Intermediate Climbing School (ICS) is an intensive, challenging, fun, and rewarding experience. At no other point in your climbing career are you likely to see your climbing skills advance more dramatically within a single, relatively short span of time.
ICS builds on your beginning climbing experience. ICS teaches the skills necessary to organize private climbs and be a competent assistant or participant on advanced climbs. For those who choose, ICS is a path into Mazama Climb Leader Development.
The course takes place over two intensive sessions of 9-11 weeks—one in the fall and one in the winter—and includes lectures, field sessions, and social activities. Commitment to these sessions is crucial for success in the class.
ICS accepts approximately 40–45 students per year. The class operates as one group throughout the majority of the course. Lectures take place in a large group format, and during field sessions students break out into smaller groups.
In addition to the skills taught during ICS, one of the main goals is to introduce you to a large group of people—your fellow students, instructors, and climb leaders—from whom you can learn and who will hopefully become your climbing partners.
|Basic Skills||Rock Skills||Snow Skills|
|Knots||Rock Anchors||Snow Anchors|
|Accident Prevention & Management||Belay & Rappel Techniques||Belay & Rappel Techniques|
|Map & Compass Navigation||5th Class Rock Climbing||Crevasse Rescue|
|Snow Camping||Leading 4th Class Alpine Rock||Glacier Travel|
|Trip Planning||Multi-pitch Climbing||Avalanche Hazard Management & Rescue|
|High Angle Snow Techniques|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
During the selection process, preference is given to applicants who meet the minimum rock and snow requirements. However, other factors are also considered, such as your history of volunteering, performance on the skills test, and your reasons for applying. You have nothing to lose by applying, and may find yourself in the class.
No. The lectures have both presentations and skills practice in preparation for the weekend field session.
No. The volunteer instructors bring their personal gear for the sessions.
ICS will provide an introduction to leading and protecting moderate alpine routes using fixed protection, natural protection, and traditional gear.
Three qualifying climbs must be within the last three years.
Your qualifying rock climb can be met through an alpine rock climb or a 5th class multi-pitch climb. An alpine rock climb involves a lengthy approach and at least one pitch (rope length) of rock protected with rope. Examples of alpine rock include Unicorn Peak, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack. A qualifying short approach or crag climb must involve multiple pitches of protected 5th class rock. Examples of crag multi-pitch climbs are First Kiss and Round River at Smith Rock and Acker Rock and Santiam Pinnacle.
There are no plans to offer ICS in a modular structure at this time. The rock and snow sessions are a continuum of curriculum. Rock and snow are different mediums, but the curriculum runs between both.
- ICS begins in August 2023 and finishes March 2024
- The application period runs from Mid July through Early August
- Admission tests are planned for Early August after the application period has ended
- Students will be notified of their acceptance status by Mid August
- Test prep sessions occur in July before the admission tests
- More information is available in the ICS application and on the calendar
Moderate–ICS requires an intense time commitment over an 11 week period in the fall, followed by a break, then an intense 8-9 week period in the winter. Assisting with a Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) class is highly encouraged in the Spring.
Long–ICS takes place over a period of 6 months and consists of many required activities.
ICS teaches intermediate level climbing skills, including knots, belay and rappel techniques, crevasse rescue, glacier travel, snow and rock anchors, map & compass navigation, avalanche hazard management and rescue, accident management, snow camping, high angle snow climbing, leading 4th class alpine rock, following 5th class rock and multi-pitch climbing.
Ability and desire to commit to the entire course schedule.
Three successful climbs in the past three years.
- One climb with significant snow and/or glacier travel, one rock climb, and one additional alpine climb on either snow or rock
- The qualifying rock climb can be met through an alpine rock climb or a 5th class multi-pitch climb. An alpine rock climb would involve a lengthy approach and at least one pitch of rock protected with rope. Examples of alpine rock climbs include Unicorn Peak, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack. A qualifying short approach or crag climb must involve multiple pitches of protected 5th class rock. Examples of crag multi-pitch climbs are First Kiss and Round River at Smith Rock and Rooster Rock and Santiam Pinnacle.
- Only one of your three qualifying climbs can be a crag climb
Mazama membership is not required. ICS is made possible by the volunteerism of its leadership, instructors, and assistants. ICS places a high value on volunteer service within the Mazama community and/or the local community. Volunteer service will weigh favorably on the applicant.
Please provide a short statement on your past experience within the mountains, what you hope to get out of this class, and what you believe you will do with these new skills once the class is completed.
Factors that may help your admission:
Complete submission of the required application materials
Meet the minimum requirement of rock and snow climbs.
Ability to commit to ALL class sessions.
A strong statement of past experience and future use of skills.
Record of volunteer service with Mazamas and/or other local organizations.
The class will be filled to get a diverse group of students. The class will strive to balance gender as well as provide for a variety of ages and experience. Once applicants have been determined to meet the minimum standards, selection will be based on those factors listed above.
ICS is a demanding commitment in terms of time and gear, so apply only if you can make the necessary commitment.
Participation at all lectures and field sessions is required. Barring unforeseen major life events (death or illness), sessions cannot be made up. If a student misses sessions due to an unforeseen major life event that cannot be made up during the course of the class, they may not be able to continue with the course and may have the option to return the following year to complete the course. Field sessions and material build upon themselves throughout the course.
Check the calendar carefully to assure you can commit to all of both the fall and winter sessions. There are no refunds once the class has started.
The ICS Admission Test will require that you perform the following skills correctly the first time:
Belay — Setting up and executing a top-rope belay, with optional ground anchor, proper use of commands, safety checks.
Rappel — Set up and properly execute a rappel using a tubular belay device (ATC, ATC Guide, Reverso, etc.) and autoblock back-up
Knots — Tie the following on the first demonstration: Overhand, Water Knot, Figure 8 on a Bite, Rewoven Figure 8/Tie-in Knot, Alpine Butterfly, Double Fisherman, Prusik Hitch, Clove Hitch, Girth Hitch, Munter
To complete ICS and receive a graduation certificate, ICS students must:
Attend and fully participate in each of the lectures and field sessions.
Complete the Mazama Wilderness First Aid (WFA) class. Current WFR or MFA certifications will count towards the WFA requirement. People interested in going into Mazama Leadership are encouraged to take MFA instead, as that is required for Leadership.
Pass the rock and snow assessments. Note: all lectures and field sessions must be completed prior to taking the final assessments.
We are offering a limited number of scholarships to allow students to participate who will not be able to do so without financial assistance and by whose participation can help expand the Mazamas membership base beyond current cultural, economic, and ethnic demographics.
A scholarship is for course tuition ONLY. Mazamas may cover the cost of your course up to 90 percent of the course tuition. Other costs associated with the course may apply. You must have access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet, as well as meet all minimum course requirements, pass the ICS entrance exam, and be approved by the ICS committee to be accepted into the class. Receipt of any scholarship does not guarantee acceptance into ICS.
Applications for scholarships will be part of of the class application. The Mazamas will contact you with details of the status of your scholarship application before the acceptance date so you can make an informed financial decision about your ability to participate.
$1275 for members
$1425 for nonmembers