Alpine Skills Course

CRAG’s 5 day Alpine Skills Course is the perfect way to kick start your mountaineering career! This challenging course will be run with a small group of just 4 keen participants and one guide. This small group size allows all team members to learn the skills that are most relevant to their goals & abilities. Under the direction of the guide everyone will participate in the decision making, route finding, leading and all the other steps required to safely climb mountains. A unique aspect of this course is that there will be at least two attempts on major Rockies peaks, climbs that would not be possible with a larger group!

Below is some more information about the course but if you have any questions please contact us any time at

Crossing a glacier on Mt Athabasca during a mountaineering course

DATES 2023:

  • June 12-16th, 2023 (FULL)
  • July 3-7th, 2023 (FULL)
  • Sep 11-15th, 2023 (FULL)
  • All course dates full for 2023.  Please contact us if you wish to be on the waitlist.  For some of the similar climbing & skills check out our popular Glacier Travel courses and Sport or Trad rock climbing courses!  Custom trips & instruction also available year round.

COST: $1295 + GST per person

Max Group Size: 4

Prerequisites: Good fitness, hiking & camping skills and completion of a Glacier Travel Course or similar experience.  See below for more details about the prerequisites for this challenging course.

Meeting Place & Time:  Columbia Icefields Tent Campground at 9:00am the first day.

Book your spot: Please contact us at for a registration package.  A non-refundable deposit of $350 is required to book your spot with the remainder due 4 weeks prior to the start of the course. 

Alpine climbing course in Canada
Mountaineering lessons at the Columbia Icefields

Skills Covered

There are many possible topics and we pride ourselves on having small enough group sizes to customize the instruction to meet the needs of all participants. The main goal of the course is to help participants become self-sufficient in a variety of mountaineering terrain. Some of the specific topics covered will include:

  • Glacier travel
  • Snow & ice climbing
  • Anchor building & belaying on snow, ice, and rock
  • Rapelling snow, ice and rock
  • Alpine rock climbing
  • Rock protection (trad)
  • Route finding
  • Ropework skills for mountaineering
  • Weather & avalanche basics
  • Conditions forecasting & assessment
  • Map & navigation skills
  • Light & fast techniques
  • Gear selection
  • Resources & ways to continue learning


Weather, conditions and participants abilities may affect the order of activities and climbing objectives chosen.  In particular there are many other peaks we may attempt depending on conditions at the time.  However, here is a typical outline for the week:

Day 1 – Glacier travel circuit at the Columbia Icefields. Participants will have chances to lead the rope team and participate in decision making. Along the way we will practice ice climbing, navigation, anchor building and many other skills.

Day 2 – Mt. Athabasca attempt! Athabasca is one of the best climbing peaks in the Canadian Rockies and has been many climbers first big mountain. This will be a long day with a pre-dawn start. See our Mt. Athabasca page for pictures & information. The most likely routes we will climb are the North Glacier or AA Col. 

Day 3 – Rock climbing & alpine rock skills. The day will be spent at a rock climbing area where we will learn the basics of rock protection, anchor building, ropework in alpine terrain, and doing some rock climbing. We will also practice climbing rock terrain with boots & crampons, a common mountaineering scenario! The night will be spent camping near the Saskatchewan River Crossing (45 minutes from the Icefields), or you can choose to get a room at the Saskatchewan River Crossing resort, David Thompson Resort, or the motel or hostel in Nordegg if you prefer.

Day 4 – Progression of alpine rock climbing skills. We will continue improving the skills from the day before and while doing a bunch of climbing you will also learn rescue skills, rope ascending, multipitch descents, and other ropework techniques. In the afternoon we will prepare for our final mountain of the week!

Day 5 – Alpine ascent! There are a few different mountains we may attempt on the final day. The choice of peak will depend on conditions, everyone’s interests and the weather.  The most common one is another fun & challenging mountain at the Icefields known as “A2”. This peak is a bit smaller than Mt. Athabasca but is more challenging with a complex glacier, a rocky ridge, and two pitches of climbing snowy rock with our crampons and mountaineering axes. It’s a great way to put all the new skills into practice and leads us to a spectacular rocky summit with excellent views! The descent will involve some down climbing, possibly a rappel, and then reversing our tracks across the glacier.  Other likely peaks we would attempt if conditions aren’t safe for A2 could include Mt. Saint Nick, Mt. Gordon or Boundary Peak.  After a course debrief we will say our goodbye’s and head home for some well deserved rest!


  • Fitness: The Alpine Skills Course is a very physically demanding week in the mountains with not a lot of time for rest. Therefore, the biggest prerequisite is good physical fitness! You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete but you must be able to complete long days on your feet while carrying a pack. If you are unsure about your abilities please contact us at any time.
  • Outdoor Experience: All participants must have basic hiking, camping and general outdoors skills. You need to be comfortable being self-sufficient with all the camping & such so that we can focus our energy on the climbing.
  • Scrambling Experience: All participants must have hiked or scrambled at least a couple of mountains so that you have an idea of what is involved fitness-wise for mountaineering in the Rockies. Small peaks such as Ha Ling or East End of Rundle are just fine but be aware that the peaks we attempt during the course will be much longer and more demanding!
  • Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue: All participants must have basic glacier travel & crevasse rescue skills including experience with crampons. A 2 day Glacier Travel Course is scheduled immediately prior to the Alpine Skills Course for those without previous experience. Most participants combine the two courses for an awesome 7 days in the mountains!
  • Climbing Experience: No previous technical climbing experience of any sort is required. However, if you do have some climbing skills the small group size will allow plenty of opportunities to improve & learn new techniques!

Gear List

All climbing gear is provided free of charge except for mountaineering boots. Contact us ( for a registration package which includes a detailed gear list.

Mountaineering course in the Canadian Rockies