Steamboat Springs graduate completes Patagonia expedition
February 13, 2017
Steamboat Springs — While other college students were spending their fall term listening to lectures and cramming for tests, Jackson Perry was earning his credits in the remote wilderness of Patagonia.
The 2014 Steamboat Springs High School graduate spent 80 days during fall term on a wilderness expedition with Wyoming-based outdoor semester organization NOLS, earning a wilderness first aid certification and learning survival skills while on a nonstop adventure.
"We were learning what to do on our own expeditions," said Perry, 20.
After earning their first aid certifications, Perry and his 14 coursemates were given two rations of food and supplies while traveling through southern Chile and Argentina — hiking, mountaineering and learning best practices for outdoor expeditions.
The group first traveled to Estero Ventisquero, where there is a high mountain camp with good access to glaciers and an opportunity to practice glacier travel.
After hunkering down for a three-day snowstorm, the group was able to ice climb and summit a few peaks in the area, before moving onto Valle Chacabuco, where they picked up another ration of food and supplies.
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Perry, who enjoys skiing and ice climbing in Steamboat Springs, said it was interesting to see how students with varying levels of outdoor experience adapted to the expedition.
"Some people had experience, and some people had never really put on a backpack," Perry said. "It was cool seeing them so excited."
Perry said that though they were prepared, the group members thankfully didn't have any significant injuries that put their wilderness first aid skills to the test.
Perry did receive a burn on his leg from boiling water he was using to make hot chocolate, but he kept the wound clean and avoided an infection.
"Luckily, we didn't have any big injuries," he said.
At the end of the semester's mountain section, students split into smaller groups and planned their own expeditions without instructors.
"The idea is that by the end, you've learned enough that the instructors become obsolete," said Perry, whose instructor happened to be Emily Birch, another Steamboat native.
Perry's group of five students planned a five-day expedition that included hiking up a mountain and eating pancakes at the top.
After the independent expedition, students regrouped and began a 145-mile sea kayaking expedition beginning in Caleta Gallardo and ending at the Jorge Montt glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.
Perry earned 16 college credits for his expedition, which he'll use as he continues working on a business degree at Fort Lewis College in Durango.