Colorado Outward Bound 

The poster on the college bulletin board shouted "Outward Bound - These will be the hardest, most wonderful days of your life!" Overstatement? Maybe not, and, as I was to find out, definitely not. 

They were 21 days of rain, snow, loneliness, fatigue, blisters, fear, and...  friendship, camaraderie, challenges, achievement and fulfillment.

They were Colorado Outward Bound, August, 1976. Myself and 11 other college age kids spent three weeks in the Colorado Rockies, learning first aid, rope handling, rock climbing, orienteering and rappelling. 

We had an instructor to teach us all of these things. His name was Steve Miller. He was from NYC, and he had a Ph.D. in archeology. He was tough as nails, and quickly earned the nickname "ice ax".

There is nothing silly, soft, or frivolous about an ice ax. It was part of our basic issue of equipment, and we learned how it could be used to probe for crevasses in mountain ice, halt a slide if a piton gave way, and chop footholds for an ice wall ascent.

Steve, like the ice ax,was there to provide a safety net, and to impart to his group the skills that would allow them to rappel backwards down a 100' cliff, cover 5 miles of mountain trails per day, carrying a 40 lb. supplies pack, and climb the 3rd highest peak in Colorado.

There were some memorable people on this trip. Abe Sanders, from NYU, a medical student, nice guy, really bright. Dede Moore, blonde and pretty, a college student from California. Andrea (Andy) Thach, senior at Brown, major Cubs fan. Sandra Shalment, stewardess for Delta Airlines, a wonderful southern lady. John White, from Michigan, college phys. Ed. major, cheerful, always looking for fun. Chip Carlson,  from Sioux City, expert marksman, who two years earlier had almost died in amotorcycle accident, now he was reaching for goals that lay beyond mere 'recovery'. 

It was this group, and six others, that started that first day, at 5:00 AM, with a 2 mile run to a stream that was fed by mountain snowfields, visible faraway in the early morning light. Into the stream, dive under a log, swim out the other side, and then two more miles, running, back to camp. There were members of the group that did not appreciate this type of start to their day. By noon, some were ready to take the first flight home, and pretend this never happened. There were blistered feet, aching backs, tendentious, breathing problems, and red shoulders where the back packs weight rested. There were aches in muscles that no one even knew they had, until now. For most of the 3 weeks, we were in the mountains above 8,000' altitude. We spent a full week on snow fields, in the middle ofAugust, learning glissading, ice climbing, and snow survival. One day was spent setting up a base camp,to prepare for the next day's challenge, the climb of 14,256' Mt. Cargo, third highest in Colorado. We came within a snowball's throw of the top, and the small metal cylinder where
you can list your name, date of climb, weather conditions, etc. An  ice-covered knife edge had to be crossed to reach the summit, and it was decided the risk was too great to proceed. The 8 climbers were roped together, and the ice, wind and mist made holding on a struggle, on top of already having been climbing for 6 hours. I would like to go back someday, and sign my name on that climber's log.

All of the trip wasn't torture and misery. We were hiking in parts of Colorado that the average person never saw. There were mountain meadows filled with wild flowers, pristine mountain lakes and streams, mountain tops with a 50 mile view, and a 100 year old silver mine that is a local historic site. We hiked deep into an abandoned silver mine, cooked meals over blazing campfires, and talked, laughed, dreamed and shared stories until the fire was nothing but glowing embers. If you ever think you might want to try this kind of thing, I would encourage you to do it. They will indeed be "the hardest, most wonderful days of your life!"

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