Wilderness Ventures: 40 Years of Magical Teen Adventures

By wpdev January 4, 2012
group of kids post hike standing on top of mountain with mountain peaks in background

From our first trip in 1973 to this upcoming summer’s alumni climbs of Mount Rainier and the Grand Teton, we celebrate a long history of experiential innovation.  Throughout our 40 years of operation, we’ve been developing an ever-expanding vocabulary of environments, destinations and activities. This continued push for program innovation has allowed us to not only remain enticing and relevant to today’s teens, but to also expand and deepen the substantive nature and educational focus of our teen adventure programs.

Departing Cincinnati in the summer of 1973, we began our first summer experience with a 60-day backpacking adventure through the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest – visiting the most inspiring outdoor environments in the Western United States and Canada. Highlights of that first summer with 10 students included backcountry adventures in Banff and Yoho National Parks, as well as soon-to-be classic backpacking adventures in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks that WV students still participate in today.

In 1974 we embarked on yet another once-in-a-lifetime adventure – replacing our adventures in the Canadian wild with our first historic summit of Mount Rainier and a four-day whitewater rafting experience down Oregon’s Deschutes River. Since 1974, nearly 2,500 teens have climbed Mount Rainier with Wilderness Ventures.

1977 marked the first of its kind teenage adventure into the Alaskan wilds. As a fitting launch into the land of the midnight sun, our group made an inspiring 200-mile canoe trip down the Yukon River.

Further expanding our program offerings in 1979, Wilderness Ventures groups embarked down Idaho’s stunning Salmon River. While this was another first in teen adventure history, the stunning Salmon River objectively remains the best multi-day rafting trip in the Northern Rockies.

In 1987, we made our first Sea Kayaking voyage into Glacier Bay National Park. Since this first year, over 700 Wilderness Ventures students have paddled with us through this amazing environment.

1994 marked an amazing collection of memories for Wilderness Ventures founder Mike Cottingham. That summer, he was lucky enough to go sea kayaking on the fjords near Chichagof Island, Alaska on a Wilderness Ventures expedition with his son Chris. Over this memorable expedition, Mike was also lucky enough to get some amazing photos of the numerous Humpback whales that over 350 Wilderness Ventures students have paddled with since we acquired this prestigious permit.

In 2001 Wilderness Ventures became the first teen adventure program to travel to the ancestral homeland of the Mangarrayi aboriginal people on the Jatbula Track in Australia’s Northwest Territory. Today, we run the highest quality array of international program opportunities available; Wilderness Ventures students can experience another country and culture in any one of our eight International Adventures or our five Community Service Adventures that take place in an international destination.

In 2003 the 2,000th Wilderness Ventures student reached the summit of the 13,777-foot Grand Teton. Since 1976, over 150 Wilderness Ventures groups have climbed this classic peak in Grand Teton National Park.

This upcoming summer, we’re excited to commemorate our 40th year of operation.

Wilderness Ventures has been providing the highest quality teen adventure experiences for the past four decades. This year, as we enter our 40th year in operation, we take a moment to look back at a few of our accomplishments in which we take the most pride.

To commemorate this historic accomplishment, we’re offering anniversary climbs of the Grand Teton and Mount Rainier National Park – open to WV Students, Alumni and former Staff Members.