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.