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Custom Mountaineering Trips with Mountain Madness

Travelling In Style With NW Custom Trips

Most peo­ple don’t real­ize how lux­u­ri­ous moun­taineer­ing can be if you plan out your own cus­tom trip! In the Cas­cades and the Olympics, Moun­tain Mad­ness includes tents and cook­ing gear… and cook! Your guide will plan and pre­pare the meals and pro­vide the tents so you can enjoy the moun­tains and climb­ing objec­tives in style. Cus­tom trips also allow for a very flex­i­ble itin­er­ary to cre­ate the ulti­mate climb­ing expe­ri­ence. Here are two of the trips we’ve run so far this season:

Lib­er­ty Bell Mas­sif. Mark Gun­log­son photo


Guide Dave Ahrens took Andree Falls out to Wash­ing­ton Pass to mix it up with some rock and ski­ing. Our cus­tom trips include food and the guide does the shop­ping, and we’re talk­ing good stuff here! Dave went over-the-top at Trad­er Joes and was able to serve up some great penne with pesto, sun­dried toma­toes and roast­ed red pep­pers, and fresh sal­ad. Nice car camp­ing! So, the plan was well exe­cut­ed- climb or ski and enjoy the lux­u­ries of car camping.

Ear­ly sea­son con­di­tions on the Birth­day Tour. Jere­my Allyn photo

They first climbed the 11-pitch sport route Prime Rib (5.8) near Maza­ma. Beau­ti­ful weath­er, a short approach, and great views of the Methow Val­ly wel­comed them. The next day they head­ed up to Lib­er­ty Bell Moun­tain where snow con­di­tions on the couloir lead­ing to the Beck­ey Route were great. The clas­sic Beck­ey route (5.6) offered stress free alpine rock high in the Cas­cades. Nor­mal­ly it takes two hours to get down from the Beck­ey on snow­shoes, but they got down in 20 min­utes on skis. They were able to com­bine ski­ing and rock climb­ing and had great con­di­tions for a well-round­ed day.

Goat Wall, home to 11-pitch sport routes. Mark Gun­log­son photo

Includ­ed dur­ing their trip was the well-known Birth­day Tour, where, as Dave put it, they nailed the corn on Madi­son Avenue – 1500 feet of great descent!” Both Dave and Andree had done trips togeth­er, so they both enjoyed each oth­er’s com­pa­ny and the objec­tives. As Dave explains, Form­ing a rela­tion­ship with your guide elim­i­nates a lot of deci­sions, the client just shows up and attacks the route!”


Guide Ian Nichol­son also came back from a great cus­tom trip with a father and son whose fam­i­ly has trav­elled with Moun­tain Mad­ness numer­ous times. John and Luke Yarnall, this year, want­ed to tack­le some great rock climb­ing. Check out Ian’s report: 

John on the sum­mit of the Beck­ey Route. Ian Nichol­son photo

Trips with the Yarnalls are always super fun and we have gone on a num­ber of adven­tures over the years. Last year John along with his two sons Micheal and Luke com­plet­ed the Ptarmi­gan Tra­verse togeth­er which is one of my favorite trips of all time. 

On this trip the first day after leav­ing Seat­tle at 7:30 we drove straight to Maza­ma and got the last camp­site and set up at Ear­ly Win­ters camp­ground. We knew we had to get a camp­site ear­ly because of the Ameri­cian Alpine Clubs Rock­fest was sure to have an impact on the amount of open camps sites. After drop­ping off our tents and some oth­er gear we drove back up to Wash­ing­ton Pass. We start­ed hik­ing at 1:30 pm, late by most peo­ples stan­dards but the Yarnalls are very fit and we made it to the base of the South Arête on South Ear­ly Win­ter Spire in just under two hours. We had to weave through 6 – 7 oth­er parites that were com­ing down the route, includ­ing fel­low MM guide Rob Schiess­er and client Chris Egnatz who just com­plet­ed the famed and dif­fi­cult Hitch Hik­er, right on guys!!!!

Descend­ing the Lib­er­ty Bell Beck­ey Gul­ley. Ian Nichol­son photo

As we climbed the the route after the first 300ft had the South Arête to our­selves, almost unheard of on Sat­ur­day of Rock­fest week­end. We made the sum­mit by 4:00 and enjoyed the sum­mit for over half an hour. We descend­ed the route and tra­versed over to the top of Spire gul­ly where we were able to glis­sade most of the way back down to the high­way drop­ping and incred­i­ble 2200ft in 29 minutes. 

On our sec­ond day we climbed the North­west mega clas­sic Becky route on Lib­er­ty Bell. We got an ear­ly start because I was sure there would be a num­ber of par­ties queu­ing up for this clas­sic route. There was a hard freeze over night and we put cram­pons less than an hour out of the park­ing lot because the snow was so firm. Amaz­ing­ly enough there was only one par­ty on the route and they where near­ly and hour ahead of us. The final­ly gul­ly had very firm snow con­di­tions and we used a ver­i­ty of steep­er snow trav­el tech­niques to make it to the base of the route. In the dis­tance we could see no less than 10 peo­ple approach­ing the route. Sun­day was much clear­er than the pre­vi­ous day and as we climbed high­er we could see moun­tains for as far as the eye could see includ­ing the entire Ptarmi­gan tra­verse which we had com­plet­ed the year pre­vi­ous. We could see passed where we took breaks and moun­tains that we had climbed, it made the views feel even more spe­cial know­ing that you had been there just under a year ago. The sum­mit was amaz­ing, not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind in the air. As an Alpin­ist you often spend less than 5 min­utes on a sum­mit because of weath­er or approach­ing dark­ness but John, Luke and I felt none of these pres­sures and spent near­ly an hour soak­ing in the sun and recall­ing past adven­tures. Once we start­ed hear­ing oth­er par­ties we descend­ed. There were lines on both the Over Expo­sure route and the Becky route with par­ties on every pitch of either route. We talked about how lucky we were to have the whole route to our­selves as well as the sum­mit for as long as we did. 

The Yarnalls on the R & D. Ian Nichol­son photo

On our final day we climbed at Fun rock for a few hours but John had men­tioned he thought it would be fun to return to Seat­tle from the East side of the crest since he had nev­er dri­ven that stretch of Hwy 97 before. We did and turned west­ward on hwy 2, but with a fair amount of time left in the day we decid­ed to climb one last big route. We chose R & D a 500ft, 5 pitch 5.6 on the ici­cle but­tress. Over­cast skys made for com­fort­able tem­pe­tures but light drops from time to time kept our atten­tion. But the light drops nev­er turned to rain and we climbed the route in a hour and 30 min­utes, a proud time to be certain. 

After that we returned to Seat­tle and the Yarnall fam­i­ly returned to Oregon.”

— Ian Nicholson