New to Climbing and Hiking? A 101 on Hiring the Right Guide

Unless you’re a pro mountaineer, hiring a guide service is key to summiting success. Here are a few

By Jennifer Lee


April 19, 2011


Rainier Mountaineering Inc.
Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan, Forbidden Peak
Based in Ashford, RMI is one of the oldest and most established guide companies leading climbs on Mount Rainier. Founded in 1969 by legendary mountaineer Lou Whittaker and attorney Jerry Lynch, RMI boasts some of the biggest names in the business among its guides. Basic local climb (beginner): Four-day summit climb (Mount Rainier) Length: Four days Price: $951 Ashford; 360.569.2227;

Alpine Ascents International
Mount Rainier, Mount Baker
The most highly rated mountain guide service by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2009, AAI offers climbs on the Seven Summits—the highest peaks on the seven continents—as well as a comprehensive six-day mountaineering program in the Cascades. Basic local climb (beginner): Muir climb (Mount Rainier) Length: Three days Price: $1,325
Seattle; 206.378.1927;

International Mountain Guides

Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Shuksan
Each IMG climb is personally organized by one of its three founders (including George Dunn, who last August became the first person to climb Mount Rainier 500 times). Clients praise IMG’s low client-to-guide ratio (most summit climbs are two climbers for each guide). Basic local climb (beginner): Classic Muir climb (Mount Rainier) Length: Three and a half days Price: $1,250 Ashford; 360.569.2609;

Mountain Madness

Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Baker,
Mount Olympus, Mount Shuksan and others
Mountain Madness’ strength lies in its pre-trip organization and preparation, and while other companies tend to focus on Mount Rainier, Mountain Madness provides an array of climbs throughout the North Cascades, as well as on Mount Olympus. Basic local climb (beginner): Mount Baker Length: Three days Price: $775 Seattle; 206.937.8389;


Before you go

Know where you’re going, what the weather conditions are like and what kind of permits you’ll need.

The Elements
For local road and pass conditions as well as general weather forecasts, consult

The 4-1-1

Get parks and mountain info at (U.S. Forest Service), (National Park Service) and (Washington State Parks). These sites feature downloadable maps and general information about fees and snow closures. For reviews and descriptions submitted by outdoor enthusiasts, interactive trail maps and filtered searches for finding the perfect hike or climb, check out (Washington Trail Association) and

The Red Tape

Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park each charge a $15 entrance fee, which covers seven days. Most recreational areas in national forests require a Northwest Forest Pass ($5 per vehicle per day; $30 annually). For information on which pass or permit is right for you, visit and
Permits and passes can be bought online at, by calling 800.270.7504 or by visiting one of these locations:

Metsker Maps of Seattle

1511 First Ave.


Outdoor Recreation Information Center
South Lake Union
222 Yale Ave. N

Outdoor Research Retail Store

2203 First Ave. S

Second Ascent

5209 Ballard Ave.

The Mountaineers
Sand Point
7700 Sand Point Way NE

Washington Trails Association

705 Second Ave., Suite 300; 206.625.1367

Wide World Books and Maps

4411-A Wallingford Ave. N