On Jan. 5, 90 students arrived at Colorado College for their Wilderness First Responder course. Some were aspiring ORC leaders. Others sought summer jobs. Others wanted only to gain competencies that would build their confidence both in the wilderness and at home. It was on that cold, frosty Monday morning that they all sat down to begin their ten-day, 80-hour course.

Passersby witnessed many strange sights in the days that followed. On a 60-degree afternoon, students sat shivering beneath the sun as they were wrapped in sleeping bags and treated for hypothermia. An entourage of 30 people walked laps around Armstrong Quad carrying a litter. Some students were even seen waving down imaginary helicopters as they yelled about who was to be back-boarded, what the most recent vital signs were, and whether anyone had found the missing hand.

Those ten days were glorious. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the second-to-last day of the course, all 90 aspiring WFRs made their way to Red Rocks Open Space, where they spent the hours between 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. practicing all they had learned. Snow had been falling steadily all day, and by the time they made it back to campus, several inches of snow-blanketed Colorado Springs.

Many bones were fractured, ribs were bruised, and much blood was spilled this half block. While almost all of these injuries were merely fabricated scenarios, 90 students graduated with the experience, knowledge, and confidence to be master Wilderness First Responders. I already feel safer knowing that if I ever twist my ankle walking downstairs, at least 20 of my peers will rush to stabilize my spine.

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