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Beginner Tips

The Beginners Bucket List

For many people the idea of climbing and being in the mountains is a dream, however figuring out the right progression to get there can be daunting. We often get the question “where do I start?” or “what’s next?” So, we have put together a list of what we at Northwest Alpine Guides consider the Beginners Bucket List Climbs in the Pacific Northwest across a variety of terrain, heights, and experiences.

  1. Mount Baker, Mount Baker – Snoqualime National Forest

At 10,781 feet Mount Baker (also know as Kulshan) is one of the most picturesque volcanoes in all the Cascade Range. The mountain renders the second largest glacial system in the lower 48 States, second only to that of Mount Rainier. Mount Baker is the third-highest mountain in Washington State and the fifth-highest in the Cascade Range. The mountain presents a fantastic objective for those seeking a challenging objective without technical climbing in a pristine alpine environment.

Photo: Looking at the summit of Mount Baker

  1. Ruth Mountian, Skagit Range

Ruth Mountain is a moderate glaciated peak and a fitting objective for beginner mountaineers. The summit sits at 7,115 ft in the Skagit range and from the icy summit of this ancient volcano you will enjoy views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker, Hannegan Peak, and the rarely visited Picket Range. This mountain is a great place to learn of refresh your skills for glaciated terrain and its easy access allows for a quick two-day trip to enjoy the beauty of Ruth Mountain and the Skagit Range.

Photo: Ruth Mountain in the heart of the Skagit Range.

  1. Glacier Peak, Glacier Peak Wilderness

Tucked away between meadows of wildflowers and alpine lakes sits Glacier Peak (Dakobed) at 10,525ft it is Washington State’s fourth highest and most remote volcano. Set deep in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, an ascent of this mountain offers a true wilderness climbing experience far from the more heavily trafficked slopes of the other major Cascades volcanoes. The technical skills for climbing Glacier Peak are no more advanced than climbing Mount Baker or Ruth Mountain but the remoteness of this climb adds a new aspect to your adventure. Usually done in four days this is around a 40-mile trip with some of the most stunning backcountry scenery in all of Washington.

Photo: Glacier peak bathed in alpenglow rising high above the surrounding Glacier Peak Wilderness.

  1. Eldorado Peak, North Cascades National Park

“The Queen of the Cascade River,” Eldorado peak sits at 8,868ft above the forest and raging rivers at its base. Eldorado Peak is the 25th highest summit in Washington and is best known for its iconic snowy knife-edge ridgeline at the top above the crevassed expanse of the Inspiration-McAllister-Klawatti Icecap, the largest contiguous, non-volcanic ice sheet in the Lower 48. This peak with its diverse approach and final steep snow traverse offers a thrilling adventure for all in the North Cascades National Park.

Photo: The beautiful Eldorado Peak surrounded by the McAllister-Klawatti Icecap.

  1. Mount Olympus, Olympic National Park

The tallest and most isolated peak in the Olympic Peninsula, this peak stands at 7,962 ft. The mountain is also one of the most aesthetic peaks in Washington State and offers a truly unique wilderness experience. The climb is demanding due to its eighteen mile approach hike up the Hoh River. The final summit pyramid (West Peak) climbs low fifth class rock adding a bit more technical climbing than something like Mount Baker or Glacier Peak. The summit offers fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains and the distant Cascade Range. Guided ascents traverse the Blue Glacier and ascend Snow Dome gaining the Olympus Massif to its West Peak summit.

Photo: Looking at the impressive Olympic massif from Hurricane Ridge.

  1. Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park

At 9,127ft Mount Shuksan is considered the “Crown Jewel of the North Cascades” and one of the most picturesque mountains in North America. Its stunning relief and iconic summit pyramid make this climb a bit more technical with a mix of glacier travel, snow and rock on the summit pyramid. With multiple routes and varying difficultly Shuksan is an ideal location for any skill level of climber looking to take their alpine climbing to the next level. On a clear day it is possible to peer over into Canada, see the Pacific Ocean, and view the jagged and rugged peaks of the Cascades.

Photo: Approaching the summit pyramid via the Sulphide Glacier.

  1. Sahale Mountain, North Cascades National Park

Tucked into the heart of the North Cascades National Park, Sahale Mountain is a jagged, glaciated peak that sits at 8,680ft. The classic Sahale Arm Route follows a ridge up the south side of the mountain from Cascade Pass giving climbers a mix of terrain to follow to the summit. From glaciers, snow and rock Sahale Mountain is a great quick climb to get a bit of varied terrain and a great first peak to vary your alpine skills as rappelling is necessary to descend the mountain. From the summit pinnacle climbers are surrounded by panoramic views of the some of the most dramatic terrain in all the Cascades.

Photo: Sahale Mountain summit pinnacle sits in the distance.

  1. Mount Rainier, Mount Rainier National Park

As the most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States, Mount Rainier (also known as Tahoma) with its 26 major glaciers provides an excellent climbing experience situated within a pristine wilderness environment. “The Mountain“ as referred to by locals has all the features of much higher glaciated peaks making it an exceptional training ground for larger high altitude objectives. Northwest Alpine Guides climbs the classic Disappointment Cleaver route to the upper Emmons glacier reaching the Columbia Crest summit at 14,411 feet. Mount Rainier’s Disappointment Cleaver route is approached from Paradise Meadows and ascends the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir at 10,080 feet.

Photo: Climbers make their way up to Camp Muir with the massive Mount Rainier in the background.