Wilderness and expedition travel is demanding. It can literally take every waking moment to get from point A to point B. From getting up early to pack your bags and cook breakfast, to hiking with a loaded backpack for hours, to climbing peaks that rise well over 13,000 feet high, traveling in the wilderness can be hard.
Past students and instructors agree that arriving physically fit will enhance your experience and ability to do well on the course and ultimately allow you to take full advantage of the expedition. You don’t need to have previous mountaineering and rock climbing experience. We will teach skills for wilderness travel—how to pack appropriately, load a backpack, set up tarps or navigate using a map and compass. Your course will begin in the Gore mountain range in Colorado where you will meet your instructors, get your gear, pack, and then you will quickly journey out into the wilderness of the high country, where the real magic takes place.
The Rocky Mountain Instructor Development Course is an inspiring, fulfilling experience designed to build character, leadership voice and the skills required to obtain an entry-level position in the Outdoor Education Industry. On this course, you will encounter adventure and challenge in backcountry wilderness as well as in the classroom. You will gain experience travelling through mountainous terrain and summiting peaks; climbing steep rock faces and teaching and facilitating outdoor education topics to local, Colorado youth. You will also take an 8 day Wilderness First Responder course, the standard medical certification in the outdoor industry, learning how to respond to remote backcountry medical issues. As you gain the know-how to travel knowledgeably as a group through the mountains and cliffs, you will explore and learn about your surroundings: their beauty and their risks; their needs and their possibilities; and how these activities and areas can be wound together to form the ultimate classroom.
The Rocky Mountains are one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, stretching 3,000 miles from Alaska to New Mexico. They have provided the foundation of legends and have had a profound influence on the development of the continental United States. Native Americans were the first to live among these peaks. In more recent times, the Spanish launched major expeditions into these mountains, searching for gold and precious minerals. Although no one is sure who first climbed them, the first documented exploration of the Colorado Rockies was undertaken in 1776 by two Franciscan priests. From that point on, Colorado became a magnet for prospectors, explorers and pioneers. The greatest concentration of high peaks—hundreds of ‘Thirteeners’ (13,000+ foot mountains), and 54 ‘Fourteeners’—is in Colorado.
Sawatch Range (Collegiate Peaks), Colorado – This range contains the three highest peaks in Colorado – Mt. Elbert (14,433), Mt. Massive (14,421) and Mt. Harvard (14,420) Two Wilderness areas in this range are the Collegiate Peaks and Mount Massive Wildernesses. Many of its more prominent peaks were named for the alma maters of early explorers and surveyors. Professor J. D. Whitney, who led one of the first and most famous survey parties through Central Colorado, named Mt. Harvard after the school that funded the expedition. Another peak became Mt. Princeton, named for the Princeton University Scientific Exploration survey teams. ). However, many “first ascents” in this range can be attributed to nameless miners searching for gold and silver, which were both abundant. The silver bust of 1893 caused many once–booming cities to become ghost towns. Some courses may visit the northernmost part of the range, which includes Mount of the Holy Cross (14,051’) in the Holy Cross Wilderness.
Vedauwoo, Wyoming – In an untamed corner of Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest, the granite jewels of Vedauwoo (pronounced “vee-dah-voo”) beckon committed rock climbers. This surreal land features phenomenal formations of rock nestled into aspen and pine forests. Herein lays the perfect mix of wilderness and classroom as well as an expansive spectrum of beginner to advanced crack and face climbing. The climbing routes vary in length from 50’ to 200’ and provide excellent opportunities for both single- and multi-pitch climbing.
Gore Range, Colorado – Jagged and snow-covered for much of the year, the Gore Mountains are isolated and have few signs of civilization. Located near Vail, the range contains technically demanding peaks and incredibly high passes. They were named after a wealthy Irish nobleman, Sir St. George Gore. His extensive party hunted in and around the area from 1855 through 1857. Far from roughing it, Gore traveled in a fully-stocked wagon, which included a complete selection of wines and a full-sized bathtub!
Alpine Backpacking – You will spend the first two weeks of your course in Colorado alpine backpacking. Alpine backpacking means moving through high mountain terrain mostly above tree line. This type of travel can be rough, demanding, steep and exposed and may at times require the use of ropes and ice axes to traverse a slope or ascend a pass.
The emphasis of this section is to teach you smart and efficient backpacking and alpine travel techniques. Expect to carry a backpack weighing approximately 40-50 pounds, dependent on your weight and fitness and to carry that backpack on and off trail over wooded and alpine terrain. Additionally, you will learn Leave No Trace skills and ethics, backcountry route finding and camping, leadership, and teamwork. You will also learn about the areas natural history and environment as you go, including flora, fauna, geology, astronomy, and ecology.
Peak Attempt – Your expedition will include at least one peak ascent attempt. Peak attempts 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 even an attempt to ascend a peak.
Solo – A three night solo provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition. With minimal yet sufficient food and equipment, you’ll spend time alone at an assigned campsite to rest, reflect, and practice the camp craft skills you have been learning throughout the course. You will not travel during this time and your instructors will check on you occasionally, but you will be mostly alone for the duration of your solo.
Rock Camp – Upon your arrival at Vedauwoo, Wyoming, you will get settled into the established campsite which will be your home for that section of the course. Your instructors will introduce you to the essentials of rock climbing to self care and risk management. Instruction in rock climbing will be in a hands-on, experiential style. You will learn movement on rock and basic climbing technique, tie-ins and climbing knots, belay techniques, anchor systems, and rappelling.
While the majority of your time will be spent actually climbing, you will hike each day to and from the climbing crags throughout Vedauwoo. Each day will be physically and mentally challenging so come prepared for long days of climbing, hiking, and learning.
Teaching a Climbing Day - Toward the end of your Rock Camp, you will travel to the Arkansas Valley. There you will also spend time learning how to teach the various aspects of a climbing day to students, familiarizing yourselves with the local climbing area and finally, teaching two days of initiatives, teambuilding and rock climbing to local Colorado youth.
Service – Service is an integral part of the Colorado Outward Bound School curriculum. We encourage service to the environment in the form of leaving campsites cleaner than we find them and practicing Leave No Traceâ ethics throughout the course. We coordinate service projects with land managers (US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, local land trusts, etc.) as well as with select social service agencies (nursing homes, hospitals, etc.) in the urban area. During your course, you will have the opportunity to participate in many service projects in many different environments.
Mountaineering – You will spend the last ten days or so of your course in Colorado backpacking and mountaineering. The mountaineering section focuses on preparing for and executing technical peak attempts requiring harnesses, ropes, and ice axes. Your instructors will train you to use all equipment necessary for technical mountaineering. Toward the end of this section, your team may have the opportunity to participate in a final expedition.
Final Expedition – Colorado Outward Bound School believes that an appropriate amount of independence is a powerful educational tool. In order to deliver that benefit, Colorado Outward Bound School purposefully and gradually transfers certain leadership responsibilities to the students culminating with our “Final Expedition”. Near the end of the mountaineering section, if you and your group have demonstrated the necessary leadership, team problem solving and wilderness living skills, you may be given the opportunity to travel without your instructors immediately present. Many of our students feel this phase of the course was the most rewarding, as the group works together, problem solving and accomplishing a goal independently, while utilizing all the backcountry skills they have acquired.
Personal Challenge Event – We typically end our courses with a Personal Challenge Event—an individual final physical push. This might take the form of a run or a triathlon-style challenge.
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.