Michael Graw

I live in Bellingham, Washington, at the base of the wild North Cascades. 

After first visiting the region nearly 10 years ago, I fell in love with the region’s unpredictable weather, steep terrain, and endless layers of ridges and peaks. I’ve spent years exploring the North Cascades on foot and on skis, often linking far-flung ridges together to push deeper into the range.

I can usually be found with a camera strapped to my pack, as I also run an adventure photography studio that focuses on capturing endurance athletes and the beauty of mountain environments.

Michael Recommends: Ski Mountaineering

I grew up skiing, which is the perfect mode of transportation for exploring the North Cascades. The mountains of the Pacific Northwest are snow-covered from October to July in most years, and the North Cascades are blanketed by hundreds of massive glaciers.

Being able to move through the alpine on skis offers a way to explore terrain that would otherwise be inaccessible for most of the year, and it brings a whole different set of challenges to mountaineering. Avalanche hazards, snow conditions, and visibility all take on a greater role when exploring the mountains on skis, but a powdery descent makes climbing all the more rewarding.

Sunrise over the Sulphide Glacier on Mt. Shuksan. (Image credit: Michael Graw/Wandering Sole Studios)

If you’re wondering how to push your boundaries and explore the mountains in a new way, I recommend adding a pair of skis to your mountaineering checklist.

Michael’s Favorite Adventures

The remote interior of the North Cascades provides plenty of objectives for mountaineering, particularly in the spring and summer seasons when the weather stabilizes for a few months. Here are just a few of my favorite adventures:

Mt. Shuksan / White Salmon Glacier

Mt. Shuksan is an overwhelmingly large mountain that’s shockingly accessible for the North Cascades. The mountain is a mountaineer’s playground, with summer climbs ranging from 4th class to 5.9 and a steep north face with options for ice climbing and skiing.

Skiing the White Salmon Glacier with Mt. Baker in the background. (Image credit: Michael Graw/Wandering Sole Studios)

My favorite part of the mountain is the White Salmon Glacier, which offers some of the best spring alpine skiing anywhere in the Northwest. Better yet, it’s possible to reach the summit of Shuksan via the White Salmon and then descend the glacier for a 4,000-foot ski back to the valley floor.

Ptarmigan Traverse

The Ptarmigan Traverse is a North Cascades classic and one of my all-time favorite routes. It cuts through the crest of the range for nearly 35 miles and offers virtually limitless opportunities for peak-bagging and scrambling along the way.

White Rocks Lake camp along the Ptarmigan Traverse. (Image credit: Michael Graw/Wandering Sole Studios)

Don’t let the fact that this traverse typically takes several days fool you into thinking it’s a simple backpacking trip. Like all good North Cascades adventures, it involves its fair share of glacier travel, bushwhacking, and crumbling rock.

Eldorado Ice Cap

The Eldorado Ice Cap is unlike anything else you’ll find in the Lower 48. This complex of glaciers leaves massive 8,000-foot peaks barely peeking out of the snow, creating a surreal landscape where spires of rock jut out from a blanket of white.

The ice cap is home to classic peaks like Eldorado, and the rock that sticks out above the glaciated terrain is some of the best in the Cascades for climbing. In the winter and spring, the area offers alpine ice climbing and seemingly endless ski descents.

Michael's favourite brands

We’ve made it our mission to make decisions easier by helping you choose from the top options available.

Black Diamond is a one-stop-shop for all things mountaineering. We particularly depend on its technical climbing gear, including ropes, harnesses, rock and ice protection, carabiners, and rescue equipment.

Patagonia is our go-to brand for outdoor clothing for all seasons. We especially love Patagonia’s base and mid layers – there are tons of ways to mix and match to suit any season.

Arc’teryx produces some of the most dependable outerwear we’ve ever tried. Its technical outerwear can stand up to gale-force winds and sideways snow yet weighs almost nothing when packed away.

NEMO Equipment is an under-the-radar brand that has some of the lightest tents in the outdoor industry, and in our experience they’ve stood up to 80+ mph winds and overnight dumps of snow.

Have a question?

If you have any queries regarding this policy or anything else, please feel free to reach out.

Contact us
Recent articles by Michael
See more