A sunny morning after a windy night on the very summit of Hawksbill Mountain!
For the past two weekends students in the Advanced Wilderness Skills and the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Skills classes have been practicing the leadership and winter backpacking skills they have learned in class by participating in one of two overnight trips. For the first trip we hiked to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, set up tents, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset before the 45 mile an hour winds began to blow. Cooking dinner was a challenge in the wind but the meals were a wonderful combination of pasta, hot soup, and warm tea or hot chocolate…perfect to keep everyone warm when the temps dropped to the low twenties for the night. We lashed the tents tightly to the trees then enjoyed a star filled sky before heading into the tents for the night. The wind gusts topped out at around 65 miles an hour at about 11 p.m. The students were dressed warmly and each had at least 2 sleeping bags. All of the preparations during the past weeks of class helped prepare the students to take care of themselves as well as their classmates on the trip. Conor Westling, a student in the Outdoor Adventure Leadership class, was the Trip Leader for this adventure. Conor came to Lees-McRae College with a vast amount of life experience as well as military training. His class textbook, Leadership: The Outward Bound Way, as well as the discussions with other student leaders in the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Skills Class helped prepare him to plan and facilitate this very challenging winter overnight trip.
This past weekend the forecast called for cold temps and snow, so the winter overnight trip was held on the extended LMC campus at “Hidden Boulder” in order to avoid driving on the icy roads. The icy rain began as the students hiked up the Hemlock Trail, but quickly changed to snow as the temperatures dropped. The students had previously participated in a “snow hike” to try out their winter clothing and footwear choices as well as reading about hypothermia in their textbook, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, about how to keep themselves warm and dry in these conditions. Conor was once again the Trip Leader and demonstrated a compassionate and empowering leadership style as he worked with the students as they set up their tents, cooked dinner, and gathered wood for a very warm late night fire.
The snow continued to fall as the students put out the fire and headed into their tents and sleeping bags. It was a very cold morning of packing up and heading back to the main campus, but the students were proud of their ability to participate in a snowy overnight trip. They arrived back on campus after both trips with stories and photos to share of two very challenging trips worthy of an Advanced Wilderness Skills winter overnight experience. The other 6 students in the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Skills class are looking forward to taking on the role and responsibility of Trip Leaders for the two Rock Climbing class trips planned for later in the semester. I enjoyed participating in these trips and sharing the adventure with them as well as watching the students as they accomplished their goals for leadership and taking care of each other.
Dee Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org