Today's Lesson: Keeping Your Head Above Water
Water Bottles

Expedition Survival Tip

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but there are no showers in the Great Outdoors. Our advice: when possible stay upwind of others.

Frequently asked questions


What type of agencies does BCM partner with?

Why send teens on a BCM expedition?

Does your program make a difference? How do you know?

How much does it cost?

What is my commitment?

Do Agency Staff participate in the expedition?

Who goes on BCM trips?

How many teens can I send per expedition?

How are teens selected to go on an expedition?

Are BCM trips co-ed?

Do the teens need to provide their own gear?

How hard will it be?

Do you have a set Curriculum?

Are BCM trips safe?

What kind of backgrounds do your volunteers have?

Why does BCM put so many Team Members with so few teens?


1.What type of agencies does BCM partner with?
Big City Mountaineers targets youth organizations who serve teens from economically or socially depressed areas who, without programs like ours, would not be introduced to the backcountry. The specific type of organization (after-school program, foster care, group home, educational institution, etc.) is not as important to BCM as many other factors. These factors include: geographical location; profile of the youth served by the agency; ability of the youth program to provide an appropriate staff member to attend the trip; enthusiasm and follow-through by the organization to meet deadlines and participate in BCM training; ability of the organization to monetarily contribute to the cost of the trip.

2.Why send teens on a BCM expedition?
A BCM experience combines the innate teaching ability of the natural world, with caring adults to provide a potentially life-changing experience for teens who may not have had access to either before. By providing outdoor team mentoring experiences in partnership with existing youth development organizations, our programs positively impact the development of personal, social and community values in the teens we serve.  Perhaps more than anything, BCM trips provide teens with opportunities to achieve success by drawing on resources they might never have known they had.

“Life is like these hills. You hit your high point and your low but you look into yourself to draw strength and carry on. If I ever hit another really low point in my life I can draw on my confidence to bring myself up again.”
– Natalie, BCM Teen

3.Does your program make a difference? How do you know?
BCM measures program effectiveness utilizing the 40 Developmental Assets Profile.

Our greatest impact is in three internal asset categories:

Positive Values – Integrity, honesty, responsibility, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
Social Competencies – Decision-making, conflict resolution, building friendships, and avoiding negative peer pressures
Positive Identity – Self-esteem, purpose and positive view

These internal asset categories are associated with positive youth development like succeeding in school, maintaining good health, valuing diversity, and avoiding risk behaviors.  See our most recent results.


4.How much does it cost?
BCM raises funds to cover nearly 100% of the program cost. In 2010, the Youth Agency payment for a weeklong expedition was $100 per trip. A partner Agency might incur additional transportation costs depending upon whether the agency can supply a van.


5.What is my commitment?
Since BCM covers the majority of the cost and the logistics/equipment, the main youth agency commitment is staff time. Besides the weeklong expedition itself, there is a day of training and pre-trip activities. Do not underestimate the time it takes to follow up with the youth regarding paperwork and to organize outings.


6.Do Agency Staff participate in the expedition?
Yes, one Agency staff is required to participate. BCM has found that having an adult who the teens know, respect and can look to for guidance, particularly in the first couple of days of the trip, is one of the greatest factors in the success of the experience. When the teens come into an unfamiliar situation with adults they don’t know, the staff member is able to step in and help open the lines of communication between the entire team. S/he serves as the link between the adult and teen perspectives as well as provides discipline, structure and accountability to those teens who may try to use the trip as an opportunity to act out. Having a staff member on the trip also allows for continued teaching and reinforcement of the lessons learned on the trail once teens return to their communities.


7.Who goes on BCM trips?
The uniqueness of our program is our equal ratio of adults to teens. The youth organization provides either four or five teens and one adult staff member, while BCM provides one Team Leader and two or three additional adult volunteers. Teens chosen for the BCM trip are typically between the ages of 13 and 18. Older or younger teens will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Adults typically range in age from 21 to 65.


8.How many teens can I send per expedition?
You can send up to five teens per expedition.


9.How are teens selected to go on an expedition?
The teens are identified by the staff of the participating organization as meeting the criteria of BCM. These criteria are explained in detail in the Youth Organization Agreement, but include the teens being: between the ages of 13 and 18; desirous of attending the trip; deserving of such an opportunity by showing responsibility and respect for themselves and others; financially unable to participate in similar activities on their own; free from health problems that would complicate their participation in rigorous outdoor activities; and emotionally, behaviorally and psychologically stable enough not to pose a threat to themselves or others while on the trip.


10.Are BCM trips co-ed?
No. BCM believes that teens are more likely to open up around adult role models they have something in common with and are less likely to display attitude without the audience of the other gender.


11.Do the teens need to provide their own gear?
No. BCM will supply all the specialized equipment and clothing for the teen and youth agency staff. Please see What to Pack for information on what to bring.


12.How hard will it be?
While our routes are chosen with beginners in mind, the BCM experiences are physically and emotionally challenging for both teens and adults. Each day provides new situations and obstacles ranging from weather to elevation, to being away from everything familiar.  BCM activities are designed to challenge pre-conceived limits and provide participants with opportunities to achieve success beyond what they thought they were capable of.



13.Do you have a set curriculum?

Yes. Read a curriculum summary.


14.Are BCM trips safe?
BCM has an exemplary safety record—during our 20 years of operations we have never had a participant suffer a significant injury.  With our 1:1 ratio of adults to teens, our trips are designed to afford high levels of supervision.  BCM Team Leaders are experienced outdoors people who have demonstrated the ability to appropriately manage risks inherent in wilderness activities, and each adult team includes at least one member with current Wilderness First Responder (minimum) and CPR certification.  24-hour emergency support is provided to every trip and each adult team is equipped in advance with information about emergency procedures and resources for their particular trip area.  Still, because BCM trips take place in remote settings, immediate communication and consultation with BCM administrative and program staff is not always possible.  In order to provide for the physical and emotional well-being of trip participants, Team Leaders are prepared to make decisions affecting all aspects of their trips including: itinerary and/or route changes, behavior management, transportation, etc.  Special care is taken to ensure that every trip participant receives appropriate clothing, equipment, and training to allow them to live and learn safely in the outdoors.


15.What kind of backgrounds do your volunteers have?
Our adult volunteers come from every walk of life and are dedicated individuals who have a vested interest in helping urban youth gain a new perspective. Volunteers contribute their time, knowledge, and pay a fee to participate in our program. Each member of the team is evaluated and assigned to a trip where their particular skills will be best utilized and complemented by the other volunteers.

After completing a comprehensive questionnaire and interview process, all adult Team Members are specifically chosen for their combination of youth and outdoor skills. We also conduct criminal background checks with all of our volunteers.


16.Why does BCM put so many Team Members with so few teens?
Quite simply, it is for the teens’ sake. Many of the youth that BCM works with do not have the kind of personal attention from caring adults that they need and deserve.  Our one-on-one format seeks to provide as much personal interaction between Team Members and teens as possible.

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1. Who goes on BCM trips?

The uniqueness of our program is our equal ratio of adults to teens. The youth organization provides either four or five teens and one adult staff member, while BCM provides one Team Leader and two or three additional adult volunteers. Teens chosen for the BCM trip are typically between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Other aged teens will be addressed on a case by case basis. Adults typically range in age from 21 to 65.