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 and team breakout sessions, field sessions, and conditioning hikes. The field sessions provide practical exposure to basic rock climbing and snow travel. Field sessions may include overnight camping, a stay at the Mazama Lodge, or an “alpine” (nighttime) start. 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-week of the course. Hikes and field sessions are typically full day activities, and lectures evenings are 3 hours.

Mazama members receive priority acceptance into BCEP if the class has more applicants than it can accept. If you would like to join the Mazamas go to mazamas.org/join

Lecture Nights (3–4 hours on a weeknight)

Lectures nights include a combination of visual, audio, and hands-on techniques. These include:

  • Group Lecture: Lecture notes and slides are available on-line after the lecture.
  • Student handbook will include reading homework, current year schedule information, and Mazama-specific materials. The remainder will be available online (including supplemental videos).
  • Team breakout sessions with small group hands-on demonstrations and field session.
  • Required TextMountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 9th Edition, published by The Mountaineers. Out of class work will be based on this edition. Available at a discount to all students.
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): An opportunity to learn and practice basic rock skills before going outdoors. (2 3-hour sessions)
  • Horsethief Butte Rock Session: Learn and practice rock skills on outdoor rock. (full day)
  • Timberline Snow Session: Learn and practice snow skills near Timberline Lodge. (2 full days)
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


Mt. St. Helens Climbing
Photo: Geoff Lesch-Wragge
BCEP 2020

BCEP 2020 Information

  • BCEP 2020 Info Night: January 9 
  • Application Opens: January 14
  • Application Closes: January 21
  • First Class: March 10

Course Details

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BCEP is held in March in April and includes 5 technical field sessions, 2–4 hikes, and 6 evening lectures over the course of 8 weeks. Additional sessions are commonly offered by individual team leaders. A mandatory skills assessment occurs at the end of the course. 

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Time Commitment/Duration

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.

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2020 tuition is $455 for Mazama members and $530 for nonmembers. Tuition includes a t-shirt, printed student manual, and a night at Mazama Lodge (does not include meals at Mazama Lodge).

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 climbing and snow climbing.

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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.

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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 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. You must have access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet to participate in the course. Please see course home page for associated costs and logistics. All scholarship awardees will qualify for select course gear at a discounted rate.

Applications for scholarships will be part of of the class application. The class/scholarship application period will begin on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 and close on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. 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

The online application will open on January 14 at 9 a.m. We will take applicants until our applicant pool is full. 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. This notification will take place on Friday, February 14.

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.

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Acceptance Process

BCEP typically receives more applications than we have spaces available. Mazama members will receive priority acceptance. If you would like to join the Mazamas, go to mazamas.org/join.

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.


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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 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.

The Mazama Used Equipment Sale will take place before the start of the class, which will allow you to pick up some quality gear at reduced prices.

Essential gear you will need to start the class: Backpack, sturdy boots, water bottle, rain shell, firestarter/matches, whistle, first aid kit, pocket knife/multi-tool, headlamp, sun protection, synthetic or wool clothing.

Standard climbing gear & non-climbing gear (do not buy before BCEP): Harness, climbing helmet, locking carabiners, non-locking carabiners, nylon slings, belay device, prussik slings, compass, glacier glasses.

Gear that can be rented at a local outdoor store: Ice axe, crampons, climbing boots.

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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.

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Lectures occur at a location TBD.

The Snow Field session is held near Timberline Lodge & Ski area.

The Rock Field session is held at Horsethief Butte.

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

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Graduation Requirements

Attend all 6 lectures and team breakout sessions
Participate in your team's 5 technical field sessions.
Participate in 2 team hikes.
Pass the mandatory practical exam at the end of the course.
Upon 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.

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Refund Policy

Cancellations received at least 14 days in advance of the start 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 a doctor’s notification to be considered on a case-by-case basis.