Getting Kids Outdoors with Big City Mountaineers

Big City Mountaineers is a non-profit that provides a transformational experience for under resourced urban teens.  Our clients are aged 14-17 and most likely have never been away from home or out of their immediate neighborhood.  This age bracket is a very impressionable time in their development. This is the “sweet spot” to give them a different perspective on what life could be.

The BCM trip is gender specific and is a one to one adult to teen mentoring experience.  5 adults and 5 teens go on BCM trips that are 8 days in length and are either alpine or canoe focused.  The trips have a specific curriculum designed to encourage team work and elevation of self image.

I have personally done nine BCM trips in Boundary Waters and each time they have gone through the same “curve”.

Day 1….Very frightened, unsure of their surroundings

Day 2….Lobbying to go home.  “I’ve experienced it, now lets leave”

Day 3….Very tired.  They are not in good physical shape and the third day hurts

Day 4….Teamwork begins and the teens begin to take the trip over with breaking camp

Day 5….Now they are having fun. They have learned to respect the environment and

paddling, portaging and camping skills have sharpened.  “I never thought I    could do this”

Day 6….”I don’t want to leave”

Day 7…. Back to basecamp, celebration dinner

Day 8….Home

BCM did a total of 37 8 day trips in 2010. In addition, they did 1 day “get outdoors” trips for over 600 teens.

The wilderness provides the perfect backdrop for a transformational change.  It is so foreign to what they know that it allows them to think of life differently.  They see wildlife in a natural environment (“who takes care of them?”), they see stars for the first time, (“we don’t have stars back home”), and they discover the real meaning of “quiet”.

The physical challenge of the trip is a learning experience in itself.  They are so sure they can’t handle it in the beginning.  But by being around adults that care and encourage them anything is possible.  The rise in self esteem that comes with a physical accomplishment in palpable.

So does BCM really make a difference?  Absolutely and unequivocally.  We ask the teens to fill out a psychological audit before and after the trip, at 30 days out, and at 90 days out.  Our findings show a reduction in probability in violence, drug use, and likeliness to stay in school.

Getting kids outside is important work.  Its important that they learn to appreciate and value the environment at a young age.  They will be the next caretakers of this fragile planet.

You can get involved with Big City Mountaineers in many different ways:

  • Be a volunteer and go on an 8 day trip
  • Participate in a Summit for Someone climbing trip to raise money
  • Raise money to help finance a BCM trip

Information on all of the above can be found at

Thanks for your interest and lets get more kids outside and make a difference.

Continue with Style!


Jeff Weidman has served in the Outdoor Industry in many ways.  He was a principal in the rep group, BP Associates for 10 years, was a partner in Rutabaga Paddlesports and most recently is president of Big City Mountaineers.  Jeff enjoys Cycling, Sailing, Skiing (of all sorts) and of course paddling.

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