Pacific Northwest Mountaineering and Sailing

Pacific Northwest Mountaineering and Sailing


  • Two different technical skills in one diverse, month-long course
  • Mountaineering route of 70 miles with the potential to go to elevations up to 13,000 feet
  • Sailing route of around 150 nautical miles on 36 foot sailboats
  • Develop your snow, ice, and rock mountaineering skills in British Columbia's remote Waddington Range
  • Explore the Strait of Georgia, the east coast of Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands
This challenging expedition offers the best of British Columbia's spectacular Coast Mountains and remote northern waters of Georgia Strait and Desolation Sound. For centuries, explorers have relied on sailboats to explore the far corners of the globe, and this expedition follows in that tradition. You will learn how to navigate rock, snow, and the ocean.

First, you will explore British Columbia's Waddington Range. A succession of long fjords, flanked by vertical walls, leads into the jagged peaks and sprawling ice fields that comprise the range. Most of the range is covered with enormous ice fields and some of longest glaciers in sub-arctic North America. Here, you'll learn techniques of alpine and glacier mountaineering, off-trail travel, and camping in all weather conditions. As you bushwhack through thick forest and undergrowth on your way to the glaciers, you'll master camping, cooking, and basic travel skills. Your course might be challenged to negotiate slopes of loose scree, dense vegetation or large, crevassed glaciers.

Once you reach the glacier, you'll move into the climbing curriculum. As your experience builds and you move into more technically demanding terrain, you'll be exposed to more advanced skills. This course will take advantage of every opportunity to prepare you for future expeditions in glaciated ranges and open seas. You will exit the mountains at the head of Bute Inlet and board 36-foot sailboats. You'll turn toward the Strait of Georgia, the east coast of Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands.

You'll learn to sail as you go and dive into boat handling under sail or power, charts, coastal navigation, and seamanship. The leadership skills you were introduced to in the mountains will be refined as you take the role of 'First Mate of the Day.' You'll cook and sleep on board and rotate crew positions to give everyone a chance to experience the responsibilities of life on the water. You'll anchor at peaceful inlets and explore some of the area's remote islands. You'll observe the diverse life of tidal pools, read tide tables and marine charts, and learn about the fascinating early human history of the region.

At course end, you'll have the skills to take to any mountain or ocean environment in the world.


Location NOLS Pacific Northwest
Tuition $6,700 Learn about Financial Aid
Equipment Deposit $350
Minimum Age 17
Duration 38 Days
Type Classic
Start/End Conway, Washington
Fly in/out Seattle, Washington
College Credit
  • 6 Credit Hours
  • 2 Hours Leadership Techniques
  • 4 Hours Skills Practicum
Learn about College Credit
High School Credit
  • 1.5 Carnegie Units
  • 0.5 CUs Physical Education
  • 1 CU Leadership
Learn about High School Credit

“I learned so much about my strength as an individual, as a leader and as a team member. The most rewarding would probably be how much it has helped me grow as an individual to better myself through all of the skills I have learned.”

-Francesca S.

Pacific Northwest Mountaineering and Sailing Grad