April 12 – April 17, 2020
April 26 – May 1, 2020


Grade: Beginner
6 Day Course


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Learn how to prepare for a big mountain expedition on the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 States. The emphasis of this course is on building foundational mountaineering skills while using Mount Rainier as a classroom. The instruction is designed for climbers seeking to further their skills for larger peaks or to gain independence in a glaciated environment. During the spring season we will utilize snow shoes and sleds for travel, and learn how to build a secure expedition snow camp. The school curriculum includes instruction on the fundamentals of glacier mountaineering, climbing on snow and crampon techniques, self arrest, traveling as a rope team and navigation, crevasse rescue, covering the essential climbing skills needed to travel safely in the mountains. Our expedition training course allows more time to develop advanced mountaineering skills, preparing aspiring climbers for expeditions to Denali, Aconcagua, or the Himalaya.

Mount Rainier Expedition Training • 6 Day Course

All our mountaineering courses provide breakfast, dinner and hot drinks on the mountain. We utilize the lightest high quality mountaineering tents, stoves and group equipment available to lessen pack weight. We meet in Ashford for orientation and equipment check the first day of the course. The next day we make our way to the trailhead and ascend to our basecamp. Each day is dedicated to learning expedition mountaineering skills, on day four we make our ascent to Camp Muir. Day six we return to the trailhead.

Expedition Training School Curriculum

  • Rest step, step kicking and pressure breathing
  • Ice axe techniques and self arrest training
  • Crampon usage and techniques
  • Glacier travel, climbing as a rope team
  • Introduction to snow & ice anchors
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Basic climbing knots & hitches
  • Ascending fixed lines
  • Belaying, rappelling, rope management
  • Leave no trace skills
  • Climb to Camp Muir
  • Discussion topics will include: Clothing and equipment, packing a backpack, mountain weather, glaciology, acclimatization, route finding, snow camp skills. Our professional guides will follow the above curriculum, introducing the basic mountaineering skills necessary to make a successful summit climb.

Muir Snowfield

  • Approach Time to Camp Muir: 5-6+ hours
  • Distance: 4.5 miles, 4800 ft. gain
  • Trailhead: Paradise Meadow, 5400 ft.
  • Panorama Point Basecamp: 6,000 – 6,300 ft.
  • Elevation Gain to Basecamp: 900 feet
  • Camp Muir: 10,188 ft.
  • Total Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet
  • Pack Weight: 50-60 lbs. trailhead to High Camp, 20 lbs. to Camp Muir
  • Trail synopsis: Our route begins at Paradise Meadows gaining elevation moderately until reaching our basecamp near tree line around 6,000 feet. The trail is snow covered during the spring season so we will utilize snow shoes and sleds for travel. We continue our climb to Camp Muir, taking a break near split rock between 7,600 – 7,800 feet. From here we ascend snow, kicking steps and moderately gaining elevation to our second (8,600 ft.) and third breaks reaching the top of Moon Rocks at 9,200 feet. We take our final break shortly before reaching Camp Muir.

Course Highlights

  • A full day of mountaineering skills in preparation for the climb to Camp Muir
  • The day is spent training, adjusting to the altitude, and enjoying views of Mount Rainier National Park.
  • A full day to develop advanced glacier mountaineering skills including anchors and crevasse rescue.
  • Professional instruction from NWAG staff.
  • Small teams for a personalized experience.
  • Breakfast, dinner and hot drinks are provided on the mountain.

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Orientation
Day 2 • Hike to Camp
Day 3 • Intro Mountaineering School
Day 4 • Climb to Camp Muir
Day 5 • Expedition Training School
Day 6 • Hike to Trailhead


This course is considered entry level and is suitable for climbers in great physical condition with no prior mountaineering experience. Two full days of mountaineering training is included in the program. No acclimatization is necessary for this program. Read our Goals and Fitness page for recommendations on how to best physically prepare for this adventure.

3 to 1 Climber to Guide Ratio

We lead the Mount Rainier Expedition Training at a 3 to 1 climber to guide ratio ensuring that you receive personal attention and hands-on instruction throughout the course.

Northwest Alpine Guides is an authorized special use permit holder in Mount Rainier National Park


Course begins and ends in Mount Rainier National Park

Plan to arrive the day before the course begins.

Day 1 • Course Orientation

Meet in Ashford, WA.

Northwest Alpine Guides will provide you with a detailed PreClimb departure book upon registration including personal gear list, meeting location and driving directions.

Following introductions our guides will conduct a thorough gear check. Throughout the days guides will host discussions on numerous mountaineering topics.

Accommodations are not included: Overnight in Ashford, WA

Day 2 • Hike to Basecamp

The hike to basecamp takes 2 to 3 hours. The team will set camp between 6,000 – 6,300 feet depending on conditions. During the afternoon guides will continue instruction as time warrants, we prepare dinner and relax for the evening.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Dinner (D)

Day 3 • Intro to Mountaineering School

Today is dedicated to learning the fundamentals of mountaineering. The course instruction includes snow climbing, use of ice axe and self-rescue, crampon techniques, rope travel, and basic introduction on knots and anchors.

Each team member will be assessed throughout the mountaineering school. You will need to demonstrate adequate fitness and proficiency in climbing skills as your safety is our priority.

After mountaineering training, we return to camp and prepare for our climb to Camp Muir. The team enjoys dinner and early to bed for the next day’s climb.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 4 • Climb to Camp Muir • 10,188 feet

The hike gains 3400 feet to Camp Muir and takes 5 – 6 hours. We descend the route to high camp. During the afternoon guides will continue instruction as time warrants.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 5 • Expedition Training School

Today is dedicated to developing advanced glacier mountaineering skills, preparing aspiring climbers for expedition mountaineering. We continue building on the essential skills needed to climb higher peaks. Instruction includes navigation, crevasse rescue, snow protection, ascending fixed lines, belaying, rappelling, and rope management.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 6 • Hike to Trailhead

After enjoying breakfast, we wrap of skills training and break camp, pack our gear and retrace our hike back to the trailhead. We generally arrive back to the trailhead by early-afternoon and conclude our adventure in Ashford.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Plan to depart the day after the course ends.

Itinerary Notes
Northwest Alpine Guides makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner


Where to Meet

10:00 am, the morning of the course, we meeting in Ashford. We will email you PreClimb info including gear list and departure details upon registration.

Deposit and Payments

$1000.00 deposit per person includes non-refundable registration fee, due with application. Balance due 120 days prior to start date.

Price Includes

  • Guided course and instruction
  • Scheduled meals on the mountain (breakfast, dinner, hot drinks)
  • Professional mountain guide
  • Group equipment (including tents, ropes, stoves, sleds, etc.)
  • Wilderness Permits

Price Does Not Include

  • Transportation
  • National Park entrance fee
  • Lunch and snack food
  • Personal gear
  • Hotels or lodging
  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Staff gratuities


Our guides are dedicated to working hard to ensure your success and well-being on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. Tips normally average 10 – 20% of the cost of the program. If you prefer to transfer funds, please send gratuities through

Summit Attempt

Our course goal is to learn and practice foundational mountaineering skills. As such, a summit attempt is not one of our goals.

Date Changes

Date changes are not available for this departure.

Age Guidelines

Participants age 16 & 17, on a fixed date group climb, and accompanied by parent or legal guardian.

Participants age 15 or under, NWAG requires a private climb, and accompanied by parent or legal guardian.

A minor climber must be accompanied by their parent/legal guardian throughout the entirety of the program. If either climber must descend at any time during the program, both climbers must descend together.

Travel Insurance

We highly recommend that all participants consider travel and trip cancellation insurance. Travel insurance offers the best possible protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or while traveling. Northwest Alpine Guides does not insure you against these risks. For more info about current coverage plans and quotes please visit.


We recommend Assure Adventure Plans to cover travelers participating in climbing, skiing, mountaineering and trekking programs. Click here for a quote Reference code: MOUN0700WA

Adventure Plan and Adventure Plus Plan differ only in the coverage option which allows you to Cancel for Any Reason. In order to receive Cancel for Any Reason coverage you must purchase the Adventure Plan Plus within 15 days of paying your deposit or payment with NWAG.

Global Rescue

We recommend Signature Travel Insurance. For travel insurance or Global Rescue membership.
Click here for a quote


Since departures require a minimum number of participates, Northwest Alpine Guides must adhere to a stringent refund policy. The policy is intended to protect participants who have otherwise committed time and resources to the departure. Please read our Online Reservation for Terms and Conditions.


During the Mount Rainier Expedition Training 6-Day Course, Northwest Alpine Guides will provide group meals, (4) breakfasts and (4) dinners while on the mountain. You will need to provide your own lunch and snack food on the mountain.

Mountain Lunches

We recommend a variety of snack food for eating on the go, we do not stop for a big lunch break, we eat during short maintenance breaks throughout the day. The idea is to keep your energy level up for the climb eating small amounts about every hour or so.

Some examples of snack-lunch foods are dried meats (salami), jerky (turkey, beef, fish), tuna fish, cheese, crackers, bagels, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, candy bars, gummy candy, cookies, energy bars, GORP trail mix.

The importance of having foods that you like to eat cannot be overstated. Eating properly is the key to maintaining strength while in the mountains. A diet of sweet, sour and salty foods is recommended.

When preparing lunches, please do not bring food items that require cooking or extensive preparation.

Day 1: Course orientation
No meals provided

Day 2: Lunch & snacks for hike from trailhead to basecamp
Two or three 15-minute lunch & snack breaks

Day 3: Lunch & snacks for mountaineering school
8-hour training includes a 30-minute lunch break, two 15-minute snack breaks

Day 4: Lunch & snacks for climb to Camp Muir
Three or four 15-minute snack breaks on the ascent from high camp to Camp Muir, two 15-minute snack breaks on the descent from Camp Muir to high camp

Day 5: Lunch & snacks for mountaineering school
8-hour training includes a 30-minute lunch break, two 15-minute snack breaks

Day 6: Remaining snacks for the descent to trailhead

Group Meals

Here is an example of meal items NWAG provides and our guides will prepare during group breakfasts and dinners.

Breakfast: Oatmeal, Pop Tarts, Bagels, Fruit and Granola Bars

Dinner: Chicken, Beef, Pasta, Noodles, Tortellini, Vegetables, Rice, Beans, Tasty Bites, Cheese, Freeze-Dried Food

Hot Drinks: Coffee, Caffeinated Tea, Herbal Tea

Meal Concerns

For those with special meal concerns we recommend bringing food to supplement the group meals we provide. We can accommodate most common food allergies within the meals we provide. We do not serve fish, shell fish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk or egg. In cases such as vegetarians, we are easily able to leave out the meat before serving pre-planned group meals.

Northwest Alpine Guides is unable to accommodate vegan, gluten-free, or other types of special meal concerns. Contact us for questions.


Getting There

10:00 am, the morning of the course, we meet in Ashford. We will email you PreClimb info including gear list and departure details upon registration.

Flight Travel

Most climbers will fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) the evening before the program and rent a car for the hour and forty-five minute drive to Ashford, Washington.

Northwest programs our itineraries reflect the date and time the program begins at a start location (Mount Rainier). When flying to Washington State you will need to arrive the day before the climb begins to meet the group at the program start location. With regards to your departure flight, our return time to the program start location is often unpredictable. We suggest a hotel reservation for the night of the last day and plan to return home the day after the end of the program. If departing on the last day of the program, we recommend booking a flight later than 8pm.


Group transportation is not included within the price of the trip. This includes transportation from the meeting location to the trailhead. Guides are not responsible to provide transportation to team members. We often have a mix of local and out of town customers on each Northwest climb or course. Climbers are free to rideshare with other team members at their own responsibility. Our office will forward your name and email to other team members if you give us permission to share your contact information indicating that you are interested in ridesharing. The NWAG office does not coordinate ridesharing/ carpooling. In some cases, a Northwest Alpine Guides staff member can provide limited transportation from Seattle or Bellevue to the trailhead as a fee service.

Mountain Weather

For updated North Cascades weather forecasts, click here.