THE Beginner Mountaineering Course

An Intro to Mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies

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This 6 Day Course is the Premiere Introduction to Mountaineering Course in Canada. With the curriculum constantly refined, this foundational skills course will provide you with an incredible week, capturing the skills you need to begin to safely explore Glaciated and Snow & Ice environments, and opening the door to challenging Alpine Rock Climbing ascents. As we cater to current trends in mountain travel this course is purpose built to cater to those with hiking, scrambling, trekking and indoor and crag based rock climbing experience providing you with a complete base of skills to open up the high alpine climbing world.


















 What sets us apart? C9G IS Canada's Premiere Intro to Mountaineering Course.

There is no shortage of course options available out there. Get the straight goods on what sets this C9 Flagship Course apart from the others. It's all about getting a fun and authentic experience, that fits your needs like a glove.


Meet Your Guides: The c9 Collective

Phil Widmer - ACMG Guide - Core Guide - Cloud Nine Guides
Carla Demyen - ACMG Guide - Core Guide - Cloud Nine Guides
Todd Guyn - IFMGA Mountain Guide - Senior / Core Guide - Cloud Nine Guides
Kevin Rohn - IFMGA Mountain Guide - Core Guide - Cloud Nine Guides
Simon Meis - IFMGA Mountain Guide - Senior / Core Guide - Cloud Nine Guides


2021 Summer Season Courses:

The following information provides the most likely itinerary for our Beginner Mountaineering Courses. Please note however that changes to the following logistics may be possible for reasons which include but are not limited to: higher risk mountain weather or climbing conditions, unexpectedly high volumes of visitor traffic in the National Parks, or in relation to COVID-19 and/or current Public Health Orders issues by Government.

Please contact our Program Managers for updated information on potential impacts to any of our programs.


Day 1 – Snow & Ice • Snow Travel Foundation

  • 0900hrs - Course Open. Columbia Icefields Campground, HWY 93N.
    • Student Welcome & Introductions
    • Review of Course Agenda & Logistics
    • Technical Gear Sign Out
    • Update on Expected Conditions
    • Student Risk Profile Discussion
    • Review of Emergency Response Methods & Resources if Required on Course
    • Waiver Presentation
    • Campsite setup
  • 0945hrs - Depart for Snow School - Field Day Venue (Parkers Ridge).
  • 1000 to 1530hrs - During the Field Day we will cover the following:
    • Safe Movement, Tracksetting, Footwork and Ice Axe Techniques for Moderate Angle Snow Travel
      • Carrying the Ice Ax
      • Self Belaying
      • The Rest Step & Step Kicking
      • Descending Moderate Angle Snow
    • Self Arrest - With and without Ice Axe
      • Multi Position Self Arrest
      • Limitations of Self Arrest
    • Snow Anchors including:
      • T Slots
      • Snow Picket Placements - Top Clip & Mid Clip
      • Snow Bollards
    • Pitched Climbing on Steep Snow
    • Introduction to Belay Station Management
  • 1600hrs - Return to Icefields Campground
    • Group Camp Set Up
  • 1700-1830hrs - Dinner Meal Program
    • + Lunch Packouts for Day 2
  • 1845-1930hrs - Evening Session
    • Group Equipment Packout for Day 2
    • Review of Pre Course Route Planning 


Day 2 – Snow & Ice • Glacier Travel & Ice Skills Foundation

  • 0715hrs - Coffee & Tea Served
  • 0730hrs - Breakfast
  • 0800hrs - Group Departure for Athabasca Glacier and Field Day
  • 0900 - 1600hrs - Approach Field Day Site on Athabasca Glacier. Skills delivered will include the following: 
    • Glacier Morphology
      • Learn how and where crevasses form
      • Learn the basics of how Glaciers flow, and the effects of terrain on Crevasse formation
      • Learn to plan routes in Glaciated Terrain to minimize the likelihood of unexpected crevasse falls
    • Crampon Use and Footwork including:
      • French Technique (flat footing)
      • German Technique (front pointing)
      • Vertical Ice Climbing Techniques
    • Ice Axe Techniques - General & Technical Ice Tools
    • Roping Up for Glacier Travel (Glacier Travel Mode)
      • When to Apply the Rope?
      • How to Divide the Rope for the Climbing Team
      • Tying & Clipping In - Attaching Climbers to the Rope Team
      • When and How to Apply Prussiks to the Rope Team
      • Identifying Hidden Crevasses & Snow Plugs during travel
    • Technical Ice Climbing Skills
      • Learn the basics of climbing vertical ice inside the crevasses of the Athabasca Glacier
    • Crevasse Rescue Systems
      • Drop Loop 2:1 System Introduced for all Students
      • Learn to add mechanical advantage increasing to 6:1


Day 3 – Snow & Ice • TECHNICAL ASCENT

This Technical Ascent will take place on one of the high alpine Snow & Ice Capped peaks in the Columbia Icefields area. The focus of this day is to bring context and an understanding of how to apply learned skills on Day 1 and Day 2 while using your new skills in context during a full day summit attempt.

Peaks ascended on course can include Mount Athabasca, Mount Andromeda as primary objectives, or A2 and Boundary Peak as secondary objectives should conditions or the group require it.

The Itinerary as follows is susceptible to change pending current conditions at the time of your course, or as the group requires to provide the best chances of success while on ascent.

0315hrs - Coffee and Tea Served

0330hrs - Light Breakfast Served

0345hrs - Review of essential equipment, our intended routes, and plan for the day.

0400hrs - Arrival at Trailhead and team departure for the Technical Ascent.

Mid Afternoon Return Times - See below for average ascent times. An early to mid afternoon return time is generally the norm on our ascent day.

Ascent times will vary on the selected route chosen by Students and our Guides in collaboration. In excellent conditions, with exceptionally fit students ascent times can be expected to be between 6-8 hours return. On average, ascent times between 9-11 hours should be considered the norm. During periods of exceptionally challenging or physically intensive conditions on the mountain, or for teams requiring additional time, ascent times can extend upwards of 14hrs. This should however be considered to be a rare exception for most students.

The end of our Snow & Ice Technical Ascent Day officially wraps up the Snow & Ice Components of the program, with a switch to Alpine Rock Skill Sets for Day 4. 


Day 4 – Alpine Rock • Traditional Climbing Systems

Our day will begin by departing the Icefields Campground at approximately 0630hrs for travel to the Back of the Lake Crag in the Lake Louise area.

The Traditional Climbing Systems component of the course will provide the skills required to place and assess your own removable (non-bolted) protection, essential for protecting rope teams in technical rock terrain. An essential skill for travelling in technical rock terrain in the high alpine.

We cover the following: 

0630 - 0800hrs - Drive from Columbia Icefields Campground to Lake Louise Townsite

0800 - 0845hrs - Approach the Back of the Lake Rock Climbing Crags

0845 - 1200hrs - Our first session will cover and provide you with the following:

  • Gear and Equipment Introduction
  • Discuss essential equipment for Traditional Climbing, including camming devices, nuts, and pitons.
  • Learn to to assess the strengths and limitations of each piece of gear presented in a variety of circumstances.
  • Introduction to Placing Traditional Gear & Assessment Processes
    • Is the size of piece correct?
    • Have you assessed the likely direction of pull?
    • Learn to assess rock quality supporting your placements
    • Can you ID any potential for multiplied forces within you protection systems?
    • Learn to grade each placement systematically.
    • Learn to build and assess Traditional Anchors (anchors you build yourself with removable protection)
  • Learn to create equalized or "IDEAL" anchors using a variety of materials and formats
  • Learn a variety of belay methods for use in technical climbing, and understand how and when to apply them;
    • Direct Anchor Belay (multipitch)
    • Redirected Belay (multipitch)
    • Fixed Point Belay (multipitch)
    • Standard Leader Belay (singlepitch and multipitch)
  • Learn to construct and rig your own rappell systems for use as an individual or teams while descending either single or multipitch technical terrain

1200 - 1245 - Lunch

1245 - 1530hrs - Introduction to Leading Traditionally Protected Rock Climbs

  • Introduction to Traditional Protection Strategies for pitched climbing
  • Follow a process from our Guides which will take you from your first steps on Traditional routes, through a tactic we call "mock-leading" allowing you to practice on both lead and top rope at the same time, and progressing toward your very first live Traditional Lead.
    *** Lead Climbing traditional routes presents a substantial increase in risk, over and above leading on bolted protection. Students who demonstrate requisite levels of competence will be given the opportunity to lead a pitch live during this session, however this will be at your Guides discretion. If the option is not presented during this session, our Guides will work to provide clear direction for you on areas to focus which will facilitate progression towards this goal, and work to provide you the option to do so before course close. 
    Again - please note: any leading taking place on course will be at the sole discretion of the lead guide in the field.

1530 - 1630hrs - Return to Lake Louise Alpine Center

1745 - 1845hrs - Dinner at Bill Peyto's Cafe in the Lake Louise Alpine Center (meals, excluding beverages included in your course fee)


Day 5 – Alpine Rock • Short Roping & 4th Class Protection techniques

The goal of Day 5 will be to introduce the principles of peer team shortroping. While more commonly viewed as a Guiding Technique in North America, short roping provides a reliable system for teams to protect themselves while moving through 4th class and easy 5th class terrain. These techniques focus on protection strategies that will help students to understand how rope and climber positioning in the terrain can take advantage of the friction available in the system to protect the team commonly without the need to place removable (traditional) protection for anchors or running protection. Venue TBD on course, but will be central to the Lake Louise region. Commonly we will use areas in the Castle Mountain region, or above Moraine Lake for this module.

0615hrs - Coffee and Tea served

0630hrs - Breakfast

0700hrs - Depart for Venue

0730 - 0900hrs - Approach from Parking / Trailhead to Venue

0900 - 1500hrs - Shortroping and 4th Class Protection Techniques Clinic. Learned skills to include:

  • Picking up (body) coils for travel Shortroping.
  • Essential commands / communications for team travel
  • Body Belay's - Strengths and Limitations
    • Hip Belay
    • Standing Hip Belay
    • Hand Belay (incorporating terrain friction)
    • Building Traditional Anchors & Shortroping
  • Short Pitching
  • Anticipating Transitions (short roping to short pitching to pitching)
  • Limitations of Shortroping Systems

Day 6 – Alpine Rock • Technical ASCEnt

This Technical Ascent will take place most commonly on the upper reaches of Castle Mountain. Routes include: The Eisenhower Tower, Brewers Buttress or Bass Buttress. The focus of this day is to bring context and an understanding of how to apply your newly learned Traditional Climbing Skills and Shortroping Protection strategies on a full day Alpine Rock Ascent.

The Itinerary as follows is susceptible to change pending current conditions at the time of your course, or as the group requires to provide the best chances of success while on ascent.

The itinerary provided below outlines our ascent of Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain. The most common objective completed on the Alpine Rock Technical Ascent Day.


0300hrs - Coffee and Light Breakfast served in Lake Louise

0330hrs - Depart Lake Louise Alpine Center for Rockbound Lake (Castle Mountain) Trailhead.

0400hrs - Depart Rockbound Lake Trailhead for Eisenhower Tower

0530hrs - Base of Climbing Reached - Shortroping & Shortpitching work begin through lower tier of Castle Mountain

0645hrs - Goat Plateau reached. The halfway point between the lower and upper tiers of Castle Mountain

0700 - 1100hrs - Ascent of Eisenhower Tower via the Dragons Back (5.3)

1130 - 1600hrs - Reverse Route from Summit and Descend back to Trailhead via Rockbound Lake Trail.

1630 - 1700hrs - Course Close & Week Debrief


Pre-Course Logistics

  • Cloud Nine Guides and the majority of our Guiding Team are based in the mountain town of Canmore, Alberta. A short 15 minute drive from the East Gates of Banff National Park.
     The course will be based primarily from the Columbia Icefields and the Lake Louise regions, within the boundaries of Banff National Park
  • For those arriving Internationally or from locations outside of Alberta or British Columbia, arriving at Calgary International Airport (YYC) will provide the most direct access to our course locations.
  • Transportation is not included in your Course Fee. Students are expected to arrive with their own, or pre-arranged group transportation. Short commutes will be required nearly every day of the course, and it is important to come prepared. 
    Students wishing to carpool with others should prepare for this well in advance, and have a plan for shared transportation prior to course start.
  • A personal vehicle or rental car is our suggested transportation mode.
  • Cloud Nine Program Managers are happy to provide you with options for Rental Cars, or Group Transfers from Calgary to Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise in advance of the course. Please contact us for details.
  • Commonly, our Students arrive a day or two in advance of the course to get settled and prepare for the program. Generally, we would suggest basing yourself in the Canmore or Banff area prior to the program. These two towns are where you will find the broadest accommodation options, and amenities to aid you in preparing for the course. We would suggest the following accommodation options pre-course:


  • A complete meal program is provided for you on course. Meal costs included in your course fee. The meal program will begin on Day 1 at Dinner, and include all meals up to and including lunch on Day 6. 
  • Students are responsible for obtaining a National Park entry pass for the duration of the course
  • For those looking to purchase gear and equipment prior to your course, we would suggest the following local Bow Valley retailers:


    • Vertical Addiction
      • Located in Canmore, Vertical Addiction offers a complete selection of technical climbing, mountaineering and ski equipment along with a broad selection of technical clothing. 
    • Monods Sports
      • Located in Banff, Monods is one of the longest operating outdoor equipment and clothing retailers in the Bow Valley. Monods have a large selection of technical clothing offerings
    • Black Diamond Equipment
      • Our Affiliate Partners at Black Diamond Equipment are our first choice for technical clothing and equipment. Check out their broad range of technical clothing and equipment and find a local retailer via their website.


On Course Logistics


The Beginner Mountaineering Course is a 6 Day Program, offered between June 1st and October 1st each summer season. 

The Course is divided into 2 main modules, each providing 3 days of focused training. During each three day module, the course provides two training and skills work days followed by a technical alpine ascent for a total of 4 days or dedicated skills training and 2 full day alpine summit attempts during the program.

  • Module 1 - 3 Days / Snow & Ice Foundation + Technical Alpine Ascent
  • Module 2 - 3 Days / Alpine Rock Foundation + Technical Alpine Ascent

Front Country Camping Fees, and all other Accommodation Costs are included in your Course Fee, the accommodation options are limited to the program provided below. Upgraded options available - contact our Program Mangers for more details.

  • DAY 1 - Icefields Tent Campground
  • DAY 2 - Icefields Tent Campground
  • DAY 3 - Icefields Tent Campground
  • DAY 4 - Lake Louise Alpine Center
  • DAY 5 - Lake Louise Alpine Center or High Alpine Bivouac
  • DAY 6 - n/a

The Icefields Campground: 

You can find this campground location HERE on for reference. This campground is limited to tents only (no RV's), and typically in the past has been considered to be the "climbers campground". There are outhouses, cooking shelters with wood burning stoves, bear proof food storage lockers, and a water source that is treated and available for camper use. This campground makes for an excellent base for the Snow & Ice Modules of the course, as it is only a short 5min drive from our trailheads, its location allowing us to be on the glacier ice in under 40min from departure.

The Lake Louise Alpine Center:

This accommodation option serves us well during the Alpine Rock Modules of the course. Returning to indoor accommodation mid-week allows for restful evenings, showers and ample space to pack and prep for your next course day. It should be noted that accommodation will be shared with other course participants during our time here. Private room options exist, and you can upgrade your stay by contacting our Program Managers for pricing and availability. 


A complete meal program is provided during the course and included in your course fee. Your meal program will begin with Dinner on Day 1 and end with Lunch on Day 6. Our meal programs are designed specifically to provide complete caloric requirements for a week in the high alpine. 

For those with dietary requirements, or food related allergies, we offer a broad selection of meal plans which cater can cater to you. From Gluten and Lactose free, to Paleo diets, or specific allergies or diagnosed dietary conditions. We've got you covered. Contact our Program Managers for more details or to book an alternate meal plan.

A team dinner will be provided at the Bill Peyto Cafe at the Lake Louise Alpine Center on the evening of Day 4. Meal costs are included in your course fee, beverage costs excluded.



The following is and Gear, Clothing and Equipment list. You will be required to arrive with these items on course.

  • Gaiters (optional)
  • Trekking Pole
  • Water Bottle or Collapsible Water Bladder (1L)
  • Topographic Maps (optional)
  • Compass (optional) 
  • Smartphone GPS App (Gaia & Fatmap)
    • We suggest a subscription to both products for better functionality in the field.
  • Mountaineering Boots (Contact our Program Managers for suggestions)
  • Light Mountaineering Boot (optional - for Alpine Rock Ascents)
  • Rock Shoes
  • Sunglasses + Spares (CAT3-4 Protection Suggested)
  • Personal Blister Kit
  • Personal First Aid Kit
  • Sunscreen (min. SPF 50+)
  • Camera, batteries, memory cards & accessories
  • Daypack (at minimum, 1 x 35-40L backpack. In addition a 30L option may be appropriate for some days)
  • Camp Footwear (flip-flops or similar)
  • Laptop & Charger with Google Earth Downloaded to hard drive
  • Merino Wool Blend Socks (no cotton please)
  • Base Layer
  • Mid Layer
  • Long Underwear (bottoms)
  • Softshell Pants
  • Softshell Jacket
  • Gore-Tex Jacket
  • Gore-Tex Pant
  • Warm Hat
  • 2 X Buff Style Neck Tube / Headband
  • Sunhat (ballcap or full brim bucket style)
  • Large Gloves (ski glove or similar)
  • Thin Insulated Gloves (multiple pairs [3 min] for rope work)
  • Personal Tent (Tents will not be provided this season on course by Cloud Nine due to COVID-19)
  • 3 Season Rated Sleeping Bag (rated to -7˚C / -9˚C)
  • Alarm Clock (or Smartphone)
  • Lighter / Matches (optional)
  • Toiletries + Personal Hand Sanitizer Supply
  • Mask (N95 or similar. Neck Tubes folded to create 2 material layers are acceptible)
  • Headlamp with 3 spare sets of fresh batteries
  • iPod, Book or other Personal Entertainment for Camp (optional)
  • Earplugs (optional)


Provided by Cloud Nine:

The following gear and equipment is generally provided by us, and included in your course fee. However if you have the following items, please feel free to bring them with you on course:

  • Helmet 
  • Rock Harness
  • Lightweight Mountaineering Harness
  • Quickdraws
  • 120cm Sewn Slings
  • 3 Locking Carabiners
  • 3 Non-Locking Carabiners
  • Belay Device (We suggest the ATC Guide or similar)
  • Climbing Rope (selection of lengths and diameters)
  • 2 X 5m Prussiks @ 6mm
  • 1 Hollow Block or 1 X 1m Prussik @ 6mm
  • 1 Mechanical Ascender (Petzl Micro Traction Suggested)
  • Traditional Climbing Protection (cams, nuts, pitons, hammer etc)
  • Nut Tool
  • Chalk Bag
  • Mountaineering Axe
  • Technical Ice Tools
  • Avalanche Tranciever, Probe and Shovel if required
  • Crampons
  • Ice Screws
  • V-Thread Hooker
  • All cooking equipment, including stoves, will be provided. There is no need to bring your own. 
  • Some students like to have small, personal canister stoves along with them for the week. Models we like are the MSR Reactor, or Jetboil Products. Choosing a "winter mix" fuel will often give better performance at higher elevations where temperatures are colder.



Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance

Portions or the balance of your Beginner Mountaineering Course may be non-refundable. The best method to protect your investment with us should unforeseen is to purchase a Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance Policy. We strongly recommend purchasing coverage.

Lifestyle Insurance has covered many of Cloud Nine Guests on trips all over the world, and we have first hand experience seeing these policies activated by our Guests. 

Safeguard your trip costs and investment with us. Request a Quote from Lifestyle Financial.

Is this coverage required?

  • For Canadian Residents, coverage is suggested by not required to register.
  • For Non-Canadian Citizens, coverage is suggested but not required. It is strongly suggested that your policy includes Emergency Medical Coverage, unless you carry alternative policy which will respond in the event of medical emergency.


WAIVER - Release of Liability & Indemnity Agreement

Prior to booking you will be required to acknowledge that you have been provided a copy of our Waiver of Liability Agreement for your review. All participants, or their legal guardians wishing to participate on any Cloud Nine Programs, must acknowledge that they have been presented this document in advance of booking, have read it in its entirety, and understand the agreement being entered into by signing. While there is no obligation to enter into this agreement with us, it is a condition of our service provision. 



Book A PRIVATE GROUP Beginner Mountaineering Course.

For those who prefer our smallest and most focused learning environments. Groups of 4+ can book a Private Group Beginner Mountaineering Course on course dates that suit you and your crew best, and one of our ACMG / IFMGA Mountain Guides will join you on your terms. You pick the Group Size, and have the option of alternative venues and dates outside those available on our Public Courses. 

Group Booking Discounts of between 5-15% are available depending on total participants.

How Do We Book It?

Contact our office to confirm availability for your preferred dates. We'll provide you with a private booking link for you and your group, and register either together or individually.


Booking TErms & Conditions

Before you book your course, please review our Booking Terms & Conditions. We do not accept bookings without your voluntary acceptance of these terms. Please read carefully as these terms outline specific policies and guidance for both our staff and clients with respect to refunds, cancellations, rescheduling etc.




What's Included?

Included in your Beginner Mountaineering Course:

  • Guiding & Instructional Services for the duration of the Course
  • Meals from Dinner on Day 1 to Lunch on Day 6
  • All Technical Equipment
  • Accommodation Costs at the Icefields Campground
  • Accommodation Costs at the Lake Louise Alpine Center

What's Not Included?

Not Included in your Beginner Mountaineering Course:

  • Personal Transportation
  • National Park Entry Passes for the duration of the course
  • Personal Clothing & Required Equipment Items listed above in "required equipment"
  • Mountaineering Boots
  • Rock Shoes

Do I Need Any Experience to Book This Course?

No. No previous experience is required.

This is a foundational level skills course, and while there will be benefit for both entry level and intermediate level students, the course has been designed to build skill sets from the ground up.

The curriculum has been built primarily to cater to those with day hiking, backpacking, scrambling, and single pitch rock climbing experience (even if limited) as we've aimed to provide a logical seguay from these other gateway mountain pursuits into mountaineering and alpinism.

Ultimately, the 2 most important things to bring with you are a level of fitness that allows you to be outdoors and on the move for 7-10 hours consistently throughout the day, and most importantly and openness to a week chock full of adventure!

What kind of fitness level do I need to participate?

The most important asset you can bring on course is a sound level of cardio vascular fitness. This will mean different things to different individuals, but if you're accustom to being in the mountains, carrying a pack and moving for full days at a time, you'll be ready physically to participate.

The course is structured so that our biggest days are followed by physically lighter duty days to follow.

I've never been Mountaineering Before, is this course for me?

Most people new to the sport will have different ideas about what mountaineering or technical alpinism entails prior to taking a course like this. In part an Intro to Mountaineering style course will help you calibrate and provide good direction for your future plans and adventures, and give you the skills to engage in the activity at a level of risk your comfortable with.

Again, keep in mind this is a foundational level skills course. The idea is to provide you with a broad tool (skill) set, an ability to identify alpine hazards and associated risk, and to acquire a more systematic framework for traveling, climbing, making decisions and planning your trips in a technical alpine environment. 

Never been Mountaineering before? No problem. An appetite for adventure and good all day travel fitness will be your best assets.


What are the Guide to Student Ratios on course?

Skills & Instructional Days: Guide to Student Ratios are 1:6

On Technical Ascent Days: Guide to Student Ratios can be as low as 1:2 if required to allow for more technical routes to be ascended on the peak selected.



What if I have to cancel?

Please read our Booking Terms and Conditions carefully as outlined above. These outline all terms for cancellation, and governs the provision of credits or refund. We'd encourage you to get in touch with our Program Managers to clarify prior to booking.

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