Apirion Alpine Semesters


A non-profit corporation offering life changing semester courses.

A.A.S. courses combine alpine climbing, back country trekking and a classics oriented reading and discussion curriculum. They are physically challenging programs that require participants to learn how to take responsibility for their own actions in serious circumstances, work with others in situations where teamwork is a necessity and take on meaningful leadership roles. The reading and discussion sections push participants to think seriously about some of the root questions of philosophy and citizenship. Certain experiences can be life changing. They force a person to confront crucial questions about who they are and their role in the world. Experiences in the mountains that require a person to persevere in the face of physical challenges, fear and real danger bring great clarity and focus. Engaging with certain works within the classical cannon can lead a person to think about issues bearing on ethics, morality, the challenges of understanding the limits of reason, etc.. Both require a person to engage in self examination. Our semester courses do more than balance intellectual and physical challenges. They integrate the two in a manner that can foster growth during certain crucial periods of a person’s life, such as a year off after high school. The courses can also benefit anyone taking some time to re-evaluate their lives.


Jonathan Apirion and his wife Cynthia love the wilderness and the opportunities for growth it affords.  Jonathan is a retired attorney and has spent a significant amount of time as a professional guide. Cynthia is a retired veterinarian. Before starting his 18 year legal career, Jonathan spent ten years working full time teaching extended back country travel, technical rock and alpine climbing, semester courses, rescue courses, instructor practicums and more. The A.A.S. semester courses represent what he believes to be the best of what outdoor education can offer. He always made readings a part of the semester courses he worked, but found that those courses were not structured to allow for their proper integration. The A.A.S. courses are built from the ground up with the readings in mjandcind.

Jonathan Apirion:  JD, Magna Cum Laude, U of A Law School; MS, MN State; BA, St. John’s College

Cynthia Difranco:  DVM, Texas A & M, College Of Veterinary Medicine; BS, Texas A & M University

Each of our ninety day alpine semester courses is paired with a ninety day volunteer work component that begins approximately two weeks after the alpine course ends. The volunteer work component incorporates an ongoing classics curriculum that continues from where the Alpine Semester left off. We believe that just as challenging experiences in the mountains can be well paired with certain readings from the classics, so too can time spent immersed in an overseas volunteer work experience be enhanced with time spent studying philosophy and literature.

Alpine Semester Curriculum

Extended back country treks with a focus on learning advanced cold weather camping, navigation and minimum impact skills.

-Climbing components involving everything from basic rope work to technical alpine ascents.

-One or more technical ascents at altitude, depending on conditions.

READINGS include selections from Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, Augustine and Aquinas

Service Semester Curriculum

Hard work in an area with a well established organization in an area of the world where your assistance can make a real difference.

READINGS include selections from Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

Who are these courses for? They are for anyone looking for an opportunity to challenge themselves and take some time to reevaluate who they are and what they want to do with the rest of their lives. They work well for people taking a year off between high school and college. We believe that anyone can benefit from these courses, but we have a particular affinity for those who have done extremely well on standardized tests during high school, but who did not make great grades because they never found sufficient inspiration or engagement with what high school had to offer.

Our courses are divided into age groups of 18-26 and 26 and over.