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First Ascent FAQ's

Down the falls

Why come on First Ascent?

First Ascent is designed to be a fun and challenging experience that helps you meet and develop friendships with other incoming students, introduces them to the unique and abundant natural resources of the Boone area, and provides an opportunity to interact with and ask questions of upperclassmen student leaders and faculty members.

Can I get a refund?

Registered participants who, without prior notice, do not show up for their session will not be refunded in any way. Participants who wish to cancel their own registration must give advance notice of seven business days and will only be eligible for a partial refund if the First Ascent Program is able to replace them with another participant. If the above criteria are met, First Ascent will refund $219 of the original tuition, retaining a $35 administrative fee. Full tuition will be refunded if Appalachian State University cancels a First Ascent session(s) or if enrollment is full when tuition is received.

How will I know if I'm registered?

Once you have registered online you will be e-mailed instructions for submitting medical information and tuition payment. Once payment is received you will be e-mailed a confirmation along with an attached “participant packet” containing information you will need in order to prepare for your First Ascent trip. If you think you are registered but have not received a confirmation email, please contact Valerie Kankiewicz,, or Bob Riddle,

Do I really need all the equipment on the gear list?

You only need to bring everything in the “Required Gear: Provided by You” section of the gear list. All of this equipment is required and you may not be allowed to start your First Ascent course without it. Other required gear will be provided by First Ascent. “Optional” gear is, well, optional.

Where can I find the right gear?

We are a firm believer in supporting local businesses, as they are often the backbone of local communities, including ours here in Boone. If you have a local outdoor retailer, check them out as they often have really good gear and great prices and the service is typically unmatched. You can also find some of the gear you need at Thrift stores, which can be a great source of wool or synthetic clothing for use on your First Ascent course. Local outdoor retailers in our community (within walking distance to our office) include Footsloggers and Mast General Store

Why do I need to break in my new boots?

Blisters can be extremely painful and seriously affect the quality of your First Ascent experience. Boots that fit well and have been well broken in will significantly decrease the likelihood of getting blisters during your expedition. It is extremely important to break in new boots before hiking, or chances are you will get blisters and will not be a very happy hiker.
Instructions on how to break in boots

What is the food like?

When thinking about backpacking food, most people think of freeze dried meals and power bars. At First Ascent, we view the backcountry kitchen as a place to challenge expectations of what you can cook in the woods. On your trip you will help cook a variety of healthy meals that include fresh ingredients and range from simple to complex. A typical day may include:
Breakfast – Oatmeal or pancakes with tea or coffee
Lunch – Bagels with cheese, hummus, or peanut butter
Dinner – Stir fried vegetables with rice or even backcountry pizza!
We are able to accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets, gluten-free, nut free, etc!

How far is the course?

The route encompasses approximately 20 miles of challenging trail, including steep ascents and descents and numerous river and creek crossings. You can expect to spend between three and six hours hiking each day.

Where are we going?

First Ascent courses are run in the Wilson Creek area in Pisgah National Forest.

What if I have never backpacked before?

First Ascent courses do not assume that you have any prior outdoor experience. Your instructors will teach you everything you need to know to have a safe and enjoyable expedition. You will need to prepare yourself physically and bring a positive attitude, but no backpacking experience is needed.

What time do I need to arrive/will we be back?

We ask that participants arrive by 11:00 a.m. on the Tuesday of their session's week. Participants are typically back to campus, and have gear checked-in and clean by approximately 4:30 p.m. on the Friday of their session. (Sometimes this can be earlier or later depending on weather and other factors).

Where can I park my car?

Students are allowed to park their car on campus during the week of their session and will get a temporary pass from our staff upon arrival.

I have a lot of backpacking experience. Should I attend First Ascent?

Even if you are a veteran backpacker, First Ascent is a great opportunity to get to know other incoming AppState students and learn about outdoor opportunities in the Boone area. Our instructors are also capable of teaching advanced navigation and campcraft skills to even seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.

What is OP?

Outdoor Programs, which is a program area within University Recreation, provides the AppState community with a wide variety of outdoor and adventure based educational experiences, including rock climbing, paddling, hiking, and team-building courses. OP also manages the indoor rock wall, provides regular outdoor skills clinics, and rents a variety of outdoor gear to AppState students, staff, and faculty.

Our Mission is to serve the educational, recreational, and development needs of the Appalachian State community by utilizing human-powered outdoor adventure pursuits, experiential education methods, and the natural environment.

How else can I get involved with OP and adventure?

OP offers a wide variety of outdoor trips throughout the year, including extended international trips during the summer. OP employs dozens of student staff at the climbing wall, in the outing center, and to run trips and programs. Students interested in becoming outdoor leaders can receive training and experience through our Instructor Development Program.

What are some other opportunities for adventure at AppState?

Stop by the Outing Center in AppState’s Student Recreation Center for gear, maps, and information for planning your own outdoor adventure in the high country.

Are these experiences safe?

Since 1973, OP has been taking AppState students on adventure trips in outdoor environments. All trip leaders are experienced and trained outdoor professionals, and have Wilderness First Responder and CPR emergency medical certifications. The physical and mental health and well-being of our participants is our number one priority. While all outdoor experiences contain some element of risk, Outdoor Programs and First Ascent are very intentional in managing the risk in order to maximize the experience.

How do I prepare for First Ascent and who do I contact in the event of an emergency?

Please see your emailed Participant Packet for details.

I want my student to do this, but they aren't enthusiastic about. Should I make my student participate?

The quality and benefits of the First Ascent experience are directly tied to the participants attitudes. The First Ascent staff are more than happy to answer the questions and concerns of potential participants, but under no circumstances should anyone be forced, coerced, or tricked into attending First Ascent.

What are grounds for removal from the First Ascent course?

There are a number of factors or actions which could lead to a student coming off of the course including but not limited to injury/medical issues, motivational drop, or student conduct issues. In these cases, which are very rare, the student will be returned to Boone campus and brought to a local hotel by one of the First Ascent staff. The student will be responsible for paying for their lodging for the night and making arrangements to return home with their family. The emergency contact person for the student (listed on their medical form) will be contacted by First Ascent staff in this situation so that communication and expectations are clear. First Ascent is a tobacco-free, alcohol-free, and drug-free experience. 

I've completed the Online Registration. What is next?

Look out for a email which will include your participation packet. Registration is not complete until Medical Consent and tuition check for your specified program are recieved. For further copies of medical forms or address please look below.

Download: Medical Form

*Please Send completed Medical & Informed Consent Form along with your First Ascent tuition check ($254 for Wilderness, $264 for Advanced Wilderness, $325 for Basecamp, $385 for Expedition, or $268 if you are a part of the Outdoor Residential Learning Community (ORLC)). Checks should be made payable to "Appalachian State University" to:

First Ascent c/o: Outdoor Programs,

ASU Box 32081

150 Bodenheimer Drive, Boone, NC 28608

Any other questions?

Contact Valerie Kankiewicz, or Bob Riddle, or call us at (828) 262-4077.