Who are we?
Cascade Leadership Challenge is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that provides outdoor adventures and leadership opportunities to teenagers. Our events and expeditions challenge members to develop skills, persevere through difficulties and stretch themselves into highly capable people. Along the way, members build confidence, cooperation and trust.
Cascade Challenge members travel throughout mountains, rivers and marine environments of the Pacific Northwest. Our most ambitious expeditions have taken us to Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Argentina and Nepal.
All our events are youth-led and adult-advised. As our membership is coed, so is our leadership. We emphasize gender equity in everything we do — each trip has male and female adult and youth leaders. Our advisors and adult trip leaders maintain their youth protection training through the Boy Scouts of America.
Our age range for new youth members is 14–18 and new members are always welcome. Throughout the year we have trips suited for beginners. As youth gain skills and experience, they start joining our more gnarly adventures.
How does leadership development happen?
Most youth join CLC in their first year of high school. They start out learning how to learn...to follow the paddle guide's instructions and paddle together....to tie knots correctly and put on the climbing harness correctly....to cook a meal on snow....to manage their own gear and to bring the right stuff...
As they increase their high adventure skills, they begin learning how to manage themselves...working through the emotions of being too cold, too hot, too tired, too scared... and managing trips—planning routes, developing menus, buying food, and managing the duty roster.
By the time they are 18 years old, they are whitewater river guides, rock climbing instructors and experienced back country travelers, passing on what they have learned to younger members.
Our program leaders are volunteers, working with youth step-by-step. Many are CLC alumni, continuing to give back to teenagers. Each crew has an advisor who works closely with the crew youth leadership and manages the "outside game"—keeping a circle of safety by ensuring that the equipment is in the best working order, that permits are bought, that emergency contacts are in place and that decisions are carefully vetted and carried out.
Advisors mentor youth and help them walk through the results of poor decisions (like not changing clothing after building a snow cave or or snapping at team members because one is super hungry or not hydrating during a hot day on the river) all the while maintaining the circle of safety.
How is our program funded?
Cascade Leadership Challenge is a non-commercial, not for profit organization, run by volunteers. Our members pay a nominal annual fee of $40, which also provides membership in the Boy Scout Venture crews. We run our trips on a break-even basis. By sharing costs across the people who participate in the event, we manage to keep costs down to $25-$50 per day, depending on the specific needs of a trip.
Your generous support ensures that we can continue to offer leadership development opportunities to any youth who accepts the Cascade Challenge.
To fund scholarships and cover operating and equipment expenses, we hold the annual Benefit Dinner and Auction. This event allows the community to hear directly from youth about what they’ve learned during the past year, to see stunning pictures of the wild and rugged places we’ve been, and see the youth in action as they manage the event.