IN CHOOSING a climbing school, a prospective student should ask some questions: Have any students ever been hurt, and if so how? Does the school have liability insurance? How much experience has the instructor had? How many students will be in the class? What will be presented in one day, or in two or three?

Beginning classes at the following local climbing schools typically have five or six students per instructor, though most will make other arrangements at a higher cost.

INNER QUEST INC. -- Leesburg. Basic one-day course, $30. More advanced courses by individual arrangement. Course taught Oct. 5 and Nov. 2 at Great Falls Park, Va. Call 471-1014.

OUTDOOR SCHOOL INC. -- Herndon. Basic and more advanced courses. $25- $35 a day. Courses taught on the Potomac cliffs and at Seneca Rocks. Call 471- 0171.

OUTDOOR UNIVERSITY -- Alexandria. Basic and more advanced courses. $18- $45 a day. Call 548-3838.

POTOMAC RIVER TOURS INC. -- Bethesda. Basic and more advanced courses. $35-$45 a day. Courses taught on the Potomac cliffs. Call 667-6161, or through the Open University, 966-9606, for beginning classes on Oct. 5 and 26 and Nov. 9.

SENECA ROCKS CLIMBING SCHOOL -- Seneca Rocks, W. Va. Basic and more advanced courses. $45-$50 a day, less per person for bookings of three or more persons. Classes limited to three students per instructor. Call 304/567-2600. If no answer, leave message or call 703-474-2335 after 5 p.m.


Here's a sampling of some other folks who can also introduce you to the sport.

POTOMAC APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB -- Mountaineering Section. Call 638- 5306 between 7 and 10 p.m. for information.

GREAT ENCOUNTERS -- For women only. 546-4654.

FAIRFAX PARK AUTHORITY -- One-day classes for beginners on Oct. 5 and Nov. 2. $30 with a $5 non-refundable deposit required. Call Wakefield Recreation Center, 321-7082, for details.