"The Climber's Card Game"

by Josh Siegel and Stacy Gomes

Instructional Objective



Rock Climbing is gaining in popularity. What was once the sport of an outlaw elite is now the sport of choice for many. Climbers these days are a diverse group, encompassing multiple age brackets and backgrounds.

The focus for the card game is young novice climbers; those learning the basic terms, conditions, and skills necessary in rock climbing.

The game is designed to be played during a basic youth rock climbing workshop targeted at younger climbers (ages 8-12). The basic youth classes include declarative knowledge and psychomotor skill development. The game would serve as a means in which to practice and reinforce some of the important declarative knowledge.


A card game is an appropriate format for this situation because it is highy portable. Additionally, the playful aspect of the game will help alleviate some of the anxiety beginning climbers typically feel. Most workshops are hands on, with lecture being done at cliff side. A card game is beneficial as an instructional tool because of its portability, ease of use, and fun.


Ascent is a rummy style game played in the following manner:


  1. Pick someone to be the first dealer.


  2. Deal. The dealer shuffles the cards face down. Starting with the player to the dealer's left, the dealer gives 6 cards to each player. Then, the dealer puts the remaining cards in the middle 'stock' pile, face down and turns the top one face up in a second 'discard' pile.


  3. Prepare to play. Each player arranges their cards in an attempt to create a successful climb using cards from six different categories.


  4. Play. Starting with the person to the dealer's left, each player picks a card from the top of either pile. Once you pick a card, you must discard one from your hand. Then, place a card face up on the discard pile. After the center pile is used up, The dealer reshuffles the discard pile and places it face down, turning the top card over to restart a discard pile.


  5. Winning. Play continues until a player wins by creating a climb. A successful climb is a rummy which includes a card from each of the six categories in the deck. The cards from each group must be in accordance to proper climbing knowledge. For example, a friction move is a technique for climbing a face type of climb, not a crack. So, if the player has a face card and gets a friction move card, the cards are in accord and can be used to create a successful ascent.The winner places their discarded card face down and says "Ascent". The other players examine the cards to make sure that a successful ascent has been made.

Card Design

Click Here to see an example card for each category

The categories for the rummy are:



  1. Type of climb
    • Face


      • Offwidth



  2. Shoes
    • Flexible sole shoes (for face climbs)

      Stiff sole shoe (for crack climbs)

  3. Technique
    • For Face:
      • Friction moves




      For Cracks:

      • Jams

        Friction moves


  4. Protection
    • Cams



      Big Brothers

  5. Belay (All climbs use belay)
  6. Rope (All climbs use rope)

Deck Design

The desk has a total of 46 cards. There are six groups: Type of Climb, Shoes , Techniques of Climbing, Protection, and Two Required Cards (Belay and Rope).

Design Process

The rummy model is used because its structure and rules are easy and age appropriate for the target audience. The content is analogous to a rummy structure because you need various components to build a successful climb.

We brainstormed for the preliminary design and structure. Additionally we consulted "Basic Rockcraft" by Royal Robbins to get a feel for the content. Afterwards, we decided to consult a subject matter expert. We contacted Troy Chollar, from Solid Rock Gym, to help us with the content. After consulting with Troy, we were able to determine the five categories.

Our original design included the use of negative cards which players could give to other players. For example, a player drawing a "Fall" card from the deck could give it another player who would then have to skip a turn. Eventually, we decided against negative cards both for simplicity's sake and also in order not to play up the hazards of climbing. Mountain climbing is inherently dangerous, beginning (read: low confidence) students do not need reminders of the hazards.

Additional resources we used included web surfing for climbing sites and an excellent book by John Long entitled "How to Rock Climb!".


Long, J. (1989). How to rock climb! Evergreen, CO: Chockstone Press.

Robins, R. (1985). Basic rockcraft. Glendale, CA: La Siesta Press.

Last updated by Josh Siegel on September 28, 1995.

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Educational Technology 670, Fall 1995.