Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Route Profile: North Cascades Backpacking

Route Profile:  North Cascades Backpacking

The majority of our programs at AAI deal with teaching technical skills or going on bigger expeditions.  But we also realize that not everyone out there is ready to attempt a bigger objective right away.  You've got to learn to crawl before you walk, and in our case, learn to walk before you climb.

This is why we also offer a variety of introductory courses and backpacking trips through the North Cascades.  While enjoying the beautiful scenery that the area has to offer, we also teach you the basics of how to properly pack your pack, how to determine a good campsite. tips on backcountry cooking, and more.  We offer a variety of objectives and trip lengths.  You can go to our North Cascades Backpacking page to see all the options available.  And if you don't see something you like, we can come up with a customized trip for you.

Below is just one of the options available.  This this trip is 17-21 miles in length and is completed over 3 days. The route follows a high ridge with outstanding views of rugged, majestic peaks and snow covered glaciers.

Day 1: You met in Fairhaven for a gear check by your guide. You will have an opportunity to rent or buy any needed gear. Then we drive up into the mountains to a pair of high alpine lakes for an optional 4 mile hike to a retired fire lookout with a spectacular panorama of the surrounding Cascade Mountains, including Mt Baker, Mt Shuksan and the Border peaks along the US - Canada border. At our nearby trailhead, we climb 1.5 miles to a small pass at timberline. We traverse fields of anemone, aster, paintbrush and fireweed while enjoying glacier carved rock formations. Expect to cross small snowfields if the trip is before mid-August and be amazed at vibrant fall colors in September, when the blueberries are delicious. Gaining the ridge, we can check out the high point of the mountain or dip our feet in one of the many ponds.

Backpacking trip clients enjoying sunshine and
wildflowers on the North Cascades trip.
Day 2:  You awake to the fresh smell of pines and the quiet peace of the mountains. Enjoy a nutritious mountain breakfast of scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and sour cream or oatmeal and blueberries. We get a leisurely start exploring the alpine plateau before starting our ridge walk. You will feel like you are in the Sound of Music on the open ridge surrounded by beautiful peaks and lakes. There will be plenty of time for singing, reflecting and taking in the scenery. We follow the ridge for several miles, stopping for lunch whenever we get hungry. There are many options for scenic campsites along the ridge today and we can stop early to enjoy the views.

Relaxing at day 2 campsite admiring Mt Shuksan.
Day 3: Continuing along the ridge, the views of Mt Baker change from the northeast face to the north and northeast flanks. Other mountains come into view as we follow a well maintained National Forest trail. We will have a chance to have lunch on top of Mt Excelsior before heading down into the forest and our ride back.

Mt Baker impresses the high ridge hiker over fall colors.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Reis.

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