120902 - group shot at PG SF

In 2012, as part of our PG Gives Back $1/member/month giving program, Planet Granite donated $10,000 to the Big City Mountaineers (BCM) to get youth climbing!  BCM has visisted Planet Granite a couple times this year, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  I sat down with Anders, the Program Manager for BCM to talk to him about his kids, the programs and what BCM means to the youth with whom he works.


120902 - Learning to Belay with Stephanie


What is Big City Mountaineers?  How long has Big City Mountaineers been working in the Bay Area? 

The core Big City Mountaineers program is a week-long wilderness mentoring expedition where urban youth are given the opportunity to experience the beauty and challenges of the wilderness alongside supportive adult mentors.  What had begun as a simple backpacking trip with an urban, at-risk teen 20 years ago has now evolved into a documented and well-tested progression of experiences coupled with opportunities for reflection and learning.


120902 - Success!

How does coming to Planet Granite help the kids?

Every group that goes on a week-long backpacking trip with us is required to participate in a single day training to prepare them for the challenges of wilderness travel.  When possible I bring these groups to a  Planet Granite gym.  I can’t think of a better way to work on communication skills, trust, and goal setting than by visiting the climbing gym.  I remember hearing one teen saying to a friend after he was lowered, “Man, I was so freaked out up there, but I knew you had my life in your hands and you wouldn’t drop me…..that was awesome”!

120902 - Belaying is fun - at PGSF

 What do you think your teens loved most about climbing at Planet Granite? 

Getting vertical! Climbing at a gym is like going to one ginormous playground with the rush of adrenaline from being 50 ft off the ground.

 Was there anything that made climbing at Planet Granite special?

The instruction from the staff is just outright awesome.  Every time we come to the gym, PG makes sure that the classes are limited to 4-6 students.  They have developed a very nuanced style of teaching the belay and climbing systems so that even people brand new to the sport can learn to belay!

120902 - Teaching BCM youth to belay

 You mentioned one of the teens expressed an interest in going on the backpacking trip after experiencing climbing, what do you think caused his change of mind?  That’s awesome! 

That’s right, one of the teens said, “before today (visiting the climbing gym) I was nervous about the trip, but you see that you can trust your friends not to drop you, that makes me feel better about going backpacking with everyone here”.  I think when you go to a climbing gym for the first time you need to step outside of your comfort zone in order to get 10 ft off the ground.  Being on a week-long backpacking trip also requires stepping outside one’s comfort zone.  That parallel is easily understood by a teen.  As humans we are shaped by out habits, so if we can get in a habit of challenging ourselves we will more likely seek out those kind of experiences in the future and then really  grow as a person.


120902 - group shot at PG Belmont!


 Anything else you’d like to add for our members about Big City Mountaineers?   If any are interested in getting involved, how can they help?

We are always looking for motivated volunteers for our weeklong backpacking trips that traditionally run during the summer months.  This year in the winter/spring of 2013 we will also have single day hikes, over-night backpacking trips, and service learning projects doing park clean up and trail restoration in order to get the teens prepared for the weeklong trips.  Ideally, a volunteer participates in all 4 trips, thereby building a strong connection to the teens.

Additionally, we are looking for people who want to participate in the Summit for Someone program, which the main source of funding for BCM.  If you have ever wanted to climb Whitney, Shasta, Rainer, or even Kilimanjaro, and also wants to help get more teens into the wilderness then you should seriously look into SFS.  Every year hundreds of people fundraise for BCM and get to climb some of the most iconic peaks in America (and internationally!).

 In order to get involved as a volunteer, climber, or donor, please visit to sign up or look for an upcoming information session at your local Any Mountain, REI, or even Planet Granite!

 It sounds cliché, but we really are changing lives.  Bringing under-served urban teens into the wilderness is the most important thing I have ever done in my 10-year career in the field of outdoor education!  But in order to reach even more Bay Area teens we need as much help as possible!


120902 - BCM home base

‘Big City Mountaineers is a non-profit organization that works to instill critical life skills in under-served urban youth through transformative wilderness mentoring experiences.  Our program consists of 4 preparatory single day experiences and culminates with a weeklong expedition.  At this information session you will learn how to get involved either as a volunteer mentor working directly with the teens or as a ‘Summit for Someone’ climber who raises money for our organization while participating in a guided climb of one of many iconic peaks nationally or internationally.  Either way you can be secure knowing that in working with BCM you are helping to get under-served urban youth outdoors!  To learn more check out: and come on by on one of the following dates’

December 6th, 6:00-7:15pm Any Mountain Berkeley (2777 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705)

December 13th, 6:00-7:15pm Any Mountain Redwood City (928 Whipple Ave. Redwood City, CA 94063)

January 22nd, 6:00-7:15pm REI San Francisco (840 Brannan St. San Francisco, CA 94103)

January 29th, 6:00-7:15pm REI Berkeley (1338 San Pablo Avanue Berkeley, CA 94702)

If these dates and locations do not work out, stay tuned as we will be having Information Sessions in various locations through February.

Please contact: Anders Fistedt

( or 510-558-2795 with any questions or to RSVP