Which city on the NA west coast for mountaineering

  • Creator
  • #71154

    Hi guys,

    I’m looking at the west coast guys in this forum.

    I would be able to transfer to the north American west coast.

    In terms of mountaineering (weather summer AND winter, travel time, quality of living) opportunities which city would you choose and why?

    Cities in scope: Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, SF, San Jose, Sacramento, LA, SD


  • Keymaster
    Jane Mackay on #71155

    I lived in the SF Bay Area for twenty years. From my own experience and from talking with people who live in other parts of the W Coast, in terms of the US I would say Seattle, for three main reasons:
    1. proximity to the mountains
    2. great culture and lifestyle in general terms
    3. a mountain/outdoor culture and community that I don’t think exists in any other part of the W Coast.

    From the little I know, Vancouver could also be a good choice for the same reasons, plus it’s in Canada.

    Dada on #71159

    Awesome, Jane! Thx, the community is a big plus.

    I’m just afraid that it could be a little rainy up there 😉

    Jane Mackay on #71162

    Yes, it can be rainy 😉 but I think the other factors would in the balance outweigh the drizzle. Of all my W Coast friends, the only ones who are mountain crazy live in or near Seattle.

    Jim Prager on #71189

    I’m a huge fan of Seattle (I’ve lived here for the past 20 years):
    – We have good hiking, scrambling, trail running, rock climbing, alpine rock, classic mountaineering, technical mountaineering, and backcountry skiing. The only thing we don’t have is a good ice season.
    – From downtown, I can be in the mountains in under an hour and the foothills even faster, which hard to beat for training and fun.
    – During the summer, we are one of the driest places in the country, so it’s easy to get out most weekends.
    – With a little practice in watching conditions, we can almost always ski good snow in the winter.
    – The spring ski mountaineering season is long.

    Compared to the the other cities:
    – I prefer the greenness of Western WA compared to CA, but we don’t get as much rain as Vancouver.
    – We’re closer to mountains than the CA cities.
    – Definitely a lot of mountain-related groups to join.
    – There is more technical climbing closer to Seattle than Portland.
    – Our traffic isn’t great, but it’s no CA bad.

    A few years ago, a buddy of mine, who loves maps and geography data, “proved” that was WA was the best state in the lower 48 because it had the highest density of prominent peaks (see attached table). 🙂

    You must be logged in to view attached files.
    Dada on #71216

    Thx Jim! You guys are making it harder for me not easier 😉

    I’m a big CA fan, I have to admit (I did a semester abroad in SD) but you’re making me think.


    Bo_A_Moseley on #74117

    I’m a bit late to this but I’ve lived all over the West Coast from Seattle, Portland, San Fran, and Los Angeles. I’d like to represent LA.

    I got my most climbing in when I lived in Los Angeles and did my best training. Nothing matches the LA basin for training opportunities, size of the community, and access to some big peaks and routes, and then the good weather to take advantage of it,

    In LA you have access to two of the best training hikes in the world – Bear Flats on Baldy and Cactus to Clouds on San Jacinto, 5700 vertical feet and 9000 vertical feet respectively. Both offer easy downs via the lifts and trams and can be knocked off before lunch once you have a base. They periodically get snow in the winter and can be quite challenging then. Not to mention all the smaller foothills with access roads and paved roads for running or biking and interval training.

    On the South side of San Jacinto is Taqhitz. The best granite climbing outside of the Valley in North America. Again, you can pick your difficulty and run laps and be home in time for dinner. Or test some prospective partners and sort things out for something bigger.

    There are numerous bouldering and rope climbing areas in the basin. You can get in 2000-3000 vertical feet in three hours of bouldering or work on technical routes on a rope at many sites like Stoney Point.

    The weather is nearly always perfect. And the proximity of everything means you can stack workouts, ie Bear Flats and then Stoney Point. And there is a huge climbing community where partners and good friendships will be made. Someone will always know someone who wants to do something OR has some good advice. The community in LA is ten times that of any other city.

    Further away are the Sierras. You can be on a grade IV or V or a very long route inside of four hours. With proper preparation on Bear FLats or Cactus, you can easily do a lot of routes in the Sierras in one push in a weekend and be home Sunday to relax. There are a lot of routes that are awesome winter alpine routes that are fairly easy with patience. Skiing at Mammoth is a plus. And J-Tree or the Valley/Toulomne will be accessible and hugely enjoyable during the slower periods. Doing a 18 hour push on a Sierra peak, skiing mammoth, then knocking out a few routes in Owen’s River gorge then home is a typical three day weekend for a fit and prepared climber.

    A three or four day weekend can put you on Shasta or Hood. With a flight you can then make it to the Northern Cascades or Colorado.

    LA does not offer vertical ice climbing. Taqhitz ices up once every three years and the Valley coughs up some awesome stuff every 5 years and that is about it. You will want to plan some winters in Ouray and Telluride.

    I’d have to say Seattle is second. Lots of 2000-4000 foot hikes within 90 minutes, lots of rock climbing, and the cascades have the same driving as the Sierras. Seattle offers lots of Ice and glaciers, more mixed, and more snow. Seattle is a smaller LA with less vertical, less reliable weather, and a smaller community. But that community looks more hard core.

    LA offers high desert and open pine forests for the scenery while Seattle is all about dense forests and lots of snow. If you like sunny, the LA, if you like clouds and snow then, Seattle.

    I’d say if you were purely into mountaineering and liked snow, the Seattle might be the slightly better. If you wanted to be a well rounded Alpine climber or liked rock climbing, or wanted to develop a base over 5 years before moving further, then LA would be your best bet.

    San Fran has a lot of bouldering and some vertical for hiking, but you really have to head out to the Valley to get in some real climbing, and you have to drive a lot further than LA to get to most of the Sierra climbs. It’s #3 on the list.

    I grew up in Portland. It has the least amount of rock and the least amount of vertical. And the weather is less reliable than the other four. Hood, Helens, and the smaller cascades are all you have. And its not much. It’s #4.

    If I had to do it all over again, I’d live in LA and build a base and tick off everything I could while developing partners. Then move to Seattle or Colorado for further development. Why not plan five years in LA and then five in Seattle, or vice-versa?

    Jeremy on #74125


    In Vancouver BC, from downtown, you can be at the base of mountains in 20-30 minutes – for me less than 20 min. Multiple local ski mountains 20-40 min away which allow you to downhill ski, backcountry ski and snowshoe in the evenings after work. For training there is a 3 mile hike with 800m of vertical within 20min of downtown. Squamish and Whistler BC are also near.

    Im sure Seattle has the similar but not sure how accessible it is.

    You can check out here to see whats around the area: https://bcmc.ca/m/events/home/



    Jeremy on #74126

    Hello Jim

    Was your table(attachment) meant to promote BC?



    Dada on #74253

    Thank you guys!

    You’re making it harder for me to decide not easier 😉

    I talked to a lot of people since.

    These are my thoughts:

    A) Vancouver and Seattle have both very bad weather from October to March; I’m kinda spoiled from the weather in the Alps in Europe. You have snowfall and then there are pretty good days with sunshine; I don’t wanna do just tree runs since I have a mental problem when I can’t see properly; lake Tahoe offers better weather conditions, I think

    B) Vancouver & Seattle are super close to the mountains which makes it very nice; in Europe, I can drive to the next mountain within 60 minutes; Bay area requires way more driving but day trips are possible; LA requires a lot of driving for ski mountaineering and you always need to stay overnight

    C) In case I want to switch jobs, the Bay area offers so many opportunities; I’m not sure if this is also valid for the Seattle & Vancouver to be honest; a new job might require me to move again

    Please object if any of my conclusions is wrong!!!

    So, to be honest with you, atm, I’m tending towards the Bay Area.


    Dada on #74254

    PS: I’m open to other parts of Canada and the US as well (recommendations so far included Arizona, Salt Lake City, Denver)

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