Unpacking Whitman’s Outdoor Program

Kathleen Daly-Jensen, Sports Reporter

“The outdoor program fosters personal growth, facilitates learning and creates recreational opportunities through skills and risk management training, leadership development and environmentally sound trips in a supportive community.”

This is the Whitman College Outdoor Program’s mission and it clearly reveals the wide array of positive elements and experiences that it provides. Whitman College has an incredible program that helps students get outside, gain confidence and learn incredible life skills.

The OP runs trips most weekends throughout the school year, operates a rental shop for outdoor gear and has an incredible rock climbing facility. The program also organizes the first year outdoor orientation program—entitled Scrambles—and provides SSRA classes so that students can learn from scratch how to participate in a myriad of outdoor activities.

Mt. Adams Mountaineering 4-day Break Trip Oct 6-8, 2016. Photo contributed by The OP Program.
Mt. Adams Mountaineering 4-day Break Trip Oct 6-8, 2016. Photo contributed by Whitman OP.

Seana Minuth ‘17 leads climbing trips for the OP, but when she first came to Whitman, she had zero climbing experience. When Minuth first arrived on campus, she signed up for the rock climbing Scramble and learned to climb. Her passion for climbing has since grown and developed, and this journey has led her toward leading her own climbing scramble this past summer.

Minuth has taken many SSRA climbing classes at Whitman, including advanced climbing. This course gave her the opportunity to spend two weeks in Joshua tree participating in an AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) single pitch instructor course. For Minuth, it has been “incredible to have the opportunity to take courses like advanced climbing and then apply those skills through the OP and giving back to the Whitman community what it has given to [her]”.

Now, having led a climbing scramble, Minuth has some more experience under her belt in planning trips and taking groups climbing. She acknowledges, “The hardest part is learning to accept that even if you plan everything, it won’t go as planned and that’s okay!” Her positive attitude seems to be a trending characteristic in OP trip leaders.

Salmon River Beginning Kayaking Sept 23-25, 2016. Photo contributed by The OP Program.
Salmon River Beginning Kayaking Sept 23-25, 2016. Photo contributed by Whitman OP.

Olivia Nicholas ‘18 works as an OP raft trip guide. After tough, cold days on the raft and having to put on a “cold, damp, sandy wetsuit” in the morning, she still raves about the close friends she has made. Nicholas has formed a “sort of weird and incredible bond with a lot of people that [she has] gone rafting with.” The companionship of a raft partner seems to hold out through the toughest of times on the river.

Along the same lines, MacKenzie Cummings ‘17 eloquently stated that she “learned that no one is a perfect leader. People make mistakes and we all have areas that we can improve on,” an important life lesson that will help her throughout her whole life.

You too can experience these amazing experiences. Whether you sign up for a trip that can be payed for by your Bob Carson Outdoor Fund—$150 dollars allotted to each student each semester that can help with some of the fees associated with the Outdoor Program’s activities—or you sign up for beginning rock climbing, you are bound to learn important skills and have a wonderful experience in the outdoors.