North Cascades Mountain Guides

Choosing a guide service for your next climbing or skiing adventure is a daunting task. There are many companies in different locations that offer what appear to be similar experiences. Not so.

Why chose North Cascades Mountain Guides?

You need to consider 4 factors:

1) The Guide- The first thing you will want to do before booking a trip with any company is to find out who the guide is and what their experience is.  Not all guides are created equal and the guide’s experience, training and personality play a major role in the safety, success and enjoyment of any trip in the mountains.

  • Avoid booking a trip with a guide service that cannot tell you who your guide will be.  Many guide services employ dozens of guides with a wide range of experience and training. A lot of companies are owned by highly experienced guides, but employ less qualified guides.
  • Ask about YOUR guides' qualifications.  How many years have they been guiding?  What is their training and certification level?  Have they guided this particular trip before?
  • The ideal guide will have many years of guiding experience combined with a certification from the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA).  Note - just because the company is an “AMGA Accredited Guide Service” does not necessarily mean your personal guide is going to be certified. Check that out.
  • Get a reference if possible.
  • North Cascades Mountain Guides will provide you with all this detailed information. 

2) Client to Guide Ratio: The lower the ratio the better.  Lower ratios allow for an increased safety margin, higher success rates and a much more enjoyable experience. You don't want to waste time waiting around for less skilled, slower-learning-curve, less-fit clients.

Low ratio is a relative term that varies depending on the difficulty of the trip.  For example, technical alpine climbing requires ratios in the 2-to-1 or even 1-to-1 range, where as a day of top-rope rock climbing could be as high as 4-to-1.  When it comes to ski touring and ski mountaineering low ratios are in the 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 range. 

North Cascades Mountain Guides maintains low ratios. And trust me, from lots of experience myself, high ratios is a total disaster. The higher the ratio, the slower you are going to go and more frustrated you are going to be.

3) Location: in the United States the access to public lands for guided groups are regulated by the local land managers. Most guide services have limited access to these lands. You will want to make sure the guide service you are talking to can take you to the mountain you want to climb.

When it comes to backcountry skiing you should make sure that the guide service has access to terrain that is likely to produce good snow and good skiing.  And even more important, if you are going to make big plans months in advance, go where the snowpack is highly predictable.

Nowhere on Earth gets more snow than the North Cascades in Washington. 

For foreign trips go with fully licensed IFMGA guides. Period.

4) Safety: the quality of the guide is by far the most important factor. That being said, there are times when things go wrong in the mountains and a solid backup plan is needed.  When booking your next trip ask about the risk management plans that are in place for this particular trip.  Specifically, what is the emergency communication situation (sat phones, cell phones, radios, etc…), what type of medical training do the guides have, and what emergency gear is carried into the field. North Cascades Mountain Guides think safety-first.

For more information and to schedule an amazing trip, contact our friends at North Cascades Mountain Guides. They have a great website.

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