This NOLS course will take you to Washington’s North Cascades, a mountain range characterized by jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls and vast glaciers. More glaciers are found here than anywhere else in the lower 48 states. In a place that's the training ground for some of the world's best mountaineers, you'll learn about leading a team, living on a glacier, and wake up each morning to stunning views and new challenges.
You’ll spend the early days of your course in lush, old growth forests of cedar and Douglas fir, working up to jagged, snowy peaks. Early season courses (May-June) will likely spend much of their time on snow, while later courses (July-August) may experience more time on the bare ice and rocky moraines of the lower glaciers before reaching snow-covered glacier. Regardless of your route, you will learn the skills you need to live and travel responsibly and efficiently in challenging mountain terrain.
Your development as a mountaineer will begin with the basics, including basic camping, cooking, and Leave No Trace techniques. Learning to live well and to care for yourself, your fellow expedition members, your equipment and the environment in a variety of conditions are the foundations for advanced mountaineering and the focus of our core curriculum.
Once you reach the glaciers, you’ll move into the climbing curriculum, beginning with knots, rope handling, rope-team travel, self-arrest and belaying. You’ll spend time practicing these skills and learning to live and travel responsibly in glaciated terrain. As your experience builds and you move into more technically demanding terrain, you’ll be exposed to more advanced skills such as crevasse rescue, route finding on a glacier, avalanche hazard assessment, and the use of 4th and potentially 5th class rope systems for protection during more exposed travel.
There will be days set aside for classes, skill practice or peak ascents when you do not move camp. You should be aware that a number of factors often preclude successful summit attempts. Your course will take advantage of every opportunity to prepare you for future expeditions in glaciated ranges; the primary focus of this course is the development of skills and judgment, not “peak bagging.” By the end of this course, you will have practiced the technical and leadership skills needed to travel in the mountains for long after your course ends.
*Duration: 31 days
*Route length: 75-120 miles
*Average group size: 10 students / 2 instructors
*Average age: 20 / minimum age: 17
*Average pack weight: 50-60 pounds
*Elevation range: 5,000-10,700 feet
*Glacier travel and peak ascents
*Terrain includes bushwhacking, extensive travel above treeline, and off-trail travel on steep terrain
*Emphasis on snow and ice mountaineering with limited opportunities for rock climbing