Why It’s Worth Learning Outdoor Skills Like Rock Climbing Online

Summers ago, back in ‘the normal times,’ I attended the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy in Squamish, BC. It was a special few days, not only because of the nightly film screenings and live music, but for the excellent clinics with world-class guides at a fraction of the cost—not to mention the access to the professional athletes, who don’t typically teach climbing, and also instruct during the academy. Ahh, normal times.

Anchor building at last year’s climbing academy
Showcasing crack climbing techniques courtesy Arc’teryx

This year’s academy couldn’t happen in person, but Arc’teryx adapted to the now-COVID times, doing a remarkable job bringing the academy online. First were marquee film screenings—like the premiere of Free As Can Be, a film about Yosemite climbing legend Mark Hudon and rising pro Jordan Cannon’s friendship and ascents of Freerider on El Cap—as well as the annual photo competition. Although this year’s contest was a “compilation contest,” not produced by photographers during the academy, it still inspired. Other highlights from the digital clinic/festival experience included a powerful and insightful diversity panel discussion, Being Welcomed Is Not Enough, moderated by Shelma Jun. Panel members discussed DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) in the outdoor industry and community along with anti-racism and healing. (Listen to it below.)


The core of the academy experience is well-curated and -produced clinics that inform and engage, ranging from backcountry cooking with Paul McSoreley to crack climbing with Will Stanhope. These clinics are now available online to rent at $45 a piece for three months. Although in-person training will always be superior to online courses in regards to climbing skills, this year’s clinic is worth the money, especially as we all must acclimate to the new-normal realities of online learning.

For new climbers, perhaps unable to do all the summer training planned, the instruction provided excellent basic instruction that, if nothing else, keeps that initial interest in the sport stoked. As a more experienced climber, I found the visuals and virtual learning to be another way to absorb the right information to keep my key tools sharp and ready. No matter how much time you spend in the mountains, you can always learn and tweak your skillset. It also help keep my drive for getting out into the mountains fueled.

Arc'teryx climbing academy
Paul McSorely’s cooking clinic. courtesy Arc’teryx

One particular clinic, Sport Climbing Progression with Alannah Yip, is exceptionally edited and helpful for beginner climbers or those who are looking to improve their climbing skills in a more practical way. Yip, who would have been competing in the Olympics this summer, is also an engineer and has a pragmatic approach to breaking down the best practices in this sport-climbing clinic.

I am hopeful that in-person learning and networking opportunities are available by the winter of 2020-21 (Arc’teryx’s Backcountry Academy is annually held in Jackson, WY). But if they’re still not possible to schedule and responsible to attend, I now know meeting online will be well worth the time and dollar investment to tune in, refine, refresh and reignite my winter stoke.

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