Have you wanted to climb our nearby mountains but don’t know how to get started? Hood, St. Helens, Adams? Maybe others? The Mazama Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) is for you! BCEP teaches the skills needed to climb snow covered peaks and outdoor rock—and  introduces you to other people who like to climb!

The eight-week program includes participation in the online classroom, weekly team breakout sessions, educational field sessions, and conditioning hikes. The field sessions provide practical exposure to basic rock and snow skills. You will learn and practice the basic technical skills needed to climb alpine peaks as a climb team member.  

BCEP is very time intensive, so we highly recommend clearing your schedule as much as possible during the 8-weeks of the course. Hikes and field sessions are typically full day activities, team breakout sessions are about 3 hours in length, and weekly learning assignments take about an hour.

It is anticipated that BCEP will be organized into teams of approx. 20 members, including 12 students, a team leader and a co-leader, as well as several assistant instructors. Additional options for affinity teams year may be offered. You will have the opportunity to state a team preference on the application.

Frequently Asked Questions about BCEP.


BCEP follows the Mazama policy for Covid-19. That means, at this time, we can only consider your application if you are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. All indoor activities, and activities where folks work closely together, will require you to wear a mask.

Do I need to attend info night to get into the course?

No, but info night will provide you with background information that will be important for you to know if you are interested in applying for the course.

Do members get preference?


Do I need to apply right at 9 a.m. on the day the application opens to get the best odds of getting in?

No. We have a "lottery-style" of acceptance. The date/time you apply will not be a factor in acceptance. You can take your time—review the application, think about the questions, then come back and fill it out. Just make sure you apply before the application window closes.

What days are the course lectures?

As of 2022, all lectures will be fully online. Lectures will be pre-recorded and made available each week for viewing on your schedule. There will be optional online educational webinars that students can attend during the Spring calendar from Mazama community members on various topics. While webinars are optional, students are encouraged to participate.  

Do I need to have every weekend free to participate?

BCEP is a demanding course in terms of time. While students have the ability to miss a weekend, students' availability to attend the necessary educational activities does weigh into acceptance into BCEP. Many of the activities, such as field sessions, do not have makeup sessions.

  • Students are required to attend the following in order to complete the program:
  • Intro to Rock weekend field session
  • Intro to Snow weekend field session
  • Navigation Exercise
  • A minimum of 3 Conditioning Hikes (generally on weekends)
  • Weekly team breakout sessions
  • Final Test
How do you decide who gets into BCEP?

We typically receive more applications than the course capacity allows us to accept.
Priority will be given to certain applicants including:

  • Applicants from communities that have been underrepresented in mountaineering and/or underserved by the Mazamas. Please review the Mazama's Equity Statement for more information on our commitment to becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.  
  • Applicants with a history of volunteering and engaging with the Mazamas 
  • Applicants that were accepted into BCEP 2020 and didn’t attend in 2021
  • Applicants that were declined in other years

All remaining spaces in this course will be filled through randomized selection

How do I get assigned to a team? Are there any teams that are specific to certain groups?

When you apply for BCEP, a number of factors in your application are considered in team placement such as schedule availability, team dynamics, requested group preferences, affinity team preference, etc. While students can state a preference for a specific BCEP Team Leader or placement with a partner, we cannot make a guarantee that we can accommodate all requests.

Are there any teams that are only on weekdays?

Yes! For 2022 we have teams that have their hikes and field sessions on weekdays. When you apply, you can indicate that you would like to be placed on one of these teams.

Are scholarships available?

Yes, you can apply for one. See the Mazamas scholarship page for more information. We will inform you about your acceptance for a scholarship before sending the acceptance email.

Are payment plans available?

Yes, you can request one as you apply for the program. Payment plans split the tuition into two payments, the first upon acceptance into the program and the second on the day the program begins. Please contact for assistance or questions regarding payment plans.

If I am wait listed, what are my chances of getting into the program?

We cannot predict your odds of getting in from the waitlist. However, things do change for folks and we see a fair number of cancellations. Students who have been wait listed will be contacted, as cancellations occur, until the week before BCEP begins. Keep your schedule open and you never know what might happen! 

What happens if I am accepted and then need to drop out of BCEP?
  • In order to withdraw from the program, please contact for assistance.
  • Cancelling or withdrawing your application prior to acceptance will produce no charge to your credit card; you are only charged upon acceptance. After acceptance, the Mazama Education Program Refund Policy applies.
Will I be able to take the class with my friend/significant other?

The application form has a spot for you indicate that you’d like to take the class someone, but we do not guarantee that we will be able to accommodate such requests. 

If I am wait listed, what are my chances of getting in to the class? 

We cannot predict your odds of getting in from the wait list. However, things do change for folks and we see a fair number of cancellations. Keep your schedule open and you never know what might happen!

Are all field sessions full days?

Some yes, some no. The rock climbing session is likely to be at an out-of-town location and will be a full day. The snow session will be two full days including travel each day to the location. The two indoor climbing skills sessions in the Mazamas Mountaineering Center* are three-hour sessions that take place both on weeknights and during the weekend.

*These sessions may occur at a local outdoor climbing area if needed due to COVID policy changes.

Are hikes full days?

Not all, but the majority of them start before 9 a.m. and are unlikely to have you home before 5 p.m.

Can I participate in the lectures remotely?

Yes, 2022 lectures will be pre-recorded and available virtually. 

Can I makeup a lecture if I have to miss one?

Yes, since lectures will be pre-recorded you will be able to view them on your own schedule. Though, please make sure you stay on top of the materials and be prepared for your field sessions. Your leader will be happy to help with any questions that may occur.

How do I get to and from field sessions and hikes?

Typically, your BCEP team should set up carpooling options from a meeting place in or near Portland to the location and back. Under COVID protocols, carpooling with others outside of your household is not recommended, so you should plan on getting yourself to and from the field sessions and hikes. 


Lecture Nights (3–4 hours on your own schedule) 

Lecture nights for 2022 will be asynchronous - meaning you view the content on your own time.  They will include a combination of visual and audio material.

  • Virtual pre-recorded lecture: Lecture notes and slides are available on-line after the lecture.
  • An online student handbook will include reading homework, current schedule information, and Mazama-specific materials

Breakout Sessions (Evening Sessions)

  • Breakout sessions will occur once a week in the evening and will be held virtually at a designated time or in-person following COVID protocols, depending on your team leader. These are small group, hands-on demonstrations and skill practice opportunities for field sessions.


Photo: Alex Gauthier

Field Sessions (Partial & Full Day Sessions)

Field session dates vary by team. Each team will have five required field sessions.

  • Skills Session at the Mazama Mountaineering Center (MMC)/outdoors (if dictated by a chance in the Mazama COVID policy): An opportunity to learn and practice basic rock skills before going outdoors. (2 3-hour sessions)
  • Outdoor Rock Session: Learn and practice rock skills on outdoor rock. (full day)
  • Snow Session: Learn and practice snow skills near Timberline Lodge or other locations selected by your team. (full day)
Hikes (Half to Full Day)

In order to be a good mountaineer, you need to be in shape to go the distance! Hikes prepare your legs, heart, and mind for carrying heavy loads and gaining lots of elevation. Hike schedules vary by team. You are required to complete two team hikes. Hikes are typically a half to full day adventure and include skills in addition to mileage.


Overview of Skills Learned
Basic Skills Rock Climbing Skills Snow Skills
Proper Gear Usage Top-Rope Climbing Basic Glacier Travel
Preparation for an Alpine Climb Fixed Line Travel Self-Arrest with an Ice Axe
Map & Compass Navigation Team Communication & Signals Roped Team Travel
Assess Avalanche Danger & Weather Related Risks Rappelling & Belaying Technical Movement on Snow and Basic Steep Ice


Mt. St. Helens Climbing Photo: Geoff Lesch-Wragge
BCEP 2022
BCEP 2022 Application Opens Jan. 11.
BCEP 2022 Application
BCEP 2022 Application

Course Details

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BCEP 2022 is held from late March until late May and includes 4 technical field sessions, 3–4 hikes, and 6 pre-recorded lectures over the course of 8 weeks. Additional sessions are commonly offered by individual team leaders. There is also a mandatory skills assessment. 

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Time Commitment/Duration

High Time Commitment—BCEP is an intensive time commitment, and we highly recommend that you clear your schedule as much as possible during the duration of the course.

Moderate Duration—BCEP is an 8-week course that consists of required and optional activities.

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Tuition is $525 for Mazama members and $600 for nonmembers. 

If you have summited a glaciated peak, you may choose to Join the Mazamas prior to BCEP info night and receive the reduced rate. Standard Mazama membership is $72/annually +$25 initiation fee when you join.

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Skills Taught

BCEP teaches basic mountaineering skills including rock and snow skills. 
BCEP prepares you to be an active participant on Mazama A and B level climbs.


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Students must be 15 years of age or older by the date of the first lecture. Students under 17 must enroll in the program with a parent or legal guardian.

Fitness level appropriate for the basic climbing program. A suitable reference point is the ability to carry a 25-lb pack from the trailhead of Dog Mountain to the top, in 2.5–3 hours.

No prior climbing experience is required.

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Scholarship Opportunities

We are offering a limited number of scholarships to allow students to participate who will not be able to do so without financial assistance and whose participation can help expand the Mazamas membership base beyond current cultural, economic, and ethnic demographics.

A scholarship is for course tuition ONLY. Mazamas may partially cover the cost of your course based on factors listed above. Other costs associated with the course may apply. 

Applications for scholarships will be part of the program application. The Mazamas will contact you with details of the status of your scholarship application when you are notified of your acceptance into the Basic Climbing Education Program.

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Application Process

Enrolling in this program involves an application process. After the application period is over, the course committee will select students and notify you if you have been accepted. 

When you apply, you will enter a credit card for payment. Your card will be charged only if you are accepted. If you are not accepted, your card will not be charged.

There is no application fee for the program.

We will typically receive 25–50% more applicants than we can accept into the program. 

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Acceptance Process

BCEP typically receives more applications than we have spaces available.

When you complete your application make sure to answer questions about availability honestly. When we accept people, we put them in teams based on date availability. If we accept you and place you in a team based on your application information, and you are unavailable on your team dates, you may not be able to complete the program.

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Required Equipment

We do not recommend making any major gear purchases before BCEP begins.

For BCEP, you will need to own, acquire, or borrow gear to participate. We highly recommend waiting to purchase any gear until your team leader can provide you with guidance. Discounted gear at local shops will also be available to program participants.


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Required Text

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 9th Edition. You will have the opportunity to purchase the text at a reduced price if you are accepted into the course.

A limited number of copies will be available to borrow from the Mazamas library for Scholarship recipients.

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Lectures will be pre-recorded and presented virtually.

The Snow Field session will be held near Timberline Lodge & Ski area or in other locations determined by your individual team.

The Rock Field session will be held at Horsethief Butte near The Dalles or in other locations to be determined by your individual team.

Practice sessions and the final test are held at the Mazama Mountaineering Center* at 527 SE 43rd Avenue, Portland, OR, 97215.

*location may change to an outdoor venue if dictated by COVID policy change

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Graduation Requirements
  • Attend 90% of your teams' weekly breakout sessions
  • Participate in your team's 4 technical field sessions
  • Participate in a minimum of 3 team hikes
  • Pass the mandatory practical exam at the end of the course

Upon successful completion of the program, you will be awarded the Basic Snow and Basic Rock Badge. These badges will allow you to register for upcoming Mazama activities fitting your skill set.