of classes required to achieve your BMS certificate. Successful completion of Basic Climbing a prerequisite to enrolling in Basic Snow.

You’ll learn:

  • How to use crampons and ice axe
  • How to move over snow
  • How to self arrest

Technical Snow

This class covers technical skills you need to climb a snow couloir.

You’ll learn:

  • How to build snow anchors
  • How to tie an Alpine Butterfly
  • How to travel as a roped team
  • How to use snow protection


Intermediate Mountaineering Certificate

Building off of the skills you learned for BMS, branch out into Ice climbing, learn how to escape a belay, rappel past an obstruction, and perform a self rescue. All Intermediate Mountaineering courses are dependent on your successful completion of the Basic Mountaineering courses. Just like with those courses, there is no specific order you need to take these classes in as long as you have all the necessary prerequisites. There is no traditional path for Intermediate Mountaineering, all classes are taken as individual modules.

Basic Ice

The only prerequisite to this course is Basic Climbing.

You’ll learn:

  • How to use technical crampons and ice tools to climb vertical ice
  • How to top rope belay an ice climber

Climbing Self Rescue 1

Building off of skills learned in intermediate rock climbing, this course will prepare students to deal with problems they may encounter during a multi-pitch climb. Functions as a partial prerequisite to self rescue level 2.

You’ll learn:

  • How to tie a Prusik Hitch, Bachmann Hitch, Klemheist, Mule Knot
  • How to escape a loaded belay
  • How to ascend a rope
  • How to rappel past an obstruction in the rope

Rock Seconding

This course also builds off the skills learned in intermediate rock climbing and teaches students:

  • How to belay a lead climber
  • How to catch a leader fall
  • How to belay from above


Other Advanced Courses

Within TCS there are also other courses that build off of skills learned in the Basic & Intermediate certificates. Although you won’t receive another certificate, you’ll gain useful knowledge and advance your climbing. Prerequisites to these classes vary

Navigation Level 3

In Nav 3 we will take a more in-depth look at electronic tools available for land navigation. Prerequisite of navigation level 1, you’ll learn:

  • How to use software maps to create waypoints and tracks
  • How to use GPS devices, smartphone apps & emergency beacons


Prerequisite of intermediate rock climbing required. Students will learn about the various types of rock protection, including: natural protection, passive protection (nuts, hexes) and active protection (cams); and how to place and incorporate pieces of protection into anchors.

You’ll learn:

  • How to place rock protection
  • How to build static and dynamic anchors

Sport Lead Climbing

This three-day class (two evenings and a field day) will teach participants the skills needed to safely lead sport climbs;

  • How to properly clip bolts and avoid common errors, including Back Clip and Z Clip
  • How to lead belay safely
  • How to set up a quad anchor
  • How to clean sport anchors and lower safely (including rappel)
  • Safety and risk management

Participants are expected to either be graduates of BMS Rock/Intermediate Rock Climbing or have experience with good climbing belay skills, rappelling, good climbing communications and a good working knowledge of knots and the climber's safety system

Climbing Self Rescue II

Rocking Seconding is a required prerequisite and this course also serves as a partial prerequisite for Self Rescue 3. Students will learn:

  • How to escape from a loaded belay while retaining options for further action
  • How to tandem rappel and counterbalance rappel
  • How to rig a raising and lowering system

Climbing Self Rescue III

Prerequisite of self rescue 2 for this course. Students will learn:

  • How to free stuck rappel ropes
  • How to rescue a fallen leader

Traditional Lead Climbing

Students will be introduced to the principles and techniques of placing gear on a “traditional” rock climb. Prerequisite of rock seconding, and is required for technical ice and basic aid climbing.

You’ll learn:

  • How to assess gear limits
  • How to calculate fall factor, impact force
  • How to determine vector forces on protection
  • How to lead 5th class rock
  • How to tie Flat Overhand Bend

Technical Ice Climbing

Prerequisite of traditional lead climbing required for this course.

Students will learn:

  • How to use Ice Screws
  • How to lead waterfall ice

Basic Aid Climbing

Prerequisite of traditional lead climbing required. Students will learn:

  • How to use Etriers, Daisy Chains, Fifi Hooks,
    and Ascenders
  • How to Haul

Advanced Rock

Prerequisite of traditional lead climbing required for this course and students should be confident trad climbers. This class is intended to prepare students for the American Mountain Guide Association’s Single Pitch Instructor certification program. It is intended to supplement the AMGA SPI class and Advanced Rock should be taken before signing up for the AMGA SPI program.

2018 Schedule: