The History of CWS

Center for Wilderness Safety was originally formed in 2004 as a class project at the Pennsylvania State University. The assignment was to create a company which offered goods or services that were perceived as being "needed" in the outdoor recreation field. The company, then named "Outdoor Ascent" or OA for short, offered three services: rock climbing instruction, teambuilding programs, and basic wilderness first aid.

Founders Clif Castleman + Phil GardnerOutdoor Ascent thrived for a few years before disbanding as it's key leadership graduated or moved away from the area. After about a year of hiatus, one of the original co-founders, Clifton Castleman, decided to start the company back up; only this time in Northern Virginia. With the help of Phil Gardner, the former program director of OA, a newly revised organization was born: Center for Wilderness Safety, or CWS.

CWS focused primarily on American Red Cross courses until a local Boy Scout troop approached CWS to ask for a wilderness first aid training. Since that day, CWS has grown and flourished, training thousands of individuals in wilderness & remote medicine. CWS now focuses primarily on wilderness & remote medical training programs such as wilderness first aid and wilderness first responder, and is a nonprofit partner of the Wilderness Medical Society.

Not forgetting our roots in the community, Center for Wilderness Safety is a proud American Camp Association approved provider of the newly required BSA-specific Wilderness First Aid course which is required by the Boy Scouts of America for those youth and adult leaders attending Philmont, Northern Tier, Sea Base, Summit, and even National Jamboree high adventure treks.


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NOTICE: Due to the Coronavirus, our offices are CLOSED and our staff are working remotely.
ALL COURSES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED through August 2020. Need to reach us? Email