This 72-day journey through iconic settings in the American Southwest covers countless miles of river, trail, deep canyons and towering peaks.
This course is a tour de force of the Rocky Mountain region, culminating with the opportunity to climb some of Colorado’s legendary peaks. As you travel through pristine mountains into meandering canyons via land and water, you’ll encounter 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, return home with a keen appreciation for giving to others, staying involved in your community and caring for the environment.
NOTE: Outward Bound strongly recommends that all students be vaccinated against COVID-19 and up to date as defined by the CDC prior to arriving to their course start. For all open enrollment courses beginning on or after April 15, 2023, Outward Bound will no longer require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For questions regarding this policy please see this page or call us at 866-467-7651.
APPLY NOW This means a course has several open spots and is actively processing applications.
APPLY NOW – Almost Full This means there are three or fewer currently available spots left on a course. To secure your spot click Apply Now to begin an application!
JOIN WAITLIST Once a course has reached capacity, three waitlist positions become available. To join a course’s waitlist, click “Join Waitlist” to begin the application process. A $500 deposit is required. This $500 deposit includes a $150 non-refundable application fee and a $350 tuition payment. The $350 tuition payment is refundable only if you cancel your waitlist application or if an open position does not become available. If a position does become available, the applicant will be applied to the open position and the Application and Cancellation Policies of the Regional Outward Bound School will be followed, including forfeiture of the $500 deposit if you cancel 90 days or less prior to the course start date.
Waitlist applicants are encouraged to complete all required admissions documents while awaiting an open position. Positions may become available up to two weeks prior to the course start date. Applicants may only apply to one course. We recommend applying to a course with open positions instead of a course that is accepting waitlist applications. If you have questions, please call 866-467-7651 to speak with one of our Admissions Advisors.
CALL TO APPLY This means a course is very close to its start date. Although it is unlikely to secure a spot this late, you can call the National Admissions office at 866-467-7651 to discuss your options.
COURSE IS FULL When a course has reached maximum capacity, meaning all spots and the three waitlist spots are occupied, a course will read “Course Is Full.” This means applications are no longer being accepted.
CLOSED As a course nears its start date, the availability status may read “Closed.” In this event, a course roster has been finalized and applications are no longer being accepted or processed.
Course Start: travel to Vedauwoo; set up front country camp, gear check, preparation, dinner
Rock climbing; group development; begin to master camp craft skills
Backpacking; travel to the Gore Range and learn to translate camp craft skills to expeditionary travel.
Mountaineering; fixed lines, route finding, and efficient travel are areas of focus.
Time for rest, a shower, and a front country meal at basecamp in Leadville.
Wilderness First Aid Course
High ropes course and prep for canoeing
Travel to Moab
Canoeing, intro to desert and river travel, paddling skills, Solo
Develop outdoor skills. Enhance your leadership and communication abilities. Strive to increase your knowledge of the environment – all while learning wilderness travel techniques in a variety of stunning environments. The ultimate goal of our Gap Year expeditions is to help you develop the confidence, knowledge, and integrity essential for effective leadership. Whether you are learning how to safely tie in on belay, deciding as a group how to navigate through new terrain, or setting up a minimum-impact campsite for the evening, you’ll be honing and practicing skills for life.
Build skills, form connections: Amidst rugged natural landscapes, learn to lead and to follow; to give and receive feedback; and to trust in your own capabilities as you expand your technical and personal knowledge base. Find connections with your crewmates based on support and respect (and fun too!), and in the thick of challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
Value strengths and strengthen values: Uncover your unique character strengths, exercise your independence as you gain life experience and learn how to let compassion in to everyday life by pushing your own limits and supporting your crew as you tackle obstacles together, big and small.
Demonstrate mastery: As you gain confidence in new skills and a better understanding of the natural world around you, take on more decision-making responsibilities. Work together to achieve team goals, solve problems and succeed both as independent individuals and as a group.
What you’ll learn: Examine your personal values and discover more about your true self. Hone your technical abilities as you become a master at ropes courses or swiftwater rescue techniques and Wilderness First Aid. Numerous certificates are available depending on the course, and up to 18 credit hours can be earned along the way.
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.
Students will travel to Vedauwoo, Wyoming to build skills in rock climbing. Learning new body mechanics, balance and energy maintenance techniques will help students climb efficiently and unlock the incredible feeling of flowing up a route. Students will learn 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.
Backpackers carry everything they need - food, shelter, clothing and gear – allowing them to go deep into the wilderness where few people go. Backpacking provides a sense of freedom, allowing students to eat when hungry, set up camp when tired, and exercise complete control over what is accomplished each day. The simplicity of backpacking 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.
With the Colorado Rockies as a backdrop, students are introduced to backpacking with lessons in basic travel and camping techniques. As this section progresses, students learn Leave No Trace techniques, map and compass navigation, camp craft, and obtain an understanding of the area’s human and natural history. Students move on to Wyoming where they sleep under the stars, feel the sunshine on their face, and maybe watch a few sunsets over its simple but magical landscape. This connection to place and purpose threads throughout the course as students adapt to new environments.
A rugged and exciting form of backcountry travel, mountaineering grants access to secret stashes of virtually untouched wilderness. While in Colorado, students will practice mountaineering techniques like kicking steps, glissading and ascending fixed lines over mixed routes of snow, ice and rock. A mix of terrain and conditions can be expected, as fall in the Rockies can be unpredictable. As the course progresses, students will travel to remote technical terrain where they’ll use ice axes and advanced techniques to reach summits 13,000 or 14,000 feet in elevation.
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.
After mountaineering, students return to the Leadville Mountain Center where they 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.
Moving on to Utah, students focus on team-building skills while learning to read and traverse rivers. The focus of this section is mastering canoe strokes and maneuvers and navigating various obstacles and hazards in the river – all while tuning into and learning the lessons of the river. Students learn all the skills they need to move safely and efficiently down the river. As there are only two students in a canoe, everyone has the opportunity to "captain their watercraft." Students learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset their internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the brilliant stars of the Milky Way.
In places, the canyon rims rise hundreds of feet above the river, enclosing participants in a remote world of rushing water, delicate ecosystems and unbelievable beauty. Most courses get the opportunity to take day hikes away from the river and up to the canyon rim. These hikes provide stunning views, a change of pace and often the chance to see petroglyphs and jaw-dropping geological formations.
Revisiting skills learned in the alpine backpacking section, students experience the vastness of the desert southwest on foot. This section marks the culmination of lessons related to group travel, teamwork, navigation, and Leave No Trace techniques. As students backpack along mesas and camp in red rock canyons, their ownership of this journey is at an all-time high.
Participants follow Leave No Trace ethics as service to the environment and do acts of service while leading and supporting fellow participants. 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. 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.
All Outward Bound expeditions focus on building character and leadership skills. This 72-day course allows students the opportunity to dive deep into both technical skills, like rock climbing, canoeing and mountaineering, as well as interpersonal skills, such as self-awareness and team-building.
As the course progresses, Instructors gradually transfer responsibilities, like decision making and leadership of the expedition to the students, allowing each person to test the new 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.
In an untamed corner of Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest, the granite jewels of Vedauwoo (pronounced “vee-dah-voo”) beckon rock climbers. Featuring rock formations nestled into aspen and pine forests, wilderness and classroom meet. Climbing routes vary in length and complexity and provide excellent opportunities for both single- and multi-pitch climbing. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) nations.
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. Colorado offers the greatest concentration of peaks above 13,000 feet in continental U.S., with hundreds of “Thirteeners” (13,000+ feet in elevation) and 54 “Fourteeners” (14,000+ feet in elevation). 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 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
A vast network of canyons 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 still abound in the canyons. With pinnacles, buttes, towering walls, ledges and arches, the canyons are an explorer’s dream. Canyoneering courses venture into narrow slots, 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.
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.
To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.