The Hamilton Outing Club held its second leader training course Nov. 5 and 6.  Taught by experienced HOC leaders and officers, the two-day class – in conjunction with the Wilderness First Aid course sponsored by the Outing Club–qualifies students to lead hiking and backpacking trips.

On Saturday more than 20 excited students descended upon the Glen House, HOC’s on-campus home. Over the course of the next two days, they discussed a broad range of topics. “We teach everything from knots, proper backcountry hygiene, and how to pack a backpack through to dealing with complicated or difficult group dynamics,” said Emily Alexander ’19, one of the HOC officers responsible for running leader training.

The morning was spent learning to plan and prepare for a trip. Nora Silva and Claudia Miller, both ’19, were the lead instructors for this weekend but brought in several of the Outing Club’s many other experienced leaders to teach topics like navigation and group management. Having multiple seasoned leaders teaching not only spreads the work—making it easier on the lead instructors­­—but also gives new leaders a chance to meet many of the people who can provide valuable advice about trips or even co-lead a trip with them one day.

In the afternoon students packed up equipment and food and headed out into the wilds of Kirkland Glen, one of Hamilton’s beautiful on-campus forests for an overnight. Along the way they played games, learned to purify water, and got to know one another. Upon arrival at their campsite, they had a chance to put the skills they’d learned earlier in the day to the test. “My favorite part of the weekend is definitely the night spent in the woods. Cooking dinner, setting up tarps and tents, and spending the night under the stars gives us the ability to see firsthand that they’ve retained the skills they learned in the Glen House,” said Alexander.

Jade Thomas ’20, one of the participants in the course echoed the sentiment. “The best part of training was just spending a night outside! We were really blessed with beautiful weather, especially considering what it could’ve been on an overnight outdoors in mid-November.”

The next morning students returned to campus to unpack, debrief the lessons of the last 24 hours, and answer any lingering questions. After the final cleanup was finished, the new leaders went on their way—satisfied with the skills they had learned and excited about the prospect of trips to come. Two hiking trips have already been planned as new leaders try to make the most of the few weeks left before the weather turns cold and snowy and hiking boots are swapped for skis and snowshoes.

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