AAI took me from a novice climber to someone who can confidently climb anywhere. The summits are great, but the best part of the climbs is the experience of working with the guides who are knowledgeable, experienced, and a great deal of fun. As with many outdoor adventures, especially ones involving diverse groups, there are many challenges. AAI does a great job of addressing these and making it all work. Looking forward to many more climbs with AAI!
– 13 Day Course Climber >>More
The 13 Day Mountaineering Course is the most comprehensive course we offer and is an incredible opportunity to learn basic mountaineering skills, rock climbing techniques and advanced alpine climbing topics in the North and Central Cascades. This course essentially combines the 6-Day Mountaineering Course, the 5-Day Rock Climbing Course, as well as many aspects of our 8-Day Intermediate Course. The North Cascades are unique in that they provide the ideal training ground among a variety of readily accessible terrain. This is a challenging course that will leave the student with a solid skill set to jumpstart their climbing career as well as amazing memories from nearly two weeks of exploring the best climbing Washington has to offer.
Our first six days are usually spent on Mount Baker and then we move to a rock climbing venue, generally the fantastic granite crags of Leavenworth, WA. After we learn the ropes of rock climbing, we plunge deep into the North Cascades to put our new skills to the test on exhilarating alpine climbs. This program will include several challenging summit attempts on varying terrain. This course serves as a prerequisite for many of Alpine Ascents’ intermediate-level climbs and is a stepping stone to more technically difficult climbs around the world.
Increasing technical knowledge/skills in all aspects of snow, ice and alpine rock climbing including:
- Glacier Travel
- Crevasse Rescue
- Self arrest
- Placement of protection for snow / rock climbing
- Running Belays and Running protection
- Rope/belay techniques
- Crack and Face climbing Techniques
- Top roping / Lead Climbing / Multi-Pitch Climbing
- Wilderness Navigation (map, compass, GPS)
- Route Finding
- Risk Management
Developing educated, self-reliant climbers with the ability to evaluate subjective/objective hazards including:
- Rock fall
- Glacier conditions
- Gear evaluations
- Critical decision-making
- Group experience
- White-out conditions
- Wilderness navigation
- Weather conditions
This course has been successfully used as a training ground for skilled adventurers, rangers, law enforcement, firefighters, military, stunt people and many others who need climbing skills to do their work.
These courses take place on Mt. Baker, Boston Basin, Washington Pass, Leavenworth, and throughout the Cascades. We use a variety of locations to provide pristine, less populated environs for our training. That also enables us to take advantage of the best possible mountain conditions for each course.
The North Cascades
The North Cascades in Washington state form the largest and most rugged alpine wilderness mountain range in the contiguous United States. Contained within this range are scores of peaks topping 8,000 feet, upwards of 400 glaciers, and countless permanent snowfields. Most of the high peaks in the North Cascades are composed of metamorphic or intrusive igneous rocks. These weather-resistant rocks have been heavily sculpted by alpine glaciation, producing stunning peaks and ridges. These breathtaking views and the wide variety of alpine climbing have earned the area the nickname “The American Alps.” The North Cascades are considered the premier training ground for developing alpine climbers.
The weather in the North Cascades can be extremely variable, with snow below 3,000 feet. Precipitation levels are heavy, particularly during the winter months. “Variable conditions” also include glorious weather for lengthy periods, usually in late summer. For instructional purposes, the optimum time to climb in the Cascades is from early May through late August. This is when the combination of weather and snow conditions is usually at its best.
The vegetation and wildlife of the North Cascades are interesting and diverse. Approximately 150 common species and another 100 or so less common species of wildflowers bloom during the summer. This range is aesthetically exceptional and we hope you find yourself returning many times to enjoy its grandeur.
Many who have been introduced to the world of alpine climbing in the Cascades have gone on to climb in the world’s greatest mountain ranges. We hope our program will be the first step towards a lifetime of mountaineering.
Cascades Summit Details
Mt. Baker (10,781 ft.), the highest point of the North Cascades, is a heavily glaciated dormant volcano. The twelve active glaciers of Mt. Baker cover an area exceeding 20 square miles. Mt. Baker is unique in its great mass of snow and ice and easy accessibility. This combination creates a perfect alpine training ground.
El Dorado Peak (8,868 ft.) is one of the most majestic North Cascades mountains. It presents a strenuous climb, which rewards the physically fit with a beautiful mountaineering route. It is perhaps the most intensive training ground we use. General snow and glacier climbing skills lead one to the knife-edged snow arete at the summit and an expansive view across one of only two ice caps in the North Cascades. The aptly named Inspiration Glacier cloaks the summit and is magnificent to behold.
Sahale Peak (8,680 ft.) presents another classic North Cascades wilderness mountaineering objective and is a favorite among our guides. Climbers are rewarded with some of the best scenic views in the range. The corniced rock and snow summit ridge rises above the small, steep Quien Sabe Glacier and provides an aesthetic climbing line that’s accessible with basic skills.
Sharkfin Tower (8,120 ft) is an impressive 800′ granite spire that towers high above the Quien Sabe Glacier in Boston Basin. Sharkfin Tower features good rock with excellent exposure and in an unbeatable setting. To reach the summit, students must surmount steep snow and 5th class alpine rock.
Leavenworth – Perhaps the densest climbing area in Washington State, with a wide range of sport and traditional climbing from single pitches to over 800ft tall cliffs. The bulk of the climbing is found in the two canyons west of the town of Leavenworth in Icicle Creek and Tumwater Canyon. The rock in Leavenworth is a metamorphic granite that is highly featured with crimps, jugs, and cracks for your hands and feet to use.
Washington Pass – A veritable PNW alpine rock paradise, the routes at Washington Pass are long, moderate, and only require approaches of a few hours. Many of the routes reach peaks of over 7,000′ in elevation and feature some of the most spectacular panoramic views in the entire North Cascades. Plus, the rock is some of the best quality in the entire state!
Mazama – Just east of Washington Pass, Mazama features some of the best single and multi-pitch sport climbing in Washington. There has been significant new route development over the past ten years and climbers will find a variety of excellent routes at all levels. One of the highlights of the area is the Goat Wall, which is a 1,500′ wall that is home to long bolted routes of 11-18 pitches.
I had a fantastic time on the 13-day course and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning to get started as an alpine climber. I feel somewhat capable as a climber after taking this course and am excited to continue taking trips through Alpine Ascents.