Course Code: CUGL-2472
Start Date: 9/19/24
End Date: 11/12/24
Raft through whitewater rapids in Canyonlands National Park, rappel down red rock slot canyons, and learn to be the captain of your own canoe. On this action-packed Semester, you’ll learn to thrive as a leader in a variety of stunning canyon and river environments. Begin your journey by learning to backpack and camp in Utah’s canyons. Swap your hiking boots for paddles as you navigate the river by canoe and then by raft through the whitewater rapids in Canyonlands National Park. Along the way, you’ll see ancient dwellings and rock art and learn about the rich human history of the region. Finish your course by learning the canyoneering techniques needed to journey deeper into Utah’s red rock slot canyons and ancient riverbeds. Learning to thrive within a variety of backcountry settings will help you discover your strengths and fine-tune your problem-solving skills. You’ll return home with the confidence, resilience, and skillset needed to take on any of life’s challenges.
Utah's Canyon Country
The most spectacular aspects of the Utah landscape are the hidden treasures found within its vast canyon networks. The canyons are composed of a spell-binding labyrinth of towering walls, arches, and slot canyons just waiting to be explored. On course, these vibrant formations are a geological playground for scrambling and teamwork. The desert ecosystem is characterized by aromatic plants like sagebrush and juniper and birds soaring high above canyon walls. The days can be hot in the summertime, but it always cools down in the evenings. These regions are within the ancestral lands of the Ute, Pueblos, Southern Paiute, Diné, and Hopi nations.
Labyrinth Canyon, Utah
You will launch on the Green River in two-person canoes for 63 miles through Labyrinth Canyon. The river enters Labyrinth Canyon slowly, named for the serpentine path it carves as it dives deep into the redrock sandstone that characterizes southeastern Utah and the Canyonlands area. Narrow and winding side canyons, towering cliffs rising vertically out of the river, pinnacles and ledges all await you as you fine-tune your paddling strokes. The canoes provide you with great freedom and maneuverability. While many of the skills you learn canoeing are transferable to rafts, the small craft will demand a high level of coordination and cooperation with your canoeing partner. During this phase of your course, your instructors will introduce you to the most important elements of river life: environmental stewardship, outdoor cooking, first aid, natural history of the river canyons, the night sky, and of course, paddling skills. This region is within the ancestral lands of the Ute nations.
What is a land acknowledgment?
At the Colorado Outward Bound School, we include land acknowledgments in our work as a formal way to recognize and respect the traditional territories and Indigenous Peoples as stewards of the land. It is important to understand and acknowledge the comprehensive past, present, and future of the places we travel and to seek to understand our role therein. To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation we give to the Indigenous Peoples who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. Read more about land acknowledgments at Outward Bound here.
With your crew, you will journey through the intriguing and difficult-to-explore canyon country, taking in the infinite shapes of the arches, towers, buttes, amphitheaters, overhangs, and domes. While doing this, you will be carrying a 45 to 60 pound backpack which will have all you need to thrive in the wilderness. Sometimes students will shed their backpacks for smaller daypacks to navigate into narrow slots or explore thousand-year-old cliff dwellings and rock art. Crews camp on expansive rock slabs, stopping along the way to explore microclimates and canyon ecosystems. All the while, you continue learning how to use maps and compasses, to cook meals for yourself and your crewmates, negotiate slickrock obstacles, find water, and live comfortably in the immense canyons. The days can be long and hard, but the canyons reward you with their jaw-dropping beauty. You will spend time in an incredible area where life becomes more in tune with the essentials of traveling through a landscape of rock, sand, sky -- feeling the sunshine on your face and watching the setting sun give way to stars.
📍Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) lands
Canyoneering involves exploration and travel in canyons that are often narrow, sinuous, and steep with many obstacles to negotiate. Traveling through them requires a combination of scrambling up (and down) climbing over boulders, lowering packs, maneuvering with backpacks, and possibly rappeling. This rugged, rocky terrain requires teamwork and delicate decision-making on the part of group members. Instructors will begin by teaching the foundational skills necessary for efficient travel, such as basic movement over rock and spotting techniques in order to meet the demands of the technical terrain. The group may then learn more advanced movement on rock, and roped techniques such as rappelling, knot-tying, self-rescue, and rope handling. Canyons become a puzzle and the solution means you can move forward.
📍Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) lands
On the river, each day is spent learning to navigate various obstacles and how to anticipate the forces of the current from upstream. You and your companions will work to become a team, coordinating your spacing and paddle strokes. You will have an opportunity to be the captain of your crew and put to use what you’ve learned as you maneuver your raft through Class 2-4 rapids. Interspersed between the rapids are flat-water sections where there is a current, but no whitewater. At times, you will take advantage of this calm water to hone your skills and enjoy the view. Time in a raft is ideal for getting to know each other and forming boat pride, laughing your way downriver as you relax into river life. Afternoons can bring strong up-canyon winds, which create a challenge as you dig in to reach the camping destination. Rafting connects you to the river: the oasis of flora and fauna (including humans!) that rely on the river to survive in the desert. The soaring canyons complement the roar of whitewater, as well as the silences that can only be found in such remote beauty.
Photo: Curtis Huey |📍Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Diné, and Pueblos lands
Guided Reflection and Transference
At Outward Bound we believe there is no learning without reflection. Throughout course, you will be prompted to reflect on what you’re experiencing on course, and what it means in the greater context of your life. Sometimes this is a journaling exercise, sometimes a group sharing experience, and sometimes a moment of solitude to sit and think. You spend focused time toward course progression end exploring how your new knowledge, skills and attributes can apply to your life after course.
Solo is a time when you’ll get the opportunity to spend time alone during course. With sufficient food and equipment, your Solo will be a chance to reflect on your course experience, journal, and connect with nature. Depending on your course length and environmental factors, Solo can range from 30 minutes to an overnight experience. You will not travel during this time and your Instructors may check on you occasionally. Your solo site will be close enough to your Instructors in case of emergency, but far enough removed to enjoy solitude. Many students are initially nervous about solo, but later recall it as one of the highlights of their course.
Wilderness First Aid
Despite the best risk management, sometimes accidents happen, and knowing how to respond to injuries in a backcountry setting is a key skill for aspiring outdoor leaders. During this section, you will spend two days in a classroom at our basecamp, learning about wilderness medicine. You will have the opportunity to earn a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification during this course, which is considered a standard for many entry level jobs in the Outdoor Industry.
📍Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) lands
Service is a pillar of the Outward Bound experience. On each course, students learn to practice intentional service to themselves, to others and to the environment. This may look like practicing self-care or supporting a crewmate who is having a hard day. Participants also learn to Leave No Trace ethics, practicing service to the environment by preserving and respecting the fragile ecosystems they encounter. Students experience firsthand the social and emotional benefits of acts of service. They are encouraged to bring this ethic of care to their life back home.
Canoeing is an opportunity to experience the jaw-dropping canyons and magic of the river. The tranquil waters allow for reflection and relationship-building with your canoe partner. The calm waters can change with up-canyon winds that require strength to push forward. The canoes provide you with great freedom and maneuverability. While many of the skills you learn canoeing are transferable to rafts, the small craft will demand a high level of coordination and cooperation with your canoeing partner. Canoeing allows for connection to place, water, and people.
Photo: Ashley Perry |📍Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Diné, and Pueblos lands
Day 1: Course Start
Day 2-8: Canyon Backpacking
Day 9-12: Wilderness First Aid Class
Day 13-20: Canoeing
Day 21-29: Rafting Cataract Canyon, Day Hikes
Day 30-45: Transfer to the Canyons: Technical Canyoneering, Slot Canyons, Day Hikes, Solo, Canyon Backpacking
Day 46-53: Canyon Backpacking - Possible Final Expedition
Day 54-55: Final Challenge Event, Course End Ceremonies
Our expeditions help students grow into the best version of themselves. We use adventure in the outdoors to help students discover their strengths and build authentic connections with their peers. Compassion for oneself and others is foundational to the Outward Bound experience. As students develop outdoor skills, they also gain confidence and leadership tools that will last a lifetime. Course outcomes include:
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