Our History

Mountain Alliance began with a simple goal—to inspire the students of Watauga High School. 


It’s a goal that nearly 30 years later, remains at the core of this trailblazing program. 

Founded in 1990, Mountain Alliance puts a unique twist on extracurricular activities – a twist aimed at catching the eye and adventurous spirit of students eager to break the mold of the traditional high school model. 

The heart of Mountain Alliance beats through its three primary programs: serving the community through volunteer opportunities, enriching lives through culture experiences, and the core of Mountain Alliance – discovering yourself while exploring the great outdoors. 

Rather than team try outs, expensive uniforms, or report card evaluations, Mountain Alliance unlocks a world of adventure built on only one prerequisite – to be yourself, everyone else is taken. 

Founded by local outdoor enthusiast Jerry Cantwell, ironically Mountain Alliance had to climb a few mountains itself before becoming the cherished community that we all know & appreciate today. 

Before fully developing the school supported program, Mountain Alliance had to first get the thumbs up from the Watauga County School Board. As history would have it, the only way to get their approval, was to immerse them in the experience. 


In the late 1980’s, Jerry and his team escorted the school board on their first hiking adventure in the High Country. While spirits were high, Mother Nature clearly had other ideas. Pouring rain and cold temperatures gave way to a rather miserable experience and the team thought surely that would be the end before the beginning of Mountain Alliance. 

But, just as the program teaches, the mountains have a way of inspiring. As the story goes, just as the group reached the summit, a soaking wet and freezing school board turned to Jerry and with a smile said, “I don’t care what we have to do, we are going to get you the money.” 

Mountain Alliance became official in late 1990—a community to provide students with a safe and supportive environment in which they can develop an increased sense of self, a place in their community, a passion for lifelong learning, and a commitment to environmental stewardship. 

Today Mountain Alliance continues to blaze new trails inspiring the next generation of leaders and adventurers. 

Watching generations of students grow up and encompass the values that we tried to teach is really beautiful. Watching them take a leadership role – they now teach others to rock climb, or step up and help in the group – the student truly does become the teacher.
— Zack Green, Director of Mountain Alliance