"It was an amazing, fun, challenging, beautiful, hard, extraordinary, life changing experience. There is no single way for me to describe the journey but I know I will carry it in my heart for the rest of my life and use the strength it showed me every day." – Meg P., Alum
Spending a semester in the outdoors helps you master a number of backcountry disciplines, honing the skills that support strong leadership. In addition to inter and intrapersonal skills like communication, feedback, decision making and goal setting, you will also learn to mountaineer, rock climb, backpack and confidently travel through the wildest and most rugged wilderness areas in the United States.
You’ll encounter considerable challenges that push you physically, emotionally and socially, with the ultimate goal of the semester being the development of 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 reinforcing, refining and practicing skills for life. Although there will be time for rest and reflection during the course, it is still an intense experience: multiple weeks of skill development, backcountry living and introspection in the most spectacular of outdoor learning environments.
This course is closed for the season. 2020 courses coming soon.
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.
The expedition includes at least one peak 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.
Rock climbing is a great opportunity to challenge oneself physically, mentally and emotionally. Contrary to common belief, upper body strength is not the determining factor in being able to climb well. 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. 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.
Mountaineering is perhaps the most rugged and exciting forms of backcountry travel, granting access to secret stashes of epic wilderness to those willing to work for it. On this course, students will practice mountaineering techniques like kicking steps, glissading and ascending fixed lines over mixed routes of snow, ice and rock. 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. 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.
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 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 may visit a nursing home or hospital to provide service there. 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 US 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.
This is the land of the midnight sun, where days are long and sunsets last hours. The Chugach Range sweeps along the Alaskan coast south of Anchorage in a stunning arc of tectonic upheaval. Everywhere in this range are the telltale signs of larger natural forces at work: whether it’s ice and snow high on a pass, or a U-shaped valley full of loose, gravel till and drained by a braided stream. It’s obvious that this is glacier country. Thick brush and trees fill the lower valleys, clouds hover over everything and the mist and rain often last for days. Those who engage this rugged environment will be rewarded with pristine wilderness, world class views and, if they’re lucky, sightings of moose or bears. The Chugach range is in the ancestral lands of the Alutiiq(Sugpiaq) and Dena'ina nations.
In an untamed corner of Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest, the granite jewels of Vedauwoo (pronounced “vee-dah-voo”) beckon rock climbers. This surreal land features phenomenal formations of rock nestled into aspen and pine forests. This is the place to discover 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 feet to 200 feet and provide excellent opportunities for both single- and multi-pitch climbing. Vedauwoo is in the ancestral lands of the Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux), Cheyenne, and Arapaho 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.