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Guidelines for Trip Leaders


PCS leadership status is granted on the basis of the general class of a climb.  A leader may lead any trip at or below his or her class rating.  There is a seperate category for winter trip leaders.

The guidelines listed here are generally followed, but the PCS Mountaineering Committee has the authority to grant or deny leadership at a given class regardless of the guidelines. 


Class 1: Walking on a trail or easy cross-country

  • Must meet all basic leader requirements,
  • Demonstrated sound judgment and leadership ability on two Class 1 outings as co-leader, or equivalent.

Class 2: Scrambling; the hands are used for balance

  • Must meet all requirements for Class 1 leadership,
  • Minimum two years mountain experience
  • Demonstrated navigational ability
  • Experience traveling on moderately angled snow, and the sound judgement to know when it is not safe to proceed without mountaineering equipment*
  • Demonstrated sound judgment, mountaineering competence, and leadership ability on two Class 2 or harder PCS trips as co-leader, or equivalent

Class 3: Climbing; the hands are needed for holding on

  • Must meet all requirements for Class 2 leadership,
  • Significant experience with Class 3 climbing, including route finding,
  • Recent experience with roped climbing, including belaying, rappelling, knot tying, and/or anchor setting
  • Demonstrated sound judgment, mountaineering competence, and leadership ability on two Class 3 or harder PCS trips as co-leader, or equivalent

Class 4: Steeper climbing; a rope is usually needed

  • Must meet all requirements for Class 3 leadership,
  • Must meet all requirements for leading a Restricted Mountaineering Outing,
  • Significant experience with Class 4 climbing, including route finding,
  • Knowledgeable and experienced in roped climbing at the low 5th Class level, which includes belaying, rappelling, knot tying, and anchor setting;
  • Demonstrated sound judgment, mountaineering competence, and leadership ability on two Class 4 or harder PCS trips as co-leader, or equivalent

Class 5: Technical climbing

  • Must meet all requirements for Class 4 leadership,
  • Knowledgeable, and has demonstrated experience in all aspects of rope management and handling. Proficient with anchor setting, placing of protection for safety, belaying, and rappelling,
  • Has to have lead at least two alpine routes which are two grades higher than the class of climb to be lead,
  • Demonstrated sound judgment, mountaineering competence, and leadership ability on two Class 5 PCS trips as co-leader, or equivalent.

* If ice axe/crampons are required, or if the climb is in a winter environment, then the leader must satisfy the appropriate Snow/Winter Trip Leader guideline as well as the guideline for the appropriate class of climb.

Winter Travel: Non-Technical Snow Climbing:

  • Must meet all requirements for the Class of climb to be led,
  • Should have two seasons of winter mountaineering experience, including extensive snow camping,
  • Proficiency with skis or snowshoes; and experience with ice axe, crampons, and ice axe belays,
  • Substantial navigational experience, including during white-out and storm conditions,
  • Advanced first aid preferred, with an understanding of hypothermia and frost bite,
  • Must have taken an accredited Avalanche course,
  • Demonstrated sound judgment, mountaineering competence, and leadership ability on two PCS winter trips as co-leader, or equivalent.

Technical Snow Climbing:

  • Must meet all requirements for the Class of climb to be led,
  • Must meet all requirements for leading a Restricted Mountaineering Outing,
  • Proficiency with ice axe, crampons, self-arrest, and ice axe belays,
  • For climbs that require glacier travel, must have knowledge and experience with roped winter climbing, including setting snow anchors, crevasse rescue, and glaciated peak climbing,
  • Demonstrated sound judgment, mountaineering competence, and leadership ability on two PCS technical trips as co-leader, or equivalent.

Some Examples of trip classification

  • Scrambling up the talus-strewn face of Bloody Mtn., crossing an occasional low angle snow patch where there would be no danger of sliding if one were to slip - Class 2.
  • Climbing up the steep face of Mt. Winchell, but with no significant exposure and no looming snow patches - Class 3
  • Scrambling up the easy slope of Julius Caesar in the spring, with an extensive, moderately-angled snowfield that needs to be crossed - Class 2, but this would probably require an ice axe which would mean that it would become subject to the Technical Snow Climbing guidelines.
  • Climbing up the steep snow couloir on Feather Peak ñ Class 3 plus Technical Snow Climbing.
  • Climbing Freel Peak in the winter using snowshoes ñ Class 2 plus Winter Travel
  • Climbing a route which is called Class 3 (by Secor) but which has hideous exposure and everyone who does it uses a rope - Class 4

For more information on the leadership guidelines please contact the Mountaineering Committee Chair.

Mountaineering Chair:

Lisa Barboza, lisa.barboza@gmail.com, 650-493-8099

Mountaineering Chair:

Terry Cline, terry_cline@yahoo.com, 650-424-9015

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