Oregon Mountaineering
  • Oregon Mountaineering

One of our most popular courses! Three separate expeditions: a 96 mile whitewater rafting expedition on the Deschutes River, one week of climbing at world famous Smith Rock State Park and a two week mountain expedition in the Central Cascade volcanoes!  Our mountaineering, rafting, and rock climbing courses are designed to teach students about mountaineering and rafting expedition-style while also providing a solid foundation in rock climbing skills.


You do not need to have previous rafting, mountaineering, climbing or backpacking experience. We will teach you everything you need to know to travel comfortably—how to pack appropriately, load a raft, set up tarps, paddle, and navigate using a map and compass. After joining your group in Redmond, OR, you will travel by van for 20 minutes to world renowned Smith Rock State Park. You will spend the first days of your course getting to know your group, learning basic wilderness and rock skills and practicing safety procedures while being exposed to an incredible climbing experience. From Smith Rock, you will travel to the wild and scenic Deschutes River where you will spend the next days learning how to paddle and camp along the river. At the end of the river section, your patrol will head into the wilderness where you will be camping, traveling, sleeping and eating outdoors for the remainder of your trip.

Our mountaineering, rafting, and rock climbing courses are designed to teach students about mountaineering and rafting expedition-style while also providing a solid foundation in rock climbing skills. Outward Bound will teach you the skills necessary to travel and climb comfortably in the outdoors. You will learn the technical  aspects of mountaineering, rafting, and rock climbing and you will also learn the fundamentals of wilderness travel. Fundamental elements of wilderness travel will include:  choosing and loading gear effectively, setting up a useful and efficient camp, navigating with a map and compass, practicing “Leave No Trace” principles, and most importantly how to work as a team to accomplish goals with competence.

Wilderness travel is demanding. It can literally take every waking moment to get from point A to point B. Backpacking, climbing and rafting include numerous challenges, such as paddling into headwinds or through rapids, carrying a heavy pack through a pass, making the approach to a peak or to a rock climbing site and more. Past students and instructors agree that arriving physically fit will enhance your experience and ability to do well on the course and ultimately allow you to take full advantage of the expedition.


Rock Climbing Section – This multi-activity course begins* with a week-long rock climbing component at world-renowned Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne. Students will receive individual instruction and test their skills against vertical cracks, steep faces and boulders. Students will be camping in a front-country site at Smith Rock State Park among the multicolored cliffs and spires. There is a spectacular view to the west of the snow-capped volcanoes of the Cascade Mountain Range. Students will learn about basic climbing equipment, ropes, carabineers, harnesses, knots, belaying and rappelling techniques, and most importantly, how to move across the rock face efficiently and effectively using hand and foot holds. This first section of the course allows students time to build critical skills in teamwork and camp craft that will carry over to the remainder of the course.

*Note that the majority of courses begin with the rock section, but some may begin on the river or in the mountains based upon course outcomes and instructor design.

Rafting Section – Trade your rock shoes for wet shoes and continue your course with 6 days of whitewater rafting on the renowned Deschutes River in Central Oregon. The rafting expedition begins near the town of Warm Springs, OR (a short bus/van ride from Smith Rock State Park). Students will travel on the river in four to six-person paddle rafts, and learn to “captain” (maneuver) their paddle raft team through Class II to IV rapids. After lessons in basic river travel, students will progress to learning about “reading” currents, anticipating obstacles, scouting difficult rapids, and working as an effective team to negotiate technical portions of the river. Students will also learn about river hydrology, swimming, paddle techniques, camp craft, and expeditionary travel. While on the rafting expedition, there may also be an opportunity for short day hikes...

Mountaineering Section – Next, grab your backpack and head for the hills as you travel by foot into the Central Oregon Cascade range, where students will have the opportunity to climb 10,000-foot glaciated volcanoes for a bird's-eye view of the spectacular surrounding terrain. Mountaineering courses move through high mountain terrain and focus on preparation for an attempt to summit a peak that may require the use of ropes, technical equipment and possibly rock climbing. During the mountaineering section, students will learn backpacking skills such as on and off-trail travel, map and compass navigation, cooking and campsite selection. You will also learn basic mountaineering skills like route finding and various terrain travel. Students will learn about snow travel, including the use of an ice axe, and may learn glacier travel and skills for traveling in rope teams. In late-July and August, snow and glacier travel is still likely, but less frequent than with the earlier season courses. Students will have the opportunity to attempt a major peak ascent or two, dependent on weather conditions and group dynamics. During the mountaineering section, students will also have the opportunity for personal reflection during a solo, (see below).

Solo A one- or two-night solo provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition. With sufficient food and equipment, you’ll spend time alone at an assigned campsite to rest, reflect, and practice the camp craft skills you have been learning throughout the course. We choose your solo site to offer as much solitude as possible, within hearing distance of other group members. You will not travel during this time and your instructors will check on you occasionally, but you will be mostly alone for the duration of your solo. Many students are initially nervous about solo, but most are ready for a rest and a break from the group when the time for solo arrives.

Final Expedition – Outward Bound believes that an appropriate amount of independence is a powerful educational tool. In order to deliver that benefit, Outward Bound purposefully and gradually transfers certain leadership responsibilities to the students culminating with our “Final Expedition”. Near the end of course, if you and your group have demonstrated the necessary leadership, team problem solving and wilderness living skills, you may be given the opportunity to travel without your instructors immediately present. Students on courses designed for 16 and older may travel without instructors immediately present (although they will be checking in periodically) for one to five days, depending on course length, student age, staff assessment of student’s abilities and terrain. Many of our students feel this phase of the course was the most rewarding, as the group learns to work together, problem solve, and accomplish a goal independently, while utilizing all the skills they have acquired.

Service – Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. We encourage service to the environment in the form of leaving campsites cleaner than we find them and practicing Leave No Traceâ ethics throughout the course. We coordinate service projects with land managers (US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, local land trusts, etc.) as well as with select social service agencies (nursing homes, hospitals, etc.). During your course, you may have the opportunity to participate in a trail work or other service project.

Final Challenge Event We typically end our courses with a Final Challenge Event—an individual final physical push. This might take the form of a run or a triathlon-style challenge.


Smith Rock State Park, Oregon Smith Rock is a world-renowned climbing destination that attracts climbers of every ability. It is widely considered to be one of the top sport climbing areas in the country. Smith Rock is a uniquely beautiful area that commonly graces postcards and calendars. The Crooked River lazily winds its way through the canyon, cutting a path through the cliffs and spires. To the west, the snow-capped volcanoes of the Cascade Range rise on the horizon, above the flat checkerboard of irrigated plains. One of the most striking features is Monkey Face, a prominent spire that takes the shape of a monkey's face. Given the dry and temperate climate, rock climbing is feasible year round.

Deschutes River, Oregon The Deschutes River is part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The river flows north from the Oregon Cascades to the Columbia River and then on to the Pacific Ocean. The Lower Deschutes is a popular river for both whitewater rafting and fly fishing. The river is spring-fed, which results in an unusually constant water flow and cold water. The river border for 1/3 of the Lower Deschutes is the Warm Springs Reservation. Excellent geologic evidence is present all around this area. Courses generally travel anywhere from 50 – 100 miles along the Lower Deschutes, depending on length of course, age, and course outcomes. The rapids on the Deschutes are rated to Class IV, mostly Class II-III, and are excellent for learning paddle skills and teamwork. The group camps each night along the banks of the river. Common wildlife around the river includes osprey, bald eagles, deer, bighorn sheep (rare), rattlesnakes, and waterfowl such as mergansers, great blue herons, and mallard. The Deschutes region has a colorful human history, and a railroad borders much of the length of the Lower Deschutes.

Central Cascades, Oregon and WashingtonVolcanoes dot the spine of the Cascade Mountains, rising up to over 12,000 feet above the forests, lakes, and rivers of the Central Cascades. These glaciated peaks run north and south and create perfect mountaineering objectives for you and your team. This range is home to the Three Sisters (North, Middle, and South Sisters), Broken Top, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Adams and Mt. Jefferson. Four 10,000-foot and one 12,000 foot glaciated volcanoes are present in this course area, with a total of nine major volcanoes. You’ll find a unique blend of dry eastside and moist Westside weather conditions which allow diverse types of vegetation to flourish. The area has a complex geologic history that continues today. You can find active glaciers methodically carving away the mountain and the dramatic traces of avalanches that substantially altered the landscape. It is these features of the volcanoes that create a challenging playground from which you and your patrol will learn more technical aspects of mountaineering and backpacking. Depending upon the peak, your summit attempt may necessitate glacier and roped-team travel and snow could potentially factor into a substantial portion of this section of your course.

To apply for this course click the apply button next to the course dates that work for you. The non-refundable application fee of $125 is due at the time of application. For full fee schedule and process, click here. Course tuitions listed do not include our application fee or transportation fee.