Inexpensive outdoor trip packages

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 18-25, 1996
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Inexpensive outdoor trip packages
Question: Do you know any non-profit or budget companies that offer one- or two-week courses (climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, etc.) for groups of people in their 20s? There is one in France called UCPA. The only reference I have for the United States is NOLS. All the other ads that I have seen are for privately guided tours with luxury lodging and expensive pricing. Thanks.

Xavier Vanderschaeghe
Houston, TX
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: It's hard to know exactly what you're after, Xavier, so I'll offer this bit of advice: For competent backcountry instruction and a no-wincing safety record, you might want to consider chipping in the extra cash for a quality wilderness course you can trust. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and while "budget" backcountry schools may save you money in the short term, they could let you down in the long run with half-baked instruction and a less-than-healthy approach to physical well-being.

That said, I can toss out several good, not-so-pricey recommendations for skills courses and/or guided trips in the United States. Undoubtedly, if you're looking for quality teachers, you shouldn't automatically eliminate National Outdoor Leadership School (307-332-6973) or Outward Bound (800-243-8520). Outward Bound's eight-day alpine mountaineering course in California's High Sierras, for example, will run you a not-too-steep $995, airfare not included. Or, sign on with one of NOLS's longer, more expensive "25-and-over" trips; a 14-day Rocky Mountain Wilderness Course goes for $1,950.

Keep in mind, though, that while pretty pricey, these courses don't have luxury lodging, by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, for obvious reasons, you'll be bedding down in frost-friendly sleeping bags and long underwear. The food, though, is pretty darn good. The money you're spending, then, is going toward top-notch teachers, equipment, and training.

If you're not dead set on a wilderness course, consider Sierra Club Outings, your best bet for low-priced but high-quality outfitters. They offer a slew of backpacking, base camp, and service trips around the country. Their 40-mile, six-day trek in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park is a hard-to-beat $355 per person. For a complete trip list, call 415-923-5630 and request a copy of their current catalog.

Another possibility is REI Adventures. Their six-day Mount Shasta climbing seminar--ideal for novice and intermediate mountaineers--offers intense glacier and technical rope-team training, as well as several summit attempts for $940 per person, airfare extra. Call 800-622-2236 for more info.

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