We are a family of 4 flatlanders (2 adults, a 16 year old boy and a 14 year old girl) from Chicago who were looking for an exciting adventure on our summer vacation to Seattle. We had been to local rock climbing gyms a couple of times but wanted a more authentic experience. I jumped on the internet and within minutes had come across the Northwest Mountain School website. The site gave me the impression that this was a pro operation and my impressions were confirmed after a several phone and e-mail dialogs with the owners John & Olivia. They had some great suggestions for how we could get introduced to “real” climbing, and convinced us that the 2 hour trip from Seattle to Leavenworth would be worth the time spent in the car. I’m happy to say that it definitely was. We departed Seattle on a rainy and 50 degree August morning, and by the time we crested the pass and were making the final run down to Leavenworth, the sun was shining and we were blessed with a dry 75-80 degrees. Olivia was our guide for the day. We met her at Leavenworth Mountain sports to pick up shoes and equipment and followed her up Icicle Canyon to a quiet and private climbing location. Olivia took a few minutes set ropes and for the next several hours helped us learn the basics, and coached us up some challenging (to us) walls, and different climbing styles. She was very patient and we always felt like our safety was a primary concern for her. Bottom line was: we had a blast, got out of our comfort zones, learned a lot, and left wanting to do more. I’d definitely recommend Northwest Mountain School to anyone who wants to have a great experience climbing – even beginners like us!— Tim S.
I've had considerable experience with John and Olivia's guiding. First Denali in '04. Then Aconcagua later the same year, with both of them, my daughters and my wife. A trip with John only to the Mexican volcanoes, a day spent together at Joshua Tree and a five days backcountry skiing with both of them in the Washington Cascades. I recommend them highly. Well organized, knowledgeable and always thinking/planning ahead. I'll never forget John's call for the push from 14K on Denali. Perfect timing and weather. Few other teams had it right. Both John and Olivia are great to be with for long trips, which always have their share of setbacks.— Bob M.
Wherever I am climbing in the world, my first choice will always be to climb with John Race. JR has the experience that instills confidence, the temperament to exercise good judgment, combined with a wonderful nature and spirit that is enjoyable to be around. In my personal experience, that's a rare combination!— Tom L.
John guided my group on Denali in May 2007 and I look forward to many future adventures with him. He did a thorough job of preparing us in advance of the trip and then brought us through each day on the mountain with experienced, confident leadership. John has the unusual ability to be both the leader a group needs and also be a good friend and companion on the journey.— Cindy O.
NMS runs a tight ship! The guides are professional, the trips are well planned, the food is good, and (in my experience,) they seem to have a very good relationship with the weather gods.— Tor L.
I have been fortunate to climb over the years with some of the great guides and guiding companies; John and Olivia and The Northwest Mountain School are at the top of that list, PERIOD!— Ace Y.
John and Olivia are terrific guides, experienced, careful and fun. Their expertise on Denali resulted in a successful summit for our team in spite of multiple obstacles. I learned that the importance of quality guides cannot be overstated. John and Olivia will be my first choice for future climbs.— Mark R.
NMS trips are well planned, well executed and tons of fun. John and Olivia are a great team - from Aconcagua to Alaska to their own back yard in Leavenworth, I've never been on a NMS trip that I didn't enjoy.— Tor L.
Climbing Aconcagua with Northwest Mountain School was the greatest climbing experience of my life. John Race and Olivia Cussen compiled a small group of great people and developed the logistics and itinerary that were flawless. Although smaller in size Northwest Mountain School stood out as the largest on the mountain. Because of the small group size it allowed for a shift in itinerary which set us up for a perfect summit window and a remarkable 360 degree traverse of the mountain. John Race is a class act that continually keeps you laughing but also gives you the confidence to climb at high altitudes. NMS keeps a clean and tidy kitchen and our entire team stayed well fed and healthy on one of the dirtiest mountains in the world. I highly recommend this trip, Aconcagua is a great mountain to sharpen your high altitude skills and also enjoy Mendoza´s amazing wine, food and culture. Northwest Mountain School is without a doubt the greatest hidden guide service in the world. I recommend booking a trip before the word gets out!— Dustin W.
Additional references are available for specific trips. Contact the office for more details.