8 Day Cascades Intermediate Course Itinerary

This is probably what has kept me coming back to Alpine Ascents. The guides are amazing instructors and have always been willing to answer questions and teach building upon previous knowledge.

I enjoyed the course. The course successfully taught aspects of crevasse rescue, route finding, and alpine rock climbing in a real setting. I feel ready to use them in the future.

Day 1

We’ll do a morning gear check at 6:30am and thoroughly evaluate all the equipment we’ll be using throughout the program and address last minute questions and gear concerns. From the office, we will drive to Mt. Erie for rock climbing review in a spectacular setting. The climbing areas on Mt. Erie overlook the Puget Sound, with panoramic views of the San Juan Islands, the Olympics, and several of the Cascade volcanoes. Students will learn and review skills on belaying, rappelling, lowering, descending, footwork, rope/knots, and climbing techniques. Plan to spend several hours working on technical skills that will translate to efficient climbing over the following days.

In the evening we will drive along the scenic North Cascades Highway to the east side of the mountains and set up at a campground near our climbing objective. We will be car camping near Washington Pass the first four days of the course as our objectives for this portion are typically single-day alpine climbing routes.  If weather does not allow climbing at Mt Erie, we will drive to Mazama, WA and climb at Fun Rock.

Day 2

We’ll plan to climb the South Arête of South Early Winter Spire. This is a full day of climbing at Washington Pass on a classic route that ascends to the summit of one of the tallest spires in the area. The technical cruxes on this route are short, allowing climbers to focus on applying the technical skills learned the previous day. From the summit, climbers are rewarded with panoramic views of nearly all the North Cascades from the northerly Mount Baker all the way to Glacier Peak. The summit also offers a rare glimpse of the elusive Northeast Face of Mount Goode. This is typically an 8-9 hour day round-trip from the parking lot.

Day 3

The focus of this day will be to move efficiently on 4th class and low fifth class terrain. The guide(s) will select a longer objective that matches the needs and interests of the group. Expect a big day with stellar climbing in an uncompromising position in the mountains. Cutthroat Peak or Spontaneity Arête are the two most probable options for this day. Climbers can expect a full 10-12 hours of hiking and climbing.

Day 4

Liberty Bell is one of the most iconic mountains in the Pacific Northwest and the Beckey Route its most classic way to the summit. This route has 4-5 pitches of technical climbing up to 5.6, which leads to a short bit of moderate terrain just below the top. Climbing Liberty Bell is a great way to end our time at Washington Pass and usually requires 8 hours round-trip from the car. Depending on the goals of the group, other options for this day are Kangaroo Temple (5.6), Blue’s Buttress (5.6) on Poster Peak, or Prime Rib (5.9) on the Goat Wall in Mazama.

In the evening, guides will give instruction on trip planning, map/compass/gps, and prepare for the four-day trip into Boston Basin.

Day 5

We will visit the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount to pick up our permits for Boston Basin then drive to the trail head. Before departing, we will discuss the route, weather, and potential campsites. We will hike to a camp at or above tree line and practice moving and pacing with heavy loads. This is a strenuous day that is usually 3 to 4 hours of heavy load hauling.

After we set up camp, guides discuss the importance of personal maintenance, hygiene and sleeping in cold environs, and the principles of Leave No Trace. In the afternoon guides will instruct on crevasse rescue. Because this is an advanced course, we review the 3:1 Z-pulley and the 2:1 Drop-C haul systems and have the students execute both. Guides will instruct on 5:1 and 6:1 haul systems that can be used for 1:1 climber crevasse rescue. This also provides a great platform to review glacier travel, mountaineering rope management, snow anchor construction and mechanical advantage systems.  If time allows, we also integrate load-releasable hitches into our hauling systems. After returning to camp that evening, the group will prepare for a moderate climb the next day. We’ll end the day with instruction on efficient snow melting protocols, nutrition, and backcountry cooking techniques.

Day 6

We use this day to review and further develop skills from previous climbing training. We rope up for glacier travel and practice moving in classical and echelon formations on a tour up the lower portion of the Quien Sabe Glacier. From the glacier, the team will climb Sharkfin Tower. The tower is an impressive 800′ granite spire that towers high above the Quien Sabe Glacier and allows climbers to take skills learned earlier in the course and apply them in a more remote setting. Guides will provide instruction as they lead several pitches of steep snow/rock to the col below Sharkfin Tower. From the col, we will leave packs and climb the final 300′ of 5th class alpine rock to reach the summit. Upon reaching the summit, we will have phenomenal views of our camp, Boston Basin, and Forbidden Peak. In the afternoon, we will prepare for climbing Forbidden Peak the next day.

Day 7

Among the most important skills learned in this course is preparing, planning, and executing the summit climb itself. We have two options of varying difficulty. For strong groups, the West Ridge of Forbidden is an exceptional alpine climbing objective. It combines glacier travel, steep snow, and beautiful rock/mixed climbing to the most classic summit in the range.  In fact, the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak is one of the “Fifty Classic Climbs of North America” as compiled by legendary alpinists Steve Roper and Allen Steck . The exposed ridge allows climbers to continue to apply the technical skills learned earlier in the course to a very large alpine objective. The climbing on the route is sustained but never too challenging, making it appropriate for those who have some experience on rock as as well as good levels of fitness.  During the ascent, guides will model and give instruction on simul-climbing, running belays, rappelling, lowering, and other traditional alpine climbing techniques.

If climbers are not suitable for Forbidden Peak,  a more moderate objective is nearby Sahale Peak, Torment Peak, or a circumnavigation of the Boston Glacier. Whichever objective we choose, this will be a long and rewarding day!

Day 8

After our previous three jam packed days spent in Boston Basin, we will close our time in the North Cascades reviewing skills from our course and enjoying our last morning in the wilderness. We’ll take time to pack up camp, say goodbye to the marmots, rally our heavy loads back to the trailhead, head back to Seattle to de-issue gear and depart from the course. Groups may choose to stop for food and celebratory drinks on their return to Seattle to close out their last eight days spent in the wilderness, then return to civilization for a well earned hot shower!

Topics such as navigation (GPS, map, compass, altimeter & white navigation), route finding, and glaciology will be incorporated into the curriculum throughout the entire course and are often not designated for a particular time. Due to the dynamic nature of mountains and weather, guides are constantly shifting the itinerary in order to best match the skills and interests of the group with the weather and conditions on the mountain.

I did enjoy the course. It’s funny… Maybe I have a unique perspective having taken this course for two consecutive years. The quality of the course was outstanding. Since taking the course, I’ve been using the skills I learned to climb multi-pitch routes in Eldorado Canyon and Clear Creek in Colorado and single-pitch cragging in […]

Forbidden Peak, West Ridge
washington pass
Washington Pass
Boston Basin
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Washington Pass
Boston Basin
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Washington Pass
Boston Basin
Washington Pass
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Forbidden Peak
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Boston Basin
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Washington Pass

8 Day Cascades Intermediate Mountaineering Course BLOG

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