Outdoor Pursuits Program Builds Resilience While Exploring New Heights

Pictured above, one of the hiking groups summitted Mount Liberty in New Hampshire on January 6.

Founded in 1964, Outdoor Pursuits is Andover’s outdoor program, an athletic offering in all three terms. Outdoor Pursuits challenges students mentally and physically, while helping them hone their environmental stewardship and global citizenship. With a core and advanced program, Outdoor Pursuits offers one to three weekend trips per term, respectively.

The Winter term Outdoor Pursuit program consists of two hiking groups and one climbing group. Ajahla Jefferson ’24, who participates in the beginner hiking group, shared some of the activities the participants had done this term.

“Today actually, we went sledding… Last week, we did cross-country skiing… On days we don’t do that, we’ll just go hiking outdoors. We’ve hiked Holt Hill, the [Cochran Bird] Sanctuary a couple of times, and then we also do some off-campus trips. We also meet at the BTR, which is where students go Lower Year for PE class, where the rock climbing wall is,” said Jefferson.

Driven by resourcefulness, collaboration, and resilience, Outdoor Pursuits requires its participant to sign a full-value contract, informing them of the aspirations of the program. Ethan Oder ’25 highlighted the importance of the values and the history of Outdoor Pursuits.

Oder said, “Outdoor Pursuits has a long history that dates back to the mid-1900s, and it was founded with its own strong principles. For each group, we do a full value contract that we all put forward with values that we want to see in each of our groups. Then, throughout the term, we reflect on these values and make sure that we are keeping [true to] them.”

Last Saturday, an Outdoor Pursuit group traveled to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Cris Lisa ’25 described the group’s preparations for the hike.

Lisa said, “The trail was covered in snow which makes it very beautiful, but we got to have the proper gear for that, so we had to suit up with microspikes which help us climb the ice on the trail, as well as jackets and gear to keep us warm. It was one straight trail up to the top, [a] pretty simple route, but we gained a lot of elevation that day so it was pretty strenuous towards the end.”

Lisa continued, recalling his hikes with his father exploring the White Mountains. Hiking the mountain now gave him a refreshing perspective, away from the stresses of schoolwork and helped him connect with other students and nature.

“I have had a lot of experience hiking in the White Mountains. I have been doing it since I was a little kid with my dad, but I think I always enjoy taking a day off my weekend, or having that excuse to get away from school. I just really [enjoyed] hiking along the trail, having great conversations with other members of the group, and especially the view at the top that is always very beautiful and something I cherish,” said Lisa.

Oder recalled his December trip to Crane’s Beach. Crane’s Beach is a four-mile-long sandy beachfront, with dunes, and a pitch pine forest. Oder noted how he found the marches and the quick dip in the icy cold water enjoyable.

“[There] are a bunch of different hiking trails. We polar plunged. We kind of just walked around, but it was really fun because it was in marshes and hills, and there were big hills that I enjoyed rolling down. It was quite splendid,” said Oder.

According to Oder, Outdoor Pursuits can help one find a new appreciation for the outdoors. He also added how it may help one find new perspectives and skills.

Oder said, “I think that students can gain a much greater appreciation for outdoor activity and community building. It is a great opportunity to gain new skills, new perspectives, and new experiences that are unique to the Andover experience.”

Lisa noted the importance of a program like Outdoor Pursuits, where Andover students get a chance to explore the surrounding mountainous terrains and admire nature.

Lisa said, “I think the program is sort of a hidden gem. I think they try to advertise themselves and I might make an effort in the future to keep that going, but I would say it is totally worth it. A lot of people don’t understand how beautiful it is up there and how lucky we are to have those mountains so close by. I think some people might think it is a long time commitment but it really isn’t, and those weekend trips are such a great way… to spend your day [and] get physical activity and enjoy socializing with other kids at Andover and sharing a pretty cool experience up there.”