Big City Mountaineers: Helping Transform Lives

by Jason Hanold

Started in 1989, Big City Mountaineers (BCM) is an organization that operates wilderness expeditions for urban youth ages 13-18 who are living in economically or socially challenging conditions. BCM’s programs are designed to develop important life skills, including decision-making and communication abilities, effective teamwork, self-esteem and motivation, and personal responsibility. Through partnerships with community-based youth groups and dedicated volunteers, Big City Mountaineer programs have demonstrated success at reducing drug use, violence, and truancy among youth who participate.

Big City Mountaineers’ main program is a five-day expedition during which volunteer mentors and teens work together. These single-gender trips involve backpacking or canoeing and pair five adults with five youths to provide focused, one-on-one mentoring. The organization also operates the Summit for Someone program, which offers climbing treks on 13 of the world’s most notable mountains, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Grand Teton, and Mount Rainier. Summit for Someone participants raise money for BCM’s teen expeditions and, in 2011, they provided program funding for 600 teens.

Big City Mountaineers has centers in Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington and functions under special use permits from the United States Forest Service. To learn more, visit

About the author:

Jason Hanold is Managing Partner of the executive search firm Hanold Associates, LLC. Mr. Hanold is a member of Big City Mountaineers’ Board of Directors and a Summit for Someone climber.


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