Inside Outdoor Pursuits: Something for everyone

By Haviland Stewart | September 18, 2019 11:52am

A student practices rock climbing with no harness.

Media Credit: Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

Sleeping under the stars aboard the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry. Surrounded by land abundant with culture, history, forests, glaciers and wildlife. For students with a passion for the outdoors and who want to explore Southeast Alaska this summer, the UP Outdoor Pursuits Program is offering a new excursion. But this isn’t the only opportunity for students to see the outdoors. 

Located in Beauchamp Recreation and Wellness Center, the UP Outdoor Pursuits Program (OPP) has a variety of year-round experiences available to all students, faculty and staff. Excursions and resources range from guided outdoor trips and rock climbing to bike and equipment rental. Whether you are an experienced hiker or have never hiked before, OPP has options for all skill levels.

This past October, OPP hired a new manager, Matthew Libby. He has enjoyed working in campus recreation and thinks that the Outdoor Pursuits Program offers something special to the UP community.

“What we love to do here is foster lifelong hobbies,” Libby said. “It's just super awesome that we can provide an inclusive atmosphere for students to learn, develop and grow.”

Many people are drawn to Portland by the close proximity of the great outdoors. Going to school at UP gives students the opportunity to explore what the Portland area has to offer, from the Columbia River Gorge to Mt. Hood. Outdoor Pursuits aims to bring students out of the campus bubble and to the amazing sights only hours away. 

“The Pacific Northwest is one of the greatest places you can go to for an outdoor experience,”  said senior Outdoor Pursuits employee, Nathan Lee. “I’d say don’t waste that opportunity while you are here in college. Take advantage of that, it really is going to be worthwhile.” 

Outdoor Pursuits has three main components to their programming: outdoor trips, the bike shop and the climbing wall. 

Outdoor Trips 

Outdoor Pursuit shelves are filled with outdoor gear and memorabilia from students on previous excursions.

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

OPP organizes and leads multiple trips per week in the Pacific Northwest area. A detailed schedule for OPP outdoor trips can be found on their website. 

These are typically overnight or day trips, maintaining a consistent price of free or low-cost for students, which means many trips range from only $20-$45. Outdoor trips usually consist of 5-6 students and two OPP student guides.

Students can go kayaking in the Willamette River, climbing at Smith Rock or bouldering at Carver Cliff. And for students who want to explore near campus, OPP provides a shuttle over to Forest Park for only $2. 

During the spring semester, OPP branches out into snow sports as well. OPP organizes frequent trips to Mt. Hood to give students the opportunity to ski and snowboard. 

But OPP is also looking to expand on the types of trips they already offer.

“With our new boss, Matt, there’s a lot of energy that came into the program,” junior Outdoor Pursuits employee, Joey Bacon said. “He brought a lot of enthusiasm which helped us to create new programs.” 

One of those new programs includes the new trip to Alaska, which will take students far beyond the immediate Portland area. The trip will include hiking a portion of the Helot Trail, learning how to fish and visiting Native American culture museums and wildlife refuges.

Costs and exact dates of the Alaska Adventure and Cultural Trek are yet to be determined, however, Columbia Sportswear will loan the necessary gear to OPP for the trip. Libby said he hopes to have applications available on the OPP website in February. 

The Bike Shop 

The bike shop is one of the many services OP offers.

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

The bike shop is staffed with experienced student bike mechanics that specialize in maintenance and repairs, ranging from basic tune-ups to structural overhauls.

OPP also offers free bike rentals to students, faculty and staff. They have a variety of bikes available, including mountain bikes, street bikes and hybrid bikes. Bike rentals operate on a daily usage system throughout the week but rental time can be extended over the weekend if desired. 

OPP has a variety of other equipment for rent at free or low prices such as tents, sleeping bags, snow equipment, hammocks, kayaks, paddleboards and other watercraft items. 

Most of the equipment available to rent at OPP has been donated to the school by companies like Columbia Sportswear. Because of this, they can be rented out to students at more affordable rates.

“If you go to REI, or Next Adventure, or any of these for-profit organizations, you’re gonna be spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars for any of these certifications or trips,” Lee said. “Whereas here you’re spending 30 or 40 dollars for a weekend backpacking trip. That wouldn’t happen in the industry outside of college.”

The Climbing Wall

OP provides rentals at a fraction of the cost you might find elsewhere, including sleeping bags, watercraft and hiking gear.

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

The climbing wall is located in the front of Beauchamp Recreation Center and is available to all students. First-time climbers interested in using the UP climbing walls must take a 30 minute class, Rocks 101, offered by OPP. 

There are other trainings available for students that have an interest in bouldering, belaying and lead climbing. 

Bacon, who primarily works at the climbing wall, said he enjoys climbing as well as sharing his knowledge with new climbers.

“I love getting beginners into this sport and teaching them skills so that they can go off and do it on their own,” said Bacon. 

For students without transportation or resources to explore the Pacific Northwest, OPP allows for students to go off The Bluff to explore. 

“No matter your background, there's something in the program for you to learn and develop and grow,” said Libby. “There’s something here for everybody.”

Havi Stewart is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at