University of Alaska Southeast-Outdoor Studies on Denali
A group of Outdoor Studies students and staff made University of Alaska Southeast history recently climbing North America’s highest peak, Denali ("The High One" in Koyukon Athabaskan) at 20,320 feet.
The accomplishment was part of the final capstone course for the 10-month certificate in the Outdoor Studies program. The group began their ascent on May 12 with stops at main base camps at 14,200 and 17,000 feet. Fifteen days later, three members of the group reached the summit at 6 p.m., May 27. They were ODS program director Forest Wagner, UAS staff Shea Mack and student Yosuke Sano.
“I was really satisfied with the trip,” said Wagner. “It shows that our program is effective at developing soft and hard skills that lead to competence and confidence in pretty extreme outdoor settings.”
“I think the most impressive thing was seeing how prepared technically we were for the climb and how well our group worked together,” said student Acacia Edmiston. “I think this really says a lot about our program and our excellent instructors.”
Shea Mack recalled summit day as one of the hardest climbing days of his life. “We started at 8:30 a.m. and hit a really strong wind,” said Mack.
“I had never really considered climbing Denali; after several failed attempts at altitude several years ago I had pretty much given up on high-altitude mountaineering. But the infectious attitude and spirit of this year's ODS group quickly convinced me that this may be a real possibility. Their "can do" attitude persisted from day one and throughout the trip. It's both admirable and refreshing to see in this generation of students.
"This trip taught me that with the right attitude, planning, and forethought anything is possible. As a member of the expedition I learned that from day to day you may encounter hardships along the way, but the power of the group helps you overcome the difficulties. Once you put aside the cold, the weather, and the obstacles along the way, living in the mountains is real simple: keep yourself warm, hydrated and well-fed. It's living at its most simplistic form: pure survival. The things that matter most are the people you choose to share your time in the mountains and how you choose to do it. With this group I feel that we succeeded on all counts.”
The UAS Denali blog documents the trip through written entries and photos. While the trip was in progress, users could follow the progress of the group via SPOT satellite locator.http://uasods.blogspot.com/
Outdoor Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast combines outdoor skills and academic coursework to provide a liberal arts approach to studying human interaction with the natural world. ODS students develop skills and characteristics that are essential to success as an individual, a group member, and a leader in outdoor and adventure settings. The Outdoor Skills and Leadership Certificate requires a minimum of 34 credits of course work and participation in entrance and exit experiential outings.
UAS is now offering a new Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and Geography with an emphasis in Outdoor Skills and Leadership.