Gain mountaineering skills including glacier travel, crevasse rescue, ice climbing on Mount Baker. Mount Baker is arguably the best location to gain intensive glacier travel skills in the lower 48 states. We offer multiple dates.
Why Pro Guiding Service:
We have been a concessionaire on Mount Baker for a decade now with a perfect safety record. We offer an optimal participant to instructor ratio at 4:1 and 8:2 max. 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 five-day course is designed to combine the excellent high alpine instructional environment of Mount Baker with a quality summit climb. We have taught enough of these courses to make the curriculum very mature. The participant 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 for classic glacier travel school:
The access from the Seattle or Vancouver airports is very reasonable. This means that you can get to Glacier, WA from the Seattle area in a short 3 hour drive (1 to 2 hours from Vancouver), get to the trailhead 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. So, in other words, the course is 5 days long and you will be emersed in the alpine environment of Mount Baker every day. Please refer to the FAQ section of the equipment list for driving directions to Glacier, WA.
Mount Baker is a very heavily glaciated volcanoe with ten glaciers flowing from its 10780 foot 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.
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.
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 literally get there from the car in just over 2 hours. To make it even better our comfortable camp at "Merkwood" is located about ten walking minutes from the ice of the Lower Coleman Glacier. Why should you care? A big and very important component of learning how to move around competently on crampons are the so-called classic crampon techniques and those are clearly best learned on dry glacier ice, not on soft snow. We also ice climb on the lower Coleman Glacier and the safe Seracs of the Lower Coleman Glacier are nothing short of spectacular.
The upper camps:
We have two choices there 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 offer views that seem to want 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 North West you will see the city lights of Vancouver BC.
A rewarding summit:
Climbing to the top of Mount Baker is essentially part of the course curriculum and the route via the Coleman-Deming Col is moderately strenuous, glaciated from camp to summit and very scenic. The Coleman-Deming Route is a great moderate glacier route in a big mountain environment.
Colfax Peak is a seldom visited satelite Peak of the Mount Baker uplift. Because of its lonely feel it is very rewarding.
From the ranger station we will commute together to the end of the road at 3600 feet. A two-hour hike will bring us to the spectacular camp on the moraine above the lower Coleman Glacier. We will establish camp and spend the afternoon and get an introduction to basic crampon and steep ice climbing technique.
Specific topics covered on Day 1:
Gear and Food Selection
*Distribution of Group Gear
*Basic Climbing Skills
*Use of the Ice Axe
*Principles of “Leave No Trace”
We will use the Coleman and Roosevelt Glacier as a stage for different ways of roped travel on a glacier, a fixed rope ice fall cirquit and crevasse rescue.
Specific topics covered on Day 2:
Roped Travel and Rope Management
*ropes and rope selection
*roped travel and correct spacing
*glacier travel in simple glaciated terrain
*glacier travel in heavily crevassed terrain
*glacier travel in steep and crevassed terrain
*recognizing hidden crevasses
Technical Skills and Systems
*formation of glaciers
*the budget of a glacier
*formation of crevasses
We will ice climb for a good part of the day and then move camp up to 7000 feet in the late afternoon.
Specific topics covered on Day 3:
*basic climbing skills
*use of the ice axe
*basic ice climbing
Navigation & Tour planning
It is time to apply the acquired skills on a summit climb via one of the various routes to the summit of Mount Baker of Colfax Peak. Depending on the group and or the conditions this could happen via several different routes. (Standard Coleman-Deming route; the North Ridge; the Coleman Headwall or the Colfax East Ridge)
Specific topics covered on Day 4:
The Summit Climb
*appropriate pacing and rests
*Staying in control of your time plan
On our last day, we will get up early again, practice basic moderate to steep ice climbing techniques or go through the crevasse rescue progression again and review our acquired skills. We will break down camp at around noon and you can expect to be back in the Seattle area at around 6pm.
Sign up for a course or a trip and receive a 10% discount on purchases and a 20% discount on gear rental. Go to Pro Ski and Mountain Service. Pro Ski and Mountain Service is our retail specialty store. It has been located in North Bend, WA since 1999.
The past trips and courses have had a large influence on what we sell. Many of our Pro Guiding customers come on trips and courses with gear they purchased from our store. Not only do we want our clients to have the right gear for the job; we also receive direct feedback from them while they are using it in the field. Trust us - if the gear does not work - we won't sell it.
o 1 thermal Bottom - midweight or lightweight
o 1 or 2 thermal Tops - midweight or lightweight
o Sock Liners - 2 or 3 pair
o Socks - 2 pair
o Windshirt, Soft Shell, Fleece Jacket - only one of these is necessary
o Soft Shell type pants
o Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Jacket
o Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Pants
o Warm Hat - should cover ears
o Sun Hat - baseball type or visor
o Lightweight Gloves - wind block or fleece/wool type
o Warm Gloves
o Gaiters - low top or full size
o Down or Synthetic Jacket
o Internal Frame Pack - 50 Liter (3100 cu in.) minimum
o Sleeping Bag - down or synthetic, 20 deg. F. minimum
o Sleeping Pad - closed cell foam or self inflating
o Mountaineering Boots - leather or synthetic, crampon compatible
o Headlamp - lightweight LED recommended with extra batteries
o Water Bottles - 1 or 2 liters, wide mouth
o Water Purification - tablets or filter
o Bowl or Cup
o Small Knife
o Glacier Glasses
o Sunscreen - SPF 25+, waterproof
o Lip Balm - SPF 15+
o Lighter or Matches
o Personal Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, waterless hand cleaner, etc.
o Small Personal 1st Aid Kit - blister repair, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
o Ice Axe - 55-70 cm length
o Crampons - 10 or 12 point steel, pre-fit to boots
o Anti-ball plates - for crampons
o Climbing Helmet - UIAA approved only
o Climbing Harness - mountaineering style (e.g. B.D. Alpine Bod)
o 1-2 Ice Screw, 13-17 cm length
CREVASSE RESCUE KIT
o 4 Locking Biners - at least 1 large HMS style and 1 regular locker
o 4 Non-locking Biners - any style, we prefer wire gate type
o 1 - 6 meter Cordelette (6mm)
o 1 - 3 meter Cordelette (6mm)
o 1 Single Length Runner (60cm)
o1 Double Length Runner (120cm)
OPTIONAL ITEMS *We highly recommend these items, but do not require them to participate
o Adjustable Trekking Pole(s) - nice to have for approach/crevasse navigation
o Summit pack – a 25 to 30 liter pack would do
o Camera - we’re always looking for some shots for the PGS website!
o Ear Plugs - essential for sound sleep
o Thermos - vacuum type
o Note Pad and Pencil - Rite-in-the-Rain brand waterproof notebook works
o USGS 7.5’ Cascade Pass Quadrangle
o Ropeman or Tibloc - used in the crevasse rescue system
o Compass - adjustable declination required
o Altimeter - Suunto watch works well
o Map Case - large zip-loc will suffice
o Collapsible Water Canteen – good for storing snowmelt at camp
GROUP GEAR PROVIDED BY PGS *Please contact the guiding office if you prefer to bring your own gear in place of any of our group gear.
o Cooking Pots
o Technical Group Gear (elaborate crevasse rescue kit, VHF radio or SAT phone)
o Group 1st Aid Kit
o USGS Maps for the area
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MOUNT BAKER MOUNTAINEERING SCHOOL AND THE NORTH CASCADES MOUNTAINEERING COURSE? 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.
WHERE WILL WE BE CLIMBING? We will be climbing on the north side of Mount Baker, mainly on the Coleman Glacier.
HOW MUCH PRIOR MOUNTAINEERING EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED? No substantial prior mountaineering experience is required, but solid fitness will enhance the quality of your week substantially.
WILL WE BE ABLE TO DO SOME ICE CLIMBING? Yes, the lower Coleman Glacier is probably one of the best spots for summer ice climbing in the lower 48 states and we intend to take advantage of it.
CAN I USE THIS WEEKS AS PREP WEEKS FOR HARDER CLIMBS IN THE CASCADES AND OTHER MOUNTAIN RANGES? Yes, this week will lay a good foundation for many guided or self guided climbs to come. If you are interested in the Alps in particular, you might want to consider the mixed mountaineering course in the North Cascades as well.
DOES PGS PROVIDE FOOD? No, you are responsible for your own food. We are glad to help with food suggestions though.
HOW BIG OR RATHER HOW SMALL SHOULD MY PACK BE? 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.
HOW DO I GET TO GLACIER, WA? Driving directions to the Glacier Ranger Station: Take Interstate 5 north to Hwy 542 in Bellingham and go east to the town of Glacier. Driving time is about 3 hours from Seattle. The ranger station is located about 0.5 miles east of town on the right hand side.
SHOULD I TIP MY GUIDE? AND HOW MUCH SHOULD I TIP THEM? 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 flat price tip that you are comfortable with.