Basic Mountaineering Workshop


Course Syllabus







Department of Sport Science & Physical Education, Idaho State University





Course: Basic Mountaineering (PEAC 1185)



Semesters: Spring Semester - Workshop Format


Times: Mon, Tue & Wed Evenings.  All Day Saturday



Where: Mon, Tue & Wed sessions are held in a classroom (see latest schedule).  The field session on Saturday is held at the Pebble Creek Ski Area



Instructor: Justin Daily






No text is required.




Designed for students wishing to climb mountains on a non-technical basis. Includes ice axe use, rope team travel, clothing, equipment, hazards, hypothermia and acute mountain sickness.




The Sports Science and Physical Education Department’s Outdoor Education curriculum at Idaho State is based on a foundation of five national recognized standards.  The following standards apply to this course:  Standard 1 (Content Knowledge), Standard 3 (Safety and Minimal Impact), and Standard 5 (Experiential Skill and Field Experience).




Mountaineering Activity Definition: Mountaineering is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains, it has branched into specializations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists of three areas: rock-craft, snow-craft and skiing, depending on whether the route chosen is over rock, snow or ice. All require experience, athletic ability, and technical knowledge to maintain safety.


Mountaineering History Summary:   The History of Mountaineering goes way back to the time when no one had the technology and the skills to write about them yet. Because of that, we are left to surmise what the early Mountaineers did, the technology that they used, what motivated them to climb, or if they even thought of doing it.  The achievements made in the sport are no mean feat. They require a lot of physical, mental and even logistical preparations if one aims for a successful climb. Aside from popularizing the sport, mountain expeditions also contributed to a lot of scientific studies. Below are some of the highlights in the Mountaineering world:

  • 1874 - Grove, Gardiner, Walker, Sottajev and Knubel reached the summit of the highest mountain in Europe: Elbrus.
  • 1913 - Karstens, Harper, Tatum and Stuck reached the summit of the highest mountain in North America: Mount McKinley also known as Mount Denali.
  • 1953 - Norgay and Hillary reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world: Mount Everest in Nepal.
  • 1985 - Dick Bass reached Mount Everest and became the first person to reach all of the Seven Summits.

Mountaineering Philosophy Summary:   What is now one of the most revered sports was inspired by non-sporting purposes of early humans such as the building of altars for the Mountain spirits, erecting of watch towers for country sites, and making meteorological or geological observations. Today, Mountaineering is a popular sport, hobby, even profession of walking. Hiking and mountain climbing on either rock (rock-craft) or snow (snow craft). It is frequently undertaken for the thrill of reaching the summit.




The course is taught for three nights in a classroom to prepare the students with necessary skills to participate on the field session. The field session allows students to apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom setting in a real mountain environment. The course is designed to help students develop skills, form an appreciation for safety, and gain an understanding of mountaineering history and equipment.  The following value statements help guide course strategy:



Objective 1 (Academic Objective): To gain an understanding of the history of mountaineering, route finding, first aid, weather and recognition of hazards. 

Objective 1 Learning Outcomes - By the end of the course, students will:

1a. Be able to explain the history of mountaineering and new trends in the sport.
1b. Demonstrate how to use a map and compass for route finding and navigation while climbing mountains.
1c. Explain the signs and symptoms of various altitude illness and treatment methods of each.
1d. Explain the signs and symptoms of various cold injuries and the treatments for each.
1e. Explain basic recognition and forecasting of mountain weather.
1f. Describe the difference between objective and subjective hazards and how to mitigate them.

Objective 2 (Motor Skill Objective):  To develop an understanding of the use of an ice axe and other supporting equipment involved with mountaineering.

Objective 2 Learning Outcomes – By the end of the course, students will:

2a. Be able to explain the parts of an ice axe.
2b. Demonstrate the four positions used to arrest a fall with an axe.
2c. Demonstrate the various positions of self belay with an axe.
2d. Demonstrate the proper method of using ropes and an axe while engaging in rope team travel.
2e. Explain the various types of equipment used during the ascent of a mountain. 
2f. Demonstrate how to properly descend a mountain using ropes or the various glissading techniques.

Objective 3 (Motor Skill Objective):  To develop basic skills in building and correctly placing anchors in snow and ice.

Objective 3 Learning Outcomes – By the end of the course, students will:

3a. Demonstrate how to cut a bollard in snow.
3b. Demonstrate how to place pickets and flukes in varying snow conditions. 
3c. Explain and demonstrate the various pieces of equipment and techniques that can be used to construct dead men anchors.
3d. Explain how to properly place an ice screw.



Grades for this course are determined by using a point system.  The final grade is reached by adding points from three components:

Total Number of Points Possible:  100 pts


Weekend Field Trip: The weekend field session is mandatory. If the weekend field session is not attended you will receive a failing grade


Grading Example:  As an example of how grades are determine, let’s say that a student in the course attends 3 out of the possible 4 total class sessions; and they receive 45 pts. on the skill assessment test, and 40 pts. on the written final.  Here’s how the grade would be calculated:

  • Attendance and Participation  4 x 18.75 =  56.25 pts.
  • Skill Assessment  25 pts.

Total Points:  56.25 + 25 = 81.25
Percentage Grade: 81.25 / 100 = 81.25%
Letter Grade - Using the ISU grading scale (below):  B-


A         93-100             C+       78-80.9            D-        63-65.9
A-        90-92.9            C         75-77.9            F          62.9-below
B+       87-89.9            C-        72-74.9
B         84-86.9            D+       69-71.9
B-        81-83.9            D         66-68.9



If you have a diagnosed disability or believe that you have a disability that might require “reasonable accommodation” on the part of the instructor, please call the Director, Center of Services for Students with Disabilities, 282-3599. As a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is the responsibility of the student to disclose a disability prior to requesting reasonable accommodation. 






Course Segment

Topic and/or Skills


Monday Evening 6 – 9 pm

History of mountaineering, map symbols, contour line identification, landmark and landform identification, basic use of a compass and altimeter

Objective 1, 2 and Learning Outcomes 1a, 1b, 2e

Tuesday Evening 6 – 9 pm

Altitude illness, HAPE, HACE, AMS, basic first aid, freezing and non freezing cold injuries

Objective 1 and Learning Outcomes 1c, 1d

Wednesday Evening 6 – 9 pm

Equipment, mountain weather, objective and subjective hazards

Objective 1 and Learning Outcomes 1e, 1f

Saturday Morning 9 – Noon

Parts of an ice axe, use of an ice axe, four positions of self arrest, self belay, rope team travel

Objective 2 and Learning Outcomes 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e, 2f

Saturday Afternoon Noon -5:00 pm

Building snow anchors, bollards, pickets, deadmen, flukes and ice screws, descending by ropes and glissading techniques

Objective 2, 3 and Learning Outcomes 2f, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d




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