The Rockies to Ecuador International Spring Semester is an extraordinary expedition which combines beautiful, challenging environments and activities with an intensive leadership curriculum which emphasizes individual growth and community.
As with all Outward Bound courses, the focus is not just what you do, but why you do it and who you are when you do it.
As you travel through the pristine mountains, into the meandering canyons, and across continents into a new culture, you will certainly encounter considerable hardships and challenges. These experiences will not only push you physically, but also emotionally and socially. They will provide valuable opportunities for you to discover your strengths and potential, and also to learn tools that will help you better cope with difficult situations. An exploration of the importance of compassion, service, and social and environmental responsibility will provide real experiences to learn anew the value of giving to others as well as being an involved community member and steward to the environment.
Your decision to attend the Rockies to Ecuador International Semester is an important commitment and should be made with complete awareness of the course's depth, challenges and complexity. You will live under Outward Bound values and guidelines in the field for 81 days and you will be a crucial part of making it a valuable experience for everyone in your patrol. The 8-20 people (depending on course size) you spend 81 days with -- day and night, through hardship and exuberance, sunshine and foul weather, harmony and conflict, working together to overcome wilderness challenges — become like a small family and community. Many previous students have become best and lifelong friends. However, like any family or community, there are times when everyone gets along and times when they don’t.
However, the trust and camaraderie that develops among you is the key to your patrol’s success, and an integral part of your Outward Bound course. Through shared adventures you learn to accept and respect one another’s differences, minimizing each other’s shortcomings, while maximizing each other’s strengths. Each member of the patrol makes a valuable contribution to what becomes a smoothly functioning team, capable of feats that would be unthinkable for an individual member.
Successful completion of your course demands mastery of skills, trust, fitness, confidence, tenacity, leadership, initiative and compassion. The technical skills gained on this course will benefit you in your outdoor pursuits in the future, but the true value of your course experiences lies in the “soft” skills: the essential abilities and characteristics of great citizens and leaders. They are applicable to all facets of life — school, career, relationships, community and home, as well as the out of doors. The promotion of these qualities, and the discovery of what’s in you, is the purpose of Outward Bound.
- Leadership, teamwork, goal-setting and expeditionary behavior skills
- Camping, navigation, and route finding skills in winter, canyon, and glacial terrain.
- Geology and ecology of four distinct environments, and cultural education
- High altitude climbing and peak attempts
- Risk management training, emergency response, and decision-making skills
- Technical skills acquisition and practice: Alpine and glacier travel, crampon and ice axe use, technical rope systems and techniques, rock climbing skills, canyoneering, and much more.
- Exploring colonial Quito, practicing Spanish, and visiting Quechan markets in the villages
This semester includes: 19 day winter mountain expedition, 15 day rock camp, 12 day canyon expedition, 6 days acclimatizing and ice climbing, and 22 day high altitude expedition, 4 travel days and break days. A 2-3 day solo and several service projects may take place throughout your course.
Mountain Section - The Rocky Mountains, Colorado
As the Rockies stretch 3,000 miles from central Canada to N. Mexico, they create the grand Continental Divide, the crest that separates east from west. The Colorado Rockies are home to the highest peaks in the system with over 50 mountains rising over 14,000 ft high. The mountains here are true wilderness, abundant with clear streams, soaring peaks, active wildlife, and are sparsely populated.
Winter here is characterized by extremes of weather, from raging snowstorms to brilliant, sun-drenched days. In fact, Colorado is one of the sunniest places in the nation during winter. Be prepared for powder snow, plenty of sun, wild snowstorms and exceptional winter adventures.
You do not need to have any previous backcountry, alpine touring, ice climbing or snowshoeing experience. We will teach you everything you need to know to travel in the winter backcountry—how to pack appropriately, set up camp in the winter, how to navigate in terrain and evaluate snow conditions.
Our course begins with a few days at our premier base camp, the Leadville Mountain Center. Here, you will meet your instructors, issue gear and start working with your patrol. The first days of the course are spent focusing on Avalanche 1 Course Curriculum, equipment selection and care, and expedition planning. As part of your training, we will embark on short ski tours with our winter equipment – learning how to effectively maneuver, assess snow and avalanche conditions and hazards, and the first aid and self-care skills for the cold environment.
Next, we will journey out on a multi-night winter camping expedition in the high country wilderness, where the real magic takes place. All of your food and gear will be carried in the backpack on your back, or perhaps hauled behind you on snow sleds, as you ski or snowshoe several miles into the backcountry. In this section, we will put our new skills into action as we assess and adapt to varying snow and weather conditions, navigate the snowy mountainous terrain and work as a team to negotiate the miles ahead. You will master the campcraft skills of staying warm and dry, eating healthy, and setting up shelters. Depending on weather and snow conditions, you may have the opportunity to do a winter ascent of a peak or two.
Rock Climbing Section - Joshua Tree National Park, California
Next, you will travel to “Rock Camp” at the world-renown climbing mecca of Joshua Tree National Park in California. Canyons, small mountains, and broad valleys are the canvas that nature has used to create this intricate and subtle desert landscape. Dr. Seuss-like plants and a multitude of rock formations rise out of this magical topography.
Set in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree is made up of extensive 50' to 300' granite outcroppings. These provide over 5,000 different routes of all types and for all abilities. The sunny weather in the Mojave Desert is conducive to maximizing your time on the rock.
We will spend 15 days learning and working on rock climbing techniques and developing the skills necessary to safely set up top rope climbs and ascend single and multi-pitch climbs. Each day presents a different focus and we keep lessons brief to create ample time for experiential learning. In addition to gaining knowledge in anchor building and protection placement, you will be coached in refining your movement as you climb. You will also gain knowledge in risk management as well as environmental and political issues surrounding climbers and land users.
At camp you will cook and eat with other group members. This is a great time to get to know each other and share life stories, experiences, and impressions. Each evening there will be group discussions to review the day and offer time for reflection.
Canyoneering - Utah’s Canyon Country
After Rock Camp, we travel to Utah, where we will begin the canyon section. A 12-day backpacking and canyoneering expedition through the unique slickrock and slot canyon environment of Southern Utah will challenge your route finding skills and solidify the technical skills you learned at rock camp.
Hidden deep in this red rock desert there are places where canyons are a foot wide and two hundred feet deep. You will discover clear pools of water, arching canyon walls mimicking sunlit cathedrals, sandstone complete with intricate swirls of color and striped with hues of varnish, and deep, cool slot canyons that offer respite from the heat. In this section you’ll learn all about basic canyoneering techniques needed to safely traverse these technical canyons. You will hike, wade, slog through mud, chimney, swim, rappel, and climb your way through these unique and alluring chasms of sandstone.
Acclimatization and Ice Climbing – Leadville Mountain Center, CO
Next we head back to Colorado where we will spend 6 days acclimatizing and ice climbing. In final preparation for Ecuador, we will refresh our snow and avalanche skills by day touring at higher altitudes. We will also spend a day or two ice climbing. You will learn the basics of crampon techniques (French, front pointing), hand tool placement techniques and practice efficiently moving over WI III & IV terrain – skills that will come in handy on the glaciers in the Andes.
Finally, we will travel to Ecuador for the 22-day high altitude mountaineering section where you will have the opportunity to bring all the skills together that you have learned on the course. 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.
Our 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 highest peaks of the country. You will have the opportunity to experience the wonderful culture of Ecuador, in addition to learning the basics of undertaking a high altitude glacial mountaineering expedition. We will have several chances to summit volcanoes higher than 5000m (16,400ft). The views from these volcanoes can have you feeling like you are standing on a floating island as you have 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.
Your course will end in Ecuador. This gives you the opportunity to stay on in Ecuador and travel on your own if you chose to do so.
Being on a Course
Group Living – For much of the course you will function in a group of 7-12 people. This is the classic Outward Bound “patrol”. It is generally co-ed and comprised of individuals from different geographic and economic backgrounds. Some components of the course will require different student groupings and student/staff ratios. You may be in a larger or smaller group for classes, activities and skills instruction.
Living and working with a small group is an opportunity to make lifelong friends and enjoy memories that will last a lifetime. It is also a source of friction and challenge. You feel frustration or annoyance with your teammates at times as you and your group attempt to meet your goals and make decisions big and small. Students step off the bus with varying levels of motivation, fear, and doubt. Once the trip starts even the most eager students may become reluctant to take a certain risk or try their best. Investing in working out differences in your group, sharing insights from your challenges and laughing your heads off over the most delicious rice and bean dinner you ever tasted (hunger is the best spice) are all part of why students walk away from their Outward Bound course with a deeper understanding of life, living, themselves and each other.
Instructors – Our instructors are our number one asset. Their professional excellence has helped the Colorado Outward Bound School continually pioneer and improve standards for safety, technical expertise, experiential education, and student care. Our instructors are chosen primarily because they are dedicated, skilled individuals who are adventurers in their own right. They have been rigorously tested and have successfully demonstrated competence and confidence as risk managers, technical experts, inspirational teachers, and group facilitators.
We staff our semester courses with our most senior and skilled instructors. You will have 2 instructors (a course director and a proctor) who will be with you for the entirety of the semester, ensuring that the curriculum delivery and the group development is seamless throughout the course. You will then have 1-2 additional instructors that will join the course for a single section to assist in teaching you the skills required for that environment.
The proctor, instructors, and course director work together to provide you with the most challenging and beneficial semester possible. Their different perspectives enable us to maintain a high level of involvement with each student's progress. While the proctor has the opportunity to watch you develop and can evaluate and give you feedback about your skills over time, the instructors can focus on delivering specific information about the course activities. The CD can help you plan for necessary equipment and supplies and the CD can maintain the structure and pace toward the completion of all semester educational goals.
Student Independence – There may be times on this course when you are not directly supervised by your instructors. This might include time around camp cooking or setting up tarps, sleeping, and solo if applicable to your course. The course will be run in co-ed groups with varying degrees of instructor supervision, depending upon the activity. Outward Bound has found that a degree of independence is an effective educational tool and we expect that all students come to this course with a willingness to learn skills and practice them without instructor supervision, either alone or with other group members.
Camp – As this is not a guided trip, all group members will pitch in to do camp chores, including cooking, washing pots, setting up tarps, cleaning the boat, and hanging food bags (to keep them safe from critters). You’ll find that as the expedition progresses, your mastery of these camp craft skills will enable you to operate more efficiently and effectively around camp.
Food – You and the other members of your group will learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals over portable gas stoves. Our meals are mainly vegetarian (meat is heavy and spoils quickly) and consist of grains, pasta, nuts, beans, cereals, and other light, dehydrated foods. The food may seem unfamiliar at first—we don’t pack many processed foods or “junk food”—but you will find that it tastes good and gives you energy at the end of a long day. A typical breakfast might be granola or oatmeal; lunch would include tortillas and cheese or peanut butter and jelly; dinner might be macaroni and cheese or beans and rice. We can accommodate some special food needs (such as lactose intolerance or vegan eaters), but only if we know well in advance. If you have a particularly unusual diet, we may ask you to bring some of your own foods.
Typical Day – A typical day involves rising with the sun, starting the day with a little yoga or a morning run, making breakfast, packing up camp, and hitting the trail. You will be busy all day. Once you stop for the day, group members will divide and conquer to get food cooked and camp set up. After dinner, you may meet to address the next day’s plans, or to discuss leadership and teamwork methods, before crawling into your sleeping bag for a well-deserved rest.
Travel Within The Course - There will/can be a considerable amount of travel between the different sections of the course. This will be done in Outward Bound vans, professional charter companies or airlines. Please pay close attention to the clothing and equipment lists and bring only what you need. Storage space will be limited, particularly when we are traveling.
Town days - These courses are long and demanding. In order to keep you motivated and interested, Town days have been scheduled in between sections. This time will be supervised overall but you will have some freedom to “do your own thing” within set time frames. This will be a chance to eat out, see a movie or do any personal shopping that you might need to.
Mail - Throughout the course, you will be able to send out mail. Because it is a mobile course, it can be difficult to receive mail. Just prior to your course, your Course Advisor will send the course schedule and mailing addresses to you. Packages containing emergency items should be marked “URGENT” and also include the course name and number.
Equipment & Personal Belongings - Read the equipment and clothing list thoroughly and carefully consider all that you bring. Some storage is available at the base camps, but we will not be able to get at it until the end of the course. Rugged cameras, lots of film, notebooks and pens are well worth bringing. Expensive jewelry and several changes of casual clothing are not.
Money - Money will be needed for meals during break days. In addition, there will be occasional laundry expenses and toiletry articles, some new clothing or souvenirs to be bought. Do not bring personal checks. The course schedule and locations do not support banking hours. Bring Traveler’s Checks, credit cards or cash. You will also need up to $40.00 US cash for the exit tax out of Ecuador.
Drugs and Alcohol - Use of alcohol, tobacco or non-prescription drugs is absolutely forbidden on your semester course. These substances would not only detract from your performance on the course, but can create significant safety and health issues for all participants. If abiding by this rule creates problems for you, please reconsider your reasons for wanting to attend this course. Use of these substances while on course can result in your immediate expulsion from the course.
The curriculum of the Rockies to Ecuador International Semester develops those qualities associated with effective outdoor leadership and the technical skills essential for rigorous and safe wilderness adventure. While the technical skills are taught according to the particular demands and opportunities of each wilderness environment, the leadership skills are continually developed throughout the course.
Every group – in the wilderness or otherwise – needs an effective leader to ensure they are working in concert towards achieving their goals. In the backcountry, real leadership is particularly important to maximize a group’s safety, efficiency, and overall success. Thus, leadership curriculum is paramount on our courses. The topics covered in depth on this course are the following:
- Leadership Styles
- Leadership Theory and Strategies
- Decision-Making Strategies
- Team Building Strategies
- Teaching Strategies
- Self-Expression Skills
- Effective Listening Skills
- Feedback Skills and Processes
- Conflict Resolution Skills
At Colorado Outward Bound School, you are on the cutting edge of technical outdoor learning. Many of the techniques developed on our courses have become standards in the outdoor industry. Your expedition begins with a solid foundation in the basic skills that you’ll rely on to safely and responsibly travel in the wilderness and extreme environments.
Technical skills needed to safely travel in the wilderness and overcome various challenges differ between environments. However, some skills are needed in all areas. You learn these early and refine them throughout the course. The technical skills taught on this semester are:
General Outdoor Skills
- Risk Assessment & Management
- Search & Rescue
- Navigation & Map Reading
- Compass Use
- Route Finding
- Cooking Methods
- Stove Use and Maintenance
- Campsite Selection
- Shelter Construction
- Sanitation & Hygiene
- Nutrition & Ration Planning
- Leave No Trace Backcountry Ethics
First Aid Skills
- Initial Assessment and Focused Exam of Patients
- First Aid Kit Contents and Use
- Injury/Illness Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment of:
- Insect/Snake Bites
- Sprains & Strains
- Communicable Diseases
- Mountain Sickness
- Soft Tissue Injuries
- Winter Camping Techniques
- Cold and Altitude Physiology
- Avalanche 1 Skills and Assessment
- Snowshoe and/or Ski Touring Equipment Care and Use
- Snow Travel Techniques
- Peak Ascents*
- Winter Ecology
- Belay Techniques
- Multi-Pitch Systems
- Top Rope Management
- "Free" Climbing Techniques
- Protection Placement
- Rappelling & Self Rescue
- Slickrock and Canyon Navigation/Route Finding
- Canyon / Desert Hazards and Assessment
- Cultural and Natural History
- Technical Canyon Travel Techniques
- Foreign Travel Considerations and Practices
- Crampon and Ice Axe Technique
- Glacier Travel
- Snow & Ice Climbing*
- Crevasse Rescue
- High Altitude Climbing Considerations
* Conditions, locations and time permitting.
To apply for this course click the apply button next to the course dates that work for you. The non-refundable application fee of $125 is due at the time of application. For full fee schedule and process, click here. Course tuitions listed do not include our application fee or transportation fee.