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Cascades 13 Day Mountaineering Course

Course Overview

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 their 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!

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 for mountaineers course and many aspects of our 8 day intermediate course as well. The North Cascades are unique in that they provide the ideal training ground among a variety of readily accessible terrain. This is a challenging and arduous course, however, it will leave the student with a great skill set in which to help facilitate their climbing career. Whether that be guided or unguided; the 13 day will certainly provide a great education and leave a lasting impression.

Our first six days are usually spent on Mt. Baker or Eldorado Peak, and then we move to a rock training area (generally Leavenworth, Wash.). Then we plunge deep into the Cascades Range for a final summit attempt. This program will include two 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.

Increasing technical knowledge/skills in all aspects of snow, ice and alpine rock climbing including:

  • Glacier travel
  • Rope/belay techniques
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Route finding
  • Self arrest
  • Rappelling
  • Safe climbing
  • Cramponing
  • Lead and multi-pitch climbing
  • Aid climbing
  • Crack and face climbing techniques
  • Route finding
  • Rope and belay techniques
  • Top roping
  • Protection placement
  • Rappelling
  • Running belays and running protection

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, Mt. Daniel, Eldorado Peak, Sahale Peak 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. See our Course Catalog for a complete listing of our North Cascades course offerings.

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.

Mt. Daniel (7,986 ft.). A scenic hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and a timberline high camp near a beautiful glacier tarn enhance the approach to this little-known glaciated peak of the Central Cascades. This is a complex mountain requiring a broad range of basic mountaineering skills.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions - Washington School

You will be mailed specific information for your climb or course upon registration. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline.

What kind of physical condition should I be in?

You should aim to be in the best shape of your life. The weight of your pack is generally 65 pounds. We invite you to check out our comprehensive Training page. We highly recommend checking with your physician before embarking on strenuous physical activity. We reserve the right to turn away those climbers who we determine to be in inadequate physical condition.

How do I reserve a space for a course?

The best way to reserve space on a course is to call our offices and place the deposit on a VISA/MC/AMEX. You may also fill out a secure online application here. Our courses fill quickly on a first-come, first-served basis, and registering over the phone is the best way to ensure reserving the course dates you want. You may also submit an application by mail with a check, money order or credit card number (see register section of website).

When does my course begin and end?

Location: Alpine Ascents Office. 109 West Mercer Street, Seattle.
Mountaineering Courses Begins: 6:30am, Day 1 of the course
Summit climbs: Mt. Baker and Mt. Adams have a mandatory gear check the day before at 2:00pm
Finishes: Between 6:00pm – 10:00pm on the last day of the course.

Please note: Our recommended hotel, The Marqueen Hotel is located two blocks from our office.
Marqueen Hotel

Which climbs include Transportation?

Alpine Ascents will provide transportation on all climbs and courses  excluding the 3 Day Mt. Baker Summit Climb, 2 Day Mt. Adams Climb, Private Climbs

Do I have different logistics if I am on a private climb?

Private climb logistics are generally as follows: We meet the morning of your course at 7:00am at the Alpine Ascents offices. You are responsible for your own food and transportation. Private climbs of 3 days or less may require a gear check the day prior to your start date.

When should I fly in and out of Seattle?

We recommend staying overnight the night before the course begins and on the evening of the last day of the course. Because our last course day is a summit day, there are variables that make it difficult to guarantee the exact time each course will end. You will need to be ready to go at 6:30am on the morning your course begins.  Please note; if you have a 2 pm gear check the day prior to your climb, it may be advisable to arrive 1 day before your gear check.

Where can I buy flights?

Alpine Ascents uses the services of Charles Mulvehill at Scan East West Travel: 1-800-727-2157 or 206-623 2157. They are very familiar with our Mountaineering School and offer competitive prices on all domestic and international flights. You can also contact him via email:

How do I get from the airport to my hotel and downtown Seattle?

From Sea-Tac International Airport to the Marqueen Hotel or any hotel in downtown Seattle:
Shuttle Express: Airport to Marqueen Hotel or downtown Seattle and return.
Cost: $38.00 one way
The Shuttle Express also has regular service to downtown Seattle and can be easily found via Sea-Tac courtesy phones.

Parking while on Course?

There is limited parking near the Alpine Ascents Office. Unfortunately, parking in downtown Seattle can be difficult. There are several parking lots and garages nearby that offer daily parking, but most do not offer weekly parking. A good option is to contact the Seattle Center Parking office and look into purchasing a monthly parking pass through them. They have a few garages with several pricing options: Baker Climbs require a trailhead permit, available through REI, and the Park Service. (We offer the parking permits for Baker at our office. They can also be purchased en route to Mt. Baker).

How do I get to Alpine Ascents International?

Click Here for Map

  • From Interstate 5, take the Mercer Street Exit and follow the signs to Seattle Center/Space Needle. (A quick right turn onto Fairview Ave., and a quick left turn onto Valley St., which becomes Broad Street.)
  • After you pass the Space Needle on your right, make a right turn onto Denny Way.
  • Proceed to 1st Ave. North and turn right.
  • Proceed to Mercer Street and turn right.
  • We are located at 109 West Mercer Street, directly across the street from Bank of America and Next Door to Ozzie’s Tavern.
    Street parking is limited to 2-hour zones and parking meters, though there are several pay lots near our offices.
What kind of previous mountaineering experience do I need to take a course?

All courses except those listed as Intermediate are designed for beginners in very good physical condition. Our 13-Day course is designed for both beginning and intermediate climbers who are in excellent physical condition and serious about acquiring in-depth experience in all aspects of alpine climbing.

Where do I stay the night before and after the course?

Within walking distance of our Seattle Office is the Marqueen Hotel. We recommend staying there at our preferred rate. We meet at our office on the day of the course at 6:30am. The Marqueen Hotel is located two blocks from our office.
Marqueen Hotel

If you wish to share a room with another course participant, The Marqueen can help with those arrangements. You will need a room for the night prior to the start of your course and for the last night of your course. The hotel is 2 blocks from the Alpine Ascents office. Extra gear may be stored at our office until your return.

Staying elsewhere in downtown Seattle is another option. During the climbing season, hotels in the Seattle metropolis are difficult to reserve and are a bit more expensive. You may elect to stay in any one of the numerous hotels in the area, but you will be responsible for getting to our offices by 6:30am the morning of your course. We are a short taxi cab ride away from most of the downtown hotels and local equipment shops. After the course, we will return to our offices and you can return to your hotel by taxi at that point. You will need a room for the night prior to the start of your course and for the last night of your course. Please note: Free long-term parking is generally difficult in the vicinity of Alpine Ascents. If you plan to stay in Seattle and have a car, try to arrange a taxi or ride to our offices on the morning of the course. Extra gear may be stored in our office until your return.

What do I need to bring?

When you sign up for a course we will send you a confirmation package that includes an equipment list detailing each piece of equipment you will need. Please read your equipment list very carefully. You are required to bring every item on the list so be as precise as possible when packing. Alpine Ascents rents quality technical equipment at reasonable rates. If you have any equipment-related questions please call us (206-378-1927). You can also email us at:

Is food provided on my climb or course?

Please review the Sample Menu Plan. As part of the curriculum, you are responsible for your own food. Before departing for the trailhead, we will check and organize personal/group gear. Additionally, if necessary we will make one final stop for groceries. However, it is advisable to purchase most of your bulk foods before we meet. If you are staying in Seattle, there are numerous supermarkets as well as the flagship REI, North Face, and Patagonia gear shops for fresh and prepackaged foods.

Note for 13-day students: Following the first six days of the program we will return to our vehicle and travel to the rock climbing area. At this time we will re-supply our food and have time to shower. Initially you need only to carry food for the first six days. Our 13-day program is our most physically demanding course.

Where do I pick up my rental gear for the course?

You will pick up your rental gear at our offices during the gear check.

Can I share a tent and stove?

Yes, students generally pair up during the gear check to share the weight and bulk of a tent and stove.

How heavy will my pack be?

Since everyone purchases different gear and is a different size, it is hard to give you an exact weight. For most of our courses, you can expect your internal frame pack (packed with gear and food) to weigh between 55 and 65 pounds. It is likely that you will be asked to help carry some of the group equipment such as ropes and protection, so make sure there is some additional room in and on your backpack for approximately 4-8 pounds of gear. The total potential weight to be carried is 65 – 75 pounds.

Any tips on packing?

The mountains of the northwest and north coast are heavily glaciated temperate mountains. This means they are subject to highly variable weather conditions.

  • Pack everything in two layers of sturdy plastic. (Trash Compactor Bags work the best) Bring one large trash bag to completely and easily cover your pack. You should bring at least 4 bags.
  • It is likely that you will be asked to help carry some of the group equipment, so make sure there is some additional room in and on your backpack.
What can I read to prepare for the course?

You will get far more out of your course by reading Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 6th ed., The Mountaineers. This book provides an excellent overview of the elements involved in alpine mountaineering. Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6 review many of the.phpects we will be covering during your training and familiarity with these.phpects will greatly enhance your experience.

How many students/instructors are there per class?

On our 3-Day Mt Baker climbs the ratio is 3:1, Training Courses (programs 3 days or greater), the student to instructor ratio is 5:1 . For our 13-Day course it is 4:1. Our 8-Day and 12-Day Alaska courses have a 5:1 ratio.

Where is a good, trustworthy store to purchase gear?

We run our own retail climbing shop and online gear store, where all Alpine Ascents climbers receive a discount.

I am concerned that the gear I am renting will not fit or work properly.

All of our gear is of the highest quality. The boots, packs, crampons, ice axes, tents, and other items are cleaned and checked on a daily basis. Please note that double plastic boots do not break in.

Where will my course be held?

Our Washington 6-Day courses take place on Mt. Baker, Mt. Daniel, El Dorado Peak, Sahale Peak, Glacier Peak and throughout the North Cascades. We utilize a variety of locations to distribute land use throughout the North Cascades and provide pristine, less populated environs for our training. Our 13-Day course also includes mixed climbing areas such as: Mt Shuksan, Twin Sisters, Forbidden, Mt Sloan, Torment, Buckner, Logan, Chair Peak, The Tooth and Guy Peak. All courses take place in the mountains. Our 8-Day and 12-Day Alaska programs take place in Denali National Park in the environs of Denali itself on the South East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.

How is the issue of human waste in the North Cascades dealt with by Alpine Ascents?

Alpine Ascents International takes Leave No Trace principles very seriously. We are a pioneering organization in environmentally positive methods of waste disposal. We were the first guide service to implement the use of the revolutionary “Wag Bag” system. Other wilderness companies and organizations are taking our lead and are now implementing this excellent product. If you have climbed with us and are wondering where to obtain your own supplies, you can order Wag Bags from Phillips Environmental directly from their website:

Is this trip going to be physically challenging?

Yes. See the training tips above, but… Keep in mind that you are climbing a mountain and it is not easy. If you follow our physical fitness tips and do some training on your own, you should complete the course with no problems.

What if I need to leave the course early?

For climbers who need to be escorted from the course, there is a minimum fee of $350.00.

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 with reviews.

Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue
Andy Selters, Mountaineers Books
The Illustrated Guide to Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue
Andy Tyson, Mike Clelland, Climbing Magazine
Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills
Don Graydon (Ed.), Kurt Hanson (Ed.), Mountaineers Society, Mountaineers Books
Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills
Topher Donahue, Craig Luebben, Mountaineers Outdoor Experts, Mountaineers Books

I really enjoyed this course! The course was designed to provide high quality mountaineering education to beginner climber in terms of guides, course material and locations. I feel confident that I can use the learned skills and build upon them to be an efficient climber.

Partners & Accreditations

Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
Copyright © 2016 Alpine Ascents International. All rights reserved.