I attended Colorado Mountain College Timberline Campus in Leadville Colorado from 2021-2023. I graduated with two Associates Degrees; Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Outdoor Education. Below I have included details on four of the major components of my fields of study. For full curriculum overview see the CMC course descriptions for Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Outdoor Education. These fields of study sometimes included the certificates listed on my landing page, and sometimes they were independent.
Mountain Orientation was an introduction of group management and wilderness respect. Utilizing different techniques of Leave No Trace and standard industry procedures we managed our expedition in a professional manner. Monitoring of travel techniques and weather to keep the group safe and planning meals does not initially strike someone as things that correlate; however, when spirits are down while hiding from lightning and tired from an arduous hike, a well-planned meal really lifts everyone's spirits. Setting up camp in already impacted places and sticking to worn trails manages the group as well as reduces any further human impact. When using a new area: rearranging things to keep from wearing a new path also reduces impact. Propper use of maps will for sure keep the group on track. Comparing the maps to observed weather patterns can also keep a group safer. Predicting movement speed to be sure everyone is off of a ridgeline when sever weather rolls in and then camping in valleys below tree line and in proximity to water is both safe and more enjoyable. Making these decisions as a group helps with everyone’s mental state so that they know when terrain will get difficult, or wet, or dry, and they can mentally prepare for what is to come; also, if everyone knows the plan then if the group begins to stray they are more likely to course correct sooner. It will also allow risks to be assessed as a team uncovering skills, weaknesses and possibly a better way to accomplish a task. A large group moving through the wilderness can truly destroy wilderness areas; following of LNT principals as a group will reduce impact and safety concerns. Planning and preparedness (LNT #1) will always harbor the other six principals: lack of preparation causes panic and panic causes mistakes that leave an impact. Truly existence in wilderness setting like the mountains becomes an exercise in respect: for the current environment, for the past cultural uses, for future animals (including humans).
Canyon Orientation provided a new environment for me. Previous to the course, I had never been into a canyon, let alone hiked through over many nights. Navigation in a canyon environment felt alien, I see the general route on the map, but how to make the elevation change from the parking lot to the bottom made almost no sense. I had never before hiked where route finding had such a steep learning curve. Choosing a safe route down into the canyon required a bit of trial and error with decisions about weather a crux was worth it or if we should find another way, or if that way even exists. Talking amongst each other, scouting possible routes and choosing the safest route for various skill levels throughout the expedition proved to keep us on track.
Traveling over multiple days as a group in a canyon requires a higher level of respect for the area. The basic Leave no Trace guidelines need to be modified. Proximity to water, or lack thereof, may require packing out of human waste and careful positioning of tent sites. Changes to flora and fauna will indicate changes of water availability including high water possibility due to flash flooding. Weather observations made from the bottom of a canyon may not indicate what is going on further up canyon; flash flooding or lack of water are very possible in canyon environments.
I had never before been mountaineering when I joined the Mountaineering Leadership class, never been on a glacier, never ice climbed; I knew it was going to be a hard. On top of the lack of technical skills, I was also three mounts out of knee repair surgery and only barely cleared by the doctor for participation these endeavors. The field work for the class was out in North Cascade National Forest with our first goal to summit Eldorado peak; up 4000ft elevation over seven miles including mild bouldering, walking on packed snow, across a glacier: all with a seventy pound pack. The classroom period preceding the field was standard; planning with the addition of specialized gear, needed for this specific style of terrain in combinations I have never used—crampons and a climbing harness seemed alien, no clue how to use a snow stake. Two long days of road travel, to the trail head, to finally strap on the mountaineering boots and heave the small automobile sized pack onto my back and the class was finally off onto the trail. I was accustomed to long days hiking on the trail, but not with this heavy of a pack, over a small distance, at such a slow pace; however it was necessary to manage the terrain and load, I was quite spent 3.5 miles in a grueling eight hours later. Setting camp the first night was still on familiar territory of rolling alpine hills with some exposed rock and scattered krummholz dotted where they could grasp. Waking early the next day to deer wandering the camp, ready to head out into the unknown; we had camped one mountain pass from the start of the snow. Over the pass and one rope assisted decent to reach the snowfield and it was into the unknown for me.
Awkward baby animals move more gracefully than I did when I began again after donning crampons, ankle gaiters, climbing harness, and helmet; my arms not knowing what to do with a rope and ice axe to manage, often staging a battle with each other. A short lesson on fall arrest with demonstration of aptitude and we were off again towards crunchy, frozen footfalls. Managing as a rope team around snow bridges, bergschrunds, crevasses, all the time, a rope tethering me to the other two members of my team, the three of us, as one unit, worked our way to the second camp where we would stay for the duration to learn more skills over the following days. Building anchors to rappel over and climb up ice cliffs or ensure safety while crossing large snow bridges. Sliding into crevasses to tax the rest of the rope team with staunching the slide and then rigging the line for successful rescue. Staging anchors in rock and moving as a team, dependent on the skillfully—or not skillfully, as more often for me—placed hardware took a full day to mostly eradicate my poor placement choices. Different belay methods without use of any hardware was difficult to wrap my brain around, but once I wrapped the rope around my body to belay my team: braced against a rock, controlling the rope around my waist, feeling how it moves and brakes, it made more sense. For the following ten days, I became more and more confident using the tools gifted to me, they were no longer foreign nor awkward. As a team we summited Eldorado in the snow and Dyer Mountain in the crumbly rocks, both without incident; proving to ourselves the methods, skills and knowledge hard earned became meaningful and necessary. Even though I do not plan to go into terrain that requires these skills, having them in my arsenal of tools will turn any dire situation into manageable.
Outdoor recreation principals
The logistical aspects in Outdoor Recreational Programming revealed the most important aspects of outdoor recreation and the keys to LNT principal #1: preparation and planning. Each step of the logistical process became limited to a contingency that relied on another, weaving a web of paperwork and regulations that all rely on each other to successfully conduct a trip. I found the most difficult aspect is permitting, because the permits are due to be requested well before any other aspects of the trip can be made, realistically. Before even asking for a permit each guide must have certain certifications and the organization must have proper insurance. Before even that: the trail must be designated, length of trip determined, and the number of participants locked. Usually that information is just a guessing game. Unless the trip is going to be setup solely based off of beta, determining new locations for outdoor adventures may need to be done the season before the requested permit. This is especially important if the trip is for educational purposes, for therapeutic purposes, or includes the use of adaptive equipment. A dedicated person constantly keeping up with every entity with each of their different permitting dates, seasons, and requirements is needed unless the guiding outfitter sticks to a single route that does not cross over into another governing body’s area of responsibility. If that happens, then all of the coordination is multiplied by the number of agencies! The good news is that all of the information required for just the permit will also be used as the basis for the rest of the logistics. The transportation requirements will not exceed the permit. Food budgeting will also not exceed the permit allowance. At least the projections can be made easier off of that base number. There is also the chance a permit or a section of a permit is denied. For example, wilderness areas are often shut down and some seasons special use permits are not issued at all for areas; usually due to overuse. Good communications with the issuing officer is needed to insure that extra planning is not wasted or even deemed necessary. Overall, without proper planning and preparation, a trip will not happen.