Expedition Training 6 Day
April 25 – April 30, 2021


Grade: Beginner
6 Day Course


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Learn how to prepare for a big mountain expedition on the most glaciated peak in the Lower 48 States. Our 6-Day Expedition Training Course uses Mount Rainier as a classroom while teaching aspiring mountaineers the advanced climbing and logistical skills needed for expeditions to Denali, Aconcagua and the Himalaya. You will learn to navigate in the mountains and build a secure expedition snow camp while practicing the essentials of glacier mountaineering, including: crampon and ice axe technique, climbing on snow, self-arrest, snow anchors, rope team travel, crevasse rescue and more. Depending on mountain conditions, we will use snowshoes and sleds for travel. This course gives you the essential skills needed to travel safely and independently in the glaciated mountain environment.

Mount Rainier Expedition Training • 6 Day Course

Our Expedition Training course includes breakfast, dinner and hot drinks on the mountain. To minimize pack weight, we use the lightest available, high-quality mountaineering tents, stoves and group equipment. We meet in Ashford for an equipment check and orientation on the first morning of the course. The next day we make our way to the trailhead and ascend to our basecamp. Each day is dedicated to learning expedition mountaineering skills. On Day Four we ascend to Camp Muir. On Day Six we return to the trailhead.

Expedition Training School Curriculum

  • Rest step, step kicking and pressure breathing
  • Ice axe techniques and self arrest training
  • Crampon usage and techniques
  • Glacier travel, climbing as a rope team
  • Introduction to snow & ice anchors
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Basic climbing knots & hitches
  • Ascending fixed lines
  • Belaying, rappelling, rope management
  • Mountain navigation
  • Establishing a secure expedition snow camp
  • Traveling with snowshoes and sleds
  • Leave No Trace skills
  • Climb to Camp Muir
  • Discussion topics will include: Clothing and equipment, packing a backpack, mountain weather, glaciology, acclimatization, route finding, snow camp skills. Our professional guides will follow the above curriculum, introducing the essential mountaineering skills for a successful summit climb.

Muir Snowfield

  • Approach Time to Camp Muir: 5-6+ hours
  • Distance: 4.5 miles, 4800 ft. gain
  • Trailhead: Paradise Meadow, 5400 ft.
  • Panorama Point Basecamp: 6,000 – 6,300 ft.
  • Elevation Gain to Basecamp: 900 feet
  • Camp Muir: 10,188 ft.
  • Total Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet
  • Pack Weight: 50-60 lbs. trailhead to High Camp, 20 lbs. to Camp Muir
  • Trail synopsis: Our route begins at Paradise Meadows gaining elevation moderately until reaching our basecamp near tree line around 6,000 feet. The trail is snow covered during the spring season so we will utilize snow shoes and sleds for travel. We continue our climb to Camp Muir, taking a break near split rock between 7,600 – 7,800 feet. From here we ascend snow, kicking steps and moderately gaining elevation to our second (8,600 ft.) and third breaks reaching the top of Moon Rocks at 9,200 feet. We take our final break shortly before reaching Camp Muir.

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

Course Highlights

  • A full day of mountaineering training and acclimatization to prepare you for the climb to Camp Muir.
  • A full day to develop advanced glacier mountaineering skills including anchors and crevasse rescue.
  • Professional instruction from Northwest Alpine Guides staff.
  • Small teams for a personalized experience. Many of our courses are guided with a maximum of six climbers and two guides.
  • Breakfast, dinner and hot drinks are provided on the mountain.
  • A comprehensive expedition training course in the spectacular scenery of Mount Rainier National Park.

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Orientation
Day 2 • Hike to Camp
Day 3 • Intro Mountaineering School
Day 4 • Climb to Camp Muir
Day 5 • Expedition Training School
Day 6 • Hike to Trailhead


This ascent is an entry level summit climb and is suitable for climbers in excellent physical condition with no prior mountaineering experience. A full day of introductory skills training is 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.

4 to 1 Climber to Guide Ratio

We lead the Mount Rainier Expedition Training at a 4 to 1 climber to guide ratio ensuring that you receive personal attention and hands-on instruction throughout the climb.

Northwest Alpine Guides is an authorized special use permit holder in Mount Rainier National Park


Mount Rainier Expedition Training

Plan to arrive the day before the course begins.

Day 1 • Course Orientation

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, a thorough gear check, group gear distribution and discussions on expedition packing. On Day One and throughout the course our guides will host thorough discussions on various mountaineering topics.

Accommodations are not included: Overnight in Ashford, WA
Meals Included: None

Day 2 • Hike to Basecamp

The hike to basecamp takes 2 to 3 hours. The team will set camp between 6,000 and 6,300 feet depending on conditions. After setting up camp, your guides will continue instruction as time allows. We prepare dinner and relax for the evening with views of the extensive Nisqually Glacier and the south side of Mount Rainier.

Vertical gain climbing: 600-900 feet

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Dinner (D)

Day 3 • Intro to Mountaineering School

Today we learn mountaineering fundamentals. Instruction includes snow climbing, ice axe and crampon technique, self-arrest and team arrest, rope travel and basic knots and anchors. 

Each team member will be assessed throughout the mountaineering school. You will need to demonstrate adequate fitness and proficiency in climbing skills as your safety is our priority. 

After mountaineering training, we return to camp and prepare for our climb to Camp Muir. The team enjoys dinner and goes to bed early for the next day’s climb. 

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 4 • Climb to Camp Muir • 10,188 feet

We gain 3,400 feet over 5 to 6 hours as we ascend the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir, where we set up our tents on the edge of the Cowlitz Glacier. During the afternoon guides will continue instruction as time allows.

Vertical gain climbing: 3,400 feet
Climbing time: 5 to 6 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 5 • Expedition Training School

Today our curriculum moves into advanced glacier mountaineering skills needed for big mountain expedition climbing. We learn navigation, crevasse rescue, snow and ice protection, ascending fixed lines, belaying, rappelling, and rope management.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 6 • Hike to Trailhead

After enjoying breakfast, we wrap up our skills training and break camp. Then we retrace our hike back to the trailhead. We usually arrive back at the trailhead by early afternoon and conclude our adventure in Ashford.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

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 11:00 a.m. on the morning of the climb, we meet in Ashford, WA, for an equipment check and orientation. We will email you detailed PreClimb information including a gear list and full departure details upon receiving your registration.

Deposit and Payments

  • $300.00 deposit includes a $200.00 non-refundable registration fee, due with application.
  • Balance due 90 days prior to start date.
  • The balance can be paid by check, or credit card.

Price Includes

  • Guided course and instruction
  • Scheduled meals on the mountain (breakfast, dinner, hot drinks)
  • Professional mountain guide
  • Group equipment (including tents, ropes, stoves, sleds, etc.)
  • Wilderness Permits

Price Does Not Include

  • Transportation
  • National Park entrance fee
  • Lunch 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. If you prefer to transfer funds electronically, please send gratuities through

Summit Attempt

Our course goal is to learn and practice foundational mountaineering skills. As such, a summit attempt is not one of our goals.

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

Date Changes

Date changes are not available for this 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 Online Reservation for Terms and Conditions.


During the Mount Rainier Expedition Training Course, Northwest Alpine Guides will provide group meals consisting of four (4) breakfasts and four (4) dinners. You will need to provide your own lunch and snack food on the mountain.

Mountain Lunches

We recommend that you bring a variety of snack food to eat while moving. 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.

Day 1: Course orientation
No meals provided

Day 2: Lunch & snacks for hike from trailhead to basecamp
Two or three 15-minute lunch & snack breaks

Day 3: Lunch & snacks for mountaineering school
8-hour training includes a 30-minute lunch break, two 15-minute snack breaks

Day 4: Lunch & snacks for climb to Camp Muir
Three or four 15-minute snack breaks on the ascent from high camp to Camp Muir, two 15-minute snack breaks on the descent from Camp Muir to high camp

Day 5: Lunch & snacks for mountaineering school
8-hour training includes a 30-minute lunch break, two 15-minute snack breaks

Day 6: Remaining snacks for the descent to trailhead

Group Meals

Northwest Alpine Guides may provide and prepare the following items for group breakfasts and dinners:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, Toasted Bagels with Cream Cheese, Pop Tarts, Granola Bars

Dinner: Chicken, Beef, Pork, Cheese, Noodles, Spaghetti, Tortellini, Rice, Beans, Fresh Vegetables, Tasty Bite Indian Meals, Freeze-Dried Meals

Hot Drinks: Coffee, Caffeinated Tea, Herbal Tea

Meal Concerns

We can accommodate most common food allergies. We do not serve fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk or eggs. For vegetarian diets, we are easily able to leave out the meat before serving group meals. For those with other dietary concerns, we recommend bringing food to supplement the pre-planned meals we provide. The Guide Hut offers a wide variety of freeze-dried meals for purchase, including vegan and gluten free options.


Getting There

At 10:00 a.m. the morning of the course, we meet in Ashford, WA. We will email you PreClimb info including gear list and departure details upon registration.

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 Ashford, 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.

Mountain Weather

For updated North Cascades weather forecasts, click here.


These items are required for our Mount Rainier Expedition Training course.

The Guide Hut offers a selection of mountaineering equipment and clothing for purchase and rent. Gear may be purchased from the Guide Hut in advance via our Online Gear Shop. Rental gear must be reserved in advance using our quick rental form. Please read our Guide Picks blog post for gear recommendations by specific brands.

Shop the Guide Hut »Quick Rental Reservation »Gear Recommendations »

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool or synthetic. Must cover the ears.
  • Buff or Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields. A category 4 lens is required.
  • Goggles: One pair with dark lenses to protect from snow and wind and adequate ventilation to prevent fogging.
  • 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.

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© or waterproof outer.

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.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible double plastic, leather, synthetic, or hybrid boot depending on the season.

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

● Double plastic mountaineering boots or heavyweight synthetic/leather mountaineering boots are required for Mount Rainier.

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

  • 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.

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: 2 large plastic contractor bags.

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.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-75 cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2) Large 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: (2) 60 cm nylon slings


  • 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
  • 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 systemendurance, core strength, flexibility and balance let us safely enjoy the spectacular terrain and close camaraderie we find in the planet’s highest places. 

Mountaineering is a strenuous activity that imposes unique demands on our bodies. Running, swimming, cycling and other sports may help you prepare for your climb, but they are usually not sufficient. 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 Mount Rainier Expedition Training 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 9 hours.
  • You should be able to ascend 4,000 feet per day while carrying 45 pounds or more on your back.

Mount Rainier Expedition Training Course

The Expedition Training Course requires excellent physical fitness. During the course, we gain nearly 5,000 feet of elevation from Paradise Meadows Trailhead to Camp Muir, with additional exertion during training days. Participants should prepare for up to 9 hours of climbing and/or training time on any given day.

Paradise Meadow Trailhead to Panorama Point Base Camp:

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Ascent: 600-900 feet
  • Pack Weight: 45+ pounds
  • Time: 1-2 hours

Base Camp to Camp Muir:

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Ascent: 4,200 feet
  • Pack Weight: 45+ pounds
  • Time: 5-6 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:

Uphill Athlete
Mountain Tactical Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

What about safety?

Whether you’re a rock climber eager to begin climbing in glaciated terrain, or you’ve never tied into a rope, our professional instructors are prepared to meet you at your skill level and teach you the techniques you’ll need to stay safe on big mountains. In an adventure sport like mountaineering, safety is paramount. Our instruction in designed to help you build your skills from the ground up.

All of our instructors have advanced avalanche training and wilderness medical certifications. We follow a well-rounded curriculum to help you become self-reliant in the mountains. Mountain 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.


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7 Day North Cascades Alpine Climbing Course

All Northwest Courses

Learn how to prepare for a big mountain expedition on the most glaciated peak in the Lower 48 States. Our 6-Day Expedition Training Course uses Mount Rainier as a classroom while teaching aspiring mountaineers the advanced climbing and logistical skills needed for expeditions to Denali, Aconcagua and the Himalaya.

Mount Rainier National ParkParadise Meadows