With so many knife-edge traverses and white-rimmed vistas, it's the Alps, only in America, and minus the lederhosen. Much better that way.
North Cascades Mountain Guides specializes in very private, European-style mountaineering trips; the ideal group size, says Larry Goldie, owner and lead guide, is "one." If you insist, on some climbs the company will take up to four. Trips begin with orientation and instruction, including a half-day of rock climbing, at the headquarters in Mazama, followed, usually the next day, by an alpine ascent of the Beckey Route up 7,680-foot Liberty Bell Mountain or the South Arête of South Early Winter Spire. $250 per person per day; ncmountainguides.com
Where to Stay
The Freestone Inn sits invitingly against a backdrop of cliffs, high pines, and spiky rock spires above the Methow Valley, east of the Cascades. Founded in the 1940s as a string of cabins, the inn today is a zillionaire's idea of a simple ranch retreat, with 21 inn rooms, six lodges with full kitchens, some clustered along a man-made trout lake, and 15 secluded cabins with kitchenettes. At Jack's Hut, a building near the pool that serves as the inn's adventure-concierge-service-cum-supply-store, you can get advice on off-site rock-climbing classes, rent a mountain bike ($35 a day), or sign up for fly-fishing lessons ($95 for two hours). Doubles from $185; freestoneinn.com
Where to Eat
Order the Angus rib eye with jalapeño blue-cheese butter at the Freestone's own restaurant. The menu relies heavily on fresh ingredients grown locally and has a wine list, loaded with Washington and Oregon vintners, to match. 509-996-3906
Raptors dominate the airspace over the glacial Cascades. Make them share by chartering Catlin Flying Service's five-passenger Piper Cherokee Six and soar above Lake Chelan or through Washington Pass, the snow-tipped peaks and spires of the North Cascades filling the windshield. $350 per hour; catlinflyingservice.com