Since 1989, the Angeles Chapter’s Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) has helped thousands of hikers build outdoor skills and gain new friendships and personal growth on inspiring adventures. With a core curriculum that includes navigation, rock scrambling, snow travel, mountain safety, and more, the 10-week course lays a foundation for responsible and safer traveling in local and distant wilderness areas in places beyond roads and trails.
Keeping WTC going takes the efforts of a large cohort of highly dedicated volunteer staff, ready to face any challenge that logistics and nature throw at them. And then there are once-in-a-lifetime challenges. For its 30-year anniversary, 2020 started like any other, with happy students off on their all-day hikes, studying terrain features with map and compass in hand, summiting a peak, scrambling on rocks in Joshua Tree, and getting a taste of snow. But then came the pandemic, forcing all of us to hunker down and even outdoor activities to come to an abrupt halt. WTC canceled most of the snow camps and finished up virtually. It soon became clear that there could be no course for 2021.
What do WTC’s instructors do when they can't get together and teach students? For San Gabriel Valley instructor Jackie Sly, brushing up on navigation was an obvious choice. When Leadership Training Navigation Chair Bob Myers announced his immersive webinar, Jackie and 30-plus others jumped at the chance to join via Zoom where together they could learn, test their abilities, and stay connected to the WTC family, with each attendee appearing in front of a virtual background: “It felt like we were gathering together from a collection of national parks and beautiful places.”
Instructor Jazmin Ortega of San Gabriel Valley chose to use the time to work on her ‘I’ rating to lead backcountry trips by taking a virtual Environmental Awareness course for credit.
Jackie Sly, notes ”Even though we are away from the backcountry right now, we won’t let our skills or minds deteriorate.”
For others, downtime meant meeting some personal goals such as climbing desirable peaks or going on a really long trip. Mt. Francis Farquhar Peak in Kings Canyon was “one of the longest and most fun third-class routes” for WTC West Los Angeles Group 4 Assistant Group Leader Regge Bulman. For Orange County Area Chair and Group Leader Matt Hengst, completion of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was just a starter. Matt notes: “Well I decided to do something big so I did the PCT. Then I realized I had some more time so I decided to do the Appalachian Trail but that wasn’t enough so I added the Florida trail and finally, that wasn’t enough so I just kind of made the eastern continental trail the thing this year.” Matt is on his way into Canada on the International Appalachian Trail which when completed will end this journey, but not his thirst for long adventures.
After all the time off, everyone connected with WTC is eager to once again share their knowledge with students as they have done for most of the last 30 years. As 2022 gets closer to reality, WTC will face new challenges ahead: the impact of climate change and mega-fires on California’s landscape; and new protocols and restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic public health directives. The WTC family is ready to adapt to and meet these challenges with typical WTC resilience.
Registration is now open for the 2022 ten-week course that is only given in winter and starts in January. Find out more about WTC and the 2022 course at www.wildernesstravelcourse.org