Climbing Policies

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The following policies are those of the Technical (roped) Climb Section of the New Mexico Mountain Club (NMMC) and do not apply to other activities of the NMMC.   A NMMC Technical Climber Rating is required for participation in top ropes and multipitch climbs except for guests as noted below.  Minors may participate in club activities if they have the appropriate rating and permission of a parent or guardian.

Guests may be brought to NMMC outings with the permission of the leader. The person bringing a guest is responsible for controlling the guest's activities and ensuring the guest has the proper knowledge and skills for participation in club activities. Guests are required to sign a release form.  Persons regularly participating in NMMC climbing activities are not guests. They will be required to join the NMMC and to sign the release.

Technical Climber Ratings

Regular participation on NMMC climbs requires a rating issued by the Technical Climbing Chairperson or designate. The New Mexico Mountain Club has several technical rock climbing ratings.  The reason we have a rating system is safety. It is a good way of assuring to those who climb with the club that the person with them has a level of skill and knowledge and can be trusted to perform at the level of their rating. For ratings to remain active, members must participate in club outings annually.

Climb Section members are assigned one of the following ratings:

  • Toprope
  • Climber
  • Single-Pitch Leader
  • Multi-pitch Leader

A Toprope rating entitles a climber to participate in toprope outings only. Toprope ratings are given to new climbers who are not yet ready for a Climber rating or for those that intend only to climb at topropes, not traditional multi-pitch climbs. The Toprope Qualification Form  [ is used to check off a list of specific skills. Toprope ratings are also given to newcomers who complete the rating check off sheet but may not have taken the climbing school. To acquire a Toprope rating, contact the Technical Climbing Chairman to schedule a checkout session. Check out pictures of the some of the knots you need for the Toprope rating.

A Climber rating is awarded upon successful completion of the annual climbing school, or, if an individual has equivalent experience, he or she may contact the Technical Climbing Chairperson to schedule a checkout session. With a Climber rating, a climber may participate in topropes as well as longer, multi-pitch climbs.  Individuals with a Climber rating may, with the permission of the trip leader, lead pitches on club climbs, but may not lead club outings. The skills required to attain a Climber rating are listed on the Climber Qualification Form [ Maintenance of the Climber rating requires participation in at least two roped climbs or practice sessions per year and a demonstrated awareness of team responsibilities and safety considerations.

A Multi-Pitch Leader rating entitles a member to organize and lead single pitch and multi-pitch club outings. A Single-Pitch Leader rating entitles a member organize and lead outings to climbing areas characterized by climbs of one pitch or less (i.e., topropes and most sport climbs).  In order to attain one of the Leader ratings, an individual must satisfy all of the requirements outlined on either the Multi-Pitch Leader Qualification Form or the Single-Pitch Leader Qualification Form. A Leader rating is issued to a qualified climber who:

  1. Demonstrates the skills and meets all the requirements listed on the Multi-pitch or Single-pitch leader qualification form,
  2. Passes a written exam on general mountaineering,
  3. Has climbed with the NMMC for one year, and
  4. Is judged by three Leaders and a Climbing Chairperson to be qualified to lead club outings.

Maintenance of the Leader rating requires continuing climbing activity; including rope leading, practice sessions, instructing, or technical rescue. Prior to being granted a Leader rating, the leader candidate must demonstrate proof of successful completion of a standard Red Cross First Aid course or equivalent.

Anyone having gained equivalent climbing experience elsewhere is asked to contact the Chairperson to obtain the appropriate rating. In general, this will involve a private climb with one or more NMMC members of Leader standing.  Individuals who do not have the skills necessary for the ratings listed above are responsible for obtaining the necessary skills via other means as needed.  Any instruction during a club climb is at the leader’s discretion. Regular participation in NMMC climbing activities is required to maintain ratings.

The NMMC does not issue ratings for snow and ice climbing.

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Safety is our first consideration! There is no room for big egos on the rock. No one is above being questioned or checked. Climbers are encouraged to check and understand all systems. Our leaders will appreciate the concern for safety; however, we do ask that climbers not make changes to a system without permission of a leader.

Helmets are strongly recommended. Rock fall is one of the main hazards in mountaineering, and additionally, head injuries may occur during a fall. A helmet, while not a guarantee against injury, does add a significant measure of protection. If a person has a Climber or Leader rating, he or she is considered to be aware of the risk and may make a personal decision not to wear a helmet.  Some Leaders will require a helmet in any case.

First Aid - Everyone is encouraged to learn basic first aid. Completion of American Red Cross Standard First Aid or equivalent training is highly recommended for those who regularly participate in climbing activities of the NMMC.  A first aid kit should be taken on all NMMC technical climbs. Individuals may take their personal kit, or one is available to be checked out from the club.

Rope Inspection - In general, ropes are not inspected after every climb. It is possible that the rope you check out might be damaged during previous use or during storage (perlon-eating mice). It is the leader's responsibility to check the lead rope BEFORE the climb. Members of the climbing party should also check the rope they will follow on. This can most easily be done as the rope is trailed out on the first pitch. It is recommended that during top-rope sessions each member of the group inspect his/her rope before setting up the pitch.

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Rock Climbing Outings

To schedule a climb, sign up for a climb, submit a trip report, or to view a calendar of scheduled climbs, go to the Events Calendar page. 

Designated leaders have full authority over route selection, changes in objectives, use of equipment, and rope order. They may limit the number of participants on any climb and reject any individual, regardless of rating, who they consider a hazard to safety.  The leader is not bound by rules or recommendations that seem inappropriate under the circumstances.

To participate in club climbs and toprope sessions on a regular basis, climbers must be NMMC members and must be qualified with a rating appropriate for the climb. Climbers wishing to participate in a climbing event must follow the trip leader’s instructions for signing up for the climb.  Typically, climbers must indicate to the Leader in advance their intent to participate.  The Leader will provide all necessary information about the venue as well as logistics.

Club members may bring guests on club outings so long as they receive permission from the trip leader well in advance of the trip. During the outing, the club member who hosts a guest is responsible for ensuring that the guest conducts him or herself in a manner consistent with the safety standards practiced by the club.  There must be a signed waiver on file for every person participating in NMMC climbing activities, including guests. Club members and their guests who participate in NMMC climbing activities must assume responsibility for their own safety, understand any risks involved, and assume responsibility for those risks.

The club provides ropes, slings, and racks of climbing protection for club outings. Climbers are expected to come equipped with their own harness, climbing shoes, belay device, helmet, suitable clothing, food and water and whatever other equipment is appropriate for the outing. While not required, wearing a helmet while rock climbing is strongly encouraged and is standard practice for most club members.

On multi-pitch climbs of four or more pitches, it is recommended that the leader have a second person capable of lead climbing and taking over in the event of injury to the leader.

The Leader is expected to submit a trip report with a list of participants to the Climbing Chairperson. A written report is preferred, but a phone call will be accepted. Any unusual circumstances (injuries, damaged ropes, lost equipment, etc.) should be reported.

Climbs can be led at any time, but usually there are few in the colder months. Topropes go on all year. They are usually on Sunday and Tuesday evenings. After the Climbing School, climbs in the 5.6 range are the most popular and tend to solidify a person's interest in climbing.

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Equipment Policy

Ropes and climbing hardware are available to Climbing Leaders leading club activities. Additionally, ice axes, crampons, and helmets are also available to be checked out by NMMC members.  Limited amounts of club equipment can be checked out by leaders for personal use when it does not conflict with club activities.  If lost or damaged (in the opinion of the Chairperson), the equipment must be replaced by the borrower. A leader allowed to do this must be one who participates in the climbing school and leads club activities. Ropes are not available for this purpose.

Pitons, bolts, and associated hardware may be checked out by leaders for the purpose of placing permanent anchors on routes where they will promote the safety of others doing the routes.  This is intended primarily for rappel anchors and belay stations. It will be kept to a minimum.

Persons rated as Climbers may check out a rack for training purposes, such as learning a new skill if they will be practicing under the direct supervision of a leader.

A first aid kit is available to anyone leading a club climbing activity.

Personal gear used and lost on NMMC outings is the responsibility of the user. The club will not replace lost or damaged personal gear unless arrangements have been made in advance.

Leaders are not held responsible for NMMC equipment lost or damaged on club outings. A reasonable effort to retrieve lost gear (especially high-dollar items) is expected even if it means going back the next week.

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Annual Climb School

The NMMC Technical Climb Section is chartered to teach a basic rock climbing school each spring.  For more information on applications, specific dates, and the schedule, go to the Rock Climbing School page.

A Handbook and agenda documenting the skills to be demonstrated and practiced at each session will be distributed to leaders, assistants and students. Students will demonstrate proficiency with each of the required skills in order to receive the sign-offs of the leader prior to participation in a multi-pitch climb.

To obtain the rating of Climber, the candidate is expected to attend all of the classroom and outdoor practice sessions and to demonstrate knowledge of basic climbing skills, signal conventions, rope handling, knots, belaying, and rappelling.  For a candidate to progress to the next session, he or she must actively participate in order to be assessed and evaluated. The best way to do that is for the leaders and assistants to observe students demonstrating the required skills. If a student needs to miss a session for any reason they must notify the Chairperson as soon as practicable. Any student who misses a session will have to demonstrate to a Leader proficiency in the skills that were not obtained as a result of the missed session prior to practicing the skills for the subsequent session.

In addition, the student must pass a written test covering the fundamentals of mountaineering safety and practice. Completion of all the above does not necessarily guarantee a Climber rating. The Climbing Committee may require additional practice of the basic climbing skills, if deemed necessary.

All rappels and belays by students must be backed up during the skills sessions of the climbing school. On multi-pitch climbs, following completion and sign–off for all required skills, students will be allowed to belay without backup.

Students must tie climbing ropes into their harnesses through legs loops and their waist belt. (i.e. no carabiner clip-ins). Belay loops are to be used per the harness manufacturer’s instructions.

Leaders are responsible for ensuring anchors are properly placed. Leaders should recognize that all gear anchors need periodic inspection during use as placements can shift and so become compromised during repeated loading and unloading.

Minors sixteen years or older may attend the school with permission and joint registration of their parent or guardian and approval of the Chairperson. The parent or guardian must accompany and participate with the minor on each outing and classroom session.

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Wilderness Ethics

We advocate and encourage climbers to abide by the following fixed anchor guidelines when establishing new routes in the Sandia Wilderness:

  • We acknowledge and support the existing laws that ban the use of motorized drills in the Wilderness.
  • Minimize your impact by staying on existing trails when possible and do not build new trails without Forest Service approval.

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Other Procedures

Chairperson’s Responsibilities

  • Publish a quarterly climbing and top rope schedule.
  • Run the annual Basic Rock Climbing School and Rescue Practice.
  • Run the fall leadership class.
  • Represent the climbing organization at the monthly meetings.
  • Sit on the Board of Directors and attend Board meetings as required (usually quarterly).
  • Call and chair meetings of the climbing committees as required for conducting climbing business.
  • Develop new leaders and find a new climbing chairperson.
  • Maintain a record of climbers and their ratings.


The Technical Climbing Committee is responsible for the maintenance and safe storage of technical climbing equipment. The provider, usually one of the chairpersons, shall not be held liable in case of loss or damage to the equipment due to fire, theft, or vandalism.


There are no “procedures” for safety, but the climbing chairperson has some responsibility to keep it in peoples’ minds. This means pointing it out if someone is careless with their belay hand. It means not giving a rating to someone who might be a safety hazard and it might mean removing the rating of someone who disregards safe practices after being asked to make corrections. In the latter case it might be appropriate to involve one of the committees.

Climbing Committee

Two committees are available to advise and assist the climbing chairpersons in executing their responsibilities to the NMMC and the climbing community.

The Climbing Committee, composed of all climbing leaders, generally meets two or more times a year. In the spring a meeting is held to review the climbing school and approve student ratings. In the fall a meeting is held to review the past year, make recommendations for the coming year, and approve the selection of a new chairman.

The Climbers Steering Committee is a smaller group consisting of the chairpersons and four or five leaders selected by the chair. It meets at the discretion of the chair to advise on special issues such as allocation of funds and changes to policies and procedures, or other issues where experienced council is appropriate.

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