Discover. Explore. Transform.
UPDATE - Currently all Summer programming including First Ascent has been cancelled
due to the current COVID-19 situation. Our number one priority is keeping our students
safe and healthy.
Already love what you’re seeing and hearing about life at Western Carolina University?
The First Ascent wilderness orientation program gives you the chance to make new friends
and discover the beautiful region that surrounds WCU.
Whether you want to simply dip your toe in and spend an afternoon rafting on the Nantahala
River or want to immerse yourself in an experience that will take you beyond civilization
and deep into the mountains, First Ascent has a trip for you. You’ll return with lasting
memories and friends for future adventures.
Pre-Orientation Rafting Adventure
Show up early for your orientation session and bond with other incoming students on
one of the nation's most exciting whitewater destinations, the Nantahala River. The
Nantahala is 9 wet miles of class II-III fun!
Wilderness & Adventure Trips
Connect with other adventuresome Catamounts the week prior to the start of the fall
semester! You'll spend the week exploring everything our beautiful mountains have
frequently asked questions
If you don't see the answer to your question here, please contact Jeremiah Haas.
Where do I meet for the Rafting Trip?
At 12:30 p.m. after check-in, you will head to the Campus Recreation Center's Adventure
Shop and meet your rafting guide, we'll take care of you from there. Please come having
already eaten lunch or bring a bag lunch for the drive.
What if I haven't been rafting, camping, backpacking, or climbing before?
Don't worry, many of the participants have never been done any of these outdoor adventures
before. On the trip, your leaders will teach you all the basic skills you will need
to be comfortable and successful.
What kind of shape do I need to be in?
You should be in good physical condition for all of the First Ascent options. The
least physically demanding option is the First Ascent RAFTING trip. The most physically
demanding option is the First Ascent WILDERNESS trip where you will be traveling 2-5
miles a day with 45lb backpacks in mountainous terrain. Contact Jeremiah Haas at Base Camp if you have questions about the physical requirements of the program
or concerns about pre-existing medical conditions.
Do I need any special equipment for any of the trips?
For all of the First Ascent options, you'll need to provide your own clothing and
footwear. Information and clothing lists for each trip is available on each trip webpage.
Base Camp Cullowhee will provide all the specialized equipment for the specific activity
and has camping equipment (backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, etc) for you to use free
First Ascent, Wilderness Participant Packet
First Ascent, Adventure Participant Packet
Where do the First Ascent trips take place?
All of the First Ascent rafting trips tackle the class II/III whitewater of the Nantahala
River. Located a short drive from WCU, the Nantahala is America's most visited whitewater
destination. Throughout the 9 miles of river that the trip covers, you'll encounter
numerous exciting rapids. Along the way, you'll see beautiful wild flowers, breathtaking
mountain views, and may even catch a glimpse of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
The First Ascent 5-day backpacking and rock climbing (Wilderness) trip will traverse
the fantastic mountains and river bottoms of either Nantahla National Forest or Pisgah
National Forest. These hills and valley's contain a thick concentration of granite
domes, beautiful waterfalls, and excellent scenery. The First Ascent Adventure program
takes place at various locations around WNC based on weather and sports.
The First Tracks ski/snowboard programs head to the great Cataloochee Ski Mountain
located just outside of Smoky Mountain National Park. Given its western facing aspect,
this mountain can get hit by some great snow offering great turns!