Mount Baker is arguably the best location in the lower 48 for a mountaineering course! This course is for women wanting an introductory or refresher course on mountaineering skills including glacier travel and crevasse rescue. You will be learning and climbing with a group of like-minded women! We hope to provide a female guide for this course, but cannot always guarantee that.
WHY PRO GUIDING SERVICE?
We have been a concessionaire on Mount Baker for 13 years now with a perfect safety record. We offer an optimal participant to instructor ratio at 4:1 or 8:2. This is a very important factor in being able to tailor the program to the participants' needs. We also pride ourselves in creating relevant and movement-based lesson plans. This means that you will not see us standing around in camp talking about crevasse rescue. The glaciers of Mount Baker and Colfax Peak are an amazing classroom and we take full advantage. The curriculum for this course was designed by Martin Volken, a longtime AMGA instructor/examiner, so you can be assured that you will be taught a modern curriculum. Pro Guiding Service's guides are professional mountain guides, meaning they are either certified guides or are actively pursuing a path of professional mountain guiding education by the American Mountain Guides Association. Our three-day course is designed to combine the excellent high alpine instructional environment of Mount Baker with a quality summit climb. You will be fully immersed in the elements of snow, glacier and ice and will be taught the necessary skills to roam around safely in these environments. Please be aware the course curriculum may vary depending on weather and general conditions. We offer multiple dates, but are perfectly happy to arrange this course on a private basis. Please call us or email us to make a private arrangement.
WHY MOUNT BAKER?
1) Easy access: The access from Seattle or Vancouver is very reasonable. This means that you can get to the meeting location in Glacier, WA from the Seattle area in a short 3 hour drive (1 to 2 hours from Vancouver), travel together to the trailhead, hike in, and actually do glacier work that same day on the Lower Coleman Glacier. Our first camp is the comfortable Merkwood Camp which is located about 10 walking minutes from our first ice climbing spot on the lower Coleman Glacier. In other words, the course is 3 days long and you will be immersed in the alpine environment of Mount Baker every day.
2) Big glaciers: Mount Baker is a very heavily glaciated volcano with ten glaciers flowing from its 10,780' summit ice cap to well below tree line. So when we talk about glacier travel, we actually do it. The glaciation is big enough that whatever you learn will be relevant on just about any glacier anywhere.
3) Moderate summit elevation: Mount Baker is "only" 10780 feet high, but it has impressive vertical relief of just over 8000 feet. The moderate summit elevation makes a huge difference in how you feel. You do not need to worry about acclimatization--you can just concentrate on the technical aspects of the course curriculum, which is great. There is a lot to learn.
4) The lower Coleman Glacier: It is rare to find such easy access to the so-called ablated zone (the snow free zone) of a glacier. The lower Coleman Glacier does not only offer this, but you can get there from the car in just over 2 hours. This is important because a critical component of learning how to move around competently on crampons is learning classic crampon techniques, best learned on dry glacier ice, not on soft snow. We may also ice climb on the safe seracs of lower Coleman Glacier, which are nothing short of spectacular.
5) The upper camps: We have two choices with the Hogsback Camp at 6000 feet or the Heliotrope Ridge Camp at 7200 feet. The lower camp offers dry comfortable camping with running water and the upper camp offers views to satisfy several Pacific Northwest cliches. You will look at the impressive Coleman Headwall of Mount Baker with the sprawling Coleman and Roosevelt Glaciers below it, then to the west are the endless sunsets over the San Juan Islands and to the Northwest you will see the city lights of Vancouver, BC.
6) A rewarding summit: Climbing to the top of Mount Baker is essentially part of the course curriculum and the scenic route via the Coleman-Deming Col is moderately strenuous and glaciated from camp to summit. The Coleman-Deming Route is a great moderate glacier route in a big mountain environment. Colfax Peak can be an option. It is a seldom visited satellite Peak of the Mount Baker uplift. Because of its lonely feel it is very rewarding.
Overall difficulty: moderate
No prior mountaineering experience required; but good physical fitness will make your trip safer and more enjoyable.
Fitness: Good physical fitness is required; you should be able to hike or climb for more than six hours with a pack varying from 20 to 40 pounds and ascend 3,000 to 4,000 feet of vertical gain per day for up to 3 days. It is important to note that the vertical gain from the lower Camp at the Hogsback is almost 5000 feet of vertical. This is actually more than the Mount Rainier summit day. Of course, Mount Baker is at a lower altitude, but the physical effort of climbing nearly 5000 feet should not be underestimated.
Day 1: From the ranger station in Glacier, WA or Sedro Woolley, WA we will commute together to the road heads of the Glacier Creek Road on the north side of the mountain or to the Schriebers Meadow on the south side. The final location depends largely on the mountain condition and road access. Either way, a three-hour hike will bring us to the spectacular camp at the Hogsback near the base of the Coleman Glacier or the base of the Easton or Squak Glaciers. We will establish camp and spend the afternoon getting an introduction to basic crampon work and team rope travel. Other topics for Day 1 include:
Day 2: This is our summit day and you will be a well prepared rope team member. If the course takes place on the north side of the mountain, our ascent from camp at 6000 feet to Grant Summit at 10781 feet will take us past the Colfax north face icefall to the Coleman Deming Col at 9000 feet. From there the route goes up the Pumice Ridge to about 10000 feet and finally to the last stretch up the Roman wall and the summit. The ascent from camp generally takes about 5 hours.
If the course takes place on the south side, our routes can go up the Easton or Squak Glaciers. Either way, the routes will join near the Sherman Crater at 10'000 feet and then go up the last steep section to the summit plateau. From the summit we will obviously have to descend back to our camp. All in all, a full day that demands a predawn start. Then again, a sunrise at 8000 feet is unforgettable. After a well deserved rest in camp, we will start working on snow anchors and load transfers, which will get us prepared for crevasse rescue systems on Day 3. Topics to be covered include:
Day 3: After a well deserved full night of sleep we can start working on the final component of crevasse rescue before heading down to car in the early afternoon. Topics for the last day:
Please be aware that the order of Day 2 and 3 might be switched depending on weather and travel conditions.
We answer this question on the phone regularly, so let us try to answer it here: the basic topography of the two venues is quite different. The Mount Baker course venue happens on almost exclusively glaciated terrain on the north side of this 10780 foot volcano. The Coleman, the Deming and potentially the Roosevelt Glaciers are our training ground and with that the focus is centered around all things snow and ice. Glacier travel, crampon work and crevasse rescue is a large topic on the Mount Baker Course. It certainly is an important topic in the North Cascades Course as well, but you will take a deeper dive into these topics on Mount Baker.
The North Cascades Mountaineering Course takes place in the Boston Basin in the shadow of the famous Forbidden Peak. The area essentially holds every element that you might encounter on a “classic mountaineering adventure”. The Boston Basin holds glaciers, steep couloirs, glacier polished slabs, narrow ridges, big faces and sharp peaks. Just like on Mount Baker, we teach very much what the terrain demands or rather we chose an extremely diverse zone of the North Cascades National Park to give the course participant a rounded introduction into world of mountaineering.
Both of the approaches into the camps are moderately strenuous, with the Boston Basin trail being a bit steeper. Both camps have running water and the views are stunning either way.
As soon as you leave camp, things start feeling a bit different. While you might have to commute for about 45 minutes up slabby rocks to reach the lower margins of the Quien Sabe Glacier and the amazing Sahale and Sharkfin summits beyond, you will find yourself wearing the crampons on the lower Coleman Glacier ice of Mount Baker almost immediately.
If you are looking for a great course to make you feel more comfortable on large glacier ascents (Rainier etc.), the Mount Baker Course is most likely for you, but if you are looking for an all-around introduction to the world of mountaineering and would like to summit classic peaks like Forbidden Peak, the Matterhorn, the venue we offer in the North Cascades is hard to beat.
In summary; if you want to truly learn the craft of mountaineering, you should take both courses. We are not saying this to sell more courses. Either one of these courses is a great start and there is some overlap, but together they build a fantastic mountaineering skill foundation.
No substantial prior mountaineering experience is required, but solid fitness will enhance the quality of your week substantially.
Yes, probably. The lower Coleman Glacier is probably one of the best spots for summer ice climbing in the lower 48 states and we will likely take advantage of it.
No, you are responsible for your own food. We are glad to help with food suggestions though.
Try to fit your gear into a 50 liter pack. If the week is conducted out of an established basecamp, you could consider a bigger pack along with a summit pack.
Although tipping is not a requirement, it is considered standard practice in the guiding industry and is appreciated by our guides. We generally recommend roughly 10%-15% of your course or trip cost or a flat amount that you are comfortable with.