Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Glacier Peak Trip Report - July 16-19, 2015

We have run two Glacier Peak Climbs in the past two weeks and both groups reached the summit and had enjoyable trips. This trip report describes the ascent via the White Chuck, Gerdine, and Cool Glaciers, the most common ascent route these days.

Getting to the trailhead: Most parties these days start their Glacier Peak climbs be driving to the Sloan Creek Campground (2100'), also the trailhead for the North Fork Sauk Trail (#649). To get to the trailhead, follow the Mountain Loop Highway 17.0 miles SE from Darrington to Sloan Creek Road (#49) and turn left and follow road 49 6.6 miles to the trailhead.

North Fork Sauk Trailhead - Glacier Peak

Common Glacier Peak Itinerary:
  • Day 1: Start at the North Fork Sauk Trailhead (2100') and follow this 5.0 miles to the Mackinaw Shelter at 2950'. Then follow the trail NE as it ascends nearly 3000' in 3.0 more miles to White Pass (5904'). Camp on the bench in established campsites a few hundred feet below the West side of White Pass. (8.5 miles, 6-7 hours, 3800' elevation gain)
  • Day 2: Climb back to White Pass and head North to the junction between the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Foam Creek trail.  Use the Foam Creek Trail to travel out to the end of the trail and climb a very visible climbers trail to a small col at 6600'. From here the trail drops a bit and leads you over to a second Col overlooking Glacier Peak Meadows and provides access to the White Chuck Glacier basin. Ascend the lower White Chuck Glacier briefly and work your way up to Glacier Gap at  around 7300'. Camp at Glacier Gap. (5.25 miles, 4.5-5.5 hours, 2350' of ascent and 835' of descent)
  • Day 3: Climb the short snow or scree slope right of point 7739 and drop into the basin containing the Gerdine Glacier.  Use short snow crossings and a climbers trail on the ridge climbers left of the Gerdine Glacier to around 7830' where you step out to the Gerdine Glacier and switch to crampons. Ascend the Gerdine Glacier to the Col East of Disappointment Peak at around 9150'. Cross through a small broken area and then ascend the Cool Glacier to 9640', and follow the pumice ridge up the final snow and scree gully to the summit. We then usually descend to camp at Glacier Gap, pack-up, and hike back down to White Pass to camp. (3.8 miles, 4.5-5.5 hours up, 2-3 hours down, 3475' of ascent and 300' of descending on climb to top)
  • Day 4: Wake up early at White Pass and hike back to the trailhead. (8.5 miles, 3800' descent, 4-5.5 hours)

Day 1 Detail: We met at the Darrington Ranger Station.  There is a voluntary climbers registration.  If you fill this out, be sure to remember to check back out at the end.  There are no fees for climbing Glacier Peak.  We worked pretty hard to trim our gear down to the essentials and then drove to the trailhead for the North Fork of the Sauk (#649). Until 2014 the Sloan Creek Road was washed out near the turn off the Mountain Loop Highway and we had been using mountain bikes to finish the last 6.5 miles to the trailhead.  We were pretty happy to skip this step and be able to drive right to the trailhead. The hike into Mackinaw Shelter took about 2.5 hours. This first 5.0 miles slowly ascends through super impressive old-growth stands of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar and the trail is in great shape. We used running shoes all the way to Glacier Gap and carried our climbing boots. Plenty of places to collect water on the hike to Mackinaw shelter and we topped off our bottles here for the climb to White Pass.

Mackinaw Shelter - North Fork Sauk Trail

The climb up to White Pass follows a series of switchbacks to about 5300' and then makes a broad traverse up and east eventually joining the PCT at 5970' before the final traverse to White Pass. Due to the low snow this year the Huckleberries were already ripe, typically more of a late August event. I used to run programs on Glacier Peak that combined environmental education and climbing for high school aged students and love the variety of plant life seen.  Particularly interesting to me at the White Indian Paintbrush, something we see much less often in the mountains than the usual red ones. All of the wildflowers were months ahead of schedule this year with some of the flowers I am used to seeing only in the fall in full bloom in mid-July.

In a month of so this area will get a lot more traffic from people making their way North on the PCT, but on this trip we did not encounter anyone that had made the trip up from Southern California yet. Bernie hopes to one day complete the whole PCT.

Junction of North Fork Sauk Trail and Pacific Crest Trail

When we got to White Pass we found a good camp just below the pass.  You can't camp at White Pass proper, but there are good campsites a short walk below the pass to the West and 2 pit toilets. There was still good water in several streams just below the camp.  It is useful to have something like a cup when collecting water as the streams are not deep enough to easily dunk your entire bottle. Dave Heinbach had reported finding tons of black flies at this camp the week before, but our day was cool enough that they were not out.  The trip in took us 6 hours. This crew moved pretty well and we took relaxed breaks. I could easily see it taking closer to 7 hours. If you have the energy, there are a bunch of nice hikes around White Pass, including the ascent of White Mountain (7043'), which has phenomenal views of Glacier Peak. We opted for a more relaxed tour on the Pass itself.

Western Anemone Seedpods at White Pass - Glacier Peak Wilderness

Day 2 Detail: We had a semi-leisurely wake up and were underway a bit after 9 am. To get back to the trail we climbed up to White Pass and headed a few hundred yards North along the PCT before turning right (East) on the Foam Creek Trail.

Junction of Foam Creek trail and PCT at White Pass - Glacier Peak Wilderness

This traverses for about an hour until you get to one last small group of trees where you turn left and head up the climbers trail to a small pass at the head of Foam Creek.

Climbers trail climbing to ridge at end of Foam Creek Trail - Glacier Peak

After a short climb you get to the ridge and have great views of Glacier Peak. The climbers trail down and then back up to the next col is plainly visible. The hiking is still super easy with one short section that requires care along the way.

View from end of Foam Creek Trail looking toward Glacier Peak

Once you gain this last col you are looking down on what people call "Glacier Peak Meadows." The descent lures you in with a very obvious trail and then it disintegrates into what you will experience for the rest of the trip to Glacier Gap; visible trail in spots, cairns sometimes leading you in the right direction, sometimes leading you astray, but a relatively easy route to find if you have good visibility. You are still a long way from Glacier Peak and the hike is interesting. Initially granite dominates and then as you get closer to Glacier Peak you start to encounter more volcanic rock and eventually reach a spectacular small lake. In most years this would still involve significant time in snow and boots would be the ideal footwear, but this year all the snow was melted and we stayed in our running shoes.

Josh and Bernie at lake just beyond Glacier Peak Meadows

It seems to work best to bypass the lake on the west side and then traverse slightly down.  We found this cool rock with a spider pattern in it to be a useful landmark, but in higher snow years this might be covered.  In here we had to cross a more significant stream and found it easiest down low where it as a bit more braided.

Spider Rock - Time to head up and cross the White Chuck Glacier

As you will have read in other trip reports, the White Chuck Glacier has receded radically from what you see on the USGS maps. The trip to Glacier Gap can be made a lot easier if you hit the right line, which tends to stay high and hug the cliffs on the right side of the valley coming into Glacier Gap.  The key to making this work out is to get on the White Chuck Glacier and follow it up and left to cross over the rock island at about 6800'. This allows you to traverse in rock a bit more firmly held in place by glacier silt and then follow a steep scree climb on a faint climbers trail up into the basin that leads to Glacier Gap. We crossed the White Chuck Glacier unroped, in our running shoes, but a bit ore care would be required if the glacier were still covered with the previous seasons snow as there are a few small crevasses to negotiate.

Best line for traversing toward Glacier Gap - Glacier Peak Climb

The photo below was taken on the descent, but you can see the location of the faint climbers trail above and slightly left of the the climber's right shoulder. It very much avoids the cliffs and follows the slight drainage facing you as you look at the photo. This is a bit left of center.

More detail on traverse to Glacier Gap on Glacier Peak Climb

Once you gain the ridge you traverse at about 7150' all the way to the last climb into the far south end of Glacier Gap where there is a pretty well-defined climbers trail.  This traverse has you on and off the edge of the glacier until the final scree climb to camp. We camped at the South end of Glacier Gap (7300') near a good source of water coming off the the Suiattle Glacier. Of note: many climbers camp lower, down by the spider rock at around 6600'.  This would work fine, but will add a good three hours round trip to the summit day and you would negotiate the trickiest route finding in the dark.

Glacier Gap Camp on Glacier Peak - Suiattle Glacier on Right

We made it from White Pass to Glacier Gap in 4 hours and 40 minutes.  I could easily see this dragging into something like 5.5-6.0 hours if people are not good at walking on scree or if much of the route is snow covered and punchy. I scrambled up a small ridge to the south of camp in the afternoon to get good views of Glacier Peak and a better view of the Suiattle Glacier.  There were really nice views over to the Honeycomb Glacier and Tenpeak Mountain (8281'), which I added to my mental list of interesting objectives from the White River drainage beyond Lake Wenatchee.

Suiattle and Honeycomb Glaciers with Tenpeak Mountain in background.

Day 3 Detail: The camp at Glacier Gap would probably feel a bit exposed in bad weather.  We had ideal conditions and woke up at 3:30 am and set-off at 4:30 am. We switched to climbing boots and followed a good climbers trail to the North alongside the small snowfield that leads up to a saddle at 7540'. From here we descended on snow and felt it was prudent to use crampons.  After about 10 minutes of descending we took our crampons off again and continued on mostly dirt trail.

Detail of small snow slope you descend after climbing unto col above Glacier Gap Camp.

From here followed the climber's trail on the East side of the Gerdine Glacier to 7830' and descending a short sandy slope to the edge of the Glacier. We put our crampons back on and then followed the let edge of the glacier up to 8400' where we started to traverse up and right to the col between the Cool and Gerdine Glaciers (9150'). This is East of Disappointment Peak (9755'). The glacier was uncrevassed, low-angle, and the main hazard was rockfall from off Disappointment Peak.

Josh and Bernie on the Gerdine Glacier - Standard Glacier Peak route

As you cross from the Gerdine to the Cool Glaciers there are generally some crevasses.  This year, with the early snowmelt, things were pretty broken up, but still very easy to navigate as everything is visible. We crossed over this section easily and ascended the Cool Glacier to the saddle between Disappointment Peak and Glacier Peak proper.

Josh and Bernie on Cool Glacier - Glacier Peak

At the top of the Cool Glacier we took off our crampons and managed to make it the rest of the way to the top without them.  In most years they would be needed for the steeper snow slopes leading to the summit, but it was pretty nice walking this year.

Pumice ridge between Glacier Peak and Disappointment Peak

The final climb to the top is in a steep scree and snow-filled gully that leads almost directly to the summit.

Josh and Bernie near top of Glacier Peak's final section

When we hit the top it was generally nice with fantastic views in all directions. With the opening of the Suiattle River road and the planned maintenance on the the Milk Creek trail we are looking forward to once again guiding Frostbite Ridge from the North at some point next year.

John Race, Bernie, and Josh on summit of Glacier Peak - July 18, 2015

It took us 4.5 hours to climb from Glacier Gap to the summit and about 2.5 hours to descend.  On the descent we took a good hour at Glacier Gap to pack up and then moved down to White Pass for a total day length of 12 hours and 45 minutes. It would be possible to have exited from Glacier Gap the next day, but we wanted a shorter exit day as the temps were forecasted to be near 90 in Seattle.

Day 4 Detail: Not much to report here.  We woke up early and hiked back out the 8.5 miles to the car.  The trip down took 4.5 hours.  We were walking by 7 am and this allowed us to miss most of the heat on the hike out.  Thanks Bernie and Josh for such great company on this trip. Our upcoming climbs are filling nicely and we are looking forward to spending more time in this amazing Wilderness.

About the Northwest Mountain School: We have guided Glacier Peak since 1996 and it is one of our favorite destinations primarily because it is so remote and beautiful. NMS is owned by IFMGA tides John & Olivia Race and based in Leavenworth, WA. We run set-date and custom climbs of Glacier Peak.  Most guided climbs take 4 days.  

Glacier Peak from ridge above Glacier Gap
Remaining 2015 Glacier Peak Climbs with space:
  • July 30-August 2, 2015
  • August 13-16, 2015
  • August 27-30, 2015
  • September 5-8, 2015.

For full details visit our Glacier Peak Climbs page on our website or give Olivia a call at 509-548-5823 if you want to join a Glacier Peak trip with us. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NMS Trips at Summer Meltdown! - August 2015

August 7-9, 2015 - Darrington, WA

Summer Meltdown is a 4-day music festival in Darrington, WA from August 6-9, 2015.  The concerts take place at the amazing White Horse Amphitheater under the mid-blowing backdrop of White Horse Mountain.  Northwest Mountain School is pleased to be offering rock climbing adventures during the day from Friday August 7th, through Sunday August 9th. A major goal of the festival is to "celebrate life and all of the beauty this region has to offer" particularly in wake of the tragic mudslide that struck the town of Oso, WA in 2014 down valley from the concert venue.

Rock Climbing at Summer Meltdown

Each trip is limited to 6 participants and will take place at Three O'Clock Rock, a short drive from Darrington. Participants will be given the opportunity to learn to rock climb with sampling a variety of crack and face climbs at this beautiful crag. Climbers with more experience can be accommodated on more challenging routes. We can also organize custom trips for a higher price if guides are still available at the time of registration. All programs are led by professional climbing guides.

Rock Climbing Adventure at Summer Meltdown

Performer lineup at Summer Meltdown includes: 

STS9, Iration, Tycho, Greensky Bluegrass, Galactic, Sol, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Slow Magic, The Motet, Minnesota, Phutureprimative, Lyrics Born, Yppah, Brothers Comatose, Fruition, Flowmotion, Current Swell, Surrealized, Cedar Teeth, Polecat, Delhi 2 Dublin, The Dip, Fear and Loathing, A Cedar Suede, The Warren G. Hardings, Valley Green, Choir of Crickets, Jon Wayne & the Pain, Acorn Project, Tubaluba, The Hooky's, Eldridge Gravey and the Court Supreme, Heels to the Hardwood, Theoretics, Goodbye Heart, Wildabeast, Beyond the Woods, School of Rock, The Wooden Sky, & Josh Clauson and Friends. Learn about the performers.

Lead Climber at Three O'Clock Rock, Darrington, WA

How the rock climbing adventures work:

Each day we will run two sessions.  The first session will run from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm and the second session will run from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm.  Participants must pre-register and meet the guides at the Northwest Mountain School booth at the White Horse Amphitheater.  Your guide will go over everything you need for the day and equip you with a climbing harness, helmet, and rock climbing shoes.  We will then drive to the trailhead for the climbing area (about 30 minutes) and hike for about 30 minutes to the base of the crag.  Our guides will have everything set up so that we can spend as much time climbing as possible.  You will be taught how to belay, how to use your harness and helmet, and will get to climb a bunch of cool routes on top-rope. At the end of the clinic we will hike back to the trailhead and return everyone to the venue. You do not need previous climbing experience to participate, but you do need to be fit enough to him into the base of the climbs. By pre-registering we can send you all the pre-trip details you will need to start the day organized and ready for your adventure.

Cost: $75 per participant

What you get for $75: Use of all required climbing gear, training from the guides of the Northwest Mountain School, transportation to/from the concert venue and the climbing site.

Summer Meltdown Rock Climbing Adventure Schedule:

  • Friday August 7, 2015
    • Class 1: 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
    • Class 2: 11:30 am - 5:00 pm
  • Saturday August 8, 2015
    • Class 3: 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
    • Class 4: 11:30 am - 5:00 pm
  • Sunday August 9, 2015
    • Class 5: 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
    • Class 6: 11:30 am - 5:00 pm

Beautiful Granite at Three O'Clock Rock

How to register: You can visit our website and register online or you can call the office at 509-548-5823 and book over the phone. You can also e-mail us directly with any questions. We expect this to fill quickly as the concert date approaches, so if you are interested be sure to reserve your spot.

Do I still need tickets to the Music Festival? Yes.  The music festival is a separate event from the rock climbing and that requires a separate ticket.  These can be obtained here. Visit the site for details.  There are a range of options. $185 gets you a weekend pass for adults, $65 buys a weekend pass for youth ages 9-15 (8 and under are FREE). There are also options for camping with and without vehicles.

Tell me more about Three O'Clock Rock:

Northwest Mountain School began using this area for rock climbing in 1996 when we started running youth programs that rock climbed and then climbed Glacier Peak. Over the years the road fell into disrepair.  In the wake of the Oso mudslide new resources were help the area recover and the road was improved and the Washington Climbers Coalitionhttp://www.washingtonclimbers.org, The Access Fund, and the Washington Trails Association worked on the trail to the crag.  This built on previous efforts by the Everett Mountaineers, the Access Fund, the North Face, and the US Forest Service.  The work they have done is admirable and regular use of this crag will contribute greatly to the local economy.

2014 Volunteer Trail Crew at Eight Mile Creek Trailhead

What if you don't want to climb?

There are also local companies offering Rafting Adventures and Horseback Riding Adventures at Summer Meltdown.

For more details on Rock Climbing at Summer Meltdown

  • Visit our Webpage
  • Call the Northwest Mountain School at 509-548-5823
  • E-mail our office
  • Read the interview on the Summer Meltdown Site

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mt. Baker Mountaineering Courses

New courses for the summer of 2015:

Surveyed participants on our 6-Day Glacier Mountaineering Course suggested they would be well served by having the option to split these popular courses into programs on successive weekends. The guides sat down and divided our 6-day course into two long weekend programs covering the same material. Rather than compress 6 days of training into 3 days we picked the best locations on Mt. Baker for each subject in the longer course. 

Mt. Baker's Coleman Glacier - Ideal location for technical training with a short approach
Each course takes place on Mt. Baker, but on different sides of the mountain. This allows us to use the lower portions of the Coleman Glacier for technical training with a short approach on the north side, and then use the Easton Glacier on the south side of Mt. Baker for route planning and route finding. We included the summit bid in the second course and kept the summit off the agenda for the first course to give us more time to train. 

Mt. Baker's Easton Glacier - Ideal terrain for route finding, navigation, and a summit bid.
Crevasse Rescue and Glacier Travel Course: As the name suggests, the focus is on developing crevasse rescue and glacier travel skills. To safely climb Mt. Baker you need to know how to use an ice axe and crampons and travel roped up. On a normal summit climb we can cover these skills the day before your climb, but we do not have time to go into any real depth on skill such as laying out the climbing rope, using various knots and hitches, learning to predict which routes are most ideal as we travel up the glacier. On short summit focused trips we also do not have time to teach snow and ice anchors and crevasse rescue to a depth that allows clients to retain this critical information. 

Crevasse Rescue and Glacier Travel Course includes:
  • Crevasse Rescue
  • Climbing Rope Management
  • Belaying and Ascending Fixed Lines
  • Knots and Hitches
  • Self-Arrest & Team Arrest
  • Rope Travel on Glaciers
  • Rope Management
  • Snow & Ice Anchors
  • Crampon Technique for Ascending and Descending
  • Dressing in the Mountains
  • Leave No Trace

Crevasse Rescue is part of the foundation of becoming a solid climber.

Why we chose this format for a Crevasse Rescue Glacier Travel Course: There are only a couple places in Washington State where you can quickly and easily hike to a good training site for crevasse rescue that includes work in a real crevasse. The North side of Mt. Baker is the most ideal of all these sites. The hike to camp takes only a few hours and leaves time for dialing in all of the knots, hitches, and concepts that you will need to understand to start to put together crevasse rescue systems. By using the lower Coleman Glacier you are paying for training not hiking to training. While you need to know how to pull someone out of a crevasse, it is more important that you understand how to avoid falling into a crevasse. The lower Coleman is the perfect place to begin to understand glacier movement, get of sense of why crevasses form and where they form, and to build your movement skills with ice axe and crampons to the point where you can easily go where you want to go. 

2015 Dates for our 3-Day Crevasse Rescue and Glacier Travel Course: $595 (4:1 ratio)

  • July 3-5, 2015
  • July 24-26, 2015
  • August 7-9, 2015
  • August 21-23, 2015
  • Sept. 4-6, 2015
  • Custom Dates also available

Baker's wild, beautiful north side.

3-Day Baker Summit Mountaineering Course: If you have taken the first course or already have crevasse rescue and use of the ice axe and crampons dialed, this course gives you the chance to start to understand how the guide decides to take a certain route and manage movement around crevasses. We also train you to use map and compass, gps, and develop a route plan that allows you to move about effectively in fog, snow, or other conditions that require solid navigation skills. The time to do this comes form not having to cover skills like self-arrest, cramping, and crevasse rescue.  We like teaching route planning with the pressure of an actual summit climb as it gives you a chance to understand how each minute, transition, and overall pacing has an effect on your total time. On this course we cover skills related to mountain medicine, cooking, camp construction, and the other common issues that contribute to running a well-organized trip. The Easton Glacier is the ideal location for this as it is just complex enough to showcase these skills, but not so complex that they are hard to learn and practice.

3-Day Baker Summit Mountaineering Course Includes: 

  • Route planning
  • Time Management
  • Mountain Medicine
  • Glacier Route Selection
  • Pacing and Efficient Climbing
  • Building Secure Snow Camps
  • Use of Climbing Stoves
  • Single Rescuer Crevasse Rescue
  • Leave No Trace
Climbers on Mt. Baker's Easton Glacier Route
Why we chose this format for our Baker Summit Mountaineering Course: It is one thing to deliver training, but another to make sure people are retaining it. The first weekend involves a lot of technical detail that will be lost if it is not revisited. The skills learned on your first weekend can be briefly touched on and tuned up if needed. This will help you retain those skills.  We can then build on that first weekend by adding in new skills and putting everything together on our Mt. Baker summit bid. It makes sense to start with the basics on the first course and then build more toward the big picture on the second trip. The Easton Glacier generally involves a bit more route finding than the Coleman-Deming route, but is not as ideal for teaching movement skills on ice and crevasse rescue.  We also like the idea that you are given basic orientation on each side of the mountain should you choose to come back and do your own climb in the future.

2015 Dates for our 3-Day Baker Summit Mountaineering Course: $825 (3:1 ratio)

  • July 10-12, 2015
  • August 14-16, 2015
  • August 28-30, 2015
  • Sept. 11-13, 2015
  • Custom Dates also available
Time management allows you to start in the dark, but skip finishing in the dark.
Why is the second course more expensive? The first course can be run at a higher ratio of climbers to guides.  We run the first course at a 4:1 ratio as that works best for crevasse rescue training and the basic skills we will be covering.  On the second course we drop the ratio to 3:1 to give each person more individual time with the guide to work on skills such as using their map and compass, developing a route plan, and then actually navigating on the glacier.  

Why would I do this with the Northwest Mountain School?: There are a lot of good guide services in the Northwest. We started in 1994 because we were guiding for some of the bigger companies and felt like we could focus more on the educational side of climbing. We are owned by IFMGA guides, John & Olivia Race. John and Olivia have worked all over the world on big mountains such as Denali (30 combined trips), 8000 meter peaks (8 combined trips to Everest, Shishapangma, and Cho Oyu), and we have worked for the big companies for over 20 years. We have put together a guide staff of AMGA certified guides and guides working toward AMGA certification and very much emphasize being up to speed on the latest technical systems and theories of how people learn. We are a small operation and as such we need to work a little harder, shine a little brighter, and innovate a bit faster to thrive in a really competitive market surrounded by a lot of great guides. We value timeliness, professionalism, and quality in all of our programs. Each trip includes all the group gear like tents, stoves, and food, and our guides train hard to make sure they are doing things in the most current fashion. The one thing we want more than your business is your return business and the way we earn that is by delivering the trip you expect.

IFMGA Guides, John & Olivia Race - Owners of Northwest Mountain School
If you just want to climb Baker: We offer set-date and custom 3-day climbs of Mt. Baker that cover the basic skills needed to climb Mt. Baker with a guide

Still confused or wondering where to start your mountaineering education? Feel free to give us a call at 509-548-5823. Olivia is usually the one that answers the phone and she can help you sort out the best place to start. We think these 3-day Mountaineering courses are a good place to start, but we also offer 1-day crevasse rescue courses taught in the front-country without a crevasse, a wide variety of rock climbing programs, and if all else fails are happy to refer you to one of the big operators. Details on all of our Mountaineering Courses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Vertfest 2015 - Sportiva Clinics with NMS

Vertfest is coming once again to Alpental on February 14th and 15th, 2015. The program has been changed from the past with clinics now taking place first, on Saturday the 14th, and the randonee race taking place on Sunday, the 15th. Vertfest 2015 - Alpental February 14-15, 2015

Vertfest Race Start - The forecast calls for pain
Sportiva Clinics at Vertfest 2015
In conjunction with Sportiva, John & Olivia Race will be offering two full-day clinics on Saturday from 9 am - 4 pm.  Cost is $80 with all proceeds going to the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). We teach similar courses at the Northwest Mountain School for $235 so this is a great chance to get a good deal in instruction.

Introduction to Backcountry Skiing
  • Presented by La Sportiva/Northwest Mountain School
  • For those itching to leave the lifts and enter the backcountry, this clinic will teach you the basics of backcountry ski travel. We will embark on a short tour into the Alpental backcountry and discuss the necessary equipment, training and techniques needed to travel safely in the backcountry.
  • For: Intermediate and above alpine skiers with little or no backcountry experience.
  • Maximum 8 participants
Advanced Ski and Snowboard Mountaineering
  • Presented by La Sportiva/Northwest Mountain School
  • Are you an experienced backcountry skier or splitboarder ready to take the next step into more technical terrain? This clinic will cover the basics of ski/snowboard mountaineering, including the use of crampons, setting anchors, and basic rope work.
  • For: Advanced skiers and snowboarders with experience in the backcountry.
  • Maximum 6 participants
There are a ton of other great clinics in both half and full-day formats:
Half-day Vertfest 2015 clinics - Saturday February 14th, 2015
9 am - 12 pm: Morning Clinics
1 pm - 4 pm: Afternoon Clinics
Cost: $40
Coed Steep Skiing
  • Presented by Scarpa/Chris Davenport
  • Learn to ski the steeps, navigate steep terrain, and boost your confidence to ski steep lines here in the Cascades and beyond.
  • For: Advanced skiers
  • Maximum 6 participants
Women’s Steep Skiing
  • Presented by Pro Guiding
  • Learn to ski the steeps, navigate steep terrain, and boost your confidence to ski steep lines here in the Cascades and beyond.
  • For: Advanced skiers
  • Maximum of 6 participants
Intermediate Backcountry Ski Touring Techniques
  • Presented by Pro Guiding
  • Ever wonder how experienced backcountry skiers make touring look so effortless? This clinic will teach you the tricks to become more efficient when skinning uphill and making transitions back to ski mode…so you can enjoy the downhill even more.
  • For: Intermediate and above alpine skiers with some backcountry experience
  • Maximum of 8 participants
Introduction to Split Boarding
  • Presented by Chair 2 Boardsports and Voile
  • For those itching to leave the lifts and enter the backcountry, this clinic will teach you the basics of backcountry splitboard travel. We will embark on a short tour into the Alpental backcountry and discuss the necessary equipment, training and techniques needed to splitboard safely in the backcountry.
  • For: Intermediate and above snowboarders with little or no backcountry experience.
  • Maximum of 8 participants

Full-day Vertfest 2015 clinics - Saturday February 14th, 2015

9 am – 4 pm
Cost: $80 (season pass or lift ticket required)
Avalanche Risk Evaluation
  • Presented by Ortovox/NWAC - Scott Schell
  • Learn to make the right observations at the right time; a key component for better decision making, giving you more time to enjoy a day out.
  • For: Intermediate and above skiers and snowboarders with little avalanche training.
  • Maximum of 8 participants
Ski Photography
  • Presented by TBD
  • Learn the nuances of capturing better ski and snowboard photos in our amazing mountains and deepen your understanding of winter photography. Participants must provide their own camera and gear.
  • For: Intermediate and above skiers and snowboarders
  • Maximum of 8 participants
Happy Skiers following 2014 Vertfest
2015 Vertfest Race Schedule - Sunday February 15th, 2015
7:30 am: Racer Check-in / Day-of Registration
9 am: Vendor Village opens. Free demos from Outdoor Research, Scarpa,
La Sportiva, Voile, Osprey, Dynafit and more.  Sign-up at the NWAC tent.
9 am: Racer Meeting
10 am: Race start
2:30 pm: Last racers cleared from course
3 pm: Demo gear return, Vendor Village closes, award ceremony, raffle and beer
Olivia ready to race.

John & Olivia usually do the race and encourage you to participate.  What has always been great about this event is that it attracts some incredibly strong folks, but has a very relaxed, PNW feel.  It is not about winning, but more about giving it all you have and hopefully not collapsing into a heap short of the finish line.  You gotta be able to ski black diamond terrain in whatever conditions the weather presents, and should be able to skin with some proficiency. Beyond that we are always psyched to see the elite crew cheering folks on as they cruise to the finish while many of us are still battling uphill. If you are worried about your skiing or skinning ability check out the Rookie Rally.


About the Northwest Mountain School.  
The Northwest Mountain School is owned and operated by IFMGA guides John & Olivia Race.  We are based in Leavenworth, WA and sponsored by Sportiva. We run a variety of backcountry ski programs near Stevens Pass, WA as well as AIARE Level 1 and AIARE Level 2 avalanche courses. 

Stevens Pass Backcountry Programs

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2015 Europe Summer Climbing Schedule ~ Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, & Monte Rosa

Our 2015 dates have been posted for climbing in the Alps. We will once again be offering the following programs:

Climbers on Breithorn Half-Tranverse - Warm-up for the Matterhorn
For 2015 we have gone to all-inclusive pricing meaning that the cost of your huts, hotels, ground-transportation during the trip, trams and lifts, and most of the meals are included in the price. Each trip includes lodging the night before and after your trip.  This gives you the chance to estimate your total cost accurately before the trip and avoids any difficulty making reservations for lodging during the trip.

Nearing summit of Wiessmies - Zermatt-Saas 4000'ers (Monte Rosa Ascent)

Mont Blanc Climb
We have been guiding Mont Blanc for a long time and have come up with a program that gives you the best possible chance to summit. This is a 6-day itinerary beginning from the quieter Champex side of the Trient Plateau that starts with 3 moderate days of climbing to acclimate and polish your climbing skills in advance of the ascent. During the Mont Blanc climb itself we spend 2 nights at the Tete Rousse Hut, one before and one after the climb, which allows for a bit less rush to make the train at the end. We are avoiding the three Mont Blanc route, site of many avalanches in the past few summers in favor of the Gouter Route.  Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps and by default the highest peak in France. If conditions indicate the three Mont Blancs route is better in summer 2015 we will entertain that option, but it has not been the case for the past few summers.

Climbers on Aiguille du Tour, warm-up for Mont Blanc Climb
2015 Mont Blanc Climb Dates ($4070 per climber)
  • July 1-6, 2015
  • July 16-21, 2015
  • August 8-13, 2015
  • August 17-22, 2015
  • Custom Dates Available

Just below the summit of Mont Blanc - Mont Blanc Climbs
Matterhorn Climbs
In 2014 we were one of the few American companies to put a client on the summit when Mark Allen made a successful ascent with his client in July.  We spend 3 days training, acclimating, and sampling some of the great climbing in Zermatt with ascents of Castor, Pollux, and the Breithorn in advance of our climb on the Matterhorn. In the acclimatization period we stay mostly in high huts to maximize our chance to acclimate in advance of this challenging and rewarding climb. If for some reason the Matterhorn is out of condition, we have alternate climbs nearby that are excellent alternatives.

Climbers on Matterhorn Summit - Matterhorn Climb
2015 Matterhorn Climb Dates ($5700 per climber)
  • July 8-14, 2015
  • July 23-29, 2015
  • July 31-August 6, 2015
  • August 24-30, 2015

Magnificent Matterhorn - Matterhorn Climb
Zermatt-Saas 4000'ers Climb w/ ascent of Monte Rosa
We reformatted our traditional 4000'ers week to not overlap with the Matterhorn summits, allowing people the chance to do this as a trip by itself or to link to either the Matterhorn or Mt. Blanc. We start with warm-up climbs in the Saas Valley on the Jagihorn, Lagginhorn, and Wiesmiess before moving back over to Zermatt to finish on Monte Rosa, the highest peak in Switzerland.

Excellent Rock on Jagihorn - Zermatt 4000'ers warm-up
2015 Zermatt 4000'ers Climb w/ Ascent of Monte Rosa Dates ($4995 per climber)
  • July 8-13, 2015
  • July 23-28, 2015
  • August 8-13, 2015
  • August 24-29, 2015
  • Custom Dates Available

Lagginhorn sunrise - Zermatt 4000'ers
New! The ability to link multiple itineraries to put together a longer trip.  
Our 2015 programs were laid out so that you can combine your climb of any one of these iconic peaks with another. If you link two trips you have 1 or 2 days between trips to rest and get to your next destination. If you link courses we will give you 5% off the total amount of your trip.

Climbers on Riffelhorn with Monte Rosa in background - Zermatt-Saas 4000'ers (Monte Rosa Climb)
Examples of how climbs can be linked:
Mont Blanc + Matterhorn July 1-14, 2015 
Mont Blanc + Zermatt-Saas 4000'ers July 1-13, 2015 
Matterhorn + Mont Blanc July 8-21, 2015 
Zermatt 4000'ers + Mont Blanc July 8-21, 2015 
Mont Blanc + Matterhorn July 16-29, 2015 
Mont Blanc + Zermatt 4000'ers July 16-28, 2015
Matterhorn + Zermatt 4000'ers July 31-August 13, 2015
Matterhorn + Mont Blanc July 31-August 13, 2015
Mont Blanc + Matterhorn August 17-30, 2015
Mont Blanc + Zermatt 4000'ers August 17-29, 2015

Interior of Monte Rosa Hut - Zermatt-Saas 4000'ers w/ Monte Rosa Ascent
Custom Climbs available
Don't like any of the above dates and want to do a custom program? If we have the guides available, we are happy to set up a custom experience. We can offer all-inclusive or custom pricing depending on how deep you want to go into the logistics. Call the office at (509)548-5823 for details.

IFMGA Guides John & Olivia Race - Northwest Mountain School
About the Northwest Mountain School: The Northwest Mountain School has been in operation since 1994 and is owned by IFMGA guides John & Olivia Race. We are based in Leavenworth, WA and run  spring and summer programs in the Alps in addition to our regular offerings in the Pacific Northwest and other locations in the Western US.  Feel free to call us at 509-548-5823 with any questions.

Links to Climbs Described above: