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SUNY Potsdam students prep for wilderness expedition

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POTSDAM - SUNY Potsdam wilderness education students are going the extra mile to train and raise money for their upcoming expedition. This Sunday, students in the Leadership II course will attempt to climb Mount Azure as many times as possible in one day - with their backpacks loaded with 50 pounds of rocks.

The Mountain-A-Thon event will serve multiple purposes. Students will not only raise funds and train their bodies and minds for their expedition through the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico; they will also help with erosion control at the summit of the Adirondack peak.

The SUNY Potsdam students have been preparing for the Mountain-A-Thon throughout the semester, by repeatedly climbing the eight flights of stairs in Raymond Hall with loaded packs. On Sunday, they will haul 50-pound loads of rocks multiple times up the 1-mile trail, with a 1,000-foot elevation gain.

The Friends of Mount Azure have for years maintained a pile of rocks at the base of the mountain, so that hikers can carry up loads to help with erosion control at the summit. The group also leads stewardship for the fire tower and trail.

Ten students and faculty members will take part in Mountain-A-Thon. They have set a goal of each making a minimum of four trips to the summit of Azure, bringing a total of 200 pounds of rocks to the top, and completing eight miles of climbing and 4,000 feet of elevation gain. In sum total, the group hopes to carry more than 2,000 pounds of rocks to the summit in a day.

The challenge will closely mimic the rigors of the group’s upcoming expedition to the 3.3 million-acre Gila Wilderness in Southwestern New Mexico. The Gila covers eight mountain ranges, including the Mogollon range, which rises out of the Gila river canyons to mountain summit elevations of over 10,000 feet. The expedition to this remote area will be resupplied via pack stock halfway through the 20-day expedition. A typical day in the Gila will involve up to several thousand feet of elevation gain, while carrying backpacks over rugged terrain that has been recently ravaged by floods and fires, and will at times lack a trail. This expedition is the capstone experience for students who are enrolled in the Leadership Track of the SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Minor.

There will be a variety of pledge options for the fundraiser. Options range from 25 to 50 cents per pound of rock carried, or the “all or nothing” option of a $50 pledge for carrying 200 pounds to the summit in a day. For more information, contact Mark Simon at simonm@potsdam.edu.

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