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. Our 6-Day Expedition Training Course uses Mount Rainier as a classroom while teaching aspiring mountaineers the advanced climbing and logistical skills needed for expeditions to Denali, Aconcagua and the Himalaya. You will learn to navigate in the mountains and build a secure expedition snow camp while practicing the essentials of glacier mountaineering, including: crampon and ice axe technique, climbing on snow, self-arrest, snow anchors, rope team travel, crevasse rescue and more. Depending on mountain conditions, we will use snowshoes and sleds for travel. This course gives you the essential skills needed to travel safely and independently in the glaciated mountain environment.

Mount Rainier Expedition Training • 6 Day Course

All our mountaineering courses include breakfast, dinner and hot drinks on the mountain. To minimize pack weight, we use the lightest available, high-quality mountaineering tents, stoves and group equipment. We meet in Ashford for an equipment check and orientation on the first morning 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 ascend to Camp Muir. On 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
  • Mountain navigation
  • Establishing a secure expedition snow camp
  • Traveling with snowshoes and sleds
  • 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 essential mountaineering skills for 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 training and acclimatization to prepare you for the climb to Camp Muir.
  • A full day to develop advanced glacier mountaineering skills including anchors and crevasse rescue.
  • Professional instruction from Northwest Alpine Guides staff.
  • Small teams for a personalized experience. Many of our courses are guided with a maximum of six climbers and two guides.
  • Breakfast, dinner and hot drinks are provided on the mountain.
  • A comprehensive expedition training course in the spectacular scenery of Mount Rainier National Park.

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 climb.

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

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

Our alpine guides will meet you for team introductions, a thorough gear check, group gear distribution and discussions on expedition packing. On Day One and throughout the course our guides will host thorough discussions on various 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 and 6,300 feet depending on conditions. After setting up camp, your guides will continue instruction as time allows. We prepare dinner and relax for the evening with views of the extensive Nisqually Glacier and the south side of Mount Rainier.

Vertical gain climbing: 600-900 feet

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Dinner (D)

Day 3 • Intro to Mountaineering School

Today we learn mountaineering fundamentals. Instruction includes snow climbing, ice axe and crampon technique, self-arrest and team arrest, rope travel and basic 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 goes to bed early for the next day’s climb. 

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

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

We gain 3,400 feet over 5 to 6 hours as we ascend the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir, where we set up our tents on the edge of the Cowlitz Glacier. During the afternoon guides will continue instruction as time allows.

Vertical gain climbing: 3,400 feet

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

Day 5 • Expedition Training School

Today our curriculum moves into advanced glacier mountaineering skills needed for big mountain expedition climbing. We learn navigation, crevasse rescue, snow and ice 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 up our skills training and break camp. Then we retrace our hike back to the trailhead. We usually arrive back at 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 a.m., the morning of the course, we meeting in Ashford, WA. We will email you PreClimb info including gear list and departure details upon registration.

Deposit and Payments

  • $1000.00 deposit includes reservation 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: May participate in a fixed-date group climb if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Participants age 15 or under: NWAG requires a private climb 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 pre-planned group meals we provide. We can accommodate most common food allergies. We do not serve fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk or egg. For vegetarian diets, we are easily able to leave out the meat before serving group meals.

Northwest Alpine Guides is unable to accommodate vegan, gluten-free, or other special meal concerns.


Getting There

10:00 a.m., the morning of the course, we meeting in Ashford, WA. 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 8 pm.


Transportation between the meeting location and the trailhead is not included in the price of the trip. Guides are not responsible for providing transportation to team members. We serve both local and out-of-town climbers in our Northwest programs, and many of our guests prefer to use their own vehicles. Team members are free to organize rideshares with other team members. With your permission, our office staff can share your name and contact information with other team members so that you can organize ridesharing. The NWAG office does not coordinate ridesharing or carpooling and we are unable to share customer or guide contact information due to privacy concerns. In rare cases, Northwest Alpine Guides staff may provide limited transportation between the trailhead and Sedro-Woolley / Seattle / Bellevue as a fee service.

Mountain Weather

For updated North Cascades weather forecasts, click here.