Alpine Adventures - Mountain Adventures In The Adirondacks Since 1985 - Instruction & Guiding For Rock Climbing, Ice Climbing, Mountaineering And Backcountry Skiing
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Promoting Effective Education
There are many paths one can take to becoming an alpinist; some are short and direct, others long and winding. Whether you learn from a friend or you hire a professional your goal should be to gain the skills, experience and confidence required to enjoy the mountains efficiently and wisely. A talented mentor, beyond teaching you how to get around in the mountains, will instill in you a passion for the adventures wild places make possible. This is a tall order and all too often, because of ineffective education, alpinists never even approach their potential. Because of the extreme consequences, learning alpinism by trial and error is foolhardy; those who attempt it either progress at a glacial pace or their efforts end abruptly. 

Tying in

Removing ice pro

Effective education facilitates the flow of knowledge from teacher to student. Learning is the goal. For this to happen the setting must not encumber student/teacher interaction and the teacher must be capable of delivering knowledge in such a way that the student can absorb it. In addition, structure, in the form of an organized teaching progression, provides a road map for learning and ensures a continuous flow of relevant information. Without all of these components, effective education is crippled. A motivated student can learn in spite of a distracting setting, poor delivery or lack of structure but this is hardly optimum. 

Unfortunately, crippled experiences are very common in alpine education. Unrealistic settings, unskilled delivery, and a complete lack of structure are all easy to find. Sometimes facilitators even mistake adventure objectives for learning goals, and sometimes commercial goals get in the way of education. We address these issues on our Comparing Guides, Guide Services and Climbing Schools page. 

The three components of effective education are discussed below:
Effective Setting
Effective Delivery
Effective Structure 

Alpine Mastery Methods describes our own unique approach to structured experiential education.

Effective Setting
Without an effective setting the race is over before you even leave the gate. A supportive learning environment facilitates learning through student/teacher interaction and for this to happen, student to instructor ratios must be kept small. In the complex, dangerous environments of alpinism, education can only begin after participant supervision and safety are assured. In all but the most controlled alpine environments, where educational potential is severely limited, we believe it is unrealistic for an instructor to attempt to teach more than three students – in some cases that number is reduced to two, or even one. With larger ratios, either safety suffers due to lack of supervision, or learning becomes just an afterthought behind safety. Neither of these approaches is effective. 

An effective setting also requires abundant and convenient teaching resources, appropriate to the educational objective at hand. Teaching crack climbing requires real cracks, glacier travel requires real glaciers. Simulated environments are just that – simulated.

The right place to learn anchoring

Effective Delivery
Effective delivery requires a skilled teacher with the motivation required to assure that learning is the result. It is not enough to simply present information. Interaction, feedback, and a genuine concern for the learner are all essential if the real goal, learning, is to be realized. A capable teacher will bring highly developed technical skills, well-developed communication skills and a variety of approaches to meet the learning requirements of each individual student. Moreover, a skilled teacher will be sensitive to a student’s energy and enthusiasm levels; turning up the flow of information when the student is most receptive and throttling it back, when required, to avoid overload.

Effective Structure
Without structure teaching wanders, sometimes aimlessly. Effective structure, allows setting and delivery to reach their potential. An organized methodology provides a road map for teacher and student so each can see where learning is headed. It also provides a mechanism, in the form of evaluation and feedback, to find out if it’s getting there. 

Often called curriculum, a good methodology does not constrain teaching so much as direct and organize it. The best teachers use curriculum as a guide, rather than treating it as gospel. Structure assures a teacher’s delivery skills move the learning process in a well-defined direction.

Alpine Mastery Methods
The Alpine Mastery Methods, our comprehensive teaching methodologies, provide the educational structure and organization for all of our instructional programs. Each of the Alpine Mastery Methods addresses one specific activity: Rock Climbing, Ice Climbing, Mountaineering, or Backcountry Skiing. Each is comprised of several parts: 

Standard Practices
For each of our activities, these determine how we actually go about doing that activity most of the time. There is no one “right” way to solve most of the technical challenges in alpinism and, because of this it is common to see many different solutions to a single problem. On the most basic level, a solution that works is adequate but one that works efficiently under a diversity of situations and fits logically together with other practices is clearly preferable.

Determining an appropriate set of standard practices requires a broad knowledge of the possible options and considerable experience sorting out their pros and cons in real-world situations. This type of knowledge is accumulated over a long time period from a variety of sources, the most valuable of which is experience. 

To set standard practices we first determine priorities, and this is predicated upon knowing where and how standard practices will most-often be employed for each of our activities. Practices that make sense in one setting might well be unwieldy elsewhere. For the most part, we optimize our standard practices for traditional climbing and skiing environments rather than the manipulated environments found in controlled or artificial settings. 

We generally place simplicity near the top of the list, followed by versatility and consistency with our other practices. In the mountains, a seemingly near-ideal solution to a technical problem that involves complex rigging or specialized equipment is almost always less desirable than simpler solutions with broader applicability. Practices that can be applied in a wide variety of situations reduce complexity and with it, the likelihood of making mistakes. On the other end of the spectrum, oversimplification can be just as problematic as excessively complex solutions. An in-depth understanding of the physical principles and psychological factors governing a particular situation is required to determine the best approach.

Often the specialized practices that might be ideal for a professionally guided situation will differ significantly from the more broadly applicable ones best suited to recreational alpinism. In these instances we first teach, and use, practices suitable for the recreational alpinist. These are the practices we emphasize in our instructional programs. Once a student has mastered these core practices we may introduce specialized practices or, we may continue to employ core practices in the interest of consistency. 

In addition to carefully defining which practices we will use, we also codify methods for teaching these practices to others. In many cases we have several different teaching approaches, each suitable for a different learning style or situation. Beyond these, an instructor is always free to find new ways to better communicate practices. 

Climbing and skiing are quite different in nature and our practices reflect this. Whereas specific safety techniques are often central to teaching climbing, the kinesthetics and mechanics of movement tend to provide more of the central framework for our skiing practices. 

These “standard practices” are the building blocks we glue together to form the Alpine Mastery Methods. 

Skill Sets, Lessons & Courses
For each activity, we gather together our standard practices into logical groups of essential skills, and these form the basis for our lessons. Lessons are then grouped together, in a series, to form courses. These allow students to acquire all of the skills required to reach a milestone for the activity. Often, we incorporate parallel skill sets so we can address multiple learning objectives simultaneously. 

Our skill sets, lessons and courses are precisely defined and their relationship to one another has been carefully constructed to provide a continuous flow of relevant information. For example, our Rock Mastery Method includes more than 240 individual skill sets grouped into 15 lessons, ranging in length from 90 minutes to 6-1/2 hours each – and that is just to complete our Level II milestone! Depending upon your experience and schedule, this milestone can be reached by any of three different course sequences. 

Achievement Milestones
These are key points within the Alpine Mastery Methods where acquisition of a particular set of skills will yield tangible results. Upon reaching a milestone, a student should be able to independently undertake a particular aspect of an activity efficiently and safely. Our system of ability levels is based, for the most part, upon our achievement milestones. 

Evaluation Tools
Our Skills Evaluations are designed with two goals in mind. First, they provide students with tangible evidence of achievement, and second, they assure we stay carefully on track with our teaching. Skills Evaluations are conducted formally at key points within our curriculum and informally after each course.

Anchoring fundamentals

Progressive Instruction By Design – Our Curricula
Each of our Mastery Methods presents a progression of instruction unique to an activity’s skills requirements. Our Rock Mastery Method features twenty-three different courses. The Ice Mastery Method includes seven courses. Our Mountaineering Mastery Method includes six courses, and our Ski Mastery Method features five courses.

Level I Courses - These are introductory courses for people who have had little or no experience with a particular activity. They lay the foundation essential for all of our other courses.

Level II Courses - These intermediate courses reinforce and build upon the basics presented in Level I. The many new skills introduced at this level are developed through practice in a variety of settings. Emphasis is placed on becoming more proficient with movement and technical skills.

Level III Courses - These advanced courses are for people who have a solid grasp of our Level II skills and are ready to refine them for more demanding situations. Emphasizing specific aspects of an activity, these courses will help you become the very best alpinist you can possibly be! 

For more information regarding specific instructional methodologies for each activity, please visit:
Rock Mastery Method
Ice Mastery Method
Mountaineering Mastery Method
Ski Mastery Method 

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~ Mountain Adventures In the Adirondacks Since 1985 ~

Alpine Adventures, Inc.
10873 NYS Route 9N, P.O. Box 179
Keene, New York 12942 USA

(518) 576-9881

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