Frequently Asked Questions

Let us make this an enjoyable experience.

The easiest way is to pick up the phone and call the NCMG office 509.996.3194 or you can e-mail us at info@ncmountainguides.com. Let us know what your interests are and the best time to reach you by phone to discuss the details of your trip.

We look forward to hearing from you!

While this is largely a personal decision, many guests do offer a gratuity to their guide for a job well done. Keep in mind that it is your guide’s job, first and foremost, to provide for your well-being and bring you back safely. On some trips, this is no small task. On average, many clients tip between $30 – 50/ day when they feel the guide has provided them with a safe and enjoyable experience.

NCMG does occasionally hold permits to guide in other parts of the country such as the Sierra Nevada, Alaska range and Red Rocks. We will try and make folks aware of these opportunities by sending out e-mail newsletters and listing these trips in the blog and highlighting them on the home page. Several of our Internationally certified guides also offer trips to the European Alps, Canada and other areas where permits are not required, but certification is.

Many of our guides also have relationships with other permit holders throughout the country. If there is an area you would like to climb in with your favorite NCMG guide, contact them directly and see if they may be able to arrange a trip there for you with them as a guide. If this is not possible, we are always happy to recommend a guide or guide service in the area you are interested in.

For most trips this will be the NCMG office in Mazama. Unless otherwise arranged with your guide, rock climbing in the valley will meet at 8:00am, and climbs in the mountains will meet at 7:00am. Ski trips will also meet at 7:00 am. For directions to Mazama and the NCMG office, click HERE.

For some trips in North Cascades National Park (NCNP) in which the guests are traveling from Western Washington, your guide may choose to meet you at the NCNP ranger station in Marblemount. This will save those traveling from the West side several hours of driving, but may not be possible in all circumstances.

On most of our trips, guests are required to provide their own food. For day trips, this is typically just snack food for the day (of which the Mazama store has a great selection!). On overnight trips we can provide food for a per day rate to be determined before your trip. If you need some help in planning your food for the mountains, read our essay on Food planning written by NCMG guide Michelle Smallman, veteran of more than 15 month-long backcountry expeditions.

NCMG provides all of the technical equipment for use on our trips. Our guests are welcome to use our harnesses, helmets, carabiners, and belay devices free of charge. Your guide will provide all of the necessary ropes and hardware for your climb. We have a limited number of rock climbing shoes for rent at the cost of $5 per day.

On certain overnight trips, you might be able to team up with your guide to share a tent and/or stove to keep pack weight down. This will depend on the trip and number of people. Please consult directly with your guide on this.

NCMG has detailed descriptions of our climbing programs as well as a list of classic climbs on our website to help you get started in putting together a program. In addition, our office staff are also climbers and can help you create a trip that is right for you. Next we try and put you in touch with your guide as soon as possible, so you can ask specific questions and help create your ideal mountain experience. A word of caution however ~ many of our guides are busy guiding and will not be available to return a phone call or e-mail as quickly as you may like. When trying to reach your guide, please be patient and know that they will contact you as soon as they are back from the field.

Being located on the Eastern slope of the North Cascades, we typically have much better weather than on the west side of the mountains (Mazama receives 12″ of annual rainfall compared to Seattle’s 40″!). That said, we cannot control the weather and there are times when the weather will not allow for a safe experience in the mountains. Typically we will first try and choose an objective that will allow us the best chances of good weather and safe climbing conditions. Sometimes even this is not possible and we will try and reschedule the trip. In the end the guide will make the decision as to whether or not it is feasible to go out given the weather. With proper equipment we have found that it is rarely as bad as you think it will be.

We understand that sometimes unavoidable circumstances can interfere with the best laid plans. We have tried to create a cancellation policy that strives to be fair to all parties. With enough notice, a trip can be canceled and a full refund minus a small administrative fee can be received. As the course start date draws closer, it becomes more difficult to find other work for the guide who has committed to the trip, and thus there is the loss of some of the course fees. In some circumstances a raincheck may be offered. If this is declined, there will be a $50 handling charge to cover credit card processing fee and administrative fees. The rest of the cancellation policy is as follows:

  • SCHEDULED PROGRAMS: more than 90 days prior = Full refund; 90-60 days prior = 50% refund; less than 60 days = no refund
  • PRIVATE PROGRAMS: 30+ days = Full Refund, 14+ days = 50% Refund, under 14 days = 0 Refund

Many people choose to purchase trip insurance from one of the many companies offering this service on the internet. It is usually fairly inexpensive and can cover all of your expenses such as plane tickets, lodging, guiding fees, etc., in the event that you have to cancel a trip at the last minute or even during the program. NCMG highly recommends this for all trips. Just make sure you read the small print to make sure you are purchasing the correct type of insurance.  Many companies require you to purchase the "adventure package" or something similar if you are participating in a sport such as rock climbing or backcountry skiing.  

The more specifically you train for your course the more you will get out of it. We commonly hear guests state that they wish they could have started their trip in the shape they finished it in. The exact type of trip you are planning will help dictate your training, but in general, the more specifically you train for the activity, the more benefit you will feel when you are out there on the trip.  Please check out our training page for more info here.  

On the surface, it may seem like it, though in reality, you will get much more out of a shorter trip with a private guide than a longer course with many other students. Many companies offer low priced 6 and 12 day climbing courses in which there will often be 10 students and 2 guides. While you will learn many vital skills during this time, the course will only progress at the rate of the slowest student. With a private guide, once you have mastered a skill you are able to move on and thus cover much more in a shorter amount of time. The lower ratio will also allow you to tackle more technical climbing objectives that would not be safe or timely with 4 or 5 climbers to each guide.

At NCMG we strive to provide a different kind of guiding experience. Most of our guides have experienced the guiding world through one of the country’s larger guide services and want to offer something different. Our mission is to provide high quality, low ratio guiding. Thus, rather than offering a variety of large group skills courses, we have chosen to work with our guests to custom tailor each program to meet their climbing or skiing goals. While we do offer a small number of scheduled courses each season, even these have significantly lower client to guide ratios than most other companies.

Let us make this an enjoyable experience.