Northwest Summit Climb

NW Classic Alpine Climbs



Talk to an ADVENTURE expert

NW Classic Alpine Climbs • North Cascades NP

3-day • Mt Triumph, Mt Buckner, Mt Torment – $1050 (advanced) 2:1 ratio
3-day • Sharkfin Tower, Dorado Needle
– $995 (advanced) 2:1 ratio

Boston Basin  • North Cascades NP

Boston Basin is one of the most popular alpine climbing areas in the North Cascades National Park because it accesses to the famed Forbidden Peak, which has been named one of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America. Forbidden Peak is most commonly climbed via the West Ridge. Other excellent climbs nearby include Sahale Peak, Sharkfin Tower, Mount Buckner and Mount Torment. Mount Torment and Forbidden Peak are often climbed via the famed Torment-Forbidden Traverse.

Sharkfin Tower  • North Cascades NP

Sits in the middle of the famous Boston Basin, surrounded by peaks such as Forbidden Peak, Sahale Peak and Mount Torment. The South East Ridge makes for the perfect introductory alpine rock climb or as an addition to one of the other classic climbs in the area. The climb has a good combination of glacier climbing, steep snow, and moderate rock, enabling the climber to put to use many of the skills needed to be a well-rounded Alpinist.

In an area already known for some of the best alpine rock climbing in the Cascades, Sharkfin has what many consider to be the best granite in Washington State. While the climb is relatively short, what it lacks in length, it makes up for in position, exposure and ambiance.

Mount Buckner • 3 days

At 9,080 feet, and located in the heart of the North Cascades National Park, Mt. Buckner is one of the most important peaks in the state of Washington and a fine alpine ice climb. It’s glaciers feed one of the largest bodies of ice in the range “the Boston Glacier” and has everything great Cascadian climbs have, a strenuous approach, remoteness, quality climbing, and incredible alpine ambiance.

The North Face is a 40-50 degree snow and ice climb set amidst the splendor of the Cascade Pass region. Great views to Forbidden, Eldorado, Logan, Park Creek Pass, and the peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse characterize this area. It is a strenuous climb not in its technical nature, but in the effort it takes to get to the route. Mt Buckner is one great example of why the North Cascades are nicknamed the “American Alps”.

Mount Torment • 3 days

Is located just west of Forbidden Peak and is an excellent one-day outing from Boston Basin. The rock climbing sections on Mount Torment’s Southeast Face are much easier than those found on Forbidden, but Torment is not without its obstacles. A great climb if done by itself, and a much bigger adventure if combined with an ascent of Forbidden Peak’s West Ridge as part of the Torment-Forbidden Traverse.

We typically approach via the Boston Basin trail, and then hike to the higher of the two climbers camps (this is the one under the Unnamed Glacier on Forbidden Peak). From this camp we traverse west under the spur ridge coming off the Torment-Forbidden Traverse and then ascend rock slabs and finally the glacier before reaching the base of the route. The climbing route follows the path of least resistance to the notch on the east corner of Mount Torment. While not overly difficult, the climbing is interesting and at times steep as we work our way to the summit of Mount Torment.

This is a good outing to combine with ascents of Sahale Peak and Sharkfin Tower as part of a moderate tour of Boston Basin. This is also the usual start of the Torment-Forbidden Traverse. For climbers looking for a more challenging line to the summit of Mt. Torment, we recommend the SE Ridge or climbing Torment in combination with Forbidden Peak via the Torment-Forbidden Traverse (grade IV, 5.7).

Torment – Forbidden Traverse • 3 days

Since its inclusion in Jim Nelson’s “50 Favorite Climbs of North America,” the Torment-Forbidden Traverse (TFT) has become a very sought after and more frequently attempted alpine climb. Dominating the terrain high above Boston Basin, the TFT has everything all great technical traverses have, iconic and aesthetic peaks, a high level of commitment, and fun, engaging climbing. Our 3-day trip goes up the Taboo Glacier, climbs Torment’s South Ridge then descends to the long ridge that ultimately connects to Forbidden’s famed West Ridge route. Numerous ridge features to climb, steep sections of glacier snow and ice, and fantastic positions on sound rock characterize the traverse. Join us on one of the North Cascades National Park’s best routes.

Mount Triumph • 3 days

The name perfectly fits the feeling of summiting this dramatic peak! Surrounded by a steep and extremely rugged part of the North Cascades National Park, Mount Triumph is one of the best moderate alpine rock peaks in Washington State. The Northeast Ridge was first climbed in 1965 by local pioneers Joan and Joe Firey rivals Forbidden or Shuksan but is smaller in stature, less traveled, and more remote.

Dorado Needle • 2 days

Dorado Needle is located just north of Eldorado Peak on the McAllister Glacier and is the western high point of the McAllister and Inspiration glacier system. Climbing Dorado Needle offers a unique opportunity to explore this vast glacier system at a distance far enough away from Eldorado to enjoy some solitude. Some good climbing on moderate rock provides a fair amount of exposure that adds to the experience. Alpine rock up to 5.7.

Related climbs: Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Mount Olympus, Sahale Peak, Eldorado PeakForbidden Peak, Ruth MountainMount Deception, North Cascade Classic Climbs, Snoqualmie Alpine Rock

In addition to our Pacific Northwest climbs we offer international climbing & trekking expeditions through Mountain Gurus. The Ecuador Volcanoes, Elbrus in Russia and the Mexican Volcanoes are all really good next steps for those seeking to climb higher peaks and gain altitude experience internationally.


Flight Schedule: USA – Seattle (SEA)

Climbs begins and ends in North Cascades NP

Sharkfin Tower • 2/3 days

The ascent of Sharkfin Tower is one of the best introductory alpine rock climbs in the North Cascades. The rock is solid, the climbing is moderate and the exposure is impressive. Add to that Sharkfin’s location and you have a great climb by itself or a good addition to other surrounding climbs.

The climb starts from the lower campsites in Boston Basin and consists of a very short glacier, a moderately steep couloir and several pitches of low fifth class climbing. The most dramatic section of the climb is on the upper portions of the tower. After leaving the notch at the base of the rock the route follows near or on the ridge crest for several 5th class pitches. These can be climbed in rock shoes or boots depending on your comfort level. As you gain elevation on the tower the exposure increases but fortunately the climbing eases. The last few pitches to the summit are 4th to low 5th class climbing directly on the ridge crest.

The descent back to camp starts with a bit of down climbing followed by several rappels. You will trace your route back down the couloir, onto the glacier and back to camp. From there you can relax in camp and get ready for your next climb or head back to the valley for a well deserved dinner.

Mount Buckner • 3 days

Day 1 • Hike to Camp
Meet at Sedro-Woolley Ranger Station. Gear check and drive to Boston Basin trailhead. High camp for a climb of Buckner’s North Face is typically made at either the Boston-Sahale Col or high on the Quien Sabe Glacier below Sharkfin Col. Both these options demand a rest stop at the lower Boston Basin camp and roping up for the easy climb of the Quien Sabe Glacier to either camp.

Day 2 • Summit Day
From Sharkfin Col camp, climb up Sharkfin Col (5.7 rock and snow) to a short rappel to the Boston Glacier. For Boston-Sahale Col camp, climb up the mixed snow and rock leading to Boston’s summit where an improbable traverse leads out steep snow and rock and down to the Boston Glacier. The North Face is reached easily in 1-2 hours from the glacier. The route is 1,300 feet of 40-50 degree snow and ice. We will belay most of this and the climbing will go relatively quickly. This is beautiful and moderate alpine climbing in an outrageous setting. Once on top, most climbers elect to descend the route and return to camp via the approach. A series of rappels, lowers and some down climbing see us back on the Boston Glacier and in camp well before dark. Alternatively, some teams elect to “carry-over” and climb the route with all their gear, descending to the southwest into Horseshoe Basin, over the Sahale Arm and out Cascade Pass.

Day 3 • Hike to Trailhead 
After breakfast we pack our gear and return to the trailhead.

Torment – Forbidden Traverse • 3 days

Day 1 • Hike to Camp
Drive to Boston Basin trailhead. We gain 2,500 feet by climbing up a steep, rugged trail into Boston Basin at 5,700 feet. Camp is made on pleasant benches beneath the Taboo Glacier and Torment’s South Ridge route. The entire central section of the traverses looms overhead.

Day 2 Summit Day and Traverse
With an alpine start we navigate the gentle Taboo glacier and climb up a short snow couloir to gain the South Ridge Route on Mount Torment. From here we climb some of the nicest, most solid pitches of the route until the central section of the peak is reached, and we begin easy traversing on ledges to the large summit area. Broken 4th and easy 5th class climbing brings us to Torment’s summit where the entire TFT comes into view. This gives us the first vantage point of the snow and ice sections of the traverse, and allows us to plot our route ahead. A few rappels, lowers, and some down-climbing on the East Ridge drop us into a prominent notch above the Forbidden Glacier. The remainder of the afternoon is spent climbing the first half of the central traverse until darkness brings us to one of the most classic bivouac spots in the North Cascades.

Day 3 • Traverse and Hike to Trailhead 
On our final day we get to enjoy the second half of the central section of the TFT which has been likened to a great “sidewalk in the sky.” In no time, we connect with the West Ridge of Forbidden, and the day keeps getting better and better, up the solid and easy beginning section, through the crux 5.6 corner, along the knife edges of the upper ridge, and finally, up the last gendarme that guards the summit. Gazing back at the entire length of the TFT is something any climber will cherish for a lifetime, especially if you just climbed the entire thing. Descent is made down the West Ridge, back into Boston Basin, and down the approach trail. Expect to be at the trailhead by dark.

Mount Triumph • 3 days

Day 1 • Hike to Camp
Meet at Sedro-Woolley Ranger Station. Gear check and drive to Thorton Lakes trailhead (2,700 feet) takes about 3.5 hours. The first 2 miles of the hike gain little elevation and offer a chance to warm up for the climb to the ridge crest and pass (4,900 feet) above Thorton Lakes. From here we descend to the lakes, pick our way through moderate alpine terrain, and climb the final steep 900 foot slope to a col that will be our bivouac for the night. This col, the easiest entry point onto the unnamed pocket glacier on Triumph’s eastern flank, has unparalleled views, as well as good water source.

Day 2 • Summit Day
Summit day starts early, we traverse the glacier for 1.5 hours or so before making our way onto the NE Ridge proper. Depending on the season and the year, this traverse can either be easy snow, or rock slabs and a bit of ice. The first few pitches offer very nice, easy face and crack climbing before the features sharpen and the ridge narrows. About two-thirds of the way up, the ridge leads to a small crux tower which offers fun and exhilarating climbing. Once through this step, there is a more classic ridge climbing – the final 200 feet follows third and fourth class to the summit. A series of rappels, lowers, and simultaneous down-climbing lead us back to the base of the ridge. We’ll then reverse the glacier approach back to our bivy at the col.

Day 3 • Hike to Trailhead 
After breakfast we pack our gear and return to the trailhead.

Itinerary Notes: NWAG makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner

Program start time & location: 8:00 am

Start time and location to be determined. We often meet in Sedro-Woolley, WA for gear check prior to driving to the trailhead.

Deposit and Payments
$500.00 deposit includes reservation fee, due with application
Balance due 90 days prior to departure

Services included
Guided climb
Boiled water for meals
Professional mountain guide
All group equipment (including tents, stoves, pickets, ropes)

Services not included
Domestic Airfare
Trailhead parking pass fees
Meals and snack food
Personal gear
Hotels or lodging
Trip cancellation insurance
Medical and evacuation coverage
Staff gratuities

Northwest Climbs

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb departure information upon reservation. For your safety and comfort it’s extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Please click to see our gear rental items. We have a full selection of mountain gear and clothing items for rent.

camera20 Click on the camera icon below to view a sample gear item.

Head and Face:

  • Warm Hat: Wool/ synthetic, One that covers the ears.
  • Buff or Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields. camera20
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring plenty of batteries. camera20

Upper Body:

  • Upper Body Layers: We recommend you have three warm layers for the upper body. Items must be made of synthetic or pile. Make sure all layers fit comfortably over each other and supply good insulation. A good combination is a long underwear top, a sweater, and a pile jacket. Cotton items do not provide adequate insulation and are completely useless when damp.
  • Softshell Jacket and/or Fleece Pullover: This breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket is a key part of a mountaineering layering system. Medium weight synthetic, form-fitting, for use over base layers. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Baselayer Tops: One synthetic short-sleeve shirt. One synthetic long-sleeve shirt for summit day is required. Lighter colors absorb less sunlight which can be nice on sunnier days.
  • Hardshell Jacket w/ hood: Snow and high wind can be common. GORE-TEX© or a fully waterproof nylon shell that has been “seam sealed”.
  • Insulated Jacket w/ insulated hood: 700+ fill down. camera20

**An expedition down parka w/ hood is required for Mount Rainier. A mid-weight insulated parka is required for Mount Baker and climbs and courses in North Cascades NP, Mount Olympus. Proper hard shell rain gear is required on all NWAG trips.**

Handwear: camera20

  • Lightweight synthetic (fleece) Gloves: One pair (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended)
  • Softshell Gloves: One pair, Leather construction offers durability and grip on ropes and other gear.

Lower Body:

  • Quick dry Hiking Shorts: One pair. Good for hiking at lower elevations on the mountain (summer only).
  • Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton
  • Hardshell Pants: Bring a good pair of rain/wind pants of GORE-TEX© or a fully waterproof nylon shell that has been “seam sealed”. (full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your hard shell pants without removing your boots). camera20
  • Softshell Climbing Pants: Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated, comfortable to climb in and provide good warmth on cool misty days, dry fast and prevent sunburn. Schoeller© fabric is recommended.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots. camera20

**Proper hard shell rain gear is required on all NWAG trips. Gaiters are optional on mid and late summer climbs.**


  • Double Plastic Climbing Boots or Leather/ Synthetic/ Hybrid Mountaineering Boots (full shank and crampon compatible) camera20
  • Medium to Heavyweight Socks: Two or three pair of wool or synthetic socks to wear for warmth with climbing boots.

**Read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information. Double plastic mountaineering boots or Heavy-weight synthetic/ hybrid mountaineering boots are required for Mount Rainier and early season Mount Baker and North Cascades NP climbs and courses. Single-weight synthetic/ leather mountaineering boots are adequate for mid and late summer climbs and courses on Mount Baker, North Cascades NP, Mount Olympus. NO Backpacking boots allowed on any trips, boots must be full shank and crampon compatible.**


  • Sleeping Bag: Bring a warm bag (rated 0 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit depending on season). camera20
  • Sleeping Pad: One full-length closed-cell foam pad and/ or an inflatable pad. camera20

Packing and Backpack: camera20

  • Backpack: One lightweight large size 70-80 liters (4500-5500 cubic inches) comfortable pack with good support, adequate to carry personal and group gear. The pack should fit properly and have a good waist belt. Carry gear between 45 and 65 pounds.
  • Bags: large plastic bag, large Ziploc bag or waterproof stuff sacks

**An adequate size backpack is required depending on the climb or course you’ve joined. You are responsible to carry all your personal gear and food, as well as a portion of group gear (tents, ropes, stoves, fuel, etc.).**

Climbing Gear: camera20

  • Ice axe with leash: 60-70cm mountaineering axe camera20
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates camera20
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight camera20
  • Alpine Climbing Harness w/ adjustable leg loops  camera20
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible w/ snow baskets camera20
  • Carabiners Locking: Two large pear-shaped, screw gate camera20


  • Water Bottle: Two, one liter wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE© camera20
  • Water Treatment: We recommend you bring one bottle of “Potable Aqua” or a “Polar Pure”, crystal iodine in a bottle, to treat drinking water, optional
  • Water Flavoring: Lemonade, Tang, Gatoraid, optional

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications
  • Plastic bowl, insulated mug, and spoon
  • Camera
  • Toilet paper, Blue bag, or Wag bag

What are the physical requirements to climb the peaks of the Pacific Northwest?

Previous mountaineering experience is not required on most Northwest trips. Our guides will teach you the basic snow and glacier travel skills necessary to make a safe and successful climb. Although above average physical conditioning is required for most mountain climbs in the Cascades. Prior hiking, backpacking or climbing experience is very beneficial. High altitude experience is not required.

Most trips in the Pacific Northwest are rated as strenuous and we cannot over emphasize the importance of conditioning. By getting your heart, lungs, and legs in top physical condition, you can focus on learning, while being able to enjoy the high mountain environment. It is recommended that you have some hiking and backpacking (camping) experience prior to this trip. All participants are required to carry a share of the group food and equipment which includes tents, stoves, pickets, ropes. Be prepared to carry a 40 to 60 lbs backpack to high camp depending on the climb or course you choose.

Fitness Suggestions

The mountains of the Cascades Range are physically demanding and your ability to enjoy this adventure depends on your overall health and fitness.

It is often stated. The best training for mountain climbing is hiking, backpacking or climbing with considerable elevation gain (2000 vertical feet or more). Few other fitness activities truly replicate the physical demands of climbing steep mountains with a backpack.

We suggest you begin your training program at least four months prior to departure depending on your current conditioning. Walking up steep hills and stair climbing are both excellent ways to condition your lower body. Begin slowly, without the weight of a pack, eventually adding weight as you increase your training pace. In order to condition yourself to carry the weight, it will be important to take long hikes (4-6 hours) with a weighted pack at least one or two times a week. The best training for mountaineering is to carry a loaded pack up and down hills or small mountains. Hike uphill without breaks for at least an hour at a time when possible. Then break 10-15 minutes at the most and then continue hiking uphill for at least another hour. Do this as much and as often as you can. This is certainly not the only way to train but is probably one of the best ways to train for climbing big mountains. Don’t worry about your pace, this will increase over time, instead hike uphill slower if needed without taking as many breaks. Work at maintaining an even respiratory rate.

Unfortunately, many of you don’t live near good hills or mountains so then you will need to find another activity that will help increase your endurance. Supplement this with running, cycling, swimming, cross-fit sports, weight training, etc. for additional aerobic conditioning your heart and lungs. Any time spent at altitude will also prove beneficial. Remember mountain climbing (unlike running) is an activity where you slowly climb uphill over long periods of time while carrying heavy to a moderate amount of weight.

Pin It