BCEP 2020 was cancelled due to COVID. We hope to operate BCEP in 2021 in a limited capacity following COVID protocols. Please check back in December for more information.

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. 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.

BCEP is organized into teams of 10–12 participants, team leader, and assistants. Team options this year include LGBTQ+, Substance Free, Women's, and Weekday Only. 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?


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. This year we are moving to more of 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?

TBD. 2021 dates to be posted in December. 

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?

(2020 info) When you apply for BCEP you have the option of adding a team preference. This year we have an LGBTQ+ & allies teams, a substance-free team, a women's only team, and a weekday team. You also can state a preference for a specific BCEP team leader.

Are there any teams that are only on weekdays?

Yes! For 2020 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 7 days before the class beings..

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 near The Dalles and includes an optional overnight in the Gorge. The two-day snow session includes an overnight at the Mazama Lodge in Government Camp. The two climbing skills in the Mazamas Mountaineering Center are three-hour sessions that take place both on weeknights and during the weekend.

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?

2021 lectures will likely be held virtually, but that info is TBD at this time. 

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

TBD for 2021.

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, you may need to get yourself to and from the field sessions and hikes. This info is TBD for 2021.


Lectures will likely be held virtually. Typically, carpooling is strongly encouraged for all hikes and field sessions. However, under COVID protocols, carpooling may not be an option. This info is TBD for 2021. 


Lecture Nights (3–4 hours on a weeknight) 

This may change to being held virtually for 2021.

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


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 on Saturday, May 2 at the MMC. 

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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 $475 for Mazama members and $550 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. 

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. Applying at that time will give not you an advantage in being accepted into the class. 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.

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 on Friday, March 6, 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: 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 the Eliot Center at 1226 SW Salmon St, in Portland.

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.