Pacific Northwest Backpacking

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(12 & 24 days)


Backpacking the extensive trail system of North Cascades National Park. -Brian Rougeux

The North Cascades form a remote, beautiful and exciting range of glaciated peaks, alpine terrain and rolling forests. The extensive trail system among the mountains, glaciers, and valleys of North Cascades National Park are an excellent classroom for students learning backcountry and leadership skills. You’ll gain confidence through experience as you explore the forests, rivers, and alpine meadows of this wilderness area.

From the forested shores of Ross Lake to the heights of the Enchantment Lakes, the variety of terrain in the North Cascades makes for an unrivaled wilderness backpacking experience. Trek across high mountain passes, lead your group up rugged valleys or enjoy a sunset while camped beside an alpine lake. You’ll become adept at navigating off-trail, managing group safety crossing a snow field and cooking up a feast with a backcountry kitchen.

This comprehensive backpacking course is the perfect setting to achieve your goals whether you are looking to become a professional guide, hone your technical abilities for personal adventures, or expand your leadership skills. It focuses on teaching students to be safe, efficient, knowledgeable and confident outdoor leaders in a backcountry environment.

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.
  • Weather: Will the storm arrive in the next 12 hours, or the next 48? Understanding weather patterns and trends will help you plan successful trips in a wilderness setting.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Safety is always the #1 consideration. As the course progresses, you’ll develop an awareness to appropriately asses risk and make safe decisions.
  • Environmental Ethics: As adventurers in some of the most pristine environments on the planet it is our duty to respect the natural world. All of our courses practice and teach Leave No Trace ® principles.

IWLS BACKPACKING CURRICULUM prepares students for exploration into remote, backcountry settings.

  • Tents: Staying dry in the wilderness is an essential survival skill. You’ll learn how to repair a damaged tent, how to set up camp in high winds, and techniques to secure your dry space for the night.
  • Stoves and Campfires: The ability to repair a broken stove, make an emergency fire after being submerged in an icy river, and melt snow efficiently for water are key components for leading a group in the wilderness.
  • River and Stream Crossings: In river crossings, attention to detail and safety are #1. You’ll learn and practice safe techniques for wading across a small stream or doing a Tyrolean traverse across a raging river.
  • Geology: From plate tectonics to granitic batholiths, you’ll learn the history of the land you are exploring and how these forces create and influence the environment around you.

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 24-day course, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

24 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School



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