SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Students to Speak about Rocky Mountain Expedition

Leadership II Students Offer Presentation on 25-Day Expedition Through Colorado and Montana Wilderness Areas

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POTSDAM, NY (10/02/2018) SUNY Potsdam wilderness education students who trekked through two different Rocky Mountain wilderness areas in Colorado and Montana this summer will discuss their journey in an upcoming public presentation.

The presentation will be offered on Monday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m., in the Raymond Hall eighth floor dining room. This event is free, and the public is invited to attend.

Participants from the Leadership II course will discuss their backcountry adventures, in which they encountered long mountain climbs, isolated alpine lakes, wild terrain and, according to the students, "equally wild stories."

Five students departed SUNY Potsdam on May 20 and returned June 19, in total covering some 106 miles on foot and close to 6,000 miles on the highway, spending a total of 25 days in the field and a week on the road.

The group completed two 10-day loops in separate areas, first in Colorado's West Elk Wilderness, and then in Montana's Scapegoat Wilderness, followed by five days of service work in the field with an outfitting company, Eustance Pack and Tack.

The students who completed the trip included:

  • Abbey Chimileski of Greene, N.Y. (student assistant)
  • Marguerite Mosher of Ransomville, N.Y.
  • Eric Nicotina of Selkirk, N.Y.
  • John "Jack" Rendon of Satauket, N.Y.
  • Mari Robinson of Ballston Spa, N.Y.

The Leadership II expedition is the capstone experience for students enrolled in the leadership track of the SUNY Potsdam minor program in wilderness education. Typical days involve carrying heavy packs over rugged terrain and gaining several thousand feet of elevation, sometimes without the benefit of a trail to follow. To prepare for the Leadership II course, students in the wilderness education minor must first complete a 16-day expedition in the Adirondack Park, undertake extensive preparations and undergo intense physical training.

In Colorado, the group had to adjust to high altitudes, temperatures and intensity of the sun, culminating in their climb of Mount Gunnison, which required scaling fourth-class terrain. At the top, they rewarded themselves with a dip in an ice-covered alpine lake.

In Montana, the weather conditions were much more volatile, ranging from three days of snow, to several with hot and cold rain. They encountered temperature swings going from the 90s to the 30s, meaning they had to be on the lookout for both frostbite and heat exhaustion in the same day. The pinnacle of this expedition was their successful crossing of the Continental Divide at the "Crow Traverse," an eight-mile trudge above the tree line where they were battered by high winds, snow and white-out conditions.

The group wrapped up their journey with a five-day stay helping a Montana backcountry horse outfitting and guide company, Eustance Pack and Tack, to set up its fall hunting camp. The students split firewood, dug latrines, felled trees and repaired damaged structures such as a horse corral.

Other highlights of the trip included spotting lots of wildlife, from hummingbirds, fawns and prairie dogs, to a face-to-face encounter with a grizzly bear and a moose.

The SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Program offers specialized preparation for motivated individuals to become tomorrow's leaders. The minor offers a Leadership Track, which prepares field instructors to lead extended backpacking trips and culminates in a student-planned 20-day expedition, as well as an Adventure Education Track, which prepares ropes course, rock climbing and ice climbing facilitation instructors. To learn more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges -- and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit