All MWS field expeditions have the same great core curriculum, despite differences in route, technical skills, weather or group dynamics. This means that whatever you choose—packrafting, backpacking, canoeing and/or mountaineering—you’ll learn about local ecology, community building, Montana wilderness and leadership. All of our courses are appropriate for individuals of any experience level whether you’ve never camped under the stars or are trying to take your backcountry skills to the next level. Your experienced instructors will break down each skill into small, digestible sections that are focused on practice and, of course, fun. Most field expeditions include 3 phases that MWS calls the Skill Introduction Phase, Skill Development Phase and the Capstone Phase. Below is an outline of what you can expect on each section:
To get a good understanding of the takeaway skills and innate challenges of each course component, please take a moment to review our MWS Essential Eligibility Criteria!
This initial phase focuses on creating community with your instructors and peers so you can have the best adventure possible. You may participate in team building activities such as visiting a ropes course, talking about your personal goals for the expedition or sharing other activities that are important in your life. As you learn new skills, your instructors will help you build confidence by allowing ample time for hands on practice. You’ll learn how to cook nutritious meals, stay warm and dry in the backcountry, identify surrounding plants and animals and start building friendships that will last a lifetime!
As you become increasingly comfortable with your surroundings, you will be able to tackle more physical challenges within Phase 2. Now that you’ve mastered some of the basic skills, you can focus on more complex problem solving including advanced backcountry navigation, leadership opportunities and practicing technical skills. Instructors may offer you a chance to lead your peers on a climb, through a rapid or during the hiking day. You’ll learn more about cooking, including baking (backcountry pizza!) and get to contribute to decisions about what experiences will be included on your expedition. During this phase, your instructors will support your leadership opportunities by continuing to manage risk and evaluate hazards as you travel.
By now, you and your peers have had ample time to develop as a group. You will most likely feel comfortable and confident traveling and camping in the backcountry and are beginning to develop your own unique leadership style. Now is the time to tackle even bigger challenges such as peak attempts, more complex white water or travel in a smaller group. Some expeditions are long enough that you may be able to complete more than one of these activities! Instructors will acknowledge your hard work by giving you more independence and allowing you to make more decisions about your expedition. The expedition will end with a closing ceremony and a celebratory meal on the last night in the backcountry.
Your course may celebrate with a BBQ, burrito night or other cookout before returning to Bozeman. On the following day, you will travel back to the MWS Cache where you will have access to clean clothes.
You may find yourself sad to leave the backcountry or excited to share your adventure with friends and family. Either way, instructors will help the transition back to the front country feel natural and easy. The positive habits that you and your peers have developed will help you plan your own trips with friends or family from home in the future! Additionally, many of the skills you will learn on an MWS course can help you be successful at school, home, the military, at your job or clubs/groups you may be a part of. Many MWS students just like you stay in touch with the new friends they’ve made via our Facebook groups or by planning their own exciting trips!