Technical Skills

Gym Climbing Skills

Belay Check

This isn't our gym, but the skills we taught these climbers at GVSU allowed them to dominate their belay evaluation on our Spring Break trip!

Belay Lessons

This is the basic lesson for teaching the person on the ground (belayer) how to keep the climber safe in a top-rope setting. After the lesson, participants will have the opportunity to be evaluated by the staff to receive their GVSU belay qualification. Upon passing the evaluation, participants will be approved to belay in our facility and be capable of operating in similar environments.

Frequency Offered: 

  1. Upon request at our open hours
  2. 2-3 scheduled workshops (so you don't need to give up valuable open-climb time)

Cost:  FREE for GVSU Students

Format: Single-day, In-Person


  1. N/A for Open Climb Lessons
  2. See the OA Events Calendar for dedicated workshop offerings

Additional Belay Lesson Details

You Might Also Like:  Intro to Indoor Climbing

Bouldering Class Spotting

Intro to Indoor Climbing

NEW FORMAT for Winter 2021!
For GVSU students and staff who would like a more formal and private introduction to the equipment and techniques involved in indoor rock climbing.  This hands-on, small-group workshop will transform participants from having no knowledge about climbing to being able to independently gear up for a climb, plan an appropriate path, and efficiently move through it.  By the end of the workshop, participants should be confident in their ability to competently utilize the necessary protective equipment and techniques for climbing in our facility and similar environments.

Frequency Offered: 2-3 times per semester

Cost:  FREE

Format: Single day, In-Person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings

Additional Intro to Climbing Details (coming soon)

Indoor Lead Climbing

Indoor Lead Climbing

This is a comprehensive lesson for learning to sport lead in an indoor setting.  The regular format takes place over 2 days, generally consecutive Wednesdays or Sundays with occasional 1-day offerings.  The course includes instruction on both lead climbing and lead belaying.  Approval to lead climb after taking the course requires logging practice time and a separate evaluation.

Frequency Offered: Upon sufficient interest

Cost: $10 for GV Students

Format: 2-days (occasional 1-day offerings), in-person

Registration: Qualified climbers can express interest in learning to lead by submitting the lead climbing request form below. Upon sufficient interest, we will schedule a course based on your availability.
*This course has prerequisites. See additional details below.

Additional Lead Lesson Details

Request Indoor Lead Climbing Class

You Might Also Like: Climb Management, Top Rope Anchors

Skill Instruction Photo

Climbing Wall Instructor Certification

The Professional Climbing Instructor's Association (PCIA) Climbing Wall Instructor (CWI) Course provides climbers with an in-depth, standardized understanding of the skills essential to teaching climbing in an indoor setting. It is the first step in a sequential approach to professional climbing instructor development. The course emphasizes the presentation of sound fundamental skills to climbing gym participants, the formation of risk assessment and risk management skills, and basic problem solving skills such as belay transitions and on-wall coaching and assistance techniques. Participants are assessed on both their core climbing knowledge as well as their ability to effectively teach and coach related skills with professionalism. Although this course utilizes the lens of indoor rock climbing, the knowledge is applicable for effective instruction of skills in any field. 
Starting Fall 2020, this certification will be required for all Climbing Center Shift Staff.

Frequency Offered: One time per semester

Cost: GVSU Students Only, $60 for Certification; $20 to Audit

  • Audit Option:  Participants in this course have the option to audit the course for a reduced fee (all the knowledge but without the formal certification).  Use the Coupon Code: AUDIT to receive $40 off your registration fee.
  • Down payment option: Participants who would like to do a split-payment option may register with a down-payment equal to 50% of the total registration fee. The balance remaining will be due on the first day of the course.  Please email Joe Bitely; [email protected] prior to registration for a coupon code.

Format:  4-week hybrid online/ in-person (20 hours). A schedule of meetings will be provided in the Events Calendar listing

Registration: Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings
*This course has pre-requisites. See additional details below.

Additional CWI Details 

Confident Outdoor Climber (Series)

The following workshops are intended to address the important nuances and additional skills for being a competent and confident climber in the less-controlled and ever-changing outdoor environment. The series is divided into multiple shorter workshops to minimize the time commitment and also allow participants to only learn about the topics that fit their current climbing needs. Each workshop has varying levels of recommended experience and some have prerequisites.

Outdoor climbing instructor overlooking lake

(photo not from this workshop)

Gear & Planning

This workshop is the fundamental base from which climbers should start building their knowledge. It pulls content previously covered from our Gym to Crag: Sport Climbing workshop as well as Top Managed Systems and covers many of the most basic & often overlooked topics for climbing outdoors. A little planning and preparation before a trip can go a long way in maximizing the amount of climbing that happens, keeping the climbers healthy, and also keeping our crags healthy & accessible too. Our gear talk will touch on key considerations for purchasing personal gear as well as gear to consider that isn't typically needed indoors. The Planning refers to your knowledge of where you'll be climbing & how to conduct yourself appropriately. Gaining a basic understanding for things like crag access & local climbing customs are key to being responsible users of the land. This not only helps make you a respected climber among your peers but it ensures all of us will be able to enjoy the crags for years to come!

Frequency Offered:  1-2 times per semester

Cost:  FREE for GVSU Students

Format: Single-day, Hybrid Online/ In-Person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings

Additional Belay Lesson Details

You Might Also Like:  Knots for Climbers

Munter Mule Overhand Knot

Knots for Climbers

This workshop moves beyond the figure-eight to introduce 8 additional knots that are commonly used throughout the subsequent Confident Outdoor Climber workshops. While there are a multitude of resources available online for learning various climbing knots, our experienced instructors offer a few things the online tutorials do not:

  1. Confirmation that you are tying the knots correctly
  2. Guidance on when & how to apply the knots in climbing applications
  3. Guidance on which knots need to be backed-up & how to do so properly

Frequency Offered: 1-2 times per semester

Cost: FREE for GV Students

Format: Single-day, in-person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings

Additional Knots for Climbers Details

You Might Also Like: Gear & Planning, Intro to Anchors

Top rope anchor

Intro to Anchors

This course is geared towards the gym climber with top-roping experience who is looking to make the move into outdoor climbing.  The skills presented will give climbers a foundation of anchor building knowledge that can be used in many climbing applications.  This course will focus on the equipment and techniques necessary to build a quality anchor, using natural protection at southwest Michigan's two most popular crags: the Ledges (Grand Ledge, MI) and Devil's Lake State Park (Baraboo, WI).  The former is a top-rope only site while the latter requires climbers to either setup a top-rope or to traditionally lead the climbs.  This course does not include placing traditional protection.

Frequency Offered: One time per semester

Cost: $10 for GV Students

Format: Single-day, Hybrid online/ in-person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings

Additional Anchor Details

You Might Also Like: Climb Management & Top Managed Systems

Online Content
Note: This content is password protected.  Registered participants will receive a username and password in the confirmation email.

Top Rope Anchors Module

Outdoor Lead Climb

Climb Management

Whether you're planning to lead climbs with friends from the gym or are going with a group and plan to "just climb" but still want to be helpful, this is an ideal workshop for bolstering what you already know in order to operate more competently in an outdoor environment. Although there are aspects that will be the same as climbing indoors, there are a number of important additional skills and considerations for operating where the environment is much less controlled. If you've ever asked questions like: How do we get the gear back? What do I do if I can't make it to the top on lead? How do I get back down if being lowered isn't allowed? In the gym I use a ground anchor, what do I do outside? Then this workshop is for you. Having the knowledge to solve these and other similar problems will also make you someone others want to take on all their climbing adventures!

Frequency Offered: 1 time per semester

Cost: $15 for GV Students

Format:  Single-day, in-person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings

Additional Climb Management Details

You Might Also Like: Top Managed Systems, Wilderness First Aid (or Wilderness First Responder)

Top Managed Systems

Top Managed Systems (TMS)

This course introduces technical climbing systems implemented from the top of a climb such as found with some top-rope settings and also in multi-pitch climbing. It is designed to help build fundamental knowledge of technical climbing systems used for belaying, rappelling, anchoring, etc... Whether you are semi new to climbing, or have been sending routes for years, you are sure to pick up on some valuable knowledge to help you in the world of vertical pursuits!

What's different from past offerings? We've eliminated redundant content found in some of the previous modules and are leaving them as standalone workshops. We have also condensed the lessons and scenarios down to just the "essentials".  The result is a much more succinct workshop.

Frequency Offered: Once per Semester

Cost:  $20 for GV Students

Format:  Single-day, Hybrid online/ in-person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings.
Prerequisite: Intro to Anchors or previous anchor building experience

Participants in Top Managed Systems (TMS) will be contacted with a username & password necessary for accessing the content below. 

Additional TMS Details

You Might Also Like: Self-Rescue

Online Content
Note: Links to content are date-sensitive and will only work during a TMS course.

TMS Introduction     Module 1     Module 2     

Self Rescue

Self-Rescue (SR)

Climbing is inherently dangerous.  Eventually, something won't go as expected and your level of preparedness could be the difference between a traumatic ordeal & an epic adventure. This hybrid course further builds on the material from Top Managed Systems to give climbers important tools for dealing with a variety of unintended situations where simply lowering the climber to the ground is not an option.  

Frequency Offered: Once per semester

Cost: $30 for GV Students

Format: Single-day, Hybrid online/ in-person

Registration:  Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings. 

Participants in Self-Rescue (SR) will be contacted with a username & password necessary for accessing the content below.  Each module will become active 1 week prior to the in-person meeting for that module & will remain active for the duration of the course.
* Pre-requisite: Top Managed Systems

Additional Self-Rescue Details

You Might Also Like: Wilderness First Aid (or Wilderness First Responder)

Online Content
Note: Links to content are date-sensitive and will only work during a SR course.

Self-Rescue Introduction   Module 1   Module 2   Module 3   Module 4   Module 5


Dry Ice Tools Photo

Intro to Ice Climbing

A perfect workshop for GVSU students who want to learn about the basics of ice climbing or who plan to attend the Munising ice climbing trip with us in February but have never climbed ice before.  The topics we'll cover include: basic equipment, clothing for cold weather activity, & basic technique for climbing water ice efficiently. 

Frequency Offered: Once per year (Winter semester)

Cost: $5 for GV Students

Format: Single-day, In-person.  Brief classroom portion followed with on-wall practice of the technique known as dry-tooling

Registration: Required - Visit the OA Events Calendar for current offerings

Additional Ice Climbing Details

You Might Also Like:  Michigan Ice Fest Trip (Munising, MI)

bucket of rice

Watch the presentation to find out the significance of a bucket of rice.

Rock Climbing Injury Prevention

A presentation on common rock climbing injuries, prevention and rehabilitation by Sarah Podkowa, GVSU Alum and Physical Therapy master's student at UIC. Sarah's presentation is an open video on YouTube. Topics Include:

  • Finger Injuries
  • Overuse Injuries
  • Foot Impairments
  • Rope Burn
  • Flappers

A breakdown of topics and timing in the presentation can be found in this rock climbing injury prevention details document.

Rock Climbing Injury Prevention Presentation

*** Don't miss our 1-night event where we'll be discussing climbing injuries with Sarah via Zoom! Wednesday, February 16 at 7pm (ET). Details & RSVP are available on the OA Event Calendar listing.

Page last modified February 23, 2022