Intro to Winter Mountaineering Course (3 days)
Learn winter mountaineering and expedition climbing skills on this 3 day course in the Olympic Mountains. We’ll set up a camp on Mt. Angeles (6,454′) and attempt a winter ascent, learning skills along the way such as winter camp construction, snow climbing, ice axe arrest, cramponing, roped travel, and basic avalanche rescue.
We make our approach using snowshoes on Day 1, establishing a “bombproof” winter camp at an expedition standard. Day 2 is entirely focused on mountaineering skills. Day 3 we make our summit attempt, pack up camp, and descend back to the road.
This is an awesome introduction for the aspiring mountaineer, providing valuable experience for higher peaks in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
• Equipment selection and packing
• Winter camp construction
• Snow climbing
• Ice axe arrest
• Knots & hitches
• Roped travel
• Basic avalanche rescue
DAY 1 – Approach
We meet at the Olympic National Park Vistor Center for introductions, gear check, and final packing. Once we’re ready we drive up the Hurricane Ridge road to our starting point, donning snowshoes for the 2-3 hour approach to our camp. Along the way we’ll discuss movement efficiency skills and other techniques appropriate to the terrain.
Once we arrive at our camp location, we’ll spend the rest of the day establishing a bombproof winter camp and learning essential expedition mountaineering skills.
DAY 2 – Training
Using the terrain around our camp, we’ll cover a variety of skills including snow climbing, ice axe arrest (self and team arrest), cramponing, knots & hitches, and roped travel. In addition we’ll discuss basic avalanche rescue (transceiver searches).
In the early evening we’ll make preparations for the climb ahead.
DAY 3 – Climb
From our camp we’ll attempt an ascent of Mt. Angeles via one of a couple different routes, dependent mostly on weather and avalanche conditions. After our climb we’ll return to camp, pack up, and begin our descent back to the car. The program will wrap up with a debrief and presentation of certificates.
PACKS & BAGS
☐ Backpack: 50-75 liter internal frame pack (ex: CiloGear 60L WorkSack or Black Diamond Mission 75).
☐ Sleeping bag: Rated between -10° and +10°, down or synthetic. Keep in mind that manufacturer’s temperature ratings are subjective and serve as guidelines.
☐ Compression stuff sack: Sized appropriately to your bag.
☐ (2) Sleeping pads: We recommend bringing one closed cell foam pad, and one inflatable pad. One of your pads can be a 3/4 length and the other a full length (ex: REI Blue Foam pad & ¾ length Thermarest Prolite).
☐ Ice axe: 60-70cm mountaineering axe (ex: Petzl Snowalker, Summit, or Sum’Tec). No leash is required. RENT
☐ Crampons: 10 or 12 point steel mountaineering crampon. Avoid waterfall ice crampons with fully rigid frames and vertical front points, as well as older crampons with leather straps. Make sure that your crampons are compatible with your boots (ex: Petzl Irvis or Vasak). RENT
☐ Harness: Alpine harness with adjustable leg loops (ex: Petzl Adjama). For safety reasons, your harness needs to be less than 10 years old and in good condition. Be sure to check the fit of your harness. RENT
☐ (1) Locking carabiners: Pear shaped recommended (ex: Petzl Attache or Attache 3D).
☐ (1) Non-locking carabiners: Wire gate recommended (ex: Petzl Ange S or Ange L).
☐ Climbing helmet: Needs to be climbing specific (ex: Petzl Elios or Meteor III +). RENT
☐ Transceiver: Modern, single frequency [457 khz] transceiver, preferably less than five years old. A digital 3-antennae model is highly recommended (ex: BCA Tracker 2, Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Peips DSP). RENT
☐ Poles: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse). RENT
☐ Mountaineering boots: Boots must be warm and specifically designed for mountaineering (ex: La Sportiva Baruntse, Koflach Artis Expe)
☐ Gaiters: Provide a clean interface between our pants, boots, and crampons (ex: OR Flex-tex).
☐ Socks: 2-3 pairs (wool or synthetic) that work well with your boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavy socks. Insulation comes from your boots. If your boots are roomy choose a heavier sock, if they’re more of a snug fit choose a lighter sock.
☐ Sunglasses: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair (ex: Julbo Dolgan). RENT
☐ Goggles: Preferably with low light lenses (amber or rose) and UV protection (ex: Julbo Around Excel or Down).
☐ Warm hat: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
☐ Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc.
☐ Face protection: Buff® recommended.
There are many layering combinations for your upper body that will work well. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: First Ascent Midweight 1/4-Zip Baselayer).
☐ (2) Insulating layers: Fleece, softshell or synthetic/down. Two lighter layers are more versatile than one heavy layer (ex: First Ascent Hangfire Hoodie, Accelerant Jacket, Frontpoint 2.0 Jacket).
☐ Hardshell jacket with hood: Lightweight and waterproof (ex: First Ascent BC-200 Jacket).
☐ Synthetic or down insulated jacket: Synthetic or down (ex: First Ascent Ignitor Jacket).
☐ Baselayer bottoms (ex: First Ascent Midweight Baselayer Pants)
☐ Softshell climbing pants: Breathable synthetic fabric (ex: Mountain Guide Lite Pants).
☐ Hardshell pants: For adverse weather. These must have full side zips (ex: First Ascent Rainier Storm Shell Pants).
☐ (2) Heavy trash bags: Cheap lightweight waterproof lining for your backpack.
☐ Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
☐ Lip balm: With SPF protection.
☐ Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
☐ Thermos (optional): Half-liter size recommended.
☐ Compact camera
☐ Extra batteries: For your transceiver (usually AAA), headlamp, camera, etc.
☐ Headlamp: LED headlamp recommended (ex: Petzl Tikka XP2 or Tikka Plus). RENT
☐ See Details.
☐ Insulated mug
☐ (2) Spoons or sporks
PERSONAL FIRST AID/TOILETRIES
Guides will carry a well-equipped group first aid kit.
☐ Personal toiletry kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and/or baby wipes, gender specific items, small bottle of hand sanitizer.
☐ Personal first aid kit: Band-Aids, blister repair, anti-diarrheal (Immodium), antacid, ibuprofen or aspirin, as well as any personal prescription medications (be sure to discuss these with us).
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Chemical hand warmers
☐ Book (lightweight)
☐ Journal w/pencil
- No previous mountaineering experience is required.
- Previous hiking and/or backpacking experience is recommended.
- Excellent physical fitness is required for this program.
- You should be able to hike/climb for 1-2 hours at a stretch taking 10-15 minute breaks, for up to 8 hours.
- You should be able to ascend 2000′ in a day carrying 45+lbs on your back, and 4000′ in a day carrying 25 lbs on your back.
- Physical conditioning should not be underestimated – mountaineering is a strenuous activity. Some sort of training/exercise regimen is strongly recommended.
- The better shape you’re in, the more you’ll enjoyment you’ll get out of this course.
- Guiding and instruction
- 4:1 ratio
- Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, ropes
- Permit costs
- Food, lodging & transportation
- Park entrance fees
Lunch Food: In the mountains, “lunch starts after breakfast and ends before dinner”. In other words, on a given day we generally won’t stop for a formal lunch break, and instead we’ll snack all day long. This is vital to maintaining high energy levels in this environment.
Be sure to bring foods that you like and emphasize variety. Energy bars and gels are great but in limited amounts – real food works just as well and tastes better.
Breakfasts & Dinners: Bring meals that can be cooked with just boiling water. Examples include freeze-dried pouches (Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry), ramen noodles, instant oatmeal, etc. The stoves we use are very efficient for heating water but are not suitable for cooking.
WHERE TO MEET
Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center, in Port Angeles, WA.
Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. From here the drive to Port Angeles takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Option B: Fly into Port Angeles. Kenmore Air flies daily from Sea-Tac and is an Alaska Airlines partner (domestic flights can be booked with Port Angeles as the destination).
Many options exist in Sea-Tac. There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
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