Rock V: Self-rescue for Climbers

As climbers we operate in a potentially dangerous environment and need to take personal responsibility for ourselves and the consequences of our actions. But only Rube Goldberg could imagine all the weird and difficult situations that climbers might find themselves in as a result of an accident or other emergency while climbing. Rather than learning by creating and then solving complicated rescue scenarios it’s more important to be familiar with improvised rescue tools such as knots and cordelettes and to understand systems that including rope ascending or rappelling with an injured person. Familiarity with these techniques will give you the skill and confidence you need to be able to handle an emergency rescue, should the need arise.
Self-rescue is a complex problem. Every situation is different and it will never be possible to give a complete list of solutions to an infinite variety of problem. You will be encouraged to self solve the problems and the most common phrase you will hear will be, “Well what do you think?”
There may be a number of ways to achieve a given goal and you will be encouraged to develop a wide range of skills. The technique we have developed is not to attempt to teach solutions. Our progression introduces a variety of different tools and once you are comfortable with these you will be shown how to combine them into a variety of techniques.
Additionally, we will discuss how not to get into these situations to start with which is by far the most elegant solution.

Meeting place and time

Course location will depend upon weather and conditions at the time.
For Mammoth based climbing we meet at the Mammoth Welcome Center in Mammoth Lakes at 8:00 am. From Highway 395 take the Mammoth Lakes exit and follow the signs into town. The Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center is a few miles from the highway on your right (along with the US Forest Service). The address is 2510 Main St, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. If you get to the first traffic light you have gone too far.

For Bishop based climbing we will meet the first day at 8:00 am at the world headquarters of Sierra Mountain Center, 200 South Main Street, in Bishop. We are on the east side of Highway 395 in the second block south of the south most traffic light (intersection of Line Street and Main Street/Highway 395. Or is you prefer just across the Mountain Rambler Brewery.

We will meet for an orientation talk and equipment check, then proceed to our location for the day.


Our guides are American Mountain Guides Association trained so you can expect the highest level of climbing and safety knowledge combined with solid instructional skills and professionalism.


We recommend reading the following books:
Fasulo, David J. How To Rock Climb: Self Rescue, Falcon Press, 1996
Long, John. How To Rock Climb: Climbing Anchors, Falcon Press, 1993
Long, John. How To Rock Climb: More Climbing Anchors, Falcon Press, 1996
Luebben, Craig. How To Rock Climb: Knots for Climbers, Falcon Press, 1996

Return to SMC Rock Climbing School

Day One: The Tools

We will work through a lot of different skills including:

  • Rescue toolbox
  • Knots and hitches
  • Ascension methods
  • Knot passes and lowering
  • Counterbalancing and rappelling
  • Rescue applications

Day Two: Putting It All Together

  • Putting it all together in scenarios with problem solving

Program Prerequisites:

This course assumes that you are competent at creating and assessing anchors appropriate to any climbing situation. Additionally, you should have a good repertoire of knots, be familiar with rappelling, and have experience with multi pitch climbing.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits and all climbing gear. If you have your own equipment by all means bring it.
Local accommodation is not included in the program.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.