Wilderness and Conservation Semester

Program Highlights

  • Hike through Colorado’s highest peaks, the canyons of Utah, and awe-inspiring glacial valleys in Patagonia.
  • Learn to comfortably live and travel in the wilderness and international destinations for extended periods of time.
  • Investigate pressing conservation issues while working with service partners to protect and restore these wild places.
  • Plan and execute a student-led expedition in the mountains of central Patagonia.
  • Become part of an incredible community dedicated to personal growth, outdoor exploration, and adventure.

Program Overview

Colorado Wilderness Expedition

You begin the course with a 10-day backpacking expedition through the high peaks of Colorado. You learn to live comfortably in the backcountry and navigate challenging terrain, cooking delicious meals on a single-burner stoves and sleeping in lightweight shelters. You also begin to explore the diverse perspectives on conservation ethics, considering the value of wilderness and the importance of conservation. To complement these intellectual conversations, you’ll volunteer for a service project on one of Colorado’s most popular 14,000’ peaks. During this expedition, you come together as a community, getting to know one another through evening discussions, spontaneous fun and games, supporting each other as “Leader of the Day,” and sharing the profound experience of traveling through such an exceptional place.

Utah Section

Once you’ve returned from the Colorado wilderness expedition, you’ll transition to the Greater Canyonlands region of Utah. You’ll spend a few days touring the area and meeting with local stakeholders to learn about the complex conservation issues in the area. You’ll then embark on a two-week canyons expedition, applying your wilderness skills to a new environment. From descending technical slot canyons to navigating across a vast mesa, this section will challenge you to come together as a team and advance your independence.

After completing the canyons expedition, you’ll transition to a basecamp to begin a service project with one of our conservation partners. Whether improving a popular mountain biking trail, monitoring bighorn sheep migration, or contributing to a management plan recommendation, you get to actively participate in real-world conservation work. On the weekend, you’ll get to climb on the sweeping sandstone walls that form the desert skyline.

Patagonia Section

For the culminating section, you’ll travel deep into the heart of Chilean Patagonia. You’ll arrive in Chile Chico, a small town near the border with Argentina, and spend a few days settling in and enjoying a different way of life. You’ll then set off on a two-week expedition through Parque Patagonia, traveling through immense glacial valleys and over mountain passes. You’ll stop for a few days beneath the impressive Vientisqueros Glacier to volunteer with a local eco-tourism organization to improve a backcountry hut. During this expedition, you’ll solidify your backcountry travel, navigation, and leadership skills.

In addition to exploring the wilderness of Patagonia, you’ll participate in a week of service in the local communities. You might participate in projects ranging from constructing a portion of a new trekking route to helping a local farmer develop more sustainable agricultural practices. From this experience, you’ll have ample opportunities to meet, work, and socialize with local people in the region.

Your final leg of Patagonia is a student-led expedition. As a group, you will plan and execute a week long backcountry expedition through a new swath of Patagonian wilderness. This final week is a culmination and celebration of everything you’ve been working toward these past three months.