COLS Program Leadership

Bruce S. MacDonald


Let me say a couple words about trip safety and my leadership experience. Some of the boys who have been invited on COLS trips are new to COLS; they and their families know me through church, other activities, or coaching basketball. For those of you who know me in these contexts, I think it is also important that you know my qualifications to lead a trip like this as you consider having your son participate. I bring in-depth experience on the hiking/climbing/wilderness travel and safety side.

I also bring experience teaching, and hopefully living :), on the leadership and Christian side too. I am also very involved with my own family. Beth and I have been married for 28 years and are active as parents raising our son Brint. Below I will touch on my experience and qualifications that contribute to the quality of the COLS program.

I have significant experience in wilderness travel. I was fortunate to go to a boys camp myself from ages 6-14 for two months each summer where hiking and backpacking were major aspects of the camp. My camp experience had a significant impact on who I am as a person - which is part of my motivation to provide these opportunities to others. During my summer after college I ran the camp trip department and planned all the trips including gear, food, first aid, hiking routes, trip itinerary and logistics. These were multiple day-long and week-long trips for 75 boys. Since 1999 I have planned 1 to 4 COLS trips, and have personally led 1 or 2 trips, each summer. All these trips have been 5-12 day outdoor adventure trips.

I have also planned many personal backcountry trips. (In none of my major mountaineering trips have I hired a guide - I have hired guides to learn specific things but I have always run my own trips.) These trips include 5 mountaineering trips to the Alaska range, twice to climb Mt. McKinley, once to climb Mt. Huntington and twice to different routes on Mt. Hunter. On the McKinley trips I was on the mountain for 25-30 days and on the other trips I was on the mountain 2-3 weeks. I have also climbed Mt. Robson, which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We reached the summit, though the mountain has some distinction in climbing circles as one of the least summited peaks in an elite group of top peaks in the world. I have hiked and climbed in Colorado, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Washington State (summiting Liberty Cap and Mt Rainer via Liberty Ridge, which a difficult, technical route), New York, West Virginia, France, Canada and extensively in New England.

In addition to my own experience I have studied various aspects of wilderness travel and safety and have taken several classes on these topics. These classes include a wilderness medical class. I have the Wilderness First Responder Certification. In addition to myself, there will be at least one other experienced leader who has also completed the Wilderness First Responder class.

There is a degree of risk whenever you are in the mountains, whether you are climbing Mt. Monadnock or Mt. Everest (which one of my climbing partners is climbing right now), but the goal is to mitigate this risk by being prepared and making good decisions. At COLS we take safety seriously. There is no bravado about these COLS trips, the goal is to have a fun enriching experience. We don't need to summit any mountain. We strive to strike the balance between challenging ourselves and being comfortable turning back. This is an opportunity for each boy to have a genuine adventure experience in a real mountain environment at his own level. The emphasis is on personal growth and development.

I also bring experience in the teaching of leadership, having run a real estate investment banking firm since 1996. Many of the leadership principles taught at COLS are things that we have done with our company. At COLS there is an emphasis on leading yourself (some of which comes from Dee Hock, who founded the Visa Card). On the spiritual side I am personally trying to pursue a relationship with God. It is an ongoing journey. I have led many Bible studies, have been involved in youth ministry, and specifically taught preteen/teen classes for over 10 years. Based on my experience with wilderness travel, leadership, faith, and working with boys of this age, COLS is able to provide a genuine adventure experience. The intent is that this will allow everyone who participates to have a good time and have an opportunity to learn at a variety of levels.

With COLS my desire is to give back, to use my talents and interests in a way that will benefit others. I love giving kids an opportunity to learn at a lot of levels (physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual), all in the context of a having a good time in a genuine outdoor adventure.