If your 2023 plans involve a guided trip with us, this page will help you navigate the application process and to set your expectations.
How to apply
- Pay your Application Fee, which will be credited to the cost of your trip; and,
- Complete the Application Form.
When to apply
We will accept applications for all 2023 trips starting on:
- Tuesday, December 13, 2022
For the first two to three weeks, it’s an open application period, and applications received will be considered mostly equally, as described below under “Prioritization.”
There is no advantage in registering immediately on December 13. However, so that we can meet our deadlines I ask that you not wait until the last-minute.
The open application period will end at 11:59 PM MST (-7:00 UTC) on:
- Utah (April): Tuesday, December 27, 2022;
- Colorado (May): Tuesday, December 27, 2022;
- Alaska (June): Tuesday, December 27, 2022;
- California (July): Tuesday, January 3, 2022;
- Washington (September): Tuesday, January 3, 2023; and,
- West Virginia (October): Tuesday, January 3, 2023.
After the open application period ends, applications will be considered on a first-come first-served basis for remaining spots. If you missed the deadline, don’t despair — submit your application ASAP and I can almost assure you that we’ll find a spot eventually.
For what are you applying?
In the Application Form, you will be asked to select a Top Choice trip, or the trip that you most want to get on. You will select a location (e.g. Utah) and a trip type/duration (e.g. Adventure 7-day).
Then, you will be asked to rate your interest in each location. Your options:
- First Choice
- Second Choice
- Not interested
If you select First Choice or Second Choice for a location, you will be asked about your interest in each session scheduled for that location. Again, you rank them First Choice, Second Choice, or Not interested.
If your schedule allows it, I encourage you to indicate interest in multiple sessions and even locations. By being more flexible, we can find you a spot more easily.
If this isn’t clear, preview the Application Form in PDF format before you start it.
Our review process
We start by grouping applicants who share the same Top Choice location and trip type.
Then, we read each application thoroughly, and give each one three ratings:
- Fitness Level
- Technical Difficulty
To view our required and preferred qualifications, refer to the Trip Types page.
To read about the Fitness Level and Technical Difficulty ratings, go to that page.
We give “bonus points” to clients whose previous was cancelled, like because of wildfires in 2021 or Covid in 2022; as well as previous applicants who were waitlisted.
Once all applications are reviewed and rated, we start forming groups and offering spots. The process goes something like this:
- Group applicants by Fitness Level and Technical Difficulty;
- Then sort those applicants by their Qualifications;
- Create groups, starting with applicants who exceed the qualifications and then applicants who meet the qualifications;
- Balance groups by alumni status, age, gender, and other smaller details.
You’ve applied. Now what?
I will offer all or most spots:
- For Utah, Colorado, and Alaska, between Wednesday, December 28, 2022 and Tuesday, January 3, 2023; and,
- For California, Washington, and West Virginia, between Wednesday, January 4, 2023 and Tuesday, January 10, 2023
While processing applications, I will keep you regularly informed of my progress and your status. Please be patient with me — it takes a long time to thoroughly read and evaluate each application, and we put a lot of thought into the makeup of each group.
Each year our trips sell out completely, and that will probably happen again in 2023. The real question is: What is the gap between our supply of spots and the demand for them. Here, I’ll try to speculate.
Utah. This has become our largest operation, ahead of even California. The land agencies do not cap our use through a quota or permit system, and we have ample room to spread out, so our limitations relate more to our administrative and guide capacity. We’ll be able to match demand if it’s similar to 2022, and we should be able to find spots for just about everyone.
Colorado. We can run up to four intro-level trips in mid-May, which should cover demand.
Alaska. Many want to backpack in the Brooks Range, but very few feel comfortable planning and undertaking their own trip. So competition is stiff for the limited spots we have available. If you’re a new applicant, or if you’re an alumnus with only baseline experience, I’d encourage you to have a backup plan. In 2023 I’ve added 33 percent more capacity, which we’ll utilize if we have bounty of high quality applicants.
California. This location typically receives the greatest demand, for good reason. I’ve reallocated the schedule to be more proportional to historical demand (i.e. more 5-day trips, fewer 3-day), and I think most trips will be full by the end of the open application period. In February or March, we may be able to open more trips if we are successful in securing more commercial and wilderness permits. Until then, we will only fill trips that are certain to run.
Washington. This location was new to us last year, and demand was multiples greater than supply. So we’ve increased capacity, and I hope that we’ll be able to offer spots for nearly everyone.
West Virginia. As our lone East Coast location, this spot gets a lot of interest because of the geographical convenience and because many applicants want Appalachian-specific knowledge. It will sell out eventually, if not immediately.