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Montana Western Holds Backcountry Skills and Leadership Course

May 25, 2021

UMW’s “Backcountry Skills and Leadership for Outdoor Professionals” course was held May 1-9 in the Dillon, Mont., area during the university’s first-ever X-Block Summer Session. This unique week-long immersive course was taught by various backcountry and outdoor professionals that covered various topics relevant to outdoor recreation and careers.

Backcountry Skills and Leadership Course

UMW Business Department instructor, Rocky Crandell, and Division Chair, Professor Cecil Jones, organized the course and also assisted in instruction. The course paired the immersive experiential learning model with various outdoor industry professionals who taught a wide-range of subjects including horse packing, swift water rescue, hypothermia prevention, ham radio, wilderness trauma, helicopter operations, and climate and weather survival. Students were able to interact with instructors with decades of experience in their respective fields.

“I would like to thank Jordan and Amanda Knudsen, of Heart Bar K Enterprises, Micah Rush, and Tye, Jen and Andrew, from Peak Rescue, John Barklow from John Barklow USA, Sitka Gear, and UMW Chancellor Mike Reid who taught the ham radio portion of the course, for their support of student learning of backcountry skills. Additionally, I would like to thank the faculty and staff of UMW and Division Chair, Cecil Jones, for helping make the inaugural year of this class a success,” said course instructor and UMW alumnus, Rocky Crandell.

The guest instructors included Micah Rush, John Barklow, and Jordan Knudsen.

Micah Rush

Rush is a IFMGA/AMGA Certified Mountain Guide, a career firefighter and backcountry rescue expert. He is the founder of Peak Rescue located in Casper, Wyoming, and is also part of the Petzel Pro Team. Petzel is a world leader in climbing and backcountry equipment. He taught a block on wilderness trauma, transport, and helicopter operations.

Micah Rush

John Barklow

Barklow is currently the Big Game division manager at Sitka Clothing in Bozeman, Montana, and spent the beginning of his career in the Navel Special Warfare Center teaching Naval special warfare sailors how to survive in cold environments. He now leverages that experience in teaching as well as in his current position at Sitka. John talked about clothing systems and climate weather survival, and conducted a rewarming drill with the students to evaluate their own systems.

John Barklow

Jordan Knudsen

As the successor to Smoke Elser, who has spent most of his life horse packing in the Rockies, Knudsen has taken over Elser’s operations and is now teaching horse packing at the most elite levels of the trade. Based in Frenchtown, Montana, Knudsen has also operated a saddlery company for 15 years tailored to the trade of Decker saddle packing. Knudsen spent three days teaching and immersing students in horse packing techniques at the Montana Center for Horsemanship during the course.

Jordan Knudsen

“As an industry professional myself, I was glad that these folks were as excited as I was to contribute to the field of practice and mentor current and future generations of people working in the profession,” said Crandell.

To learn more about the University of Montana Western and its unique Experience One approach to learning, please visit or call 1-877-683-7331.