Over the past month the officers and experienced leaders of the Hamilton Outing Club (HOC) have taken on the task of giving 35 new leaders the training that they need to lead trips for HOC. Student leaders are the heart of HOC and are responsible for leading almost all of the trips that go out during the school year -- ranging from easy day hikes in the Adirondacks to longer trips further afield during breaks.
“Being a HOC leader is a volunteer position so every single trip that goes out is prompted by a leader or two being really excited about an idea that they’ve had and wanting to give members of the campus community the opportunity to experience something interesting and different” explained David Morgan ’16, one of the Outing Club officers.
The process of becoming a HOC leader consists of completing two weekend-long training sessions, a leader training weekend focused on the technical and interpersonal skills needed to lead hiking and backpacking trips and a Wilderness First Aid course.
This year HOC ran two separate leader training weekends in order to accommodate exceptionally high interest among the student body. Jared Mandelbaum ’18 and Michael Nelson ’16 instructed over the weekend of Sept. 19-20 while Madison Atterbury and Charlie Ross (both ’17) took point on the second weekend, Oct. 3-4. “It was great to see so much excitement because the more leaders that we have, the more trips we can send out,” commented Atterbury. While students must apply for a spot in a training weekend, Atterbury noted, “enthusiasm is the most important criteria. Previous wilderness experience doesn’t hurt but we design the weekend to teach you pretty much everything that you would need to know.”
Each leader training weekend began in the Glen House (the Outing Club’s home on campus) where the students had lessons on everything from proper clothing and footwear to navigation and making an itinerary for a trip. While each weekend has two lead instructors, they arranged for other experienced leaders to come in and teach particular topics—such as stove usage or meal planning. This allowed students to not only learn from a variety of different teaching styles but also meet some of the people whose knowledge will be invaluable as the new leaders start planning and leading trips.
In the afternoon, the training shifts venues to the woods of the Kirkland Glen where they set up camp for the night. “Once we brought them out into the woods they were basically totally self-sufficient and formed a really cohesive group. They learned as much from each other as they did from us,” said Ross about the students in his session.
On Sunday morning the students returned to the Glen House to de-issue gear and have a lesson on risk management before saying goodbye to all their new friends.
The final step in the process is successful completion of a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course. On Oct. 10-11 HOC sponsored a WFA course taught by SOLO, one of the preeminent schools of wilderness medicine. The two-day course covered everything from sprains and strains to major medical emergencies such as strokes or heart attacks.
Additionally, the course examined such issues in the context of a wilderness setting—meaning that ambulances and hospital emergencies rooms are more than an hour away. Through a mixture of lectures, hands-on practice, and scenarios simulating various disasters the course gives new leaders the skills and confidence needed to feel comfortable taking on anything that might arise on their trips.
Now that both the leader training weekends and WFA are complete there are 35 new leaders eager to get out and lead trips. Following Fall Break there will be a “trip-storming” meeting at the Glen House where leaders can plan trips and find a co-leader to lead with. Stay tuned over the coming weeks to hear about some of the exciting trips run by leaders new and old.