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Mountaineering School

Mountaineering is the combination of backpacking, camping, navigation, climbing, and surviving the elements among many other skills. The Mountaineering School runs annually from October through February and takes place in both indoor classroom and outdoor sessions.

The mission of the ECP Mountaineering School is to introduce students to the skills and knowledge necessary to safely and competently undertake a wide variety of mountaineering objectives, and promote a spirit of fellowship in the ECP mountaineering community.

Application information is made available in September.

For a taste of what the school is about check out these links and the other tabs in the sidebar:


Intro Party:  All potential new students, past students, instructors and committee members are invited.  Find out what the school is really about!  Hear about past trips and trips being planned for the future.  Come on out, even if you're not sure you will be able to take the school.  It's a great chance to ask questions and meet people involved with the school. 

Fitness & Climbing Skills Checkout:  There are minimum fitness & climbing skills requirements that must be met in order to be accepted into the school.  Prospective students will be asked to come out and demonstrate that they can meet these.  See the Requirements page for more details.

Mountain Medical - Class #1:  The school's first class!  Learn of the dangers that you'll be exposed to in the mountains and how to recognize, avoid and treat them.

Mountain Medical - Outing #1:  Run simulation first aid scenarios to practice wilderness first-aid techniques. 

Gear and Clothing - Class #2:  An overview of mountaineering gear and concepts, complete with live demonstrations and discussions about gear and clothing requirements.

Backpacking - Outing #2 (weekend-long):  An overnight outing to get some time hiking with a pack, using our gear and dialing in our systems.

Land Navigation - Class #3:  Review reading maps, planning routes and employing compass skills.

Land Navigation - Outing #3 (weekend-long):  Practice what you learned in class out in the field on an Orienteering-type challenge

Self Rescue - Class #4: Learn how to rescue yourself and your climbing partners. 

Self Rescue - Outing #4 (Single Day): Practice escaping the belay and various hauling systems.

Expedition Planning & Mountain Environment - Class #5:   Learn about the "mountain before the mountain" - how to take on the task of planning a successful expedition. Learn of the hostile mountain environment.  How to read its weather and its snowpack.

Alpine Rock Climbing - Class #6:  Learn the fundamentals of climbing rock in a harsh alpine setting, how to second a leader and react in basic rescue scenarios.

Alpine Rock Climbing & Bivouac - Outing #5 (weekend-long):  Climb and bivy atop Seneca Rocks in winter!  Can your fitness carry you from an alpine start to the full pack and boots?  Can your fingers take the cold?

Holiday Party:  A chance to get together, talk shit, and drink beer!

Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue - Class #7  Learn how to rope up and travel across a glacier, how to rescue someone who has fallen into a crevasse...and what to do when you're the one that has fallen in.

Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue - Outing #6 (Single Day):  Go out in the field and practice what you learned in class.  We may not have glaciers and crevasses in Pittsburgh, but we do a pretty good simulation.

Snow & Ice Climbing - Class #8:  Learn the basics of snow and technical ice climbing.

Avalanche Safety - Class #9:   Learn some very basic concepts about avalanches and avalanche safety

Ice Climbing in the Adirondacks - Outing #7 (extended weekend-4 days):  Conditions permitting, it's a chance to get out and swing some ice axes, set some snow & ice anchors, and practice self-arrest! 

Post-Graduation Trip!:  Winter ascents on a beginner or intermediate mountain objective. Specific details to be announced at the Intro Party!


Info Session9/13/2023, 6:30 - 7:30pmREI, 412 S 27th St, Pittsburgh
Info Session9/14/2023, 6:30 - 7:30pm
3ROC, 1130 S Braddock Ave, Pittsburgh
Intro Party9/20/2023, 6:30pmRSVP here for location & details
Application Deadline10/6/2023Apply here
Fitness & Skills Check-Out10/7/2023Cathedral of Learning &
McConnells Mills State Park
Class #1 - Mountain Medical10/10/2023Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #1 - Mountain Medical10/15/2023 CMU Campus
Fitness Hike #110/21/2023 TBD
Class #2 - Gear & Clothing10/24/2023Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #2 - Backpacking10/28/2023 - 10/29/2023Quebec Run Wild Area
Class #3 - Land Navigation11/7/2023Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #3 - Land Navigation11/10/2023 - 11/12/2023 Dolly Sods Wilderness
Class #4 - Self Rescue11/28/2023Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #4 - Self Rescue12/2/2023

Coopers Rock State Forest, WV

Fitness Hike #212/3/2023TBD
Class #5 - Expedition Planning12/5/2023Doherty Hall, CMU
Class #6 - Alpine Rock Climbing12/12/2023Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #5 - Alpine Rock Climbing12/15/2023 - 12/17/2023 Seneca Rocks, WV
Class #7 -Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue1/2/2024Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #6 - Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue1/6/2024McConnells Mills State Park
Class #8 - Snow & Ice Climbing1/9/2024 Doherty Hall, CMU 
Fitness Hike #31/13/2024TBD
Class #9 - Avalanche Safety and Post-Grad Trip Planning
1/16/2024Doherty Hall, CMU
Outing #7 - Technical Ice1/18/2024 - 1/21/2024*Adirondacks, Keene Valley, NY
Post-Graduation Trip2/15/2024-2/19/2024* (tentative)Mt. Washington, NH
 Grad PartyTBDTBD

*Does not include travel dates


The Application for the 2023 - 20234 is open NOW!


The ECP Mountaineering School will introduce participants to the basic information and skills of mountaineering and alpinism.

Mountaineering is a time-consuming, expensive, physically and mentally demanding sport.  It is the combination of backpacking, camping, navigation, climbing, and surviving the elements among many others.  The amount of gear required to be even basically comfortable is significant.  You will spend a lot of money to pursue this sport (maybe $1000, maybe $3000) in just your first year.  You will train hard, study hard, plan, travel, and spend time not only in the school, but to actually go on mountaineering trips.  Be prepared to prioritize your life (money- and time-wise) to accommodate this sport.

Think this through and be honest with yourself that you intend to truly commit to the time, hard work, and expense that successful participation in this school requires.  This is not a diet or exercise program that only lasts a little while.  Mountaineering is a Lifestyle!


You must be or become an ECP Member.  Click HERE to apply

An assessment of your climbing skills and physical fitness is required prior to being accepted as a student. You must be competent in basic rock climbing and backpacking skills (ECP Rock Climbing and Backpacking Schools or equivalent experience). You must be able to tie basic climbing knots, belay and rappel safely and know how to set an anchor for top-rope climbing. You should have done a minimum of three unsupported weekend-long backpacking trips. The fitness training and outings in the school will prepare you for the hard work of mountaineering, but you must be reasonably fit to start. If you are unsure if you are qualified, come to the introduction party and speak with a director.

Be committed!  (See Expectations)  The number of students accepted into the school will be limited for everyone’s benefit.  Students must try to get out as much as the Instructors put in!

Some Details

All students and instructors must maintain current membership in the ECP and sign a liability waiver.

The Mountaineering School Fee is $250.00 (returning students $85), to be paid using the PayPal button located below.  If you are not accepted, your money will be returned.  An additional $50.00 gear deposit is required with your application, and will be refunded upon return of your equipment in good working condition.  Note that you will also responsible for all of your transportation and lodging costs for outings, including the post-graduation trip.

Students are required to purchase two books: Mountaineering – Freedom of the Hills (8th or 9th edition) by The Mountaineers and Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take Your Higher Travel by M. Houston & K. Cosley.  There will be reading assignments and quizzes based on the reading. Students will be expected to keep up with the required reading and homework, participate in class discussions, and to perform scheduled fitness tests to minimum standards to remain in the school.

Students will only be invited to go on the post-graduation trip if sufficient progress has been demonstrated during the school, and the student is deemed capable of completing the trip safely. 

Submit the following items no later than October 6, 2023. 

  • Submittal of Online Application (you are encouraged to email a copy of your answers to yourself)

  • PayPal for $250 + $50 (Gear Deposit) + $10 (PayPal fee) for a total of $310 payable to Explorers Club of Pittsburgh.

Your application will not be complete without these items. Contact if you have additional questions.

Information Sessions

We will host 2 optional in-person information sessions about the 2023-2024 season around Pittsburgh.  Feel free to stop by to introduce yourself, ask questions, and hear a little more about the school.  See you there!

REI Pittsburgh - September 13th, 6:30 - 7:30pm (tentative date)

3ROC - September 14th, 6:30 - 7:30pm

Adopting the motto "Research, Education, and Adventure" in 1947, for three generations the ECP has provided the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new friends who share a willingness to accept the physical and mental challenges of outdoor exploration and adventure.

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Mailing Address:
5715 Beacon Street, No. 516
Pittsburgh, PA   15217

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