A student scales a sheer cliff face

An appreciation for the great outdoors has been a part of the Asheville School experience since its founding in 1900.

Asheville School's founders chose to locate their school in the mountains of Western North Carolina because of the mountains' natural beauty and for the abundance of recreational opportunities that this unique region provides. Nearby, there are countless spots for backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, snow skiing, caving and mountain biking.


The mountaineering program provides the staff, training and equipment you'll need to develop your skills in these activities and foster a lifelong love of outdoor adventure.

Students can take mountaineering as an afternoon activity for daily on-campus instruction and practice. Our on-campus facilities include a high-ropes course, an Alpine Tower, a climbing wall, a swimming pool (for kayak instruction) and 200 acres of forested land with miles of trails for biking and exploring. After students have demonstrated a mastery of the basic skills and safety procedures, they may join us for off-campus trips to places such as Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah National Forest, the Tuckaseegee and French Broad rivers, and the Tsali Recreational area. The mountaineering program also sponsors optional trips throughout the year. These trips are open to any interested students. 

All new students go on at least one overnight camping trip during their first year at Asheville School. No matter what your level of interest or skill, the mountaineering program at Asheville School can teach you, inspire you, challenge you and thrill you.

A girl climbs up a sheer cliff face
A boy scales Asheville School's climbing tower
Student hold lead on Alpine Tower
A group of students walking into a cave
Student climbs Alpine Tower
A student climbs over a rock formation inside a cave
A girl climbs on an indoor climbing tower
A student poses with his ice climbing gear
Director of Mountaineering Katie Richards
A student climbs a frozen waterfall
A mountaineering instructor makes a campfire
Three students pose, surrounded by mountains, during the fall new student camping trip
Students scale a waterfall during the new student camping trip
Student holds herself up on climbing handholds in Asheville School's climbing shed
A student looks down after scaling the Alpine Tower

Mountaineering Activities

Rock Climbing

The school's climbing program is founded on safety, personal challenge and skill development: it affords opportunities for development at all levels.

For the beginners, "belay school" begins on the ground as novices literally "learn the ropes." Once a mountaineer has demonstrated a mastery of the knots and the safety systems, her skills are then put to the test on the School's Alpine Tower - a 60-foot climbing structure on campus.

After the basics of climbing and belaying are perfected, students are then able to go off-campus for trips to the local climbing gym, as well as to some of the many rocks in the area.

For climbers with a serious interest in this sport, more advanced techniques and more challenging climbs are offered.

Mountain Biking

Whether you come to us as a seasoned rider or as a novice interested in trying this sport for the first time, we have a place for you in our program.

Beginners are able to try out mountain biking using one of our "fleet" bikes. Instruction is provided so that all of the necessary skills can be developed; shifting, braking, weight distribution, safety, repair and maintenance, and fitness training are all part of the early lessons.

As a rider's skills are sharpened, trips off campus are arranged, and with literally hundreds of miles of trails to choose from in the nearby National Forests, there's almost always a new route to explore.


Western North Carolina boasts some of the greatest geological, ecological and biological diversity in the country. Our mountaineering program takes full advantage of our location within the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and our hiking and camping programs encourage all students to experience the richness of this area first hand.

All new students are required to participate in an overnight camping trip during their first year here. Some weekend trips are just day hikes. Other trips are moderate camping trips with small packs and short hikes to gorgeous campsites and ghost stories around a campfire. 

Learning self-sufficiency, exploring new territory and enjoying the sanctity of nature are all a part of the experience our camping program has to offer.

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing is an odd combination of strength and finesse; the ice-tools and crampons need to be wielded with force, but sometimes the ice is fragile and a delicate touch is needed. Add to that sub-freezing conditions, sharp tools and a vertical ascent taking you well off the ground, and you've found a challenge worthy of even a seasoned adventurer.

Our instruction begins with the novice, showing him the equipment, demonstrating the techniques and offering a more moderate introduction to the sport. For the more advanced climbers, we offer steeper ice, more extreme conditions and more challenging techniques.


Western North Carolina has numerous spots ideally suited for winter mountaineering. When the weather permits, Asheville School students can experience the exhilaration of both cross-country and downhill skiing or snowboarding.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed to motorized traffic once the snows begin to fall, providing a wonderful track for cross-country skiers to follow. Six area ski resorts are able to help by making snow when the temperature drops below freezing. Asheville School offers downhill ski trips almost every weekend during January and February to resorts such as Beech or Sugar.

Also during that time, the school participates in interscholastic ski races sponsored by the Cataloochee Ski Area. These take place on Wednesday afternoons and evenings, and seniors or students with honors are eligible to participate.


The mountaineering program introduces students to fundamentals of kayaking on flat water in the pool. There, the novices begin to learn how to get in and out of the boats safely, how to steer and maneuver the boat and how to roll.

After these basics have been mastered, students are taken to a nearby stretch of class I-II water on the French Broad River. There, skills are sharpened and some of the subtleties of navigation through the current are learned.

For those students with the interest and aptitude, we offer trips to more advanced rivers, such as the Tuckaseegee, the Pigeon and the Ocoee.

Students who master this adventure sport will have learned skills that extend well beyond the banks of the rivers they paddle.


Though it's not a regular part of our afternoon mountaineering program, caving is an activity that we sponsor numerous times during the year.

Students are given safety instruction, as well as some background information on cave structures, karst topography and the history of spelunking in North America. Equipment for each student includes a helmet, a headlamp and a secondary light source.

With these tools, students become underground explorers, and once inside the cave they are quickly entranced by this "other-worldly" experience. For more avid cavers, topics such as conservation, mapping, vertical caving and cave rescue are discussed, along with the opportunity to visit some more remote and extensive caves.



Asheville School stables, Ireland Riding Ring and picturesque riding trails make Asheville School a great place to ride. Our Equestrian Program offers lessons for riders from beginners through advanced levels.

Beginners learn basic horsemanship, including grooming, tacking up and basic riding techniques in English style. Advanced riders spend most of their time honing their skills either on the flat area within the ring or over jumps as skills permit.

The program is offered as an afternoon activity. In addition to daily riding on class days, students are encouraged to attend off-campus equestrian activities such as horse shows, hunter paces and trail rides. Students have shown in horse trials, dressage, hunter/jumper, gymkhana and open horse shows.

The school provides horses for students who do not own their own horses. Those students who wish to bring their horses to school may board them at the Asheville School stables for an additional cost.

Equestrian Director Diane Wilson is a graduate of the Talland School of Equitation in Great Britain. She brings more than 25 years of experience in training and teaching riding, and she has competed in side-saddle, hunt seat, saddle seat, hunter/jumper, dressage, eventing and barrel racing.

For the most advanced students, Asheville School offers Exceptional Equestrian, a time for students to travel off campus and train at a local hunter/jumper barn.

A student rides a galloping horse
A student smiles while riding a horse around the ring
A smiling student brushes a horse
One brown horse looks over a fence
A girl brushes a horse
A boy works with a horse in equestrian
A boy takes off a horse's bridle
A student rides a horse around the ring
Three students riding on horses around the ring
A boy rides a horse in the riding ring
Two students ride horses in front of a barn