Wilderness Basics Class

In 1956, some members of the San Diego Sierra Club started a class teaching wilderness survival techniques called “Basic Mountaineering.”  Now, exactly 60 years later, the renamed Wilderness Basics Class (“WBC”) is a San Diego institution.  I first learned about this class from Tad, who took the class with his friend Scott in ~1997 (about two years before I met Tad).  Ever since then I have been interested in taking it, but there has always been a reason not to.  Before having kids I simply did not prioritize it, and after having kids there was no way to take such a class.

The class is held once a year, from January to March.  In late 2014, my project at work was winding down, and I decided my schedule would allow me to finally take the class.  In November of 2014 I attempted to sign up, but it was full already!  I decided then that I would take it the next year no matter what, and I put the day registration opened into my calendar.

Fast forward a year, and I was working on a new project that was keeping me extremely busy, helping to coordinate a trial of a new technology from February to April in China — not really a very good year to sign up!  But I had made my decision and signed up anyway.  I had Tad’s full support, and the kids are old enough to not require as much of my attention.

The class is held every Tuesday evening for 3 hours, with four major weekend outings.  I attended my first class last Tuesday.  This weekend the WBC organizers hosted a short day hike for the purpose of assessing us for the outings.  I signed up for the 7am Saturday time slot.  The hike was held on the first 1.75mi of the longer trail at Iron Mountain in Poway.  After completing the course, I decided to keep going another 1.75 miles to the top of Iron Mountain.  It was a nice day, relatively cool, and starting at 7am made for easy parking and thin crowds.  During the timed portion, I met a fellow WBC-er named Brian.  After the timed portion, I hiked the rest of the way up with another WBC-er named Gwen.  (I do suspect the mileage; the second 1.75 seemed much longer.  I assume this was because it was the steeper part of the hike.)

I completed the timed portion in 29 minutes, which I think is pretty good.  Overall, it was a 6.4 mile hike which I did in 2 hours.  The first hour was the hike up, covering 1000 feet in elevation.  This will be a useful reference for me as I decide which of the major outings to sign up for.

In talking to Gwen and Brian I came to realize that I’m going to need to be able to answer one of the first questions that other WBC’ers are asking: that is, why am I taking the class?  I’ve landed on three reasons: 1. Because it’s a San Diego institution, and is something that should be done; 2. Because having a schedule and a group to go backpacking with will motivate me to do so; and 3. Because it’s good for me to do this separately from Tad, and be more on my own and figuring things out for myself.  I’m looking forward to it!


About Erika Lawson

Blogging from El Cajon, CA, just east of San Diego. I mostly blog about hiking, but also traveling and family life as a working mom. I also have blogged about my experience dealing with (curable) breast cancer with as much humor and disdain as possible.
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