Wilderness Travel Course 2013 Joshua Tree Outing

  • Updated: February 09, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

What: WTC Joshua Tree Rock Scrambling & Navigation
When: February 9th & 10th, 2013
Where: Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree
Instructors: Matthew Hengst, James Montross, Laurent Hoffman, Paul Warren, Jeff Atijera, Wendy Miller
Pictures: Matt's Flickr

January through April is the season where myself and many other regulars on my peakbagging trips wander in from the wilderness, start showering regularly again, and act as volunteer instructors for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course.

WTC happens once a year and last for 10 weeks.  There are groups in Orange County, Long Beach South Bay, West LA, and San Gabriel and related though completely separate programs in San Diego and Ventura County.  The staff is all volunteer so the money paid for the class just goes to cover permits, campsite reservations, bus rentals, and facilities.

I run one of the groups down in Orange County.  We name them after peaks so we have Whitney Group, Modjeska Group, and my own Kaweah Group.

For 10 weeks every Tuesday night after work we meet down in Tustin and after a guest lecture break out in to smaller groups for more one on one instruction.

Topics run from the basics of conditioning, clothing, backpacking gear, navigation, to more advanced topics like snow gear, emergency shelters, and more.

After the third week of classroom instruction we have our first of four outings which is an all day conditioning hike to the local mountains.

My group did Santiago and persevered though a disappointingly minor amount of weather for 16 miles and 4,200 ft of gain.

Two weeks later and it was time for the Joshua Tree outing.  The students all meet a bus early Saturday morning and are delivered to the Indian Cove Campground where we spend one day focusing on map and compass navigation and for the other we strap on helmets and go climb the peak above.

We were doing the rock day first so as soon as we were off the bus it was off to teach some basic scrambling techniques.  Students rotate through a number of stations where we introduce different skills and once done we we head out to try them in the field.

Things vary from very basic scrambling to some optional challenge bits like the chimney James is demonstrating here for the students.  We have instructors with the students at every point.

Eventually we emerge from the back of the canyon and head for the peak itself which involves a short 3rd class climb with a spectacular view.

After spending all day running around the rocks we head back for camp, set up tents, pull out the food, and enjoy a potluck before heading for bed under the stars.

Sunday morning after a musical wake up and early breakfast the helmets are stowed in favor of map and compasses.

After spending the day out doing hands on navigation we head back to camp, board the bus, and head for home.  The students now have two weeks until we'll be heading to the local mountains for a snowshoe outing and four weeks before the big three day two night snow camp in the Sierra!

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