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Exchange program brings Ohio students to Wyoming’s Wind River Range

By Cooper Mallozzi

Hocking College students at Colorado Mountain College
Evan Benitez, Benjamin Bibee and Jeremy Wooddell from Hocking College in Nelsonville, OH, joined CMC Leadville Outdoor Recreation Leadership students for a 12 day mountaineering course.

The partnership between Colorado Mountain College and Hocking College has officially begun. Three students from the Nelsonville, Ohio school joined the Mountaineering Leadership Block course offered at the CMC Leadville Campus this fall semester. Benjamin Bibee, Evan Benitez, and Jeremy Wooddell spent 12 days in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, hiking, camping, and learning with seven Outdoor Recreation Leadership (ORL) students from Leadville.

The Mountaineering course is designed for second year ORL students who have completed the requisite introductory courses, yet our friends from Ohio were equally well prepared thanks to the Ecotourism and Adventure Travel program they are engaged in at Hocking.

Ben, Evan, and Jeremy had taken rope technique, rappelling, and vertical rescue courses back home and came west looking to apply their skills and learn more about technical alpine travel. Asked why he chose to come to Leadville, Jeremy noted that “This [mountaineering] course offers a whole new level of skills that can transfer toward more advanced positions in the outdoor field.”

A three day hike into the heart of the rugged Wind River Range is no small challenge, but the group was rewarded with outstanding weather, a one of a kind natural classroom, and ample opportunity to put into practice everything they were learning in the moment. The course culminated with a successful summit of Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s highest point at 13,804′, during which students made all the critical route finding and safety decisions with on-scene oversight from instructors.

The entire group acknowledged the thrill of being empowered in such a manner and finding success with the challenge, and Evan summed up his highlight as “…climbing up a 45-50o couloir slope with a giant bergschrund below…quite a rush!” Ben was equally excited about his journey to the summit, clearly pleased that he had stood at the “top of Wyoming.”

ORL students traditionally come from all over the country, yet it has been well documented just how effective spending time in the wilderness can enable everyone in a group to find common ground. This mountaineering group was no different, as students from Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Colorado found “camaraderie and a shared
experience” amidst their new peers.

Hopefully this first successful experience will prompt more students to explore the opportunity to take advantage of being able to tailor their learning with coursework from both the Colorado and Ohio programs. When explaining what he will take away from his time with CMC, Ben eloquently noted “solid fundamental skills you could only learn on a course like this.” With such learning outcomes now available via two distinct colleges, it is our hope that future students can say exactly the same after their own respective experiences at CMC and Hocking College alike.