"Students were challenged, they conquered fears ... Relationships formed, some made best friends, some fought, some were leaders, others followed and families were missed. Days were long, food was low, miles were logged, laughs were loud and singing was essential. Canyons were narrow, 5.10 seemed impossible, the Gore range glowed and the lightning was way too close. We created culture and experienced a new one, the altitude hurt, a volcano was summited. Some thought they couldn't do it, then they did. Some didn't. Crampons were forgotten, moments were shared, lives were lived like never before." - Vince, Outward Bound alumnus
This course is a tour de force of the American West that culminates with the opportunity to climb Ecuador’s highest peaks. As you travel through pristine mountains into meandering canyons and across continents into a new culture, you’ll encounter considerable challenges that push you physically, emotionally and socially. These challenges offer a chance to discover your strengths and potential, and also to learn tools to help you better cope with difficult situations in the future. Through hands-on experience, learn the importance of compassion, service and social and environmental responsibility – returning home with a keen appreciation for giving to others, staying involved in your community and caring for the environment.
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This course may be full or preparing to leave in the next week. Please call us at 866-467-7651 to discuss your options.
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.
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 and self-reliance, as well as externally to connect deeply with others as they talk, sing, play games and spend time together without distraction.
This course will begin with lessons in basic travel and camping techniques. Along the way, students learn Leave No Trace techniques, map and compass navigation and camp craft as they get a feel for the human and natural history of the area. Students backpack along valleys and long ridges, camp in basins with views like the top of the world and stop along the way to explore microclimates and alpine ecosystems. Most importantly, students spend time in an incredible area, sleep under the stars, feel the sunshine on their face and maybe watch a few sunsets over this 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.
Mountaineering is perhaps the most rugged and exciting forms of backcountry travel, granting access to secret stashes of epic wilderness to the few who are 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 even an attempt to ascend a peak.
Canyoneering is like running the most exciting adventure course imaginable. Each obstacle occurs naturally - made by the power of water coursing across the desert, making its way to the river. A combination of climbing, scrambling, rappelling, hiking and even swimming may be involved in getting through this unreal terrain. The adventure begins by hiking across the sunny desert mesa to drop into a canyon via rappel. As students travel further down, the canyon narrows, twists, turns and drops, creating eerie cave-like conditions. Sunlight bouncing off the walls from far above causes the sandstone walls to glow red and orange. Exiting the canyon back into the desert daylight feels like returning from another world. This rugged, rocky terrain requires teamwork and effective decision-making. To meet the demands of technical terrain, Instructors begin by teaching the foundational skills necessary for efficient travel, such as basic movement over rock. Over this section, students will experience technical canyoneering, slot canyons, day hikes and canyon backpacking.
Rock climbing is the ultimate 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.
This course includes an eight-day Wilderness First Responder course, the standard medical certification in the outdoor industry that provides the skills to respond to remote backcountry medical emergencies.
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, and participants 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 that time can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours or more, depending on the length of the course. 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. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. With all the food, skills and supplies they need, participants are given a secluded spot to reflect alone and are monitored by staff throughout the experience to maintain safety. 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 their Outward Bound experience.
Whether you go on 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, you’ll learn camping and expedition basics, as well as the skills specific to your course activity such as climbing or rafting. You’ll get to know your fellow crew mates surprisingly well as you share this immersive and intense experience.
On longer courses, your Instructors will progressively hand over more of the decision making and leadership of the expedition to you and your crewmates, allowing each person to test the new technical and interpersonal skills they have learned. On semesters, you will learn advanced technical skills and on some courses, earn certifications. Longer courses give your crew the opportunity to get past the “honeymoon” stage where individuals show more of their “real” selves. Through the dynamics of an evolving group setting, you will have more freedom to investigate who you are and how you want to develop personally, and to start that inner journey. Longer solos will give you more time to reflect on your course and your life direction. All along the way, you 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.
Canyon Country, Utah
The most spectacular aspects of the Utah landscape are the hidden treasures found within its vast canyon networks, formed by millennia of wind and water. The canyonlands of Southern Utah are still as stunning, mysterious and wild as they were for the Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont Native Americans who roamed these lands over 800 years ago, and whose ruins and rock art still abound in the canyons. The canyons are composed of a spell-binding labyrinth of alcoves, fins, pinnacles, buttes, towering walls, ledges and arches just waiting to be explored on canyon backpacking courses. Canyoneering courses also venture into narrower, deeper chasms two feet wide with walls several hundred feet on each side. These sandstone slot canyons are a geological playground for scrambling, teamwork and rappelling.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
A surreal, magical landscape with Dr. Seuss-like plants and many animal species which combine to create an alien landscape. The bizarre and jumbled rock formations have created one of the most popular and diverse climbing sites in the U.S., drawing both traditional and sport climbers. Set in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree is made up of extensive 50 foot to 300 foot granite outcroppings. These overhangs provide over 5,000 different routes of all types and for all abilities. The variety of cracks, slabs, face and bouldering is what makes Joshua Tree a mecca for rock climbers. The sunny weather in the Mojave Desert is conducive to maximizing your time on the rock.
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.
The 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. Students have the opportunity to experience the wonderful culture of Ecuador, in addition to learning the basics of undertaking a high altitude glacial mountaineering expedition. Students will have several chances to summit volcanoes higher than 5000 meters (16,400 feet). Students feel like they are standing on a floating island as they take in 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.
The course ends in Ecuador, which gives students the opportunity to stay on in Ecuador and travel on their own if they choose to do so.
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.