Application dates, process, and expectations

If your 2021 plans involve a guided trip with us, this page will help you navigate the application process and to set your expectations.

How to apply

  1. Pay your Application Fee, which will be credited to the cost of your trip; and,
  2. Complete the Application Form.

When to apply

We will accept applications for all 2021 trips starting on:

  • Monday, December 14, 2020.

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 14. However, so that we can meet our deadlines we will start to review applications and form loose groups towards the end of the open period. By applying early, I’ll be able to account for you during this preliminary phase, which in the past has made the difference for a few applicants.

The open application period will end at 11:59 PM MST (-7:00 UTC) on:

  • Utah (April): Monday, December 28;
  • Alaska (June): Monday, December 28;
  • Colorado (July): Monday, January 4;
  • California (September): Monday, January 4; and,
  • West Virginia (October): Monday, January 4.

Starting Tuesday, December 29 or Tuesday, January 5, applications will be considered on a first-come first-served basis for remaining spots.

For what are you applying?

During the open application period, you’ll be asked about your interest in every trip on our schedule. Your options:

  • First Choice
  • Second Choice
  • Not interested

If your schedule allows it, I encourage you to indicate interest in multiple trips. By being more flexible, I can find you a spot more easily.


We expect significantly greater demand for our services in 2021, due to both our normal growth rate and to carry-over clients from 2020 whose trips were cancelled due to Covid or wildfires. We have added capacity to our schedule to accommodate all or most of this expected interest.

Even so, demand for some trips will probably exceed supply. In those cases, I will have to account for an applicant’s history with us. Specifically, I will give greater priority to (in order):

  1. Clients whose 2020 trip was cancelled;
  2. Clients who cancelled in 2020 due to Covid;
  3. Alumni from previous years; and, finally,
  4. New applicants.

But I won’t be following any hard rules — each group needs to look right to me, so I’ll be accounting for other factors, too, like experience, fitness, personality (if known), and biographical details.

If you fall into one of these later buckets, don’t despair — again, we have a lot of room in the schedule this year. Moreover, we expect a cancellation rate (due to injuries or health problems, employment or life changes, unexpected scheduling conflicts, etc.) of five to ten percent, which creates openings later in the season.

Bottom line: If you apply during Open Application, I will nearly guarantee you a spot. In most cases, I will offer one right away; if not, please just give me some time.

You’ve applied. Now what?

I will offer all or most spots:

  • For Utah and Alaska, between Tuesday, December 29 and Monday, January 4; and,
  • For Colorado, California, and West Virginia, between Tuesday, January 5 and Monday, January 11.

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 I put a lot of thought into the makeup of each group.

Planning Curriculum

The planning curriculum will start on:

  • For Utah: Monday, January 28;
  • For Alaska and Colorado: Monday, March 8; and,
  • For California and West Virginia: Monday, July 5.

The start date for Utah is firm, because those trips come up fast. We may adjust the other dates by up to four weeks.

Expectations (updated Jan 4)

Demand for the 2021 trips has remained very strong through the open application period, and I’m expecting that every single trip will be full by the end of this week. If you’re hoping to join us, apply immediately — or apply later when you can fully commit, and hope for a cancellation.

I’m currently sorting the Alaska and Utah groups, and will have those firmed up by Wednesday. All of these trips are full.

The deadline for Colorado, California, and West Virginia is tonight at midnight. All of the 5-day and 7-day trips have more applications than spots available, and I expect that this overflow will end up filling the 3-day courses, too.

Expectations (updated Dec 20)

The open application period for our 2021 trips has been open for a week, and I’d like to share some numbers that will help to set the expectations of those who have already applied and those who are considering it.

The takeaway is to apply now for your best chance of getting on your First Choice trip, because most sessions will be full by the end of the open application period. If you’re interested but can’t yet commit, you can register later and hope for a cancellation, which do happen.


Demand for next season has been even stronger than I’d hoped. Honestly, I’m delighted, especially given the circumstances. Versus this time last year, I’ve received almost twice as many applications. I suspect that we’re riding a Covd-related surge of outdoor interest, but I think the program has strong standalone momentum, too.

In addition to the gross number of applications, I’m also really pleased by the number of female applicants and the male/female ratio. It’s not at 50/50 yet, but it’s a notable improvement over last year and a significant improvement over our male-dominated early years.


Based on early demand for this location, I already added two sessions here, for a total now of eight. Still, when the open application period closes on December 28, the 5-day trips will be full and the 7-day trips will be about full.


Like Utah, the deadline for Alaska is December 28. All trips will be full.


The deadline for Colorado, California, and West Virginia is January 4, and I think I’ll see another round of application submissions by then.

Accounting for that, I think the 3-day Fundamentals trip will be almost full, or maybe completely full. The 5- and 7-day trips will definitely be full, with more competition for the 5-day.


I built a lot of capacity into this location, and that has proven warranted. The 3-day course will be nearly full when open application closes, and the 5- and 7-day trips will be full. Again, there’s slightly more interest in the 5-day than the 7-day.

West Virginia

Versus the other locations, West Virginia is a relative under-performer. But for trips that are still ten months away, I’m very happy about the current numbers. The 3-day course will be almost full, and the 5-day trip will be almost full or full.

Expectations (Updated December 9)

Do you have your eyes on a specific trip, and would you like to know the odds of getting on it? Let me try to set some expectations:


After a very dark winter, many people will probably want to get outside come April. Thankfully, we have a lot of capacity here (48 spots) and I could realistically add 16 more (so 64 total). Some of these sessions will fill during the open application period, but I think we’ll have limited openings for first-come first-served candidates, too.


These trips were cancelled outright in 2020, and I’m expecting about 25-30 of those clients to join us in 2021. We have capacity for 48 clients, leaving about 20-ish spots open. Alumni will receive priority, since it’s a high-risk and once-in-a-lifetime trip, and we prefer known quantities for this location. I will hold some spots for outstanding new applicants.


The San Juan’s were the top-ranked location in 2020, but unfortunately my permit is limited here, and I have just 32 spots available for the 5- and 7-day trips. These trips will fill, probably by the end of the open application period. The 3-day trips probably will not fill right away.


The 5- and 7-day Adventures will be in high demand — they always are, and this time we will also have carry-over from 2020, since three trips (24 clients total) were cancelled outright due to wildfires in 2020. All of these sessions will probably fill during the open application period. If you are more interested in the 3-day Fundamentals trip, you can be more confident — interest in these courses usually picks up later.

West Virginia

Because it’s the only East Coast location, demand for it is surprisingly high. Even though these trips are not until October, I wouldn’t wait to apply — it’s very possible that both 5-day trips will fill during the open application period, and perhaps one or both of the Fundamentals sessions.