Pacific Northwest Mountaineering

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(12 & 24 days)

IWLS Mountaineering course on the flanks of Mt. Rainier. -Jeremy Butzlaff




The Pacific Northwest mountaineering course takes place in the North Cascades, an extremely rugged, remote, and exciting range of glaciated alpine peaks. The park, with its towering granite spires, extensive glaciers, and scores of classic routes, has long been a training ground for many of the world’s most accomplished mountaineers.

From a base camp in Boston Basin, your group will access some of the best mountaineering routes in North America, including a possible ascent of the famed Forbidden Peak. A typical day on your Pacific Northwest mountaineering course may include an early alpine start for a summit attempt, a lesson in mixed rock and ice climbing, or an afternoon of rappelling practice. As the course progresses, you’ll take on a leadership role within the group, learning (and teaching) the ins and outs of route planning and risk assessment, and lead your group across a crevassed glacier. No matter what, you’ll leave the North Cascades as so many others have, with the skills and passion to pursue future ascents on your own or leading a group.

THE INSTRUCTORS AND GUIDES OF IWLS are widely recognized as some of the very best in their field and have practical leadership experience from around the globe. They are well trained and have an uncommon enthusiasm for sharing their skill and knowledge, borne out of a passion for outdoor exploration.

The International Wilderness Leadership Schools’ educational model nurtures leadership development and creates an awareness of the guiding mentality that is essential for leading safe, fun adventures in the mountains. The combination of technical skills training, experiential education and practical leadership experience make the IWLS curriculum world class.

THE IWLS GENERAL CURRICULUM outlines the essential components for effective outdoor leadership. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Leadership: Opportunities to lead the group will be abundant and you’ll have the time to learn and practice multiple styles of leadership.
  • Wilderness Emergency Procedures and Treatment: Learn how to effectively manage safe, efficient, and timely backcountry rescues.
  • Natural and Cultural History: Having a strong understanding of cultural history, flora, and fauna is an integral part of leading people in an outdoor environment. You’ll learn some of the botany, ecology, and geology that apply to this remarkable area.
  • Communication Skills: Whether you are speaking in public, managing a personal conflict, or leading a group in the wilderness, effective communication is an integral part of being an outdoor leader. You’ll gain confidence in your communication abilities as you develop your personal leadership style.

IWLS MOUNTAINEERING CURRICULUM is built from countless expeditions in Alaska and around the world. You’ll learn how to be a competent and proficient mountaineer in a variety of different environments. Below are some topics we’ll cover.

-Bryan Hinderberger

  • Self-Arrest: What happens if you fall on a steep now slope? Learn, through hands on experience, how to stop a fall quickly and efficiently.
  • Belaying: Should we use a fixed belay or a running belay? Our team will learn and practice the finer points of different belay techniques such as the hip belay, running belay, boot axe belay, fixed belay, and more!
  • Crevasse Rescue: Traveling in glaciated terrain requires that every member of the team be proficient in crevasse rescue. We all learn how to get a team mate out of a crevasse quickly and efficiently.
  • Technical Climbing: Rock climbing, ice climbing and steep snow climbing are all included in the IWLS curriculum.

IWLS AVALANCHE CURRICULUM is a nationally recognized progression of material. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Avalanche Characteristics: We’ll examine loose snow, wet snow, soft slab, and hard slab avalanches along with some potential triggers. You’ll learn the definition of terms such as stauchwall, alpha angle, and bed surface.
  • Snow Stability Evaluation: Is this snow capable of avalanching? Learn tests such as compression test and rutschblock test that will help you evaluate layers within the snowpack. Develop your documentation skills for accurate recording and analysis of information.
  • Safe Winter Travel: LAs a group, we will travel safely through avalanche terrain. Considerations will include cornices, equipment selection, route finding, campsite selection, and effective communication.
  • Avalanche Rescue: Someone buried in an avalanche has an 87% chance of survival if found within the first fifteen minutes. We’ll practice using probes, beacons, and effective search patterns in order to quickly and efficiently find a buried person.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL No previous experience is necessary for this course. However, with a desire to learn and an enthusiasm for adventure, you’ll develop the skills necessary for a lifetime of wilderness exploration.

CERTIFICATIONS upon completion of the Pacific Northwest Mountaineering course, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

Level 1 Avalanche Certification*
International Wilderness Leadership School

24 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School

*Dependent on weather and season

DATES & PRICES Please see our schedule for current dates and price information.