Colorado College strives to make itself known as having the best outdoor education program in the country. With distinct advantages such as the Block Plan and the accompanying block breaks, it’s no wonder that CC has already landed itself the spot of #13 according to Outside Magazine’s “Outside University” list.
CC is working to expand its Outdoor Education program with the enthusiastic guidance of Ryan Hammes, Neal Smeltzer, and new hire Patricia Chan. Chan will replace Elizabeth Pudder starting in June. In the coming years, the team of Outdoor Education staff hopes to expand the whitewater and climbing programs in particular after seeing big changes in the process to become a leader this year.
After a search involving many students for the final decision, CC extended an offer to Patricia Chan of University of New Hampshire. She is graduating with a Master’s of Science in kinesiology with a concentration in Outdoor Education, and she did her thesis research on outdoor orientation. Her résumé highlights her experience as a whitewater kayaker, Wilderness First Responder, and high-angle rescuer among other accomplishments. She is excited to be part of an exciting, growing program.
The opening of the new Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym has thrown new energy into the CC Climbing program, further fueled by a rapidly expanding outdoor climbing program that now encompasses rock and ice climbing. Ryan Hammes is working to make the CC Climbing Leader program closely resemble the training required for professional guides.
The climbing gym has become a hub for classes and clinics ranging from slackline yoga and aerial silks to abs classes. Outdoor climbing leaders will send out three climbing FOOT trips next year, and a group of eight CC students earned Single-Pitch Instructor certification, a prestigious credential that puts them on par with international guides.
Whitewater kayaking and rafting trips are inherently difficult to plan due to Colorado’s water flow, which can be finicky at best and nonexistent at worst. Each year, the boaters reliably put out the Westwater trip, which follows the Colorado River from Westwater to near Moab.
With the purchase of new wetsuits, rafts, and other boating gear, the whitewater program is poised to send out more trips in the future. Patricia’s extensive whitewater experience will likely be integral to this expansion. Rafting trips are ideal for beginners because they are both exciting and relaxing, and it’s not necessary to spend the nights camping.
The outdoor community hopes to collaborate more with both the rest of the college and the surrounding area. There is potential for combining ORC trips with research through the State of the Rockies “Citizen Science” program. Research opportunities can be as simple as recording the altitude of each pika spotted, for example. In addition, Hammes hinted at collaborating with educational departments such as geology and environmental science on educational trips.
The implementation of the first Outdoor Education Special Interest Community, which will be located in Slocum Hall next year, will further integrate the “outdoor community” with the rest of the school, allowing for further discussion and involvement apart from off-campus trips.
Hammes also hopes to host a regional conference for outdoor programs, similar to the Career Symposium this year, but including schools as well as summer and job opportunities. He hinted at an international trip in summer of 2014, which would be the first of its kind at CC, but plans are still very tentative.
Hammes emphasized the new implementation of technology in Outdoor Education through the new Summit program, which helps streamline the process for proposing and participating in trips. By solidifying CC’s Outdoor Education training programs, ORC leaders gain experience and credentials that will help them to attain future jobs. Hammes, along with Chan and Neal Smeltzer, look forward to working closely with student leaders to make CC’s Outdoor Education program even stronger, more professional, and more varied in the future.