Sea kayaking, whitewater paddling, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering are all covered. In addition, there is a 10-day long wilderness first aid course (similar to a wilderness EMT) and there are occasional days off.
The nature of the program dictates that the itinerary must be flexible from session to session and within the course itself. However, there is an effort to stage each section of the program when the weather is optimal and to stagger land and water activities to allow muscles and experience to develop. Throughout, the course builds towards the most challenging trips, so you’ll be ready for them physically and mentally.
Introduction to Canoe Skills (1 day) On mountain rimmed Upper Campbell Lake you’ll learn and hone the basic skills needed to move a tandem canoe where you want it to go and perform rescues in a flat water environment.
Whitewater Canoeing (3 days) We’ll travel to a nearby local river and begin our emersion into the whitewater environment. You’ll learn basic moving water techniques, rescues and learn to read and run rapids up to class III.
BC Recreational Canoe Instructor (IV) Certification (5 days) Earn the certification required to teach flat water canoeing on this demanding course. Days will be spent at Strathcona Park Lodge perfecting approximately 26 different paddling strokes and how to teach them in a clear and concise manner. Certification requires passing two water exams (solo and tandem) and a written test.
Whitewater Kayak I (3 days) Back on the Gold or Campbell rivers you’ll continue to develop your understanding of moving water introduced in whitewater canoeing, this time in a modern whitewater kayak. Eskimo rolls, self rescue, and river maneuvers including eddy turns, ferrying, surfing, and hole riding will all be covered.
Whitewater Kayak II (3 days) In this second module you will progress to grade 3 whitewater on the Gold River. Instruction will focus on developing your river reading and running, and reinforcing skills learned in Kayak I.
Nimpkish River Trip (3 days) The Nimpkish River is the best multi-day whitewater run on Vancouver Island. With overnight gear packed into canoes and kayaks we’ll negotiate the exciting rapids, scenic canyons and the Nimpkish waterfall – always a highlight. Nights will be spent at remote riverside campsites.
Surf Kayak Introduction (4 days) Sand, surf and more surf. This is consistently rated the student’s favourite trip – four days of surfing whitewater kayaks on the waves rolling into Tofino’s beautiful beaches. Surfing is the perfect venue for perfecting your bracing and Eskimo roll techniques. We’ll camp at a local campground and a trip into the quaint town of Tofino is usually on the itinerary.
Ocean Kayaking in Nootka Sound (9 days) Empty beaches, pounding surf, fascinating First Nation and European history, tons of wildlife: Nootka Sound is a classic west coast sea kayak destination. You will spend nine days exploring this remote section of coast traveling where the weather, tides and whims take you. Chart work, navigation, ocean paddling and surf techniques, weather forecasting, use of radios and rescue techniques will all be covered as we paddle to deserted beaches, tuck into historic coves, forage for food and watch for whales, sea otters and other west coast wildlife.
Sea Kayaking in Tidal Currents (6 days) Usually the final water based trip of the program this rigorous tour will test everything you’ve learnt on the water as we navigate the narrow passages of the east coast of Vancouver Island. Strong tidal currents kick up huge rapids and waves between forested bays and islands under the shadow of the mighty Coast Range. This is your exam room for the Assistant Sea Kayak Guide Certification. Leadership, fauna and flora, paddling, geography and wilderness skills will all be tested in this student lead trip.
Introduction to Rock Climbing (4 days) At Strathcona Park Lodge’s private bluffs and the friendly cliffs of nearby Crest Creek Crags you will learn basic rock climbing techniques including movement, knots, rope handling, belaying, top rope, rappelling, simple anchors, equipment and communication.
Squamish Climbing Trip (7 days) A trip every climber dreams of: Six days of rock climbing on Squamish’s world-class granite. After a half day of travel you will move into a comfortable campground at the base of the Squamish Chief and then hit the rock for an introduction to crack climbing including following lead climbs, removing protection, complex anchors and guidebook use. Some time will be spent learning rescue techniques. The week culminates with several days of climbing multi-pitch routes on the imposing Stawamus Chief.
Introduction to Mountain Travel (5-6 days) As it sounds, we’ll head into the nearby mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park, B.C.’s oldest park, for a on and off trail expedition. If the weather is good we’ll make an attempt on a non-technical peak like Mount Myra or Kings Peak. Along the way we’ll learn about navigation, pacing, leadership, minimum impact camping and, if needed, ice axe technique. We’ll also practice setting up natural belays, classic rappels and hand lines for negotiating steep terrain.
Intermediate Mountain Travel (1-4 days) We’ll put the skills we learned in the first mountain trip to use as we commit to a ridge traverse, beginning and ending in two different places. We’ll likely see more wildlife than people as we spend several days in the Vancouver Island alpine. There will be lots of off-trail navigation and group management skills will be emphasized as students take turns leading through rough terrain and up a non-technical peak along the way.
Snow and Glacier Travel (6 days) With a base camp near one of the Islands glaciers, we’ll spend a week learning the skills needed to travel on snow and ice. Ice axe and crampon use and crevasse and avalanche rescue techniques will be introduced. Then in rope teams of two or three we’ll move through crevassed areas, learn to place ice and snow protection and make attempts on several peaks.
Mountain Journey (6 to 9 days) Like the Tidal Current sea kayak trip, the Mountain Journey is the climax of your mountain experience. The group will pick an objective – maybe Vancouver Island’s highest peak the Golden Hinde – and then plan and execute the entire trip. Leadership duties will rotate through the group as you ascend peaks, navigate off trail, practice low impact camping and hone leadership and group management skills on an extended trip into the backcountry of Vancouver Island.
80 hour Wilderness First Aid (10 days) More than band aids and splints this course is meant to turn you into a self-sufficient problem solver. With a vigorous approach to method you’ll learn how to deal with any kind of emergency in a remote backcountry setting. Like an Emergency First Responder course the treatment of broken bones, minor cuts and scrapes and all kinds of illnesses are covered. There is a practical and written exam at the end. This level of expertise is required for most backcountry guiding jobs.
Restricted Marine Radio Operators Course (1 day) Alpha, Whiskey, Bravo. Pan-Pan and Sécurité. The simple, but precise language of the radio is covered in this one-day course. Etiquette, safety and how to speak so other marine operators and search and rescue personnel will understand is at the heart of this course. This is another essential skill for sea kayak guides and boat captains.
Days off (6 to 7 days) Catch up with family, chill out, go on a personal trip. Regular days off are an important part of COLT life. The course is intense; a day to relax is essential. Both courses have a three-day mid-semester break to do with as you wish. Some people hang out at the Strathcona Lodge, others go home and some head back out to practice what they’ve learned. In addition there are three other single days off in the fall semester and four in the summer semester.