This 65-day course provides in-depth technical instruction while focusing on the interpersonal skills that support strong leadership.
You’ll have the opportunity to escape your usual routine, explore stunning wilderness areas, and enjoy yourself to the fullest. In the course, students learn sea kayaking, mountaineering, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting in some of the wildest and most scenic areas in the United States. You’ll cross rugged, beautiful terrain and encounter challenges designed to reveal and encourage leadership.
Instructors focus on interpersonal and technical skill-development, including a 3-day Wilderness First Aid certification. You’ll experience challenges that foster perseverance, collaboration that strengthen your team, and reflection that creates a lasting impact. Wilderness travel can be challenging, but with appropriate pre-course preparation, using tools we provide, adults of various ages and body types can be successful. To take full advantage of the expedition, arrive as physically fit as possible and be ready for personal growth and development.
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.
The following is an example of what your course itinerary might look like. Your actual course plan will vary according to weather, student skills and abilities, and instructor preferences.
Course Start, welcome and introductions, duffle shuffle, course overview
Sea kayak section
Wilderness First Aid course
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training
Solo – longer courses have the opportunity for a 3-day, 2-night Solo. The length of Solo is up to the discretion of the Instructors and will be no longer than a 72 hour period.
Transition to Oregon
Rock climbing section
Whitewater rafting section
Personal Challenge Event, de-issue gear, de-brief, course end celebration and graduation.
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.
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.
The course starts with nearly two weeks of sea kayaking in the San Juan Islands, exploring Washington’s inner coastal waters that make this area a renowned cruising ground for paddlers. Students traverse the waterways in single and double kayaks, seeking out island beach campsites, sleeping under the stars, and getting acquainted with the fascinating natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest coast. Becoming a competent sea kayaker involves learning how to read a chart, perform self and assisted rescues, paddle efficiently, and assess sea conditions appropriate to individual and group abilities. Students gain skills in reading currents and tides, kayak rescue techniques, marine navigation, and assessing the weather. Team building will be emphasized during this section.
Students will learn technical skills such as knots and hitches, fixed-lines, climbing techniques, and anchor building. Wilderness skills include navigation, natural history, and living in the backcountry. Mountaineering courses spend time both on and off trail, traveling to remote and beautiful places. Each day presents a different set of activities, with ample time for experiential learning. The instructor-to-student ratio is never more than 1:5 during this section, allowing for personal coaching on the physical techniques of climbing and mountaineering and catering the curriculum to individual course participants.
Students will travel in four to six person paddle rafts and learn to “captain” (maneuver) their paddle raft team through Class II to IV rapids. After learning basic river travel and safety, students will learn to read currents, anticipate obstacles, scout rapids, and negotiate technical portions of the river. Students will also learn river hydrology, swimming in currents, paddle techniques, and expeditionary travel. While on the rafting expedition, there may also be an opportunity for short day hikes.
Students will receive individual instruction and test their skills against vertical cracks, steep faces and boulders. Students will learn about basic climbing equipment, rope management, tying knots, belaying and rappelling techniques, and movement on rock.
The Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course is a 3-day introduction to wilderness medicine that combines classroom time with practical sessions. This section provides students with basic instruction and wilderness first aid skills. Students will leave this 3-day section with a certification in Wilderness First Aid and the knowledge to manage simple injuries and illnesses in the backcountry. It's a great stepping stone into wilderness medicine and may lead to a desire to take longer, more complex courses in the future.
Outward Bound believes that an appropriate amount of independence is a powerful educational tool. During the travel sections of this course, Outward Bound instructors purposefully and gradually transfer certain leadership responsibilities to the students culminating with our “Final Expedition.” Near the end of course—if the group has demonstrated the necessary leadership, team problem solving, and wilderness living skills—students may have the opportunity to travel without instructors immediately present. Many of our students feel this phase of the course is the most rewarding, as the group learns to work as a team, problem solve, and accomplish a goal independently, while utilizing the skills they have acquired.
Service to others and to our environment is a core value of Outward Bound and is integrated into each course. A structured, half day of service is scheduled into most of our courses. In Mazama, at our Washington base, we work with several different local organizations. These include:
Methow at Home: fire mitigation and yard work for elderly community members
Classroom in Bloom: weeding, planting, harvesting in an educational garden at the local high school
Methow Trails: trail work on the Methow Valley trail network
Methow Valley Interpretive Center: working in the native plant garden and learning about local Indigenous communities
Methow Arts: projects to bring art to the valley and community
Little Star: Montessori school serving pre-K and kindergarten that offers scholarships to local children
In addition to scheduled, formal service, students may do impromptu trail service or campsite service in the Okanogan National Forest or Pasayten Wilderness. This might include breaking apart illegal fire rings or covering up social trails. Lastly and perhaps the most important of all, the students learn that by offering compassion to each other and supporting the crew through their daily chores of putting up tarps and cooking and cleaning, service can be given freely and daily in small acts of kindness. Students see the impact of their actions firsthand, develop an appreciation of service, and transfer this desire to serve their communities back home.
For profound learning to take place, students need time to reflect on their experience, and Solo is that opportunity. 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. With sufficient food and equipment, students will set up camp at sites of their own, using the wilderness skills learned during the first portions of the course. The amount of time students spend on Solo is based on length of course, weather, student condition, age, and Instructor preference. Solo campsites are chosen to offer as much solitude as possible (yet be within emergency whistle-signaling distance of other group members). Most students spend their Solo time journaling, drawing, reflecting, thinking and resting as they process lessons of the course to focus on their goals for the future. Instructors check on each participant at regular intervals, as safety is always the top priority.
Students will develop leadership skills, strength of character, and a desire to serve. In longer courses, students can reach a more profound level of mastery. There are more chances to develop technical skills, receive and implement feedback, and further personal development. On the 65-day Leadership Semester students should expect to come to a thorough understanding and demonstration of technical skills and be able to perform with little supplementary intervention during the final phase of course.
Nestled between Vancouver Island and the North Cascades, the San Juan Islands are a unique coastal cruising ground with large expanses of sparkling water and mountain scenery. During their journey, students will encounter coastlines with a combination of sandy and rocky beaches, shallow and deep harbors, placid and reef-studded bays. Knotty, twisted Madrona trees grow along much of the shorelines while evergreen fir and pine forests cover large inland areas. Sightings of harbor seals, porpoise, and eagles are common, and you might catch a rare glimpse of an Orca whale. The islands get less average rainfall than the surrounding area due to the rain-shadow effect of the Olympic Mountains. Summertime high temperatures are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit while lows could be in the 40s. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi), Klallam, Samish, Tulalip, W̱SÁNEĆ, Lekwungen/Songhees and Coast Salish nations.
The North Cascades, Washington
The North Cascades are called the “American Alps” for their rugged beauty and glaciated peaks; they remain some of the wildest and least traveled wilderness in the United States. The North Cascades host the greatest concentration of glaciers in the “Lower 48” and are full of high mountain meadows peppered with wildflowers. The mountain sections of our programs operate in the Sawtooth, Pasayten, and Glacier Peak Wilderness areas, as well as North Cascades National Park. All lie on the east side of the North Cascades and receive significantly less rainfall than the western coast of Washington. Temperatures typically range from freezing to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Syilx tmixʷ (Okanagan), Yakama, Nłeʔkepmx Tmíxʷ (Nlaka'pamux), Methow, np̓əšqʷáw̓səxʷ (Wenatchi), Coast Salish, Skagit, Tulalip, Entiat, Chelan, Skykomish and Nuxwsa'7aq (Nooksack) nations.
Deschutes River, Oregon
The Deschutes River is part of the national Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The river flows north from the Oregon Cascades to the Columbia River and then on to the Pacific Ocean. The Lower Deschutes is a popular river for both whitewater rafting and fly fishing. The river is spring fed, which results in an unusually constant water flow and cold water. Excellent geologic evidence is present all around this area. This course will travel the entire 96-mile stretch of the Lower Deschutes. The rapids on the Deschutes are rated to Class IV, mostly Class II-III, and are excellent for learning paddle skills, hydrology and teamwork. The group camps each night along the banks of the river. The Deschutes River Canyon runs along the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs for the first 60 miles and follows a railroad for much of the length of the Lower Deschutes. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Tenino nations.
Central Cascades, Oregon
Volcanoes dot the spine of the Cascade Mountains, rising over 10,000 feet above the forests, lakes, and rivers of the surrounding region. The Central Cascade range is home to the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson. Four 10,000 foot glaciated volcanoes are present in this course area, with a total of nine major volcanoes. You’ll find a unique blend of dry east side and moist west side weather conditions which allow diverse types of vegetation to flourish, when they are not covered by the Cascades deep snowpack. The area has a complex geologic history that continues today. You can find active glaciers methodically carving away the mountain and the dramatic traces of avalanches that altered the landscape. It is these features of the volcanoes that create a challenging playground from which students will learn the more technical aspects of mountaineering and backpacking. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Yoncalla, Molalla, Kalapuya, Tenino and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs nations.
Temperatures typically range from freezing to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The course area is on the eastern side of the Cascades, and thus tends to be drier; however, rain and thunderstorms are not unusual. Fall weather varies and students could experience snow and wet conditions especially in the mountains.
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.