A typical day usually means getting up early, making breakfast, packing up camp, mapping the route and then hitting the trail or river, depending on your activities. You will travel all day – taking breaks to rest, snack or enjoy a view – but you will generally be covering lots of territory. Once you reach camp, group members will divide and conquer to get food cooked and camp set up. After dinner, you may meet to address the next day's plans or to discuss leadership and teamwork methods before crawling into your sleeping bag for a well-deserved rest.
Your attention will be focused both on the wilderness living and working as a team. Instructors will help on both counts, teaching practical skills and helping you work together, navigating with maps and compasses or charts as you make your way. At night, discussions will review personal and group challenges and difficulties encountered in the day's activities. Topics will include leadership, decision-making, responsibility and teamwork. As your expedition progresses and your skills improve your instructors will step back a bit, and towards the end of your course, you and your patrol will be able to take on more of the freedoms and responsibilities of the expedition.
Living and working with a small group is an opportunity to make lifelong friends and enjoy memories that will last a lifetime. It is also a source of friction and challenge. You may feel frustration or annoyance with your teammates at times as you and your group attempt to meet your goals and make decisions big and small. Students will step off the bus with varying levels of motivation, fitness, fear and doubt. Once the trip starts, even the most eager students may become reluctant to take a certain risk or try their best. Investing in working out differences in your group, sharing insights from your challenges and laughing your heads off over the most delicious rice and bean dinner you ever tasted (hunger is the best spice) are all part of why students walk away from their Outward Bound course with a deeper understanding of life, living, themselves and each other.
Because this is not a guided trip, all group members will pitch in to do camp chores, including cooking, washing pots, setting up tarp shelters and hanging food bags (to keep them safe from critters). You'll find that as the expedition progresses, your mastery of these camp craft skills will enable you to operate more efficiently and effectively around camp. Most groups also contribute by cleaning their gear at course end.
Your instructors will demonstrate any available bathing options and explain more about backcountry hygiene when you arrive. You will also learn how to dispose of human waste in latrines, "cat holes," "groovers," or other wilderness-appropriate methods. "Bathroom" situations are dependent on the environment your course takes place in. Groups carry soap and/or hand sanitizer for hand washing.
You and the other members of your group will learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals over portable gas stoves. Our meals are mainly vegetarian and consist of grains, pasta, nuts, beans, cereals and other light, dehydrated foods. A typical breakfast might be granola or oatmeal; lunch would include tortillas and cheese or peanut butter and jam on crackers; dinner might be macaroni and cheese or beans and rice.
COBS courses contain many elements in addition to the main expedition activity. Weather and time permitting, most courses include the following elements:
Weather and time permitting, a COBS Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their experience. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Students on a 3-week course typically spend 2 nights on Solo while students on a 1-week course may only spend a few hours on Solo.
Regardless of Solo length, all students receive sufficient food, water and shelter to keep them safe and healthy during Solo. Instructors choose solo sites to offer as much solitude as possible while retaining some proximity. While students spend the majority of their Solo time alone, Instructors do check on each student as often as needed, usually 1-4 times per day, to ensure that each student feels safe and comfortable. Instructors work with each student individually to structure a successful, unique Solo experience that meets their specific needs. Solo is purposefully scheduled near the end of the expedition so students have plenty of time to acclimate to their new environments beforehand.
Students tend to have mixed feelings leading up to Solo. Inevitably, students feel some nervousness and hesitation but are also excited to rest, reflect and test their new skills after spending many days in the wilderness. Students often find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period.
At one or two different points during many Colorado courses, students have the opportunity to climb at a stunning, outdoor rock climbing site (expeditions with 'rock climbing' in the course title include multiple days). COBS chooses rock climbing sites that provide a number of different route options including cracks, sheer faces and chimneys. Regardless of a student’s rock climbing background, everyone is sure to find something that will both challenge and encourage them. All COBS rock climbing experiences are heavily supervised and employ safety systems that are compliant with national standards.
During climbing days, students learn about general rock-climbing equipment, safety and etiquette before practicing how to belay. Students have many opportunities to climb, belay and rappel throughout the day. Rappelling involves stepping over the edge and controlling one’s own descent.
High Ropes Course
Shorter courses based out of the Leadville Mountain Center or Marble base camp may include a day or two of teambuilding activities and ropes course challenge. High up in the trees, students climb the cargo net, balance across tightropes, swing from platform to platform and zipline back down to earth.
Service is an integral part of the COBS curriculum. In addition to practicing Leave No Trace® ethics on all expeditions, COBS also coordinates service projects with land management agencies like the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, local land trusts and social service agencies like nursing homes and hospitals. Most COBS students have an opportunity to participate in at least one service project during their course.
Personal Challenge Event
Most Colorado Outward Bound School courses, two weeks and longer, end with a Personal Challenge Event (PCE), a final individual physical push. In the summer, the PCE usually includes some kind of run, obstacle course, individual peak climb or a combination of events.
The PCE is non-competitive. Students set their own time goals for completion and work toward them to see how their mental and physical stamina has grown as a result of their wilderness expedition. Students celebrate the completion of their wilderness expedition and PCE with a final banquet and graduation ceremony.
Preparing for Your Course
Have fun and enjoy the adventure of preparation while training for your course! This course is an excellent opportunity for you to get outside, get fit and explore your neighborhood's parks and recreation areas.
Adopt Healthy Habits
Arrive at your course start well rested.
Reduce consumption of fatty foods, excessive alcohol and caffeine. These substances require a lot of water and oxygen to metabolize.
Eat plenty of unrefined carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains).
Drink water regularly instead of juice or soda.
If you use tobacco or tobacco products, it is essential to quit before you arrive.
Fitness and Training
You do NOT have to be an athlete or highly-trained to attend an Outward Bound course.
You DO have to be physically capable and active. Our courses are demanding. You will use your muscles in new and challenging ways. Watch our video for ideas on how to build endurance and strength before course!
It takes strength and fitness to paddle a boat for six or eight hours a day, carry a 50+ pound pack for 5-10 miles or climb a rock wall. If you aren’t already involved in a fitness program, now is the time to start.
Your efforts will pay off in enjoyment, comfort and fun.
Consider and be prepared for:
Teamwork: Be ready to be part of a team. Think about other team experiences you may have had in the past – sports, school plays or in business. Remember what helped your team be successful. Plan on being a positive contributor during your course.
Living with Less: Look around you and think about what you have and what you truly need. Things we may take for granted like hot running water, upholstered furniture and sidewalks will not be part of your experience. When you get into the routines of wilderness living, you may notice that despite the complexity of life, living in the wilderness and living at home are ultimately about food, clothing, shelter and the relationships you have with those around you. Because the wilderness lifestyle is simple, you will leave behind non-essentials like deodorant, make up, electronic devices and books.
Being Away from Home: Whether it is the first or the 20th time you have been away from home, you might not have been this “out of touch.” Don’t be surprised if you feel homesick at some point during your course. Please use your instructors and teammates as resources for support.
Compassion: Compassion is a pillar on which Outward Bound was built. It is an emotion you may feel in response to another person’s struggle. Compassion can be shown in kind, thoughtful actions and can be practiced during course through active listening and understanding of other perspectives. You may find that you need to make compromises as you support other members of your team. It is always important to remember that your attitude and actions affect everyone.
Group Discussion: Your instructors will lead group discussions as you debrief each day’s events. Through coaching from your instructors, your group will practice positive communication and conflict resolution techniques. These skills help your group maintain respect for individual opinions no matter how they may differ. Hopefully, these lessons will extend to your everyday life. Be prepared to share your perspective and gain insight from others during these discussions.
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