Our 6-day mountaineering seminar provides the opportunity for climbers looking to gain a well rounded basic skill set in glacier mountaineering. At the heart of the experience is a worthy summit objective in a beautiful mountain environment, deep in the Cascades of Washington. The course begins with a thorough review of the equipment we will need and instruction in how to pack these items. Each course uses multiple camps on or near some of Washington’s largest glaciers, providing the ideal training ground for becoming proficient with an ice axe, crampons, and the climbing rope. Once we master the basics of traveling roped together on a glacier, we will move on to more complicated skills such as ice climbing, and crevasse rescue. The week culminates in an ascent of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, or Eldorado Peak, each chosen for the current weather and climbing conditions. This is great training for people looking to move on to bigger mountains or participate in expeditions to glaciated mountains in Alaska or outside the US.
Why choose us: John & Olivia Race have deep expedition climbing experience developed during 30 expeditions to Denali, 8 expeditions to Cho Oyu, Everest, & Shishapangma, and a dozen trips to Aconcagua. In addition they took the extra step of becoming IFMGA guides, the highest level of training available to mountain guides world-wide. This program balances the curriculum of traditional mountaineering courses with the latest techniques used by the most highly trained guides. Our guides have a diverse background of expedition climbing, AMGA training, and challenging peak ascents and have been carefully selected to deliver exactly the curriculum that we feel will best prepare you for future mountaineering objectives.
- Belaying, rope management, & Rapelling
- Use of climbing ropes
- Climbing knots & hitches
- Roped Glacier travel
- Ascending fixed lines
- Introduction to Ice Climbing
- Crampon technique including front point and french technique
- Use of the ice axe
- Self arrest & team arrest
- Pacing, nutrition, and cooking
- Basic crevasse rescue systems (2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1)
- Team crevasse rescue
- Snow & Ice Anchors
- Mountain camp craft
- Snow camp construction
- Leave no trace skills
- Summit ascent (Mt. Shuksan, Sahale Peak, or Eldorado Peak)
Day 0: Meet guides and group at 3:00 pm at our office in Leavenworth, WA. The guides will conduct a very thorough equipment check and make sure that you have everything that you need for the week. This first afternoon provides a relaxed opportunity to make sure that all of our gear is present and organized. You have some free time in the early evening to tie up loose ends and can either camp in beautiful Icicle Creek Canyon, or stay in a hotel. We can provide camping equipment for those looking to camp and hotel suggestions for those looking to stay in town.
Day 1: We will spend the first day rock climbing in Leavenworth, WA. This provides an excellent foundation for introducing basic knots, belaying, rappelling, and developing rope management skills. These skills transfer very well to glacier mountaineering and make it easier to work with ropes and knots when in a colder alpine environment. Leavenworth is generally sunny and warm and therefore a great place to start the week. We will climb until mid-afternoon and then transition to packing for our trip into the backcountry. The goal is to have everything pretty well organized so that all we need to do in the morning is stow our sleeping bags, grab a bite to eat and a cup of coffee and drive to North Cascades National Park the next morning.
Day 2: We will wake up early and drive to North Cascades National Park and register for our climb. We will then proceed to the trailhead where we will undertake a moderately strenuous hike lasting 3-5 hours to reach a basecamp at or on the lower end of a glacier. Once we are all moved in the guides will prepare dinner and either lecture or train depending on the time and weather. Typical first-night topics include knots, additional Leave No Trace skills, kitchen setup, and staying comfortable in your tent.
Day 3: We will get up in the morning and start with breakfast and go over the plan for the day. After breakfast we begin training with the ice axe and crampons. We will go over the parts of the ice axe and crampons and show you how to use them including: various ways to hold an ice axe, how to put your crampons on, the rest step, self-arrest, the anchor position, turning corners, and flat-foot crampon technique. Once these skills are mastered we will move on to use of the climbing rope and rope travel. You will learn how to tie in, maintain proper rope interval, make corners, and how to perform team arrest should one of your companions slip while roped up. We will also talk about entering and leaving rest breaks, carrying coils, and using running belays. These skills are generally covered before lunch, which will be taken at our camp. In the afternoon we will go for a walk on a glacier and practice moving through crevasses, making corners, and throw in some team arrest scenarios. We will also begin to discuss glacier mechanics and develop a system for navigating broken glaciers.
On the afternoon of day 3 we introduce snow and ice anchors. We will practice placing pickets, ice screws, dead men (t-slots), and will build bollards and discuss natural anchors. Once we have mastered the individual pieces, we will put them together in ERNEST anchor systems. You will be given time to work build anchor systems and have them evaluated by the guides. This training will become the foundation to our upcoming crevasse rescue training. In the evening we will have dinner and then either lecture or train. Common topics include: Equipment, glaciology, cold injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia, and high-altitude issues.
Day 4: On day 4 we usually try to move camp to get everyone in the swing of how to pack everything back up, find our way to a higher camp, and then build a solid camp as higher generally means we are more exposed to any bad weather. We prefer to place this camp on the glacier so that we can demonstrate how to build a comfortable snow camp, dig a camp kitchen, and position everything best for bad weather. Once we have moved camp and everything is secure we start crevasse rescue practice. You will be given the opportunity to hold body weight as someone slides into a crevasse (belayed) and will then learn to transfer the load to an anchor built to allow those in self-arrest to help with the rescue. We will start with the most basic crevasse rescue systems and then add more complicated scenarios as you master the more basic ones. We will also spend some time climbing ice and learning to climb unassisted out of a crevasse. This session will utilize all the skills that have been covered up to this point. Following dinner we will discuss procedures for the following days summit climb. We will get to bed early in preparation for a pre-dawn start.
Day 5: We will wake up sometime well before first-light, have a quick breakfast, and then set out for the summit. The initial stages of the climb will be undertaken wearing headlamps, crampons, climbing ropes, and ice axes. Once the sun is up we will shed our headlamps and work our way to the summit. We utilize various peaks for our mountaineering courses, but all have been chosen for the right mix of challenge, length, and glaciated climbing obstacles. The summit climb generally takes about 4-5 hours up and about half that time to come down. Typical summits include: Mt. Shuksan, Sahale Peak, or Eldorado Peak. Upon return from the summit climb we give people the opportunity to rest for a few hours before dinner. Following dinner we provide a lecture and debrief the day. Common post climb lectures include: discussion of expedition climbing, more advanced knots and hitches, basic map and compass skills.
Day 6: On the final day we pack up camp and head down to the trailhead. We can use the morning to clean up any skills that we missed due to poor weather or to revisit topics that people are still working to master or understand. Once back to the trailhead the guides will organize collection of trash, group gear, and any rental items. Once everything is tidied up and organized the group usually hits a local restaurant for one last late lunch as a group before everyone departs. This is a good opportunity to receive feedback from your guides about logical next steps in your climbing career as well as an assessment of how the trip went.
Note: This itinerary is representative of a typical trip, but may vary quite a bit given things like group strength, weather conditions, etc.