"After such an intense experience, it can be difficult transitioning back to everyday life. A trip to the grocery store or crossing a busy street can be overwhelming after 3 months in the wilderness. It may take a good while for these students to process their experience and begin “unpacking” the emotions and takeaways from course. In the meantime, Colorado Outward Bound School Instructor Nick “Vince” Vincent shared some of his insights from the previous Rockies to Ecuador semester last fall. Thanks to Vince for guest-blogging and for the great photos!"
This course is a tour de force of the American West that culminates with the opportunity to climb Ecuador’s peaks. As you travel through pristine mountains into meandering canyons and across continents into a new culture, you’ll encounter considerable challenges that push you physically, emotionally and socially. These challenges offer a chance to discover your strengths and potential, and to learn tools to help you better cope with difficult situations in the future. Through hands-on experience in the Ecuadorean community, learn the importance of service and social and environmental responsibility – returning home with a keen appreciation for giving to others, staying involved in your community and caring for the environment.
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This course starts within the next week. Please call us at 866-467-7651 to assess the possibility of applying for this course!
Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more.
Break away from traditional education and make the world your classroom on an Outward Bound Semester expedition. Experience life adventures and expand your skills as you interact with new environments and diverse cultures. Form lasting relationships with outdoor experts and crewmates who are sharing the same successes, failures and discoveries. Strengthen your commitment to community as you participate in service projects that support local needs.
Exploring new environments and building new connections will put your tenacity to the test. You’ll return with broader understanding of the natural world around you, deeper appreciation for small kindnesses and greater confidence in yourself and others that will serve you well long after you return.
Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.
Backpackers carry everything they need - food, shelter, clothing and gear – allowing them to go deep into the wilderness where few people go. Students feel a sense of freedom from deadlines and task lists as they grow accustomed to eating when hungry, setting up camp when tired, and having complete control over what they accomplish each day. The simplicity of hiking gives students the opportunity to focus both internally on their own thoughts, as well as externally to connect deeply with others as they talk, sing, play games and spend time together without distraction.
The course begins with lessons in basic travel and camping techniques. Along the way, students learn Leave No Trace techniques, map and compass navigation, camp craft, and get a feel for the human and natural history of the area. Students spend time in an incredible area of the Southwest, sleep under the stars, feel the sunshine on their face, and maybe watch a few sunsets over this simple but magical landscape.This connection to place and purpose threads throughout the rest of the course as students adapt to new environments from Colorado to Utah to Ecuador.
Mountaineering is perhaps one of the most rugged and exciting forms of backcountry travel, granting access to secret stashes of epic wilderness to those willing to work for it. In this Colorado-based section of the course, students will practice mountaineering techniques like kicking steps, glissading and ascending fixed lines over mixed routes of snow, ice and rock. Springtime in Colorado will bring a fair mix of terrain and conditions. As the course progresses, students use backpacking skills to travel into remote technical terrain where they’ll use ice axes and advanced techniques to reach summits 13,000 feet or even 14,000 feet in elevation. The challenges are significant but the rewards are great.
The expedition includes at least one technical peak attempt in the Colorado Rockies. Peak attempts, with or without the use of ropes and technical gear, are major enterprises and typically require early morning starts and take all day to complete. Weather or other factors including group dynamics and physical ability may preclude an attempt to ascend a peak.
Canyoneering is like running the most exciting adventure course imaginable. Add the stunning landscape of southeastern Utah and you’re in for a truly unique adventure. Each obstacle occurs naturally - made by the power of water coursing across the desert, making its way to the river. A combination of climbing, scrambling, rappelling, hiking and even swimming may be involved in getting through this unreal terrain. The adventure begins by hiking across the sunny desert mesa to drop into a canyon via rappel. As students travel further down, the canyon narrows, twists, turns and drops, creating cave-like conditions. Sunlight bouncing off the walls from far above causes the sandstone walls to glow red and orange. Exiting the canyon back into the desert daylight feels like returning from another world. This rugged, rocky terrain requires teamwork and effective decision-making. To meet the demands of technical terrain, Instructors begin by teaching the foundational skills necessary for efficient travel, such as basic movement over rock. Over this section, students will experience technical canyoneering, slot canyons, day hikes and canyon backpacking, building on skills they’ve learned earlier in the course.
For this section, students will travel to Joshua Tree, California for warmer weather and new skill building. Rock climbing is a great opportunity to challenge oneself physically, mentally and emotionally. Learning new body mechanics, balance and energy maintenance techniques will help students climb efficiently and unlock the incredible feeling of flowing up a route. There are many ways to climb the same rock, allowing each climber to solve the puzzle in their own individual way. During this section, students will learn basic climbing techniques, helmet and harness use, climbing commands and belaying, placing gear, setting up top ropes and may have the opportunity to attempt multi-pitch ascents.
After the desert, it’s back to the Colorado high country where you will spend two days participating in a 16-hour Wilderness First Aid class. This certification, which includes CPR, is the entry level standard for work in wilderness settings. The class time also helps you acclimate for the altitudes of Ecuador.
Service to others and the environment is a core value of Outward Bound and is integrated into each course. Participants follow Leave No Trace ethics as service to the environment and do acts of service while leading and supporting fellow participants. Designated service projects are coordinated with partners and land managers like the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service to collaborate on land restoration projects. Some projects are more social services based, in which students may visit a nursing home or hospital. Students develop a value of service, seeing the impact of their actions firsthand and transfer this desire to serve their communities back home. Past projects have included working on a goat farm, building trails, cleaning trash and debris from natural spaces, working with a local community garden, and removing invasive species.
In order for profound learning to take place, there must be time to reflect on the experience. Solo is that opportunity, and can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours or more, depending on course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Weather and time permitting, the Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make decisions about their future, journal and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. With all the food, skills and supplies they need, students are given a secluded spot to reflect alone and are monitored by staff throughout the. Students find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of an Outward Bound experience.
Whether an 8-day course or an 80 day course, all Outward Bound expeditions are focused on building character and leadership skills. Short courses are a great option for students looking for an introduction to the outdoors or for those who need a quick recharge. On shorter courses, students learn camping and expedition basics, as well as the skills specific to the course activity, such as climbing or rafting. Students get to know fellow crew mates surprisingly well as they share this immersive and intense experience.
On longer courses, Instructors progressively hand over more of the decision making and leadership of the expedition to the crew, allowing each person to test the new technical and interpersonal skills they have learned. Through the dynamics of an evolving group setting, students have more freedom to investigate who they are and how they want to develop personally. All along the way, students will experience a wide variety of some of the most beautiful wilderness in the U.S. and the world.
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
The Rocky Mountains, one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, stretch 3,000 miles from Alaska to New Mexico. These legendary peaks have had a profound influence on the development of the continental United States. The Colorado Rocky Mountains has the greatest concentration of high peaks in the lower 48, with hundreds of ‘Thirteeners’ (13,000 plus foot tall mountains) and 54 ‘Fourteeners.’ The state is famous for its abundant wilderness adventure possibilities, from skiing to rock climbing to mountaineering. Colorado courses may take place in The Gore, The Holy Cross, The Sawatch, The Elks, The Sangre de Cristos, the Rawah or the San Juans. Each of these Colorado ranges present unique challenges, but they are all beautiful, wild and rugged. These regions are within the ancestral lands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Cheyenne, Arapaho, Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux), Eastern Shoshone, Jicarilla Apache, and Pueblos nations.
Canyon Country, Utah
The most spectacular aspects of the Utah landscape are the hidden treasures found within its vast canyon networks, formed by millennia of wind and water. The Canyonlands of Southern Utah are stunning, mysterious and wild. Archeological sites and rock art from the Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont Native Americans who roamed these lands over 800 years ago still abound in the canyons. The canyons are composed of a spell-binding labyrinth of alcoves, fins, pinnacles, buttes, towering walls, ledges and arches just waiting to be explored on canyon backpacking courses. Canyoneering courses also venture into narrower, deeper chasms two feet wide with walls several hundred feet on each side. These sandstone slot canyons are a geological playground for scrambling, teamwork and rappelling. Robbers Roost, Canyonlands, and the San Rafael Swell are in the ancestral lands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Pueblos, Southern Paiute, Diné, and Hopi nations.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Dr. Seuss-like plants and animal species combine to create surreal landscape. The bizarre and jumbled rock formations have created one of the most popular and diverse climbing sites in the U.S. Set in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree is made up of extensive 50-foot to 300-foot granite outcroppings. These overhangs provide over 5,000 different routes of all types and for all abilities. The variety of cracks, slabs, face and bouldering is what makes Joshua Tree a mecca for rock climbers. The sunny weather in the Mojave Desert is conducive to maximizing time on the rock. This area is within the ancestral lands of the Newe (Western Shoshone), Yuhaviatam/Maarenga'yam (Serrano), Cahuilla, Mojave, and Chemehuevi nations.
Ecuador is often referred to as the Jewel of the Andes and is a small paradise of biodiversity, with a wealth of landscapes and climates. With the Pacific Coastal beaches to the west and the steamy rainforests to the east, the Andes run north to south through Ecuador, creating a dramatic spine of mountainous highlands and peaks. The Ecuadorean Andes are home to the largest concentration of volcanoes in the world and are a vivid landscape of imposing glaciated volcanoes rising from misty cloud forests and lush valleys. The Ecuador portion of the semester explores the length of these highlands - from the historic capital city of Quito, through the high valleys and into the peaks of the country. This region is within the ancestral lands of the Quechua-Kichwa nation.
Students feel like they are standing on a floating island as they take in 360-degree views from the snow-cloaked summits above the clouds down into villages and farms in the high valleys and across to other spectacular volcanic peaks. Back down in the valleys, students will get to experience the culture of Ecuador as they give back, completing service projects to manage the forests and land, or help a local agricultural organization. The course ends in Ecuador, which gives students the opportunity to stay in Ecuador and travel on their own, if they choose to do so.
If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.