Mountaineering Courses & Climbing Instruction
When we started in 1994 we very consciously decided to call ourselves the Northwest Mountain School. Our goal was to not only guide people up mountains, but to teach them how to do so on their own. Over the years we have developed a progression of courses that will allow you to become a competent, skilled climber giving you the freedom to travel comfortably and efficiently in the mountains.
Whether your interest lies in simply joining an guided expedition to a mountain like Denali or Aconcagua, or in building the skill set to undertake your own climbs of Rainier, Baker, Glacier, or other iconic Northwest Mountains we have a program that will prepare you.
We have always felt like rock climbing forms the foundation for alpine climbing and as such often recommend that people first do some rock climbing to gain a basic understanding of topics like rappelling, belaying, rope management, and proper balance. These skills will benefit you when you transition to the mountains and rock climbing has the added benefit of generally being a warm and sunny activity.
Many skip rock climbing for one reason or another and move straight to the Alpine Climbing progression.
This is an all-around glacier mountaineering course with no rock climbing component. If you are primarily intereted in climbing peaks such as Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, or Mt. Baker with or without a guide this is a good all-around introduction to climbing. This also serves as good preparation for joining a guided Denali or Aconcagua climb. Includes a summit climb of Mt. Baker.
Our Denali prep course is led by guides with previous Denali experience and is similar to our 5-Day Glacier Mountaineering Course, but we spend additional time going over the specific set up you will use to ascend the fixed lines on Denali and we cover sled rigging. A focus on Denali guarantees you will get good pointers from a Denali veteran specific to you upcoming climb in Alaska.
This is Part 1 of two 3-day courses designed to deliver the same skills taught in our 5-day Glacier Mountaineering Course broken into two 3-day courses for those that want to break up the training. Part 1 does not include a summit ascent of Baker, and focuses on crevasses rescue and glacier travel skills. The entire course takes place on Mt. Baker on the Coleman-Deming Route.
Part 2 of our short format Glacier Mountaineering Courses, this includes a summit climb of Mt. Baker and does not include crevasse rescue training. It is open to those familiar with the use of ice axes, crampons, and roped glacier travel. In addition to the climb we focus on developing skills such as route finding, navigation, development of route plans, and camp construction.
This is an intensive 1-day crevasse rescue course taught near Stevens Pass, WA. It covers all the skills required to perform crevasse rescue, but does not take place on a glacier. The advantage of this trip is that you can save some money by not hiring the guide to be out overnight and have the entirely of the course to focus on all the technical systems involved in crevasse rescue.
Rock Climbing Courses
This is the perfect first rock climbing experience or for climbers with gym experience making the transition to outdoor rock climbing. The movement and rope handling skills learned are an ideal base for entry into the world of mountaineering. The course covers fundamentals such as belaying, face and crack climbing, basic knots, use of the climbing harness, and rappelling.
Multi-pitch climbing is all about efficient movement and transitions. As much a belay station management course as a climbing course, this teaches you how to follow a lead climber and how to be an asset at belay stations. We emphasize the development of organizational skills such as rope stacking, climber position at the belay anchor, climbing with and without commands, and learning to get up multi-pitch route quickly.
This works well for people breaking into lead climbing, aspiring alpine climbers (glacier + rock), and teaches you how to make solid rock gear placements and then combine these into anchor systems that properly share the load and are strong enough to serve as a rescue anchor if needed. We also teach you how to belay directly from the anchor in this course.
We have the most well-attended lead climbing course in the State of Washington. We have spent the past decade refining the curriculum for taking climbers from top-roping or seconding to the point where they can lead a trad route in a day. This can be modified to teach either sport or trad leading and is very popular. Participants should feel comfortable climbing trad routes up to 5.7 or Sport routes up to 5.8
Before there were bolts most climbing routes followed cracks. New climbers often find crack climbing more difficult than face climbing, but once the basic technique has been mastered most climbers prefer the security of cracks. On this course we cover hand and foot jams, finger cracks, hand cracks, chimneys, and touch on the dreaded off-width. This is currently only organized as a custom program.
There are some tricks that make sport climbing safer and easier. We will cover topics such as threading anchors, evaluating bolts, and techniques for working a route that is either very hard and well protected, or simply challenging for you because you are new to climbing sport routes outdoors. No previous experience is needed. If looking to lead, check out our lead climbing course. Works well at any of our rock climbing venues.
This is one of our most important courses as it gives you the skills to get yourself out of a jam should the lead climber or second be injured on the route. The systems taught are very similar to crevasse rescue, but take place in the much more confined area of the belay stance. Climbers on this course need to already be proficient in anchor systems, gear placements, and should have previous outdoor rock climbing experience.
We can run any of these courses as a custom for a price close to the cost of a set-date course. We have permits in Leavenwoth, Vantage, At Exit 38, and a Fun Rocks in Mazama and are happy to put together exactly the type of program that you are looking for. We often work with experienced climbers simply in town and looking for an enthusiastic, solid partner. We work with groups and individuals and build the trip around your needs.
This course is critical and often overlooked by mountaineers. This 3-day course takes place most weekends from December through early-March in the Stevens Pass backcountry. It is designed to interface with the local avalanche forecast and the focus is in decision making in avalanche terrain. If planing to climb in the mountains you should make sure you have this and a good wilderness medicine course in your training.
The skills taught in an AIARE Level 1 only stick if you use them on a regular basis. This 1.5 day refresher brings you in to an AIARE Level 1 Course during the planning stage for a tour conducted the following day and brings you up to speed on the latest thinking surrounding rescue, the current avalanche forecast and weather information. This requires previous completion of an AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course.
The current AIARE Level 2 blends professional and recreational level training and is the start of learning to do your own forecasting. It is the basic requirement for all guides working in Alpine terrain and is a must for people looking to climb on their own in remote mountains or even here in Washington anytime we get new snowfall, in the spring, fall, and winter. Requires completion of an AIARE Level 1.