rope course


photo: First Ascent program students negotiating a ropes course. Photo by Matthew Lit.

  See Google Photo Album for more photos.


First Ascent

Instilling lifelong leadership skills in youth.

2020 Program: June 27 – July 2, 2020
First Ascent Student Application Deadline:
Friday, April 24, 2020
Student Counselor Application Deadline: Friday, April 24, 2020

Cost: FREE

Each year, First Ascent brings together 8th and 9th grade students from our local CMC in-district* schools. The free, five-day residential program takes place at Colorado Mountain College at the Leadville (Timberline) campus. First Ascent is designed to help young adults from various social and economic backgrounds develop leadership skills and confidence for personal, academic and social growth.

During the program, students engage in outdoor physical activities such as rock climbing, rafting and hiking (including hiking up Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado). Students will complete a challenge course designed to teach and develop:

  • Team Building
  • Communication
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Consensus Building
  • Problem Solving
  • Building Trust

In addition to outdoor activities, academic subjects such as land and water conservation and orienteering are introduced.

Evening sessions bring students together to explore their post-secondary career options using the elements of leadership they have just learned.

*CMC in-district schools connected to our centers in these counties:  Pitkin, Garfield, Summit, Lake, Eagle, and Routt. 



Parents and participants laud the First Ascent Youth Leadership program at CMC

Each year four participants from the prior year come back to act as peer counselors, taking the learning a step further. One former participant is chosen each year to assist the facilitator. Once they turn 18, past participants can come back as staff counselors. Acting as mentors for a new group students brings the lessons full circle.

Jasmine Marquez

"You had to communicate with each other or someone would fall. I learned to trust people more, not to judge them by the way they look."

Chuck & Chris Lanci, parents

"Dusty came home with more knowledge, but more importantly, an attitude of confidence that surprised us. The impact of a program such as this cannot be measured. It has affected Dusty's life in so many ways. Naturally, as an educational experience, it enhanced his normal school curriculum. But as a leadership and confidence-building experience, this program is without peer. Please keep up the good work."

Jessica Boyden, Leadville

"There's more life in the river than I thought...to respect it and keep it there. I learned to trust people from different places and to work with them and talk with them."

Becky Brown, Glenwood Springs

We had to work together on everything we did - we had to communicate with each other about problems and how to solve them."

-James Massey, Rifle

"I learned to believe in myself more and learned that I can do more than I thought I could. I learned to push my limits."

How to Apply

Learn how to apply for the First Ascent program at CMC!

Why Attend First Ascent



Dinner / getting to know each other/ groups form
Program and campus orientation
Schedule of activities
Camp rules and guidelines
Curfew / lights out


Low elements / team building activities
Tour of CMC
Low elements / team building activities
Rock climbing & safety orientation
Leadership / group work / activities
Curfew / Lights out


Depart campus for rock climbing site
Rock climbing and leadership group activities
Gear check-in and cleanup
Low ropes activities
Down time
Group activity
Trekking and mountain orientation: safety, weather, and equipment
Pack & check individual gear for mountain climb!
Curfew / lights out


Sack breakfast on vans
Depart campus for trailhead to Mt. Elbert
Arrive at trailhead and begin ascent
Picnic lunch at or near the top
Begin descent
Arrive back at trailhead and leave for campus
Individual check-ins
Arrive back at campus/ dinner BBQ
Group meetings
Talent show
Curfew / lights out


Work on presentation
Get ready for raft trip
Depart for rafting
Raft on the Arkansas
Depart for campus
Arrive on campus; clean up and prepare for banquet
Banquet dinner / presentations, Leadville campus
Farewell Dance, Leadville campus
Curfew / lights out


Students prepare checkout, celebration banquet, slide show, and awards ceremony
Celebration & checkout