See FAQs for more details.
WTS is open to all Colorado Mountain Club members with any hiking classification and ability level, age 18 or older. WTS fulfills one of the requirements to obtain a Denver Group C hiker classification (the other requirements – two C level hiking trips – can be done before or during WTS). See /membership/tripclassifications for more info.
Topics covered include:
• Essential gear, helping you decide what you need to buy and carry
• Off-trail travel techniques, from boulders and talus to tundra
• Map & compass skills: orientation, navigation, and route-finding
• Weather: how to anticipate and handle wind, rain, lightning, and snow
• Nutrition and hydration
• Handling an unexpected night in the backcountry and a backcountry emergency
• Snow travel and avalanche awareness, handling unexpected snow on the trail, including ice axe training
• Leave No Trace and other conservation practices
• Also: Safety, Wildlife, Teamwork, Knots
- There are lectures to be attended by all students prior to their small group meetings on the topics listed in the schedule.
- In the in-person small group meeting, instructors will elaborate and demonstrate the lecture topic, and add topics like knot-tying, trip-planning, and gear management.
- Field days put into practice the techniques and subjects taught in lectures and group instruction. They are outdoor education rather than hikes. Be ready for a full day – bring lunch, water, and appropriate layering as specified by your instructor team. The field days cover a variety of terrain and varying degrees of difficulty in all types of weather conditions.
- Instructors emphasize the importance of the Ten Essential Systems on each field day and give students opportunities to practice with unfamiliar gear and subject matter.
- Most groups meet between 6:00 and 8:00 am on their designated field day. Duration and distance vary each day as determined by the instructor team, typically 5 miles or more. Be prepared to spend a full day (and many times, into the evening) in the field on every trip.
- The Grad Hike field day exercise allows students to plan a trip themselves, with guidance from the instructor team. Students practice route-finding, off-trail navigation, Leave No Trace principles, group dynamics, weather awareness, and other topics as necessary. It’s a great way to learn leadership skills as well as trip-planning. It may even inspire you to become an instructor or trip leader yourself!
The WTS Manual provides an essential foundation for the course. Download a copy HERE. There are additional online instruction materials.
Students must attend all lecture/group meeting nights and field days to complete the course. Field days vary in duration but are at least 6-8 hours plus transit time and social stops. Most students report 2-3 hours per week in addition to class and field days for reading, homework, gear acquisition, and trip planning. STUDENTS FREQUENTLY UNDERESTIMATE THE ADDITIONAL TIME REQUIRED.
Please review the schedule carefully before enrolling to ensure you can fully participate.
Members who already have formal instruction in these areas may be eligible for a waiver. Click for WTS Application for Waiver.