Wilderness Travel Course Celebrating 30 years 1990-2020

  • Posted on 6 April 2020
  • By Jane Simpson, WTC Chair and unofficial WTC Historian

Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) leaders don’t think about counting years until we cross a milestone. 2020 is special because it marks WTC’s official 30th year of operation.

Since 1990, we’ve trained thousands of Southern California wilderness travelers. As a unique attraction of the  Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, WTC is offered each winter in four SoCal areas: Long Beach-South Bay, Orange County, San Gabriel Valley and West Los Angeles.

Before WTC, there was “BMTC” – the legendary Basic Mountaineering Training Course, run by a Chapter Mountaineering Training Committee, with an ambitious curriculum that included roped climbing and technical snow skills. BMTC kicked off officially in 1963 with its first chair, Robin Ives, at the helm.

At its peak, BMTC was conducted in five southland locations. It lasted until the late 1980s when a few incidents brought an end to that higher level of training for students – many of whom were beginners.  Insurance restrictions against ropes and ice axes went into effect and many instructors left BMTC.

It took just a few  BMTC leaders to see an opportunity to continue to take students outdoors and so, WTC – a course less focused on technical skills or gear – was born in 1989.

In 1990, WTC was run in two geographic  areas and sponsored just 14 experience trips.

A few years later, the Orange County area started up. And so, WTC proceeded for the next several years with three areas until a few leaders established the West LA area In 1999.

Today, WTC sponsors over 120 experience trips, intro hikes and training activities each year, some in tandem with Leadership Training or other Angeles Chapter climbing sections.

Sometimes described as an advanced backpacking course, WTC teaches backpacking, with a twist of snow camping, navigation, first aid and a taste of mountaineering. WTC encourages students to push forward and – if ready –  take the Advanced Mountaineering Program (AMP) course.

So, 30 years of WTC adds up to amazing adventures accomplished, places visited, mountains climbed, friendships made, skills acquired and staff and student smiles alike. Worthy of celebration. Come see what we do at: www.wildernesstravelcourse.org

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I loved it! It was very comprehensive, and yes, we had to buy our equipment for the most part, but it was amazing. It allowed me to go one hundreds of backpacking trips and not have to question the ability of the "leader". In those days the leader was not required to have an extensive experience, nor complete a BMTC training regiment.

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