The Mazamas offers a variety of classes for all ability levels. Learn new skills in mountaineering, rock climbing, first aid, ski mountaineering, and more.
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 class includes weekly lectures (virtual) and team breakout sessions, field sessions, and conditioning hikes. The field sessions provide practical exposure to basic rock climbing and snow travel. You will learn and practice the basic technical skills needed to climb a glaciated peak 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, and weekly lectures and team breakout sessions are about 3 hours in length.
It is anticipated that BCEP will be organized into teams of ten members, including six (6) students, a team leader, and three assistant instructors. Additional “affinity” team options this year may be offered. You will have the opportunity to state a team preference on the application.
Here is a list of our most frequently asked questions about BCEP.
Do I need to attend info night to get into the class?
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 class.
Do members get preference?
Do I need to apply right at 9 a.m. on the day the application opens in order 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?
Lectures will be pre-recorded each week and made available each week for viewing on your schedule.
Do I need to have every weekend free to participate?
No, but the class has 8 required activities (one of which takes two consecutive days) over a nine-week period.
How do I get assigned to a team? Are there any teams that are specific to certain groups?
When you apply for BCEP you have the option of adding a team preference, including certain affinity teams. You also can state a preference for a specific BCEP team leader but we cannot make a guarantee.
Are there any teams that are only on weekdays?
Yes! For 2021 we have two 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 as you apply for the class. See the Mazamas scholarship page for more information.
Are payment plans available?
Yes, you can request one as you apply for the class. Payment plans split the tuition into two payments, the first upon acceptance into the class and the second on the day the class begins.
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!
What happens if I am accepted and need to drop out of the class?
It depends on how soon to the start of the class you let us know as refunds are driven by that timing. Get the full refund policy in the FAQ at the bottom of the list on the right-hand side of the BCEP page.
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, 2021 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 it on your own schedule.
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 2021 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.
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 COVID policy change): 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||Outdoor Top-Roped Climbing||Basic Glacier Travel|
|Fitness for Mountaineering||Traveling on a Fixed Line||Self-Arrest with an Ice Axe|
|Map & Compass Navigation||Proper Communication & Signals||Understanding Avalanche Danger & Risks|
|Weather Conditions||Rappelling & Belaying||Preparing for an Alpine climb|
BCEP 2021 will be 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. A mandatory skills assessment occurs on Saturday, May 22.
High—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—BCEP is an 8-week course, and consists of required and optional activities.
2021 tuition is $475 for Mazama members and $550 for nonmembers. Tuition includes a t-shirt, printed student manual, and all course lectures, team breakout sessions, hikes and field sessions
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.
BCEP teaches basic mountaineering skills including rock climbing and snow climbing. BCEP prepares you to be an active participant on Mazama A and B level climbs.
Students must be 15 years of age or older by the date of the first lecture (under 17 must enroll in the class 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.
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 cover the cost of your course up to 90% of the course tuition based on factors listed above. Other costs associated with the course may apply.
Applications for scholarships will be part of of the class 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.
The online application is closed for 2021. We will typically receive 25–50% more applicants than we can accept into the class.
Enrolling in this class 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.
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 class.
Priority will be given to participants accepted to the canceled BCEP 2020 course.
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 to wait to purchase any gear until your team leader can provide you with guidance. Discounted gear at local shops will also be available to class participants.
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.
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
Attend all 6 lectures and team breakout sessions
Participate in your team's 4 technical field sessions.
Participate in 3 team hikes.
Pass the mandatory practical exam at the end of the course.
Upon successful completion of the class you will be awarded the Basic Snow and Basic Rock Badge. These badges will allow you to register for certain activities.
- Cancellations received at least 14 days in advance of the class may request a refund less a $50 nonrefundable application fee.
- Cancellations received less than 14 days and greater than 7 in advance of class may request a 50% refund.
- Cancellations received less than 7 days in advance, no shows, or withdrawals after the class begins will not be issued a refund
- Cancellations due to medical issues will be considered on a case by case basis and will require coordination with the Mazamas office to be considered.
- If a course is cancelled after it has begun, you will be issued a pro-rated refund based on the sessions delivered and the prepaid expenses. Cancellations due to exposure to or contraction of COVID-19 will be eligible for a pro-rated refund.