The Hamilton Outing Club held a leader-training course on Nov. 1 and 2 with student participants  learning everything from how to set up a tent and cook a meal to the more abstract but equally important skills of group management. Student leaders are at the core of the Outing Club and are central to its success.

Leader training is held every fall and capitalizes on the enthusiasm for the outdoors created by Adirondack Adventure and 46 Peaks Weekend.  The first step in learning to lead is applying to the program. New leaders come from all parts of campus. “It’d be easy to stereotype them, but the reality is that anyone can become a leader. Athletes, non-athletes, Greek, non-Greek, rural or urban, we have all sorts of students applying to be leaders” said David Morgan ’16, an Outing Club officer who supervises leader training with Madison Atterbury ’17, another officer.

This year there were 42 applicants, a record high. Of those who applied, the Outing Club was able to offer 32 students the opportunity to be trained. All new leaders took part in last weekend’s Wilderness First Aid course. In addition to WFA, the new leaders took part in a leader-training course – 16 during a weekend earlier in the fall and another 16 in November.

Running from Saturday morning to mid-day Sunday, the leader-training course teaches the fundamentals of backpacking as well as the logistics of planning and leading a trip. In addition to learning technical skills such as lighting stoves, packing backpacks and setting up tents, students also learn about the principles of Leave No Trace–a widely practiced system of wilderness ethics – as well as group management.

After spending much of Saturday learning these skills, the students pack up their bags and spend the night camping out in the woods on college property, putting their newly learned skills to use. After cooking breakfast Sunday morning and reviewing the lessons learned earlier in the weekend, the students hiked back onto the main campus where they clean up from their excursion and finally discuss risk management before finishing up the weekend.

While the course focuses on building skills so that the Outing Club has competent leaders who can take other students out in the mountains, building confidence is also important. “Leader training has three goals: to train safe and competent leaders, introduce new leaders to HOC and get them to know the organization, other leaders, and the officers, and finally to have all the new leaders have fun. If leaders walk away from the weekend feeling like they could lead a day hike, lead an overnight, make one or two new friends, and have fun, then we did our job” Morgan explained.

Now that there are 32 new leaders who are both WFA certified and trained by the Outing Club, many are anxious to hear about their adventures as they start leading trips out into the Adirondacks and beyond.

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