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North Cascades Alpine Climbing

7 Day Course • North Cascades • Washington State




Alpine Climbing 7 Day*
July 11 – July 17, 2024
August 1 – August 7, 2024 Sold Out


* All dates available unless indicated as sold out.



Grade: Intermediate
7 Day Course


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Our North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course is our premier introduction to the essentials of modern alpinism. This course takes you from a scenic rock climbing crag high above the lush Puget Sound to some of the most famous glaciated peaks in North Cascades National Park. Along the way, our professional guides will give you a comprehensive introduction to mountain skills, including multipitch rock climbing, glacier travel, crevasse rescue, snow camping and many more topics and techniques.

The Alpine Climbing Course combines our popular Glacier Mountaineering and Alpine Rock Climbing courses into a single curriculum, and includes summit ascents of Sharkfin Tower and Sahale Mountain, or the Dorado Needle by way the Eldorado Basin. This itinerary is perfect for anyone who wants to climb two classic routes in the North Cascades, and aspires to move safely and proficiently through the world’s great mountain ranges.

Alpine Climbing • 7 Day Course

Our adventure begins on the diorite cliffs of Mount Erie, near the picturesque town of Anacortes, Washington. We devote the first two days of the course to rock climbing. While ascending single- and multipitch traditional routes, we practice moving on rock, belaying, rappelling, rope management and other skills.

Having learned rock climbing fundamentals, we drive to the Cascade Pass Trailhead in the heart of North Cascades National Park and hike to our high camp in Boston Basin or Eldorado Basin, two of the most famous alpine bivouacs in the Cascades. On days 3 through 5, we learn to live and climb in glaciated terrain. We practice ice and crampon technique, rope team travel, self-arrest, crevasse rescue, snow camping, snow and ice anchors, glacier navigation and more.

On Day 6, we climb the classic Southeast Ridge of Sharkfin Tower, which requires us to draw on many of the rock and glacier climbing skills we have been practicing. We spend that night in a snow camp on a bench of the Quien Sabe Glacier. On the final day of our seminar, we wake early for an alpine start, and then climb the glacier’s steep, crevassed upper slopes to the rocky summit of Sahale Mountain, where we celebrate our success amid panoramic views of the North Cascades. We rappel down the opposite side and descend the Sahale Glacier and Sahale Arm to our cars at Cascade Pass Trailhead. Alternatively, we will ascend the famous Dorado Needle by way of camps and travel on the Eldorado, Inspiration, and McAllister Glaciers.

As an alternate course venue, we may establish a high camp in the rarely visited Neve Glacier Zone, near an abundance of moderate alpine rock climbs.

Mount Erie • Rock Climbing

Located about 1.5 hours north of Seattle on Fidalgo Island near the charming city of Anacortes, Mount Erie is home to an excellent range of single- and multipitch rock climbing routes. Over the course of two days, our professional guides will help you review and expand your rock climbing skill set. As we prepare for our ascents of Sharkfin Tower and Sahale Mountain, we focus on a variety of techniques essential for safe and efficient travel on alpine rock, including protection, anchors, rope management, movement skills, belaying, lowering, rappelling and more.

Sharkfin Tower • 8,160 ft

Shaped like its namesake, Sharkfin Tower rises above Boston Basin in a chain of famous peaks that includes Mount Torment, Forbidden Peak, Boston Peak and Sahale Mountain. Known for high-quality granite, panoramic views, and relatively easy access, Sharkfin Tower is an excellent classroom for alpine rock climbing. The Southeast Ridge combines glacier travel, steep snow and moderate rock, allowing climbers to practice many of the skills of a well-rounded alpinist.

Sahale Mountain Traverse • 8,680 feet

Sahale Mountain (also known as Sahale Peak) is one of the popular summits in the Cascade Range. Set at the head of the impressive Stehekin Valley, Sahale’s rocky summit pinnacle is flanked on the west by the Quien Sabe Glacier and on the south by the Sahale Glacier. Our traverse takes us up the more challenging Quien Sabe Route, across the summit, and down the classic Sahale Arm Route via the Sahale Glacier to our trailhead at Cascade Pass. Throughout the traverse, we often see mountain goats and we enjoy stunning views of the jagged heart of North Cascades National Park.

Alpine Climbing School Curriculum

Alpine Rock Climbing Curriculum:

  • Movement on rock
  • Climbing equipment & clothing
  • Climbing knots & hitches
  • Traditional multipitch climbing
  • Belaying, lowering & rappelling
  • Introduction to anchors and protection
  • Using a guidebook and trip planning
  • Climbing communication

Glacier Mountaineering Curriculum:

  • Rest step, step kick, pressure breathing
  • Ice axe technique & self-arrest
  • Crampon technique
  • Glacier travel, climbing as a rope team
  • Introduction to snow & ice anchors
  • Crevasse rescue & self-extrication
  • Leave No Trace skills
  • Sahale Mountain Traverse
  • Discussion topics will include: Clothing and equipment, packing a backpack, mountain weather, glaciology, acclimatization, route finding, snow camp skills.

Climbing Routes

Boston Basin Approach

  • Approach Time to Camp: 3-4 hours
  • Distance: 3-4 miles, 2100 ft. gain
  • Trailhead: Boston Basin Climbers Path, 3200 ft.
  • Low Camp: 5300 ft.
  • High Camp: 6400 ft.
  • Quien Sabe Glacier Camp: 7500 ft.
  • Trail synopsis: From Cascade River Road, we follow an abandoned road for one mile to an old mine site, then continue up a climbers’ path across four stream crossings until we emerge above tree line at 5,300 feet into Boston Basin. We choose between a variety of campsites in the basin below 6,400 feet.

Sharkfin Tower Southeast Ridge

  • Total Elevation Gain: 2000 feet
  • Quien Sabe Glacier Camp to Summit Roundtrip: 2 miles, 7+ hours
  • Time on Route: 4-5 hours
  • Pack Weight: 15-25 lbs.
  • Route Synopsis: From our high camp on the Quien Sabe Glacier, we ascend a 4th class rock gully and snow slopes to a notch at the base of Sharkfin Tower. Several pitches of 5.0-5.6 climbing on solid rock take us directly up the spine of the ridge in a superb position high above the massive Boston Glacier. We then traverse the crest of the tower for two more pitches to the summit, where we enjoy panoramic views of Forbidden Peak, Eldorado Peak, Johannesburg Mountain, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier and many other summits. We rappel and downclimb our route back to high camp.

Sahale Mountain Traverse

  • Total Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
  • Quien Sabe Glacier Camp to Summit: 2-3 hours
  • Summit to Cascade Pass Trailhead: 4-6 hours
  • Total Traverse Time: 7-10 hours
  • Pack Weight: 45+ lbs.
  • Route Synopsis: We ascend the steep slopes of the upper Quien Sabe Glacier to the Boston Sahale Col. We turn south, traversing an exposed ridge of rock and snow to the base of Sahale’s summit pyramid. A pitch of 4th class scrambling leads to the summit. Leaving Boston Basin behind, we downclimb and rappel to the Sahale Glacier, then descend the Sahale Arm back to the Cascade Pass Trailhead.

Need help choosing a trip?
Read our Four-Legged Stool blog post for tips on finding the right adventure for you.

Course Highlights

  • 2 full days of alpine rock climbing instruction
  • 2 full days of glacier mountaineering instruction
  • 2 ascents of classic Cascades peaks
  • 1 night in a glacier camp
  • Crevasse rescue instruction
  • Belaying, rappelling and anchor instruction
  • Small teams for a personalized experience
  • Access to our convenient BaseCamp and The Guide Hut in Sedro-Woolley, WA.
  • An enjoyable Northwest Alpine Guides adventure in the heart of North Cascades National Park

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Rock Climbing Instruction
Day 2 • Alpine Rock Climb
Day 3 • Hike to High Camp
Day 4 • Glacier Mountaineering School
Day 5 • Crevasse Rescue Instruction
Day 6 • Sharkfin Tower Climb
Day 7 • Sahale Mountain Traverse


This is an intermediate level course and climb suitable for climbers in excellent physical condition with previous outdoor experience, solid backpacking skills and some prior rock climbing experience. No prior glacier experience is necessary. Four full days of mountaineering and some rock climbing instruction are included in the program. No extra acclimatization is necessary for this program. Read our Goals and Fitness page for recommendations on how to best physically prepare for this adventure.

3 to 1 Climber to Guide Ratio

We lead the North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course at a 3 to 1 climber to guide ratio to ensure that you receive personal attention and hands-on instruction throughout the course.

Northwest Alpine Guides is an authorized outfitter guide service within North Cascades National Park


North Cascades Alpine Climbing

Plan to arrive the day before the course begins.

Day 1 • Knots and Movement Skills

Meet at our BaseCamp in Sedro-Woolley, WA.

Northwest Alpine Guides will provide you with a detailed PreClimb departure book upon registration including personal gear list, meeting location and driving directions.

Our alpine guides will meet you for team introductions, gear check, and group gear distribution. The drive to the trailhead at Mount Erie takes approximately 30 minutes.

After a short approach hike to the crag, we will cover equipment selection, knots, belaying, rappelling, and practice some movement skills by climbing some shorter pitches. Your guides will host discussions on climbing topics throughout the course.

Accommodations: Overnight in Burlington or Anacortes (not included)
Meals Included: None

Day 2 • Traditional Multipitch Climbing

We meet early in the morning and return to Mount Erie. We begin the day by climbing shorter routes and expanding upon the technical and movement skills we learned on Day 1.

After lunch we embark on a traditional multipitch route, allowing us to practice route-finding, anchors, protection, rope and team management and movement skills on a longer climb.

Depending on climber ability, we may choose any one of a number of routes, from October Sky (5.6, 2 pitches) to Gotta Keep Dancing (5.9, 4 pitches).

Accommodations: Overnight in Burlington or Anacortes (not included)
Meals Included: None

Day 3 • Hike to High Camp • Glacier Mountaineering School

We meet in the morning and drive approximately two hours to Cascade Pass Trailhead in North Cascades National Park.

The hike to our high camp takes three to four hours. We set up our tents between 5,300 and 6,400 feet depending on the season. After a short break, your guides will begin teaching mountaineering skills.

In the evening, we are free to relax and watch the alpenglow on the spectacular scenery of Boston Basin, ringed by glaciated peaks including Mount Torment, Forbidden Peak, Sharkfin Tower, Boston Peak, Sahale Mountain and Johannesburg Mountain.

Each team member will be assessed throughout the approach hike and mountaineering instruction. You will need to demonstrate adequate fitness as your safety is our priority.

Vertical Gain Hiking: 2,100 feet
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: None

Day 4 • Glacier Mountaineering School

Today we hike onto the Quien Sabe Glacier and spend the day learning glacier climbing fundamentals. Instruction includes ice axe and crampon technique, self-arrest training, rope team travel, and snow anchors. We return to high camp for dinner.

Vertical Gain Hiking: 1,000 feet
Training Time: 7-8 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: None

Day 5 • Crevasse Rescue • Move to Quien Sabe Glacier Camp

We wake early, pack up camp, and move up onto a bench on the Quien Sabe Glacier at approximately 7,500 feet, below Sharkfin Tower. After setting up our tents, we practice crevasse rescue and self-extrication.

Our position on the glacier provides an excellent opportunity for your guides to discuss glaciology, glacier navigation and snow camping. We go to bed early to prepare for our ascent of Sharkfin Tower in the morning.

Vertical Gain Hiking: 1,000 feet
Training & Hiking Time: 7-8 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: None

Day 6 • Sharkfin Tower • 8,160 feet

We wake early for our ascent of Sharkfin Tower.

After breakfast, we climb a 4th class rock gully not far from our tents, and then ascend steep snow slopes to a notch on the skyline above us. With stunning views of the Quien Sabe and Boston glaciers beneath our feet, we ascend 4-5 pitches of delightful, low-5th class rock to the summit. We celebrate our success, then downclimb and rappel back to camp.

In the afternoon, we discuss how we applied our rock and glacier climbing skills during the ascent.

We eat dinner and go to bed early to prepare for our traverse of Sahale Mountain the following day.

Vertical Gain Climbing: 700 feet
Climbing Time: 5-7 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: None

Day 7 • Sahale Mountain Traverse • 8,680 feet

We wake early for a predawn alpine start, eat breakfast and then pack up camp. With the morning sun shining on Eldorado Peak in the distance, we climb steep, glacial slopes to the Boston Sahale Col. An exposed traverse on a snow and rock ridge leads to a short rock scramble, before we step onto the summit of Sahale Mountain.

After taking pictures of the peaks around us and the Stehekin Valley far below, we rappel off the summit and descend via the Sahale Glacier and the Sahale Arm back to our cars at Cascade Pass. We generally arrive back at our cars by early afternoon and conclude our adventure in Sedro-Woolley.

Vertical Gain Climbing: 1,200 feet
Climbing Time: 7-10 hours

Meals Included: None

Plan to depart the day after the course ends.

Itinerary Notes
Northwest Alpine Guides makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner


Where to Meet

At 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the climb, we meet at BaseCamp in Sedro-Woolley, WA for equipment check and orientation before heading to the trailhead. We will email you detailed PreClimb information including a gear list and full departure details upon receiving your registration.

Deposit and Payments

  • A non-refundable deposit of $300 per person secures your reservation.
  • The balance is due 120 days prior to start date.
  • The balance can be paid by credit card with a surcharge of 3.0%, or Zelle payment network.
  • If your balance payment is not received 120 days before the start of your program, your reservation will be canceled, and all program fees forfeited.

Price Includes

  • Guided climb and instruction
  • Professional mountain guide
  • Group equipment (including tents, ropes, etc.)
  • Wilderness Permits

Price Does Not Include

  • Transportation
  • Meals and snack food
  • Personal gear
  • Hotels or lodging
  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Staff gratuities


Our instructors are highly skilled professional guides who have been selected based on their technical proficiency, proven safety records, careful judgment, patience, and supportive teaching styles. They are dedicated to a climbing lifestyle, and collectively have climbed throughout the earth’s major mountain ranges. Our guides are friendly, very willing to share their own experiences, and can help you develop a plan to achieve your own climbing ambitions. All our guides carry current certification in wilderness first aid.


Our guides are dedicated mountain professionals who work hard to ensure your success and wellbeing on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. An average tip is 10 – 20% percent of the cost of the program, usually $100 – $200. Your guide team will pool all tips.

Summit Attempt

Northwest Alpine Guides cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe. You or your entire party may have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a team member’s own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not NWAG responsibility and will not result in refund or reschedule.

Age Guidelines

Participants age 16 & 17: May participate in fixed-date group itineraries if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Participants age 15: May only participate in private climbs and must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

We do not accept participants under 15 years old due to insurance and liability reasons.

Minimum Participants

Please note that a minimum of two participants is required to guarantee each departure at the advertised price.

Travel Insurance

We highly recommend that all participants consider travel and trip cancellation insurance after making a deposit. Travel insurance offers the best protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness, an injury prior to or while traveling, or a possible family emergency.

If you choose not to purchase insurance, you assume full responsibility for any expenses incurred in the event of a medical emergency and/or evacuation, as well as for trip cancellation, interruption, lost luggage, etc. Northwest Alpine Guides does not insure you against these risks. We ask that you consult your travel insurance carrier directly with questions.

For more info about current coverage plans and quotes please visit.

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance

Travel, evacuation and rescue coverage designed for adventure travelers.

For a quote, or to purchase travel insurance, please click this link Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance™

  • Waiv­er for pre-exist­ing con­di­tions (must be pur­chased with­in 14 days of trip deposit)
  • Option­al “Can­cel for Any Rea­son” cov­er­age (must be pur­chased with­in 14 days of trip deposit)

Global Rescue

We recommend Signature Travel Insurance. For travel insurance or Global Rescue membership.

For a quote, or to purchase travel insurance, please click this link Global Rescue

For Non-US Residents & Citizens – World Nomads

For Canadians and for other non-US residents (enter your country of origin), World Nomads can provide travel and disaster insurance options for mountaineers.

Date Changes

Date changes may be requested at any time up to 60 days prior to your departure date for a $100.00 fee per person. Date changes are subject to availability and apply only to the current climbing season. No date changes allowed less than 60 days before departure.


Since departures require a minimum number of participants, Northwest Alpine Guides must adhere to a stringent refund policy. The policy is intended to protect participants who have otherwise committed time and resources to the departure. Please read our Terms and Conditions.


You will need to bring your own stove and gas, and prepare all of your own meals during the North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course. You will need four (4) breakfasts, enough lunch and snack food for seven (7) days, and four (4) dinners. As part of the curriculum, Northwest Alpine Guides will teach you to use your stove and cook meals in the backcountry. Video Resource: Mountain Snack and Lunch Ideas

Meal Schedule

Day 1: Three or four 15-minute lunch & snack breaks while climbing. Breakfast & dinner in Burlington or Anacortes on your own.

Day 2: Three or four 15-minute lunch & snack breaks while climbing. Breakfast & dinner in Burlington or Anacortes on your own.

Day 3: Breakfast in Burlington or Anacortes on your own. Three 15-minute snack breaks on the hike to high camp. Dinner in high camp.

Day 4: Breakfast in high camp. Four or five 15-minute lunch & snack breaks during mountaineering school. Dinner in high camp.

Day 5: Breakfast in high camp. Four or five 15-minute lunch & snack breaks while moving camp & during mountaineering school. Dinner in Quien Sabe Glacier Camp.

Day 6: Breakfast in high camp. Four or five 10-minute snack breaks while climbing Sharkfin Tower. Dinner in Quien Sabe Glacier Camp.

Day 7: Breakfast in camp. Six or seven 10-minute snack breaks while traversing Sahale Mountain. Snack and lunch food for the descent to trailhead.

Mountain Lunches

We recommend that you bring a variety of snack food to eat while moving (about 150-200 calories each break). On each day, we will encourage you to eat at regular, short maintenance breaks, roughly once every hour. These snacks can be critical for maintaining a steady supply of energy while moving up and down the mountain. We will not stop for a big lunch break.

Some examples of snack foods include dried meats (salami), jerky (turkey, beef, fish), tuna fish, cheese, crackers, bagels, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, candy bars, gummy candy, cookies, energy bars and trail mix.

We cannot overstate how critical it is for you to bring foods that you enjoy eating. Eating properly is the key to maintaining strength in the mountains. We recommend a selection of sweet, sour and salty food.

When preparing lunches, please do not bring food items that require cooking or extensive preparation.

Mountain Breakfasts and Dinners

Please prepare your meals prior to your climb. Suggested food items:

Alpine Breakfast: Instant oatmeal, Pop Tarts, dried fruit, granola bars, bagels, peanut butter, cream cheese.

Dinner: Freeze-dried dinners are easy to prepare but do not always taste good and may affect your stomach. Instant noodle soups and rice are also popular. You may also consider bringing a cold meal of dried meat, bread, pizza, or sandwiches.

Hot Drinks: Coffee, Caffeinated Tea, Herbal Tea, Cocoa, Cider

Cold water for drinking and cooking will be available in high camp. You will be responsible for boiling water for your meal preparation, for example for freeze-dried dinners, instant soups, instant oatmeal and hot drinks.

When preparing meals, please do not bring food items that require extensive cooking or other preparation.

The Guide Hut offers a wide variety of freeze-dried meals for purchase, including vegan and gluten free options.


Getting There

At 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the climb, we meet at BaseCamp in Sedro-Woolley, WA for equipment check and orientation before heading to the trailhead. Upon receiving your registration, Northwest Alpine Guides will email you complete PreClimb information, including a gear list specific to your itinerary and other departure details. The Guide Hut offers a selection of mountaineering equipment and clothing for purchase and rent.

The small town of Sedro-Woolley, “The Gateway to the North Cascades,” is approximately 70 miles and a 1.5-hour drive from Seattle or Bellevue. Limited services are available in Sedro-Woolley. More extensive food, shopping and lodging options may be found nearby in the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington.

Northwest Alpine Guides | BaseCamp | The Guide Hut
11132 Sterling Road
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

Click here for directions

Welcome to BaseCamp and The Guide Hut

What to Expect the Morning of the Climb

Northwest Alpine Guides is excited to announce the opening of BaseCamp, our new meeting location and seasonal guide office in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, the Gateway to the North Cascades!

The Guide Hut serves as our rental shop and retail store for guests of Northwest Alpine Guides. Find a variety of retail items, logo wear, and climbing equipment. Visit our online gear shop for available merchandise and rental gear options.

At BaseCamp:

  • Guests may pick up pre-reserved rentals, try on rental boots, and shop for last-minute items.
  • Gear Check: There is ample time to pick up items during the gear check the morning of the climb.

BaseCamp exclusively serves Northwest Alpine Guides customers. It is not open to the public and operates only during scheduled hours.

Flight Travel

Most climbers will fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) the evening before the program and rent a car for the hour and forty-five minute drive to Sedro Woolley, Washington. Please note that Seattle traffic is worsening and driving times from Seattle and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport may be significantly longer.

Our Northwest programs begin at the date, time and meeting location listed in the itinerary in your PreClimb Information. Meeting locations may vary depending on program destination. Climbers flying to Washington State must arrive the day before their program begins in order the meet the group for an early morning gear check and orientation. Return times on the final day of the program are difficult to predict. We strongly recommend that climbers book a hotel night following the final day of their itinerary and schedule departure flights on the following day. If departing on the last day of the program, we recommend booking a flight later than 10 pm.


Transportation between the meeting location and the trailhead is not included in the price of the trip. Guides are not responsible for providing transportation to team members. We serve both local and out-of-town climbers in our Northwest programs, and many of our guests prefer to use their own vehicles. Team members are free to organize rideshares with other team members. With your permission, our office staff can share your name and contact information with other team members so that you can organize ridesharing. The NWAG office does not coordinate ridesharing or carpooling and we are unable to share customer or guide contact information due to privacy concerns. If you are trying to coordinate a ride, feel free to send an email to and we can forward it to your fellow climbers.

Trailhead Parking

You will need to obtain a NW Forest Pass or equivalent parking permit to leave your car at the trailhead lot. Single-use passes are $5.00 per day. They can be purchased in advance or the day of the gear check. A National Parks pass may suffice.

Driving Directions

From Seattle
Follow I-5 North to Burlington, Skagit County
Take exit 231 from I-5 N, Merge onto N Burlington Blvd, 3 min (0.6 mi)

Turn left onto State Rte 20 E, Head East towards Sedro-Woolley
Follow State Rte 20 E to Sterling Rd, 7 min (3.0 mi)

Turn right onto Sterling Rd, 2 min (0.8 mi)
Turn right into BaseCamp / Northwest Alpine Guides

From Bellingham
Follow I-5 South to Burlington, Skagit County
Take exit 232 from I-5 S, Head East on Cook Rd towards Sedro-Woolley, 4 min (2.7 mi)

Turn right onto Collins Rd, 2 min (1.0 mi)
Turn left onto State Rte 20 E, 1 min (0.3 mi)

Turn right onto Sterling Rd, 2 min (0.8 mi)
Turn right into BaseCamp / Northwest Alpine Guides


Lodging in Burlington, Washington. If you wish to stay close to the meeting location the night before your climb, we recommend the following options:

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Burlington
9384 Old Hwy 99 North
Burlington, WA 98233

La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Burlington
1670 S Burlington Blvd
Burlington, WA 98233

Mountain Weather

For updated North Cascades weather forecasts, click here.


These items are required for our North Cascades Alpine Climbing course.

Discover premium retail and rental equipment at The Guide Hut’s online store. Order today, and your gear will be ready for pickup at BaseCamp on the morning of your climb. Don’t miss our Guide Picks blog for brand-specific gear recommendations. Gear up with us for your next adventure!

Shop the Guide Hut »Rental Reservation »Gear Recommendations »

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool or synthetic. Must cover the ears.
  • Buff
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields. A category 4 lens is required.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: Two synthetic long-sleeve shirts. Hoods for sun protection are strongly recommended.
  • Mid-layer Top: A synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: This is a breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: A fully waterproof shell. GORE-TEX© or equivalent. Hoods are required.
  • Insulated Jacket: Medium weight down. 700+ fill or higher required.
  • Check out our video resource on Down Jackets for more.

Note: Proper hardshell rain gear is required on all trips.
Note: Women may want to bring an extra sports bra in case one becomes wet.


  • Lightweight Softshell Gloves: One pair. Leather palms offer durability and grip.
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove or mitten with GORE-TEX© waterproof outer or DWR treatment.

Lower Body

  • Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton.
  • Softshell Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated.
  • Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants. Full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your hardshell pants without removing your boots.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.


  • Rock Climbing Shoes: Velcro, lace-up, or slipper-style rock climbing shoes with sticky-rubber soles. A snug but not painful fit is recommended.
  • Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible leather, synthetic, or hybrid boot depending on the season.

Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boots and Crampons guides for recommendations.

● Heavyweight insulated leather/synthetic/hybrid mountaineering boots are required for early season and late-summer climbs. Also recommended for mid-summer climbs.

● Single-weight synthetic/leather mountaineering boots are adequate for mid-summer climbs on Mount Baker when conditions are expected to be dry.

X – NO backpacking or trekking boots are allowed above high camp on any trip. Climbing boots must be full shank and crampon compatible.

  • Approach Shoes (Optional): Light hiking boots or sturdy trail running shoes may be adequate for late-season approaches to high camp after trails are free of snow. Must be sturdy enough to support your ankles while carrying a carrying a 45- to 55- pound pack.
  • Mediumweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks.
  • Heavyweight Socks: One pair of wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.


  • Sleeping Bag: A warm bag rated 0ᵒ to 20ᵒ Fahrenheit depending on season.
  • Sleeping Pad: A full-length closed-cell foam and/or inflatable pad. Foam AND inflatable pads are recommended for camping on snow during early-season climbs.
  • Check out our video resource on Sleep Systems for more.


  • Personal Stove System: MSR WindBurner – 1.0 Liter. Or similar.
  • Fuel Canister: (2) MSR IsoPro 8 oz.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 65- to 75-liter pack for personal and group gear. Should have an effective waist belt, fit properly and provide good support while carrying 45+ pounds.
  • Liner Bags: 1 large plastic contractor bag.
  • Check out our video resource on Packing a Mountaineering Backpack for more.

Note: An adequately sized backpack is required. You are responsible to carry all of your personal gear and food, as well as a portion of group gear (tents, ropes, stoves, fuel, etc.). We do not recommend an additional pack for summit day. Backpacks smaller than 65 liters are not acceptable.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-75 cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Climbing Harness: Padded rock climbing harness. Adjustable leg loops are recommended.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2) Medium pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Non-Locking Carabiners: (4) Wire gate non-locking carabiners.
  • Belay Device: Tube style belay device.
  • Rescue Pulley
  • Prussik Cord: 6 mm, 30 feet
  • Nylon Slings: (1) 60 cm nylon sling, (1) 120 cm nylon sling
  • Petzl Micro Traxion or Nano Traxion pulley, recommended
  • Petzl Tibloc, optional


  • Water Bottles: (2) 1-liter, wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©

Note: CamelBaks and other bladder-style hydration systems may be used in addition to two water bottles, but are not sufficient. Bladders may pop and hydration hoses freeze in the cold.

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Small personal first-aid kit with medications and blister kit
  • Plastic bowl, insulated mug, and spoon
  • Bear resistant container or sack
  • Toilet paper
  • Blue bag or wag bag
  • Earplugs
  • Camera
  • Pee Funnel (for Women), optional
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Personal Items

Note: Pack basic medical supplies in a compact package. We recommend basic painkillers, Moleskin, first-aid or athletic tape, Band-Aids, and anti-septic wipes or gel.
Note: All solid waste must be carried out of the backcountry. One waste kit per 1-3 days is typically sufficient.


Physical fitness is the foundation of every mountain adventure. A strong cardiovascular system, endurance, core strength, flexibility and balance let us safely enjoy the spectacular terrain and close camaraderie we find in the planet’s highest places.

Mountaineering and rock climbing are strenuous activities that impose unique demands on our bodies. For rock climbing, hand and arm strength are important, but our feet usually bear most of our weight. Good footwork is essential. To move lightly and gracefully on the rock, you should develop a base of general fitness, balance and agility. Aerobic sports such as running, cycling and swimming will keep you trim, while activities like yoga can improve your core strength and flexibility. Climbing gyms are an excellent place to build climbing strength. For glacier mountaineering, the best training is hiking uphill with a heavy pack. Even strong runners may struggle to carry a heavy pack over steep, uneven terrain for hours at a time. Do not underestimate the importance of climbing-specific training.

The following fitness guidelines will help you prepare for your climb. For your safety and the safety of your rope team, you must be able to maintain the pace set by our guides while maintaining reserves of strength. Moving more slowly can be dangerous. As the climbing day lengthens, we become fatigued and dehydrated. We lose precious daylight hours and we expose ourselves to quickly shifting mountain conditions and weather.

Fitness Benchmarks

To safely enjoy this course, you must be able to meet these benchmark times while maintaining reserves of strength. Our guides may turn around climbers who are unable to do so. We recommend training for the North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course at least 3-6 months in advance.

  • You should be able to hike/climb for 1 to 2 hours at a time, punctuated by 10 minute breaks, for up to 12 hours.
  • You should be able to rock climb 1,000 feet per day while carrying 15-25 pounds on your back, and 4,000 feet per day while carrying 45 pounds or more on your back.

Sharkfin Tower: Southeast Ridge

The Southeast Ridge demands approximately 700 feet of elevation gain from camp on the Quien Sabe Glacier to the summit, including 600 vertical feet of 4th and 5th class rock climbing. Participants should prepare for a 5- to 7-hour summit day requiring aerobic endurance and some upper body fitness.

Cascade Pass Trailhead to Boston Basin High Camp:

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Ascent: 2,100 feet
  • Pack Weight: 45+ pounds
  • Time: 3-4 hours

High Camp to Quien Sabe Glacier Camp:

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Ascent: 1,300 feet
  • Pack Weight: 45+ pounds
  • Time: 1-2 hours

Quien Sabe Glacier Camp to Summit Roundtrip:

  • Ascent: 700 feet
  • Pack Weight: 15-25 pounds
  • Time: 5-7 hours

Sahale Mountain: Traverse

Traversing Sahale Mountain from the Quien Sabe Glacier, over the summit and down the Sahale Glacier to Cascade Pass Trailhead demands approximately 1,200 feet of elevation gain from trailhead to summit, including a short pitch of rock scrambling. Participants should prepare for 12-hour summit day requiring aerobic endurance, and some upper body fitness.

Quien Sabe Glacier Camp to Summit:

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Ascent: 1,200 feet
  • Pack Weight: 45+ pounds
  • Time: 2-3 hours

Summit to Cascade Pass Trailhead:

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Descent: 5,100 feet
  • Pack Weight: 45+ pounds
  • Time: 4-6 hours

Training Resources:

Please read our Goals & Fitness guide for strategies to help you train for your climb.

Many climbers, particularly those who are new to the sport, will benefit from a workout plan designed to prepare you for the rigors of mountaineering. We recommend the following training resources:

Evoke Endurance
Mountain Tactical Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in the Alpine Climbing Course?

On our 7 Day North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course we will introduce a broad range of essential knowledge and techniques you need stay safe and have fun while climbing glaciers and alpine rock. You will receive two full days of dedicated rock climbing instruction and two full days of glacier mountaineering instruction. We also climb two classic alpine rock and glacier routes in the heart of North Cascades National Park: Sharkfin Tower and Sahale Mountain.

Your trip fee includes a professional mountain guide, wilderness camping permits, and all group expedition gear (ropes, protection and mountaineering tents). The fee does not cover travel to Mount Erie or Cascade Pass Trailhead, lodging on days 1, 2 or 7; snacks, meals or personal gear.

How much climbing experience do I need for this trip?

This is an intermediate level course and climb suitable for climbers in excellent physical condition with no prior mountaineering experience. We recommend that you gain some rock climbing experience before the course, either outdoors or in a rock gym. You must have some basic movement skill to participate in the rock climbing curriculum and climb Sharkfin Tower. If you’ve never rock climbed, we recommend our 2 Day Smith Rock Intro to Sport Climbing.

What about safety?

Whether you’ve already done some alpinism and you are eager to expand your mountain skill set, or you’ve never stepped onto a glacier, our professional instructors are prepared to meet you at your skill level and teach you the techniques you’ll need to stay safe in the vertical world. In mountaineering, safety is paramount. Our instruction in designed to help you build your skills from the ground up.

All of our professional guides are dedicated climbers with wilderness medical certifications. We follow a well-rounded curriculum to help you become self-reliant in the mountains. Climbing can be unpredictable – weather conditions can change in a moment and bad decisions can lead to injury. Northwest Alpine Guides will teach you how to climb safely and successfully.

Why Northwest Alpine Guides

Mountain climbing blends physical and mental challenge with teamwork and unparalleled opportunities to immerse yourself in the natural world. Our group sizes are often smaller than those of other guide services, allowing us to provide our customers with rewarding, personalized adventures that make the most of all the mountains have to offer.

Our mountain guides have decades of experience and have climbed the peaks of the Northwest hundreds of times. They have completed many expeditions to the world’s most challenging summits, including Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua. Our guides are knowledgeable and personable. Northwest Alpine Guides will ensure you enjoy your climbing experience as you advance your skills. To learn more about our services, history and philosophy please visit: Why Northwest Alpine Guides.



Mount Baker Intro

Learn the basics of mountaineering on this heavily glaciated peak.

Trip Length: 3 days


Glacier Mountaineering Course

Learn the skills needed to become independent on glaciated terrain.

Trip Length: 5 days


Expedition Training Course

Learn valuable skills for expedition mountaineering on big peaks like Denali.

Trip Length: 6 days

Our North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course is our premier introduction to the essentials of modern alpinism. This course takes you from a scenic rock climbing crag high above the lush Puget Sound to some of the most famous glaciated peaks in North Cascades National Park. Along the way, our professional guides will give you a comprehensive introduction to mountain skills, including multipitch rock climbing, glacier travel, crevasse rescue, snow camping and many more topics and techniques.

North Cascades National ParkBoston Basin