WAC Outings Standards

These standards apply to Washington Alpine Club sponsored trips for:

  1. Hiking or backpacking
  2. Scrambling or technical climbs
  3. Snowshoeing or Backcountry Skiing
  4. Bicycling

Hiking and Backpacking

This standard is for travel on established hiking routes longer than 2 miles round trip.


  • Easy Up to 8 miles round trip with less than 1,200 feet of elevation gain
  • Moderate Up to 12 miles round trip with 1,200-2,500 feet of elevation gain
  • Strenuous Up to 14 miles round trip with 2,500-3,500 feet of elevation gain
  • Very Strenuous Over 14 miles round trip or with over 3,500 feet of elevation gain


  • Beginners Average pace under 1 mph and no technical challenges or special skills needed
  • Easy Average pace 1-1.5 mph and no technical challenges or special skills needed
  • Moderate Average pace 1.5-2 mph OR an easy route with an overnight pack, OR some route challenges (e.g. rough trail, log crossings, steep terrain)
  • Challenging Average pace >2 mph or a moderate route with an overnight pack, or significant route challenges or skills requirements (very rugged terrain, steep scree descents, snow or ice crossings, snow camping, carrying water for a dry camp)
  • Lite/Fast Pace of 3+ mph, limited breaks, with significant overall distance and/or elevation (ex. Enchantment traverse in a day)

PARTY SIZE The minimum party size for an outing is 3 and a maximum of 12 unless other party limits apply.

Climbs: Technical or scrambling

All off trail outings that involve hiking, scrambling, or climbing should be ranked by Grade and Class as appropriate (See Appendix for definitions).

Snow Outings: Snowshoeing 

You must have already taken the Washington Alpine Club’s Basic Climbing Class or equivalent (such as the Boealps’ Basic Mountaineering Class).  New snowshoers can attend outings that meet the Easy/Beginner classification.

Snow Outings: Backcountry/Telemark

All incoming students and outings participants are required to have taken an AIARE Level 1, or formally recognized introductory avalanche course such as AST Level 1 or ISTA Level 1, within the last 5 years. The WAC backcountry class will reinforce and build on this foundation, giving students an opportunity to apply their avalanche knowledge when planning a tour and while in the backcountry.


  • Bicycles trips will be of less than 50 miles distance per day.  
  • Helmets are required by all riders.
  • Leaders and participants should be familiar with Cascade Bicycle Club’s Tips for riding at https://cascade.org/tips-biking  


Leaders must be WAC members, approved to lead outings, be at least 18 years old, and be entered on the Activity Committee’s leader list [this is undefined regarding how we gate keep].   Each prospective leader shall provide evidence to the Activity Committee that they meet the following key elements.

  1. Group Leadership – examples of expected competencies
    1. Planning & organization.
    2. Screening of participants (as appropriate).
    3. Clear and effective communication.
    4. Respect, caring, considerate.
    5. Sound judgment and decision-making skills.
    6. Establishes trust.
    7. Focuses on group safety, well-being, and success.
    8. Adapts as required to provide situational leadership.
    9. Engages in continuing leadership education (e-learning, lectures, active leadership roles).
    10. History/track record of leadership activities.
  1. Technical & Mountain Safety Skill– examples of expected competencies
    1. Has experience and physical abilities required for the trip being led.
    2. Practices Minimum Impact/Leave No Trace Principles.
    3. Knowledge or 10 essentials and other required technical techniques/equipment.
    4. Show good understanding of major summer and winter backcountry hazards and how to assess the level of risk.
    5. Understand methods to prevent, mitigate or manage major risk factors.
  1. Navigation– examples of expected competencies
    1. Effectively navigates on trail or off trail as required with map and compass and any other appropriate tools (altimeter, watch, GPS).
  1. First Aid and Emergency Preparedness – examples of expected competencies.
    1. Have a First Aid certification (Red Cross, WFA, or higher)
    2. Able to handle common first aid situations likely to be experienced on an outing.
    3. Carry a FA kit.
    4. Know the “7 steps of Emergency Response as described in Freedom of the Hills.
    5. Exhibit a good understanding of how to handle emergency situations such as late return/after dark/lost/equipment failure.
    6. Demonstrate problem solving and leadership skills relating to medical emergencies or unexpected weather and terrain conditions.
    7. Knows how to communicate or summon help.
  1. Knowledge of Standards and Policies
    1. Be familiar with difficulty and pace ratings.
    2. Knowledge of WAC liability waiver and incident reporting.
    3. Familiar with maximum group size, permitting, camping, food storage and other applicable land management agency regulations.

APPENDIX – Grade and Class Definitions

Grade Description

I Just an hour or two of technical effort. These are the easiest routes, a step or two above hiking

II A half day of technical terrain, requiring real climbing, but for a limited number of pitches. Examples: Ruth Mountain, Ruth Glacier; Liberty Bell, Becky Route

III Most of a day on technical ground. Although a rock grade might be easy, issues such as length, route finding, or complexity will keep the challenge up. Example: Mount Triumph, NE ridge

IV A full day of technical climbing. Teams that are not “dialed in” should expect an unplanned bivouac. Examples: Mount Stuart, North Ridge; Dragontail Peak, Serpentine Arete

V Typically requires a bivouac on the route. Expect rock climbing of at least 5.8, or serious aid or ice climbing.

VI Two or more days of hard climbing, whether aid, free or ice. The realm of big walls of all types.

Class Description

1 Walking with a low chance of injury

2 Simple scrambling, with the possibility of occasional use of the hands. 

3 Scrambling with increased exposure. Handholds are necessary. A rope should be available for learning climbers, or if you just choose to use one that day but is usually not required. Falls could easily be fatal.

4 Simple climbing, with exposure. A rope is often used. Natural protection can be easily found. Falls may well be fatal.

5 Class 5 has a range of sub-classes, ranging from 5.0 to 5.15d to define progressively more difficult free moves.