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Gym to High Sierra Climber: The Progression

Written by Mike Pond and Amy Olson;   High Sierra photos by Lorenzo Riano

Have you been bitten with the climbing bug? Whether you recently discovered climbing and are intrigued by the greater world where climbing can take you, or you’re an experienced climber looking to go higher, harder, and faster – we can take you there. Our knowledgeable and passionate guides can show you the ropes. After all, most of us started climbing in the gym!

We are passionate about bringing climbers out in the mountains and teaching the skills required to take your climbing to the next level, with a keen eye on safety the whole way.


Why You Should Hire a Guide

The path from the gym to alpine can take years. It takes a considerable amount of time to build the skills to climb safely and efficiently in the complexity of the alpine environment. With a guide, you can draw from their years (decades?) of hard-earned wisdom as they teach you the right way to do things – from the beginning. So many of us started climbing without enough instruction. Trial and error is not a good way to learn in the realm of climbing. Speaking from personal experience, those who had good mentors, teachers, and guides rocketed past those who did not. Our guides specialize in taking people at their starting point and leading them through the next steps in the progression.

Learning the proper systems and techniques from a guide will instill confidence that you can carry with you as you pursue future goals. Maybe they’ll also rub off some of their awesomeness on you along the way: from crag etiquette and Leave No Trace principles to a soulful and inspiring view of the mountains and the sport. And if you butter them up just right, they might let you in on a few secrets – maybe the best rock ridge you’ve never heard of, ice couloirs that come in to shape only when the conditions are just right, a favorite alpine lake camp, or refreshing post-climbing swimming hole.

When you hire an Alpenglow guide, you’re signing up for an expert to help you successfully accomplish your dreams, and meet some pretty amazing people along the way. Below is an outline of our suggested progression from gym climber to High Sierra crusher with Alpenglow Expeditions.


Donner Summit Skills Courses

Rock guide teaching rock climbing rescue techniques in Lake Tahoe, California

We offer a great variety of skills courses at Donner Summit in North Tahoe. They include:

– Intro to Outdoor Rock Climbing

– Rock Anchoring and Gear Placement

– Learn to Lead Climb (trad)

– Self Rescue for Rock climbers

– Intro to Multipitch Climbing (private)

Our Rock Anchoring & Gear Placement and Learn to Lead Climb courses are back to back every other weekend throughout the climbing season. It’s a great combo to get you comfortable with the basics of traditional rock climbing so that you have a solid foundation when you go to tackle those bigger objectives. Our guides are trained in both the technical aspects of climbing, as well as the art of teaching, and will provide a second-to-none learning experience for you.


Lover’s Leap Climbing

Lover’s Leap is one of the most highly regarded trad climbing areas in California, with 250 to 600 foot walls of beautiful granite – the perfect next step in the progression. After you’ve learned the core technical skills in the single-pitch environment, you’ll take them several hundred feet higher on multi-pitch routes.

The Leap has awesome cracks and horizontal dikes that make for unique and unforgettable climbing. With classics like Corrugation Corner, which has been referenced as “The best 5.7 in North America,” it is a wall that every climber should visit.

Dial in your multipitch transitions and get a feel for the type of boldness and stamina required to send long routes on exposed rock. Clean protection and anchors, assess hazards and route-find your way up these walls, while ascending classic climbs. The guides are locals – they know the best climbs, best time of day to climb them, and all the unobvious beta that will make for smooth sailing – knowledge hard-earned by years of experience.


High Sierra

The High Sierra is like a giant playground for climbers who have the desire to explore long alpine routes deep in the mountains. From scrambles to knife-edge ridge climbs and multi-pitch routes from a few hundred to a few thousand feet tall – the Sierra has it all, drawing the most accomplished climbers from every generation into its orbit. Some of these crushers are also our guides, many of whom spend the majority of their free time traveling down to the East Side from Tahoe to climb -and even establish- routes from Lee Vining to Lone Pine, the Sawtooths to Sequoia.

There’s an incredible variety of climbing in the High Sierra, allowing for flexibility when choosing routes that suit your goals and abilities. We can teach you the fundamentals or refine your craft, building upon the foundation you’ve learned to this point, and take it a step further.


International & Alpinism

If you have dreams of climbing high altitude peaks around the world, let us know! In a typical year, we run over 30 international expeditions, including Everest and the Seven Summits, technical ascents in the Andes, Alaska, Alps, Himalaya… Anywhere you can dream.

After climbing with us at Lover’s Leap or in the High Sierra, we will have a pretty good idea of your fitness and technical abilities, and can help you find the path to the greater ranges that makes sense for you.

And, more locally, we have courses in mountaineering, glacial travel, and crevasse rescue in the Tahoe area and have a thriving program on Mount Shasta!


Let’s Get You Out There

With robust local and international programs, we can work with you to accomplish your climbing dreams – from the gym to the crag, to the High Sierra and worldwide.  Give us a call – let’s make your dreams happen!