SWHS alum Jack Bruemmer completes 88-day course on wilderness, leadership skills

Jack Bruemmer takes a quick picture break from climbing in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

During an 88-day course with the National Outdoor Leadership School, 19-year-old Jack Bruemmer of Langley explored the Rocky Mountains, Wyoming, and Utah.

Bruemmer, a 2014 graduate of South Whidbey High School and current Western Washington University student, recently completed a wilderness expedition with the outdoor school that provided technical outdoor skills, and wilderness ethic and leadership skills.

Bruemmer and his course mates began their semester in the Rockies developing technical rock climbing skills by conquering obstacles like the Black Hills of South Dakota, Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming, and Fremont Canyon in central Wyoming. While climbing, Bruemmer was taught lessons on how to camp efficiently, apply leave-no-trace principles, risk assessment, and self-rescue.

Bruemmer and his classmates traveled to Utah for the river portion of their semester. Using whitewater kayaks and oar rafts on the Green River and whitewater canoes on the San Juan River, Bruemmer was able to paddle Class III rapids, practice swift-water rescue skills, and hike to historic sites along the riverbank. Another phase of the course included canyoneering in the Cedar Mesa wilderness.

Bruemmer hiked 130 miles over a 26-day period, where he explored Anasazi ruins as well as make decisions independent of his instructors. Temperatures dropped below 15 degrees at times. Bruemmer ended the semester with a 12-day winter camping section based deep in the Absaroka Mountain Range of Wyoming. The group traveled on telemark skis through almost five feet of fresh powder snow, which provided ample opportunities to learn avalanche and terrain management. At camp, students built intricate snow shelters, called quigloos, to help protect from the cold temperatures and high winds.

“I would say it definitely has changed my goals in life,” Bruemmer said. “Before, I thought I would take a job where I could make a lot of money. But when you live out of a backpack, you learn that you don’t really need much. It definitely reinforced my love for the outdoors.”