Outdoor Education

Leadership Development – Adams State University Does It Right

Saturday, December 1st, 2012 | Leadership, Outdoor Education, Program Design, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Leadership Development – Adams State University Does It Right

Academic leadership training can sometimes be very nebulous, ambiguous, and theoretical. While we truly enjoy leadership

Drizzle Teaching

Eight hours of hiking in a freezing rain, getting the group really lost, breaking a tent, and watching some participants descend toward hypothermia is a difficult leadership experience – Yet effectively teaching us how to use that stove after all those “hiccups” is TRUE LEADERSHIP.
Bo Hutchess teaching in the worst conditions!

theory, Experiential Adventures doesn’t care for that form of training. True leaders work in the worst conditions, realize when to step into the void without concern for self, and understand that criticism comes with the territory. Very few academic programs offer effective leadership training to the level that Adams State University does through it’s Adventure Leadership and Programming Minor.

Many assume that adventure leadership means fun and games! However that myth is quickly dispelled when experiencing the following conditions that are anything but fun. This includes – getting thoroughly lost while leading a group of peers; teaching how to use a stove in a downpour because people NEED hot water to stave off hypothermia; and surviving a rainy night with your peers with only 8 items – none of which are effectively useful for 13 people.

Experiential Adventures LLC partners with Adams State University to offer this essential core program. ALPS emphasizes leadership, followership, social justice, and core community building skills. In short, ALPs prepares college graduates for a successful leadership or management career as a compliment to the discipline specific academic degree.

The ALPS expedition is 14 days long, covers many miles and uses the outdoor

The truth behind leadership – from afar it looks beautiful, but the path is often difficult, challenging, and unknown. A 14,000 foot peak in the distance.
Eddy Lewellen wondering how to get there!

environment as a medium for significant personal growth and leadership development. In truth, practical leadership is developed by investing substantial energy into the process. It also requires active followership, and a willingness to submit to the experience. Leaders step forward, not backward when challenges occur. In the outdoor world, often the challenge is not physical. Emotional challenges are more complex and not easily resolved. In fact, most challenges presented in adventure education, require the understanding of an ambiguous environment, and the appropriate deployment of decisions fraught with partial information.

True leadership is often messy. It is often riddled with unknown hazards, challenges, and pitfalls. It is worth every risk and every consideration. ALPs trains students to recognize personal values, follower interests, and through mistakes, the consequences of ignoring or failing to identify those factors important to a successful outcome.

EA loves collaborating with the Adams State Adventure Program, and we believe the experiences our students have during the ALPs expedition prepare them for the real world. The degree and the specific discipline is important (engineering, biology, teaching, or construction management), but college graduates who excel in school while investing in important pragmatic skills such as leadership have an upper hand in the workplace. I cannot think of a better environment to further the leadership skills of others than using the outdoor as a medium. This minor is the perfect compliment to Adams State University’s diverse degree plans. We cannot wait to do it again in July 2013!



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Rare Earth Adventures – Virginia

Saturday, November 24th, 2012 | Facilitation, Leadership, Outdoor Education, Program Design, Wilderness Medicine | Comments Off on Rare Earth Adventures – Virginia

Chester Copperpot of Goonies fame demonstrates how to do a “Captain Morgan.”

Rare Earth Adventures is an amazing organization of leaders, facilitators and guides. Experiential Adventures has enjoyed a collaborative relationship with REA since 2010. This June, EA taught a wilderness first responder during their annual staff training. The course took place at their retreat located in Virginia. At Experiential Adventures LLC, we appreciate creativity in teaching and this group knows how to bring out the best in their clients. As a consequence, we had to make this course as challenging as possible to keep them on their toes.

This photo was taken through a night vision scope during a night simulation. Wow!

Each member of REA worked through challenging medical simulations including a night simulation, water and near drowning incident, ATV accident, and the ever challenging anaphylaxis incident. Because many of the Rare Earth staff have been through multiple medical courses, Experiential Adventures made sure that each simulation included additional problems that were difficult for participants to predict.

Experiential Adventures teaches WFR’s under contract with the Wilderness Medicine Training Center. While the medical curriculum is challenging, REA and Experiential Adventures work well together because of our common belief that staff trainings need to include difficult collaborative opportunities. Staff culture improves and organizational responsibility increases during the team building challenges that occur when staff train together. EA and REA work together to create challenging environments for our clients, and that collaboration works best when training staff.

Whether you need a certification or you need more cohesive staff culture, Experiential Adventures works with you to provide custom outcomes using adventure as the medium. Here’s to challenging trainings, improved organizational outcomes, and a great group – thanks REA!

Rural ATV Accident – A challenging incident for sure.

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Career Focus: Teaching should be revered!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 | Facilitation, Leadership, Outdoor Education | 1 Comment

This fall, I was lucky enough to grace the cover of the College of Western Idaho’s Career Focus Magazine. The photo was taken during my fourth summit of Denali, and my fifth trip to the mountain. I have been mountain guiding for 14 years, and we could not have been luckier on this day. My clients and I touched the top with just enough time to get down before high winds began to ravage the mountain.

Summit of Denali - 20,320 Ft.

A clear day on the summit of Denali – 20,320 Ft.

It was a 17-hour summit day, and by the time we were back at high camp, I was exhausted and questioning my own career choices. I am one of those people who have been lucky enough to experience the “American Dream.” I am one of the select few whose work is also play. I was never happy at standard 9-5 jobs that I could leave behind at night, and go home.

Yet, to argue that I have been intentional with my career choices would have to be a little bit of a fib. I went to college to get involved in social service programs. As early as 1994, I was working as a developmental therapist and wondering why I was always broke. In truth, I ended up in adventure education because it is also amazingly fun and rewarding, but also because it met a financial need. Yet, I have always wondered why work that is so essential such as development therapy or psychosocial rehabilitation pays so poorly.

Now, I am lucky to be teaching at the College of Western Idaho in a capacity that trains future teachers to work with our children. I love it! Our company, Experiential Adventures LLC , focuses on improving leadership and communication within businesses and higher education organizations without losing our adventurous roots. It is true; Geoff and I truly understand how hard work can lead to success.

Inside cover – Career Focus

I wonder, again, why are primary teachers so misused and disrespected in the state of Idaho? Teachers are the backbone of our childrens’ learning and social experiences beyond the family. They are an essential link in the process of creating a civil society, and primary and secondary education programs drive our future economic value. It cannot be stated enough that future economic value and the development of a hardworking society that values acceptance is what teachers provide to the next generation.

Accepting the value of social programs as an investment in the future seems to be a challenge for some. We are, at times, taught that individual success trumps societal value. Teachers struggle to teach children about the gray area that exists between the absolutes that news channels, commentators, and pundits propagate. However, individual success is predicated upon our society’s success and vice-versa.

So as I focus in on my career, I have realized several things – mountain guiding is a risky endeavor that is an amazing experience and requires the ability to make essential decisions to protect those in your immediate care, but at high altitudes those in your care and already financially stable and successful. Therefore it does NOT change lives on a daily basis. On the other hand, the only absolute about teaching is that every child is changed and molded by teachers everyday. For that gift alone, teachers should be recognized for all that they do. Teaching should be a revered profession, not one that is constantly under attack for being anything but what it is – the key to our children’s future.

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EA’s First Contract – A Tropical Storm

Friday, November 18th, 2011 | Climbing, Facilitation, Leadership, Outdoor Education, Program Design, Speaking Engagements | Comments Off on EA’s First Contract – A Tropical Storm

[8.15.11] Story Story Night

Press the play button above, and read this quick entry. This story is about EA’s first contract, a metaphor for weathering the storms associated with being a “small business owner”, and a true story of being evacuated out of a tropical storm. In 2004, Experiential

The original EA logo.

Adventures was alive inside of my mind and on a homemade web page. I was working at Texas Tech University, and longing for a daily view of the mountains and snow. After two years of saving, scheming, and planning, I notified my supervisors that I was leaving TTU to pursue private enterprise.

Thus, in 2005, I promptly moved into a van.At the time, strategic planning was really just my way to decide where I was going to park the van to sleep. At the time, a business plan was “it feels right” or I might be able to by a new rope and some cans of refried beans. All I knew was that Experiential Adventures LLC, had the potential to be a life long journey that could open new experiences and opportunities.

VW Van! Or Experiential Adventures World Headquarters (2005-2008)

So, in May 2005 I was parked on the side of the road in the old Volkswagen Westfalia wondering how I was going to pay my student loan payments, and why I thought that the safety of a University job could possibly be inferior to living the dream as a “small business” owner. At that moment, I received a call from a college in the northeast asking me to do some work for them. The best part was that it paid. And so it began, after having had Experiential Adventures for over a year, we finally had a contract.

The story was presented at Story Story Night in Boise, Idaho on July 28, 2011. The theme that evening was Water: Stories of going with or against the flow. This experience demonstrates why strategic planning, risk management, and financial planning is essential. EA survived its first contract to grow and expand into a vibrant company. While we believe in the importance of planning, we understand that, at times, luck has something to do with it!

Tropical Storm Arlene – EA’s first major obstacle

Tropical storm Arlene, made landfall on June 12th, 2005. It occurred extremely early in the hurricane season, and was one of several including Hurricane Katrina. It had sustained winds of about 60mph, and escaping the beautiful islands of the Gulf Coast National Seashore was beyond our abilities. Please listen to the story!

Story Story Night – Stories of Water – Surviving a Tropical Storm.


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Finally! Outdoor Program Administration – Principles & Practices

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 | Facilitation, Leadership, Outdoor Education, Program Design | Comments Off on Finally! Outdoor Program Administration – Principles & Practices

Finally! Finally!! After 4 years of work, we are nearing completion of this massive project. We have received cover art and sample layout pages from Human Kinetics for the forthcoming text Outdoor Program Administration – Principles and Practices. D

uring the development of this text, we (Geoff Harrison & Mat Erpelding) are the co-editors of this text and have had the opportunity to both recruit and work with 31 other fantastic outdoor program professionals. In 2007, the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education and Human Kinetics partnered to publish a textbook specific to Outdoor Program Administration.

Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education

Outdoor Program Administration - Principles & Practices

The 400+ page and 21 chapter textbook is organized into 4 sections – Foundations, Program Design and Implementation, Staffing Considerations, and Facilities and Programs. Like a long climb, the process has been challenging for everyone involved as the path to get to this point has spanned multiple births, job transitions, expeditions, injuries, etc. The text is expected to be released in February 2012 and will likely be used in the classroom in the Fall. Thank you to all who have helped on this important AORE resource as it will truly benefit current and emergent professionals.

We are proud to be part of such an important organization. The mission of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education is to provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.

We feel strongly that this book is in direct support of the mission, and are excited to have been provided the opportunity to spearhead the project!

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University of Wyoming – Fall Staff Training

Friday, October 7th, 2011 | Climbing, Facilitation, Leadership, Outdoor Education, Program Design | Comments Off on University of Wyoming – Fall Staff Training

Staff who train together, play together, and work together tend to who have amazing cultures. The University of Wyoming Outdoor Program is an example of a group of people with different backgrounds and views who have created a powerful culture on their campus. The leaders who work at the OP will graduate and go on to be history teachers, geophysicists, environmental scientists, and outdoor professionals and each one will be forever impacted by the leadership opportunities provided by the OP. So what is it about the University of Wyoming Outdoor Program that creates such amazing leadership opportunities?

It is simple. Effective leadership only develops when the decisions being made are not trivial and will

Dan getting rescued!

impact others. Other leadership training programs focus on theory, but this program combines theory with significant practical application. Leaders emerge when real and consequential decisions have to be made – the moment when autonomy and empowerment collide. Leaders realize their capabilities the moment when the decisions matter.

Experiential Adventures LLC joined the UW Outdoor Program at Vedauwoo Rocks just east of Laramie, WY. EA provided an American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor Course to the OP staff at their semi-annual training program. As with many outdoor trainings, the overt outcomes were simple. To learn improved teaching and guiding techniques in the single pitch environment, and to provide even better experiences to participants. However, it is the secondary outcomes that EA enjoys.

Using technical trainings to enhance organizational culture can be powerful. First, many of the leaders will go on to be extremely successful in their field of expertise and may not use the technical skills learned in this course again. Yet, the confidence gained from building anchor systems that are complex, safe, and secure will transfer into other discipline specific environments. Additionally, the human connection associated with trusting one another to perform raises, lowers, and rescues on each other should not be underestimated. As technology continues to advance and move our world forward, there is still something powerful about the trust created from human interaction in natural environments.

EA enjoys working with organizations that believe in the power of community as an essential component of risk management. Organizations that have staff, who are passionate about what they do and are competent leaders, are generally successful. And….that is why the University of Wyoming Outdoor Program is successful!


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