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We love alpine climbing because it takes us to remote places with the most amazing views. We get to use a variety of skills to navigate through mountain terrain, putting together a different type of puzzle. During our Intro to Alpine Rock Climbing course, you’ll begin to develop the skills to become a competent climbing partner in the mountains.
Tucked in the North Cascades off of the rugged Mountain Loop Highway are some of the most high quality, multi-pitch rock climbs in the area. The north face of Vesper Peak features excellent granite and several fun, moderate routes on solid rock. With a sheer drop to the valley below, the wall is quite exposed, but the movement stays moderate for six pitches to the summit.
Any climb in the North Cascades involves some degree of adventure, and a trip into Vesper Basin is no exception. The trail to basecamp winds through old growth forest, under rocky cliff bands, and over a steep pass to the basin below Vesper Peak. Due to the remote nature of this climb, we’ll stay overnight at the picturesque Lake Elan before climbing the route.
To prepare for the climb, we’ll spend two days working on skills and climbing at the Index Town Walls in Index, WA. Climbers will learn the basics of placing and removing trad gear, building anchors, multi-pitch transitions and rappelling. All of these skills will then be taken into the mountains and applied on our climb of Vesper Peak.
This course will take place in some of the best climbing areas in Washington. The Index Town Walls are known for high friction granite, splitter cracks, and engaging face climbs. With solid rock and parallel cracks, it’s the perfect place to learn how to place trad gear and work on crack climbing technique. There are several short multi-pitch climbs that will be great practice for us before we head into the alpine.
While loose rock is always a factor in the mountains, the routes on Vesper Peak generally have high quality, solid rock. The climbing is a combination of crack, face, and slab climbing at around 5.8 and below. While the grade is moderate, the wall is quite exposed, making these climbs ideal for intermediate climbers with some outdoor climbing experience.
During our climbing days in Index, we’ll camp at nearby Money Creek Campground on the banks of the South Fork of the Skykomish River. It’s a simple forest service campground with the typical amenities of picnic tables, vault toilets, and drinking water.
Our third night will be spent camping in the backcountry at Lake Elan under Vesper Peak. While there are nice, flat spots to pitch a tent near the lake, there are no established amenities. We’ll bring everything we need to set up camp, treat water, and deal with our waste. She Moves Mountains can provide backpacking tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, pads, water filters, and stoves for participants as needed.
While staying in the Skykomish Valley near Index, we’ll enjoy dinners together at local restaurants. Some of our favorites include The Bush House Inn, Gold Bar Thai, Zeke’s Drive In, and Lala’s taco truck. For breakfast we’ll have a simple selection of yogurt, granola, fruit and / or bagels and cream cheese. We can accommodate food restrictions and dietary preferences as needed.
For the backcountry portion of our trip, freeze-dried dinners and instant oatmeal breakfasts are our standard fare, provided by She Moves Mountains. Participants will be responsible for their own snacks and lunch throughout the trip, with guidance from SMM.
We’ve scheduled this trip during one of the most reliably dry periods in Washington, but weather is always unpredictable and out of our control. Much of our itinerary can be completed even with some poor weather conditions; we can practice trad skills, some multi-pitch systems, and route planning in the rain.
A major skill of alpine climbing is reading the weather and making conservative decisions about when to climb and when to turn around. With a four day trip, we have some flexibility to shift our plans to take advantage of the best weather window for our alpine climb. Certain weather conditions, like thunderstorms or significant rain, could make a safe ascent impossible.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:
GETTING TO INDEX:
We will host this retreat rain or shine. If the weather is poor we will propose alternative activities such as technical skills lessons (anchor building, self-rescue, multi-pitch) or hiking. If poor weather would make you want to cancel we recommend looking into Cancel For Any Reason.
We’ll start our trip by working on traditional (trad) and multi-pitch climbing skills at the Index Town Walls. Day one will include an introduction to placing trad gear, building anchors, and applying these new skills on single pitch climbs. Participants will have opportunities to mock lead and practice cleaning trad gear on a top-rope.
To prepare for our alpine rock climb, we’ll do a short multi-pitch climb at the Index Town Walls. We’ll work on lead belaying, multi-pitch commands and systems, and rappelling. Participants will follow the multi-pitch climb, practicing cleaning trad gear and applying new systems. In the afternoon, we’ll spend some time planning our backcountry trip. We’ll go over topographic maps, tour planning, and packing for an overnight alpine climb.
After driving from Index to the Sunrise Mine Trailhead, we’ll spend some time packing at the trailhead. Our approach hike gains 3000’ over three miles to our basecamp at Lake Elan. We’ll set up our camp near the shores of the lake and go to sleep early before our big climbing day.
From our camp at Lake Elan, the approach to Ragged Edges gains another 800’ feet. We’ll start with hiking on a climber’s trail then move to scrambling on rock ledges to the base of the climb. There we’ll rope up and climb six pitches to the top. We’ll encounter a variety of climbing styles including crack, slab, and face climbing on solid rock. After summit high fives, we’ll scramble down rock ledges to our camp before packing up and hiking back to the trailhead.
Yes we have 2 types of payment options:
Please visit our PAYMENT PLAN page for more information.
We have a very strict cancellation policy. Please review it before committing to this retreat.
We will not modify our cancellation policy under any circumstances (if you get sick, injured, or have an emergency). For this reason we highly recommend purchasing trip protection. HERE is a great article by Forbes that covers their favorite plans.
This must be purchased through a trip insurance agency.
Due to the nature of this event and climbing in the mountains, we do not allow participants to lead on this trip. As a company policy, we do not permit climbers to lead without a guide on a rope next to them which is not possible while we are in the mountains.
During our crag days will spend our time focusing on learning and building multi-pitch skills and clients will not have the opportunity to lead climb.
We ask that anyone joining has experience climbing 5.10's in the gym without falling or taking, and experience following 5.8 outdoors without falling or taking recommended. We recommend this level of experience to help ensure participants feel comfortable navigating the varied terrain and exposure of this climb.
All of our retreats are rain or snow or smoke or shine. We do our best to choose dates where this won't be an issue, but it's always a possibility. Even more so with the changing climate. If poor weather occurs we will propose alternative activities such as movement skills at the climbing gym, technical skills lessons such as anchor building or multi-pitch clinics, or hiking.
If poor weather will ruin your experience we suggest that you purchase "cancel for any reason" trip protection as we will not be providing any refunds due to weather related issues.
This course is probably best for someone who is not totally new to backpacking, because we don't have a lot of time built in to teach these skills. If you are interested in growing your still in the backcountry, we recommend enrolling in our Intro to Backpacking clinics to learn how to safely and confidently camp in the backcountry.