Mountaineering in Washington’s Cascade Range

washington cascades

Beginning in British Columbia and running north to south through Washington and Oregon, before ending in Northern California, the Cascade Range, include Washington Cascades and Oregon Cascades, is one of the best mountaineering venues in the entire United States. It’s not uncommon for some places in the Cascades to have over 500 inches of annual snow accumulation. Most of the High Cascades are white with snow and ice year-round.

Mount Rainier (Washington, 14,410 ft) is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range. Other major peaks include: Mount Baker (Washington, 10,781 ft), Mount St. Helens (Washington, 8,366 ft), Mount Hood (Oregon, 11,250 feet) and Mount Jefferson (Oregon, 10,495 ft). North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Crater Lake National Park lie within the range.

The outfitters listed below provide mountaineering activities in the Cascade Range including backcountry skiing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, avalanche training, and environmental education. The outfitters are listed in alphabetical order. Links go directly to their websites.

Alpine Ascents International

Based in Seattle, Washington, Alpine Ascents International has been guiding mountain climbing expeditions around the world since 1986, and offers numerous mountain climbing training courses designed to provide climbers with the skills needed to conquer the world’s most challenging peaks. In Washington, the outfitter specializes in guided climbs of Mounts Baker and Rainier, and Eldorado Peak. Internationally, the outfitter guides climbs on the “Seven Summits,” and on other summits of international climbing renown. The climbing school offers three- to 14-day intensive courses for beginner and intermediate climbers, and includes practice climbs in the Cascade Mountains.

American Alpine Institute

Established in 1975, American Alpine Institute teaches guided mountaineering, snow and ice climbing, rock climbing, rescue and evacuation, snow physics, avalanche hazard evaluation, ski mountaineering, and Leave No Trace ethics and techniques. A four-day intensive course provides beginners and indoor climbers a foundation of outdoor climbing techniques and the principles of rock climbing technical systems. The Beginning Rock Climbing course is an introduction designed for people who have little or no experience in rock climbing. An introductory weekend backpacking trip is designed for people with little or no overnight camping in the wilderness. It covers equipment selection, navigation, meal planning and cooking, campsite selection and an introduction to ice-ax use for early season backpacking trips. A five-day backpacking trip in the North Cascades teaches the fundamentals of wilderness living in a setting of some of the most inspiring scenery in North America.

International Mountain Guides

Located in Ashford, Washington, International Mountain Guides has been guiding mountain climbing expeditions around the world since 1986, and offers instructional training climbs on Mount Rainier and on other peaks of the North Cascades. The outfitter specializes in guided climbs of Mounts Baker, Rainier, and Shuksan in Washington, and on numerous other noteworthy peaks around the world. The outfitter also provides backcountry skiing and avalanche training, and guides backcountry ski trips and combination climb-ski trips on Mount Rainier and in the Cascades.

Mount Baker Mountain Guides

Located in the community of Bellingham, Washington, in the North Cascades, Mount Baker Mountain Guides operates in an environment of jagged peaks, glaciers and abundant snowfall. The outfitter provides alpine climbing experiences on Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and other locations in the North Cascades as well as rock climbing and ice climbing. With ice climbing there is an emphasis on learning the sport using specialized ice axes and crampons to ascend Mt. Baker’s Panorama Dome Falls. Backcountry skiing is offered in the North Cascades and Mt. Baker backcountry, what the outfitter refers to as “the backcountry’s backcountry.” The outfitter offers a variety of mountaineering courses geared to the beginning and intermediate outdoors people, including a Glacier Skills Course, a Crevasse Rescue Course, an Introduction to Mountaineering Course, and an Alpine Climbing Course. Mount Baker Mountain Guides maintains a gear rental program that includes mountaineering boots and climbing shoes and a wide range of climbing equipment such as rock harnesses, alpine harnesses, helmets, ice axes, crampons, overnight packs and tents.

Mountain Madness

Based in Seattle, Washington, Mountain Madness provides a wide range of climbing and mountaineering experiences in the U.S. (and internationally) for all skills of climbers ranging from beginner to advanced. Beginner trips in Washington, for example, include: Mt. Adams Mazama Glacier, Mt. Baker’s Easton Glacier, Mt. Baker (a 4-day climb), Mt. Baker’s Coleman-Deming Glacier, Ruth Mountain and Mt. Olympus. On the Mt. Adams climb guests learn about the selection and use of personal equipment, ropes, knots and harnesses. They experience crampon use and snow climbing techniques, ice ax positioning and self arrest techniques. Roped glacier travel, rope team management, route finding and crevasse navigation are part of the high mountain experience. Mountain Madness professional guides pass along information on camp construction, camp management and cold weather camping skills as well as proper clothing and climbing gear for survival in the high mountains. Participants learn about mountain weather, alpine ecology, avalanche hazard assessment and Leave No Trace ethics. These topics, adapted to the experience levels of the climbers and the specific venue of the climb, apply generally to most Mountain Madness climbing experiences.

North Cascades Mountain Guides

Located in unincorporated Mazama, Washington in the Methow Valley at the eastern gateway to the North Cascades, North Cascades Mountain Guides provides a variety of adventures and courses in the North Cascades Mountains for beginners and experienced outdoors people. Washington Pass backcountry skiing includes snowmobile access to the jump off. Stevens Pass backcountry skiing features deep snow, old-growth trees and classic northwest descents just one and a half hours from downtown Seattle. The outfitter offers skiing day trips and multi-day traverses in the rugged alpine peaks and glaciers of North Cascades National Park. Classic ski descents in the area including Eldorado, Sahale, The Forbidden Tour, the Inspiration Traverse and Isolation Traverse. NCMG says that while many of its descents are not extreme guests should arrive with strong skiing ability (meaning feeling comfortable on ski areas’ black diamond runs in any conditions). Call the outfitter with any questions about the level of skiing skills required. NCMG offers a variety of courses in avalanche training and climbing skills. Climbing courses include 2-day training for multi-pitch climbing, a 3-day crevasse rescue course, and a 2-day rock rescue training course.

Northwest Mountain School

With headquarters in Leavenworth, Washington, Northwest Mountain School leads rock climbing, alpine mountaineering and ski mountaineering experiences in the Cascade range as well as other national and international mountain venues. Operated by Olivia and John Race since 1994, the outfitter prides itself on providing small, often customized trips for beginning and experienced outdoor people. Mountaineering courses include a 3-day glacier mountaineering course, a 6-day mountaineering course and a crevasse rescue course. In its Introduction to Alpine Touring course, Northwest Mountain School teaches students how to backcountry ski on an alpine touring course and imparts the skills needed to feel confident participating. In this course, guides demonstrate how to dress properly in order to remain comfortable for an entire day while going through radical changes in physical output and exposure. Climbs and climbing courses in the Cascades take in venues in the north, central and south Cascades including Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. The outfitter teaches avalanche courses that explains why avalanches occur and develops a framework for exercising good judgement and making decisions when traveling in avalanche terrain.

Peak Mountain Guides

Based in Ouray, Colorado, Peak Mountain Guides provides experiences for beginning and experienced outdoors people in rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing and avalanche courses in the San Juan Mountains, in the Ouray Ice Park and the Cascade Range in Washington. All of the Alpine programs combine educational opportunities, ease of access and world-class climbing on ice, snow and rock. Ice climbing experiences are provided for all ability levels. The outfitter has assisted many of their clients in getting started in this exciting sport. Peak is a permitted outfitter in the Ouray Ice Park with access to all of the classic backcountry climbs around Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride. All guides on the staff hold certification from the American Mountain Guides Association as Single Pitch Instructors, Rock Instructors, Rock Guides, Alpine Guides or Ski Guides. Avalanche training and backcountry skiing courses are tailored for small groups. The outfitters American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 1 course, for example, has a max of 6 students and the Level 2 course has just 5 students.

Pro Guiding Service

Located in North Bend, Washington, in the foothills of the Cascade Range 31 miles east of Seattle, Pro Guiding Service provides climbing trips and courses in skiing, rock and alpine climbing and avalanche education for all levels of skill. Venues for the activities include Snoqualmie Pass, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, North Cascades National Park in Washington, and Alaska. PGS leads trips to international destinations as well. The outfitter’s one-day ski touring course provides an introduction to the sport of backcountry skiing. Certified ski guides introduce guests to backcountry ski gear and the basics of what ski touring is all about. A four-day course is targeted at the intermediate to advanced alpine skier who would like to start venturing into the backcountry. PMG’s Advanced Navigation Course consists of an evening lecture and ski touring in the dark. A variety of other courses teach ski touring to students who have a variety of experience in ski touring ranging from beginner to advanced. Pro Mountain Guides offers other courses to clients on a custom basis. These include: ski touring, ski mountaineering, steep skiing, water ice climbing, alpine climbing, rock climbing and alpine hiking.

RMI Expeditions

For over 40 years, RMI Expeditions has been based in Washington State but has traveled all over the Northwest United States looking for the best mountaineering experiences they could find.  RMI has beginner to expert climbs available on Mount Rainier and the North Cascades as well as tackling the rugged peaks of Mount McKinley in Alaska.  They also teach skills clinics for safety and ice climbing to get in shape for the adventure. RMI was named Outside Magazine’s “Best Outfitter” in 2014.

Timberline Mountain Guides

Timberline Mountain Guides is ideally located in the high desert city of Bend, Oregon on the Eastern Slopes of the Oregon Cascade Mountains. The Cascades Region is home to three national parks and is well known for its outstanding glaciated mountain peaks and backcountry recreational opportunities. This outfitter provides an array of mountaineering and skiing experiences that include ice climbing, glacier touring, alpine mountaineering, high altitude volcano climbing, backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering, guided ski descents, and guided rock climbing.

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Brown’s Guides is a website about the top outdoor experiences in America and about the professional outfitters and guides who know them best. Hiking, biking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and over 100 other outdoor activities are indexed on the site. BG has been doing this type of thing since 1972 in books, magazines, maps and on the Internet.

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