Backpacking & Wilderness Navigation Course

Backpacking & Wilderness Navigation Course Overview

FOR 2020, AS PART OF COVID-19 REGULATIONS: Climbers will need to self drive until further notice. Further information will be sent upon sign up.

Exactly what I wanted – Informed Instruction of L.N.T. – Backpacking – Camping. Even “old time” campers and backpackers have something to learn from the course, Excellent! – Rick F.

Course Overview

Do you dream of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail but have never spent a night in the woods? This is the course for you!  We designed this 4-day course for the dedicated hiker who wants to gain the skills needed to safely journey into the remote backcountry, multiple days from the nearest trailhead.  The course is also highly recommended for aspiring mountaineers who want to gain a solid foundation of wilderness skills before progressing to a true mountaineering course or a summit climb.  Taught by our professional mountain guides, this course welcomes newcomers to the world of wilderness backpacking.

The stunning wilderness of the Pacific Northwest provides the setting for this skills-driven course in wilderness navigation, trip planning, food preparation, survival, and minimum-impact camping skills. It provides a wealth of knowledge for those who want to seriously embrace the rigors of backcountry travel. From the hanging glaciers and craggy peaks of the North Cascades to the sweeping panoramas and heather meadows of the Goat Rocks Wilderness, backpacking allows for a truly immersive wilderness experience, free from the limits of a day hike. Depending on the weather, trail conditions, and interests of the group, we have flexibility to choose between several routes. Read about a few of our favorite backpacking trips in the “routes” section.

Graduates of this course will leave with the skills and knowledge to plan and execute their own backpacking trip as well as the confidence and hard skills to successfully join our 6-day mountaineering school.

Course Objectives

To train aspiring mountaineers and hikers in appropriate wilderness techniques, including but not limited to:

  • Gear selection and packing
  • Backcountry nutrition, menu planning, and cooking
  • Navigation, including compass and map skills
  • Camp craft
  • Leave No Trace ethics
  • Knots for wilderness survival and mountaineering
  • Mountain weather
  • Objective and subjective hazard evaluation
  • Proper waste and sanitation techniques
  • Bear and wildlife precautions

Graduates of this course will leave with the skills and knowledge to plan and prepare for their own extended backpacking trip as well as the confidence and hard skills to successfully join our 6-day mountaineering school. This is an excellent course for those who are interested in mountaineering but have spent limited time in the backcountry.

Here's some information about our routes

In the Pacific Northwest we have no shortage of amazing backpacking destinations and routes. We’ll select the best itinerary based on weather, trail conditions, and the needs of the group. Below are a few possible routes.

White Pass – Pilot Ridge Loop

A particular favorite, this route features sweeping panoramas of Glacier Peak, long stretches of alpine meadows bursting with wildflowers, and a picturesque campsite near the aptly named Blue Lake. You’ll share the trail with climbers bound for Glacier Peak, whistling marmots, and bountiful huckleberries (starting in September). While there is a fair amount of elevation gain hiking from the North Fork of the Sauk River Trailhead (2,075′) to our first camp at White Pass (5,900′), it’s worth the burn. Your tired legs will be soothed by awe inspiring glimpses of the mighty Sloan Peak and endless alpine meadows. From our first camp at White Pass, we’ll spend the next three days catching views of Glacier Peak, counting marmots, jumping in the icy waters of Blue Lake, and eventually making a loop back to where we started. The route is 29.2 miles long with 7,500′ of total elevation gain.

East Bank Trail & Desolation Peak

A true gem of North Cascades National Park, this backpacking trip has a little bit of everything. You’ll follow in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac who spent 63 days in the fire lookout on Desolation Peak during the summer of 1956, stoking the creative juices that led to the Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. First, we’ll zip along startlingly blue Ross Lake in a water taxi and get dropped off near our camp for the night. We’ll have ample time to get settled into camp and spend the day exploring the fire lookout which has been called one of the most beautiful in the nation (bring your field notebooks to start that next great American novel!) and to learn valuable wilderness skills. For the next three days, we’ll hike along Ross Lake via the gentle East Bank Trail, enjoying scenic campsites, learning skills, and eventually ending up back at where we launched.  The route is 24.8 miles in length with 7,939′ of total elevation gain.

 

 

Goat Rocks Wilderness

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The Goat Rocks Wilderness is truly awe inspiring. On this trip, we’ll sample some of the most beautiful stretches of Washington’s PCT – replete with wildflower-filled meadows, lingering snowfields, and fabulous views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens. Throughout, we will be hiking in the craggy shadows of the Goat Rocks massif. On our first day on the trail, we’ll hike about 5-6 miles until we break out of the forest into broad heather meadows and set up camp. For the next 3 days, we’ll backpack through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, even sneaking in a summit of the mighty Old Snowy Mountain. Don’t worry, it isn’t actually very snowy at all! Once we’ve had our fill of panoramic views, fresh air, and marmots galore, we’ll loop back to where we started. The route is 18.5 miles in length with 4,546′ of total elevation gain.

 

 

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.

I can summarize the course in a sentence: It was a fantastic experience, with excellent leadership and a substantial body of mountaineering knowledge. I would recommend it to anyone who desires an intensive dose of mountaineering information.

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Photo credit: Carson Torchia
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