First Ascent: The perfect transition from home to WCU

First Ascent is a six-day wilderness orientation program offered to incoming freshmen and transfer students one week before their move in at WCU.  

Students are given two different options offered through the program: wilderness or adventure.

Photo by Emma Mynatt.

The wilderness option is a five-day backpacking trip with one day of rock climbing incorporated. 

The adventure option is five days at a local campground with different activities offered such as white-water rafting, rock climbing, summit hiking and canoeing. 

First Ascent is designed to help new students ease any potential anxieties by becoming familiar with the area and creating a group of friends before classes begin. 

For Jeremiah Haas, associate director of Basecamp Cullowhee, watching students interact with the community and build friendships with each other has been one of his favorite parts of the program. 

Photo by Emma Mynatt.

Haas has worked with Basecamp Cullowhee and First Ascent for nine years. He says participants often remain close friends after the program and come to work for Basecamp Cullowhee. 

This is true for Braeden Morrow, a freshman who participated in First Ascent’s adventure program this  When asked about the friends he made through the program Morrow said, “We all connected really well. We had a really good group and they’re definitely the friend group I hang out with now.” 

Morrow found out about the program through a friend from high school who was one year ahead of him. Morrow’s friend assumed he would enjoy it because he enjoyed the outdoors and had been kayaking for 16 years.

After the program, Morrow was inspired to apply for a job with Basecamp Cullowhee. 

Prior experience with outdoor activities like kayaking, climbing or hiking is not required to participate in First Ascent. Anyone can participate no matter their experience level. 

For those interested in similar programs, Basecamp Cullowhee offers multiple outdoor trips and events throughout the year. To see a schedule of these events visit