Five Things No One Tells You About the Wilderness Challenge

Wait— I’m not trying to sell you anything. And while I’m especially not trying to sell you the Wilderness Challenge, I also promise not whip out any Girl Scout cookies or balmy Caribbean timeshares.


After all, if you already went on the Wilderness Challenge, you don’t need me to tell you how sunshine skims across the lake and seeps between the pine branches. And after 96 hours marooned in the mountains, I won’t be forgetting the sharp musk of pine sap― or the musk of my own body odor― anytime soon. (Trust me on this one.)

Wait, what’s that? You didn’t endure five days of no cell phones, mattresses, or showers? Well then, you’re in luck— I’m not about to sit here gloating, and I’m sure not going to sell the Challenge to next year’s freshmen.

Actually, Green Mountain’s class of 2021 better stop reading here, because I’m about to let you in on a secret. Or two. Or five.

Read on for five things no one tells you about the Wilderness Challenge.

1) Don’t Worry If You Don’t Love Peanuts…

…you will. When you’re stumbling across streams and clawing up mountains, you learn to heap peanut butter on your morning oatmeal, to gnaw on crushed peanuts, and even to smear peanut butter and soy sauce onto a tortilla in what must have been the world’s worst pad Thai knock-off. Trust me on this one— however devout your hero-worship of Jillian Michaels, no one counts calories on a Wilderness Challenge.

2) I Didn’t Know That Was a Powder!

Gatorade, cheese, hot chocolate, milk, brownie mix, beans― on trail, you haul around more powders than a Pixie Stick the size of a tree trunk. Looking for a real wilderness challenge? Try turning that snowy brown dust back into hummus.

3)  Everyone Takes Pictures on Top of the Mountain

But almost no one takes a selfie halfway up. After all, the clenched jaw, the bangs plastered to your sweaty forehead, the rattle of phlegm in your throat— none of that’s the “sugar, spice, and everything nice” Tumblr fame is made of. But for all the mountain peaks and scenic panoramas crowding social media, all you wannabe mountaineers out there will spend more time gasping for air than you will gazing off into the distance.

4) Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Lower Your Standards

By Day Two of the Wilderness Challenge, a broken filter meant gulping down water cleansed of bacteria but still churning with dirt. Okay, fine— we might not have gulped down water that had all the muskiness of drugstore cologne, but after a few heaping spoonfuls of powdered Gatorade we learned to lower our standards.

5) Your Body’s Not the Only Thing Getting Challenged

Let’s be honest, conversation is hard. A conversation lasting five days, four early(-ish) mornings, three failed bear-bag attempts, two snapped PCP cords, and a partridge in a pear tree (or a total face plant on my part, depending who you ask) borders on impossible. Conquering a mountain or putting in earrings with your toes— yeah, sure, that’s a challenge. But getting to know five strangers while hoisting forty pounds of dried hummus fifteen feet in the air? Now that’s a Wilderness Challenge.

by: Alison Stewart ’20


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