Planning a Climb
Food Canister requirements in portions of some popular climbing zones
From June 1 to November 15, allowed hard-sided food canisters are required for camping below the vegetation line in Boston Basin, Eldorado, and Sulphide Glacier cross-country zones. Full statement on canister requirements. This is not a blanket requirement for the entire park or for all portions of these zones, and was purposely limited, after two years of internal review and public comment, to areas of high use by both humans and wildlife, where wildlife has become habituated to getting human food, and other methods of food storage were ineffective, improper, or impossible. Although food must still be stored securely from wildlife, canisters are not required for camping or bivying on glaciers or on high routes along ridge lines. Maps of the areas that require an allowed food canister: Boston Basin (2.4MB pdf), Eldorado (1.55MB pdf), Sulphide Glacier (915KB pdf). For more information on food storage requirements see this page.
A backcountry permit is required year-round for all overnight trips within the park complex, climbs included. Permits are mandatory any time you plan to spend the night, whether in a tent or at a bivy site. Backcountry permits are free, and are designed to prevent over-crowding at some sites and to disperse visitors throughout the park at a rate which is less damaging to wilderness resources such as native vegetation, soils, and wildlife. Permits also allow for a variable level of solitude and a high quality climbing experience, with less crowding on routes, and less impacts such as human waste, trampling, or garbage at camping locations. Please check the backcountry permits page for more information, including when and how permits are obtained.
There are no entry fees or parking fees within North Cascades National Park Service Complex; however, many routes or trails begin on National Forest land, and a parking pass is required (i.e. Mt. Shuksan via Shannon Ridge or Lake Ann, and many other climbs). The Northwest Forest Pass or the federal interagency recreation pass (America the Beautiful Pass) are honored at parking sites and are available at all ranger stations.
For a complete list of all backcountry regulations, please check the Wilderness Trip Planner.
The latest climbing conditions reports are obtained from climbing and wilderness rangers, the voluntary climbing register, and reports from other climbers. To make a climbing report, please e-mail the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount. Please include the route, snow level, any hazards encountered (or not), peak(s) attempted, and whether your party successfully summitted.
Many areas of the park are remote and seldom visited, with few or no current conditions reports. These are wild places of true exploration, adventure, and often epic stories of physical challenge. Find these places your own way. When you return from your adventure, you can submit a conditions report if you like-or, you can decide that some places are best when you discover them on your own.
Leave No Trace for Climbers
The low-impact principles of Leave No Trace are important no matter what activity you are engaged in, but in the alpine and in popular climbing areas, some practices become critical to the ecological health of the area. Here are some important reminders to help protect the places and routes where you love to climb.
Care for the trees (and flowers and meadows)
How do you deal with human waste?
Know and follow these “do’s and don’ts” for dealing with human waste.
Do talk about waste disposal options and plans with your group.
Protect wildlife and your gear
Flagging and webbing are trash, too
Fires – Don’t burn it
Learn to co-exist with the devil’s club
No trip planning is complete until you consider the most important element of any climb: returning safely and without injury. No summit is ever worth injury or death. Turn around when conditions or common sense tell you to do so. Route and glacier conditions undergo significant changes during the course of a season. Climbers must have the proper equipment, skills, and experience for a given route. Many injuries occur on the approach, when climbers often let their guard down, but the most serious injuries can occur during a climb. Weather can be severe in the North Cascades. Climbers should monitor the forecast diligently before beginning a trip and turn around if conditions deteriorate. Check the weather, avalanche forecast, gear recommendations, and more on the safety page.
More Climbing Resources
Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount – find out current ranger station hours, phone number, and location for the backcountry and climbing information station for the park. Climbing and wilderness rangers are on hand to provide advice, answer questions, or assist in trip planning.
Wilderness Trip Planner – an invaluable guide for planning all backcountry trips, developed by experienced wilderness rangers.
Climbing Notes – an annual newsletter with a collection of articles relevant to the climbing community, including a yearly review of all search and rescue incidents, management updates, and safety tips.
Guidebooks – Numerous popular climbing guidebooks are available for learning about routes and peaks in the park. The books listed below are examples of titles available on this subject (listing does not imply endorsement by the National Park Service).
Authorized guide services – If you are just learning to climb or are looking to expand your mountaineering skills, a guided course or class might be right for you. Guides must be licensed by the park in order to operate legally—please use the current list of guide services only.
Last updated: October 31, 2016