Allegheny’s Outing Club Has a Rich History of Trekking

The Allegheny College Outing Club is among the six oldest collegiate outing clubs in the nation, joining with 13 other groups to form the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association in 1932.

Allegheny’s Outing Club was founded in 1928 by Cora LeRoy, women’s physical education instructor, at a time when there was a push to expand women’s activities as well as early conservationist movements. Under LeRoy, the club was exclusively for women and went on hiking trips to Pennsylvania’s Round Top as well as various biking outings.

The Outing Club was re-formed in 1935 as a club for women and men. It benefited from the leadership of Biology Department Chair Chester Darling, although a student executive committee managed the club. When Allegheny purchased the Bousson Camp in 1935, Darling and the club members built a cabin on the property and tended to the upkeep, with biology students assisting in developing the area and club members planting thousands of trees on 140 acres.

The club, now in its 89th year, is advised by Bill Ross, Allegheny’s associate athletic director, and managed by Club President Jordan Shimmin and Vice President Emily Rahravan. Both are junior environmental science majors, and both are double minors — Shimmin with Spanish and Latin American/Caribbean studies, and Rahravan with history and writing. Most of the club members are geology, biology or environmental science majors.

“You’re here because you like the outdoors, and it all just falls into place,” Shimmin says. “It’s a way to turn a hobby into a growing experience in terms of leadership — it turns something I’d normally do on my own to where I can be a leader at the same time.”

Rahravan said that, during her first year at Allegheny, other leaders initially drew her to the club. “They were super-cool people who found a way to do their hobbies through school, and even if you’re not super close with everybody, it gives you people to get outside with,” she said.

Ross has been able to step back and let students take charge, serving as an advisor and administrative contact. “The best feature of the club is having student leadership that is passionate about conservation issues and exploring the great outdoors,” he said. “The leaders go through some extensive training on their own and impart this knowledge on any and all who want to learn from them.”

Some things about the Outing Club have changed significantly, including its organization and structure. In recent years, the club has become much more structured — with a student board, a clear-cut constitution and generally sponsoring two trips per weekend with at least two leaders on each trip.

“It’s less a club and more an organization now,” Shimmin says. “When we’re dealing with a school budget, we have to be professional in everything we do. It’s like a job.”

The Outing Club organizes activities that take students all across Pennsylvania to locations many of the participants otherwise would never have ventured. Most of the trips are learn-as-you-go, so no experience is necessary unless it’s specifically stated.

Whitewater rafting is one of the most popular trips and is offered once each semester, but others are tamer — such as hiking, camping and canoeing. The club also organized a trip across Pennsylvania to visit abandoned schools and buildings, and another let students canoe out to an island and camp overnight. The Outing Club house, added in 2014, also hosts the occasional bonfire and s’mores night as well as various information and training sessions to educate students on equipment involved in the activities.

Club leaders are trained to respond to challenging situations. They are prepared to manage the circumstances at hand and make sure everyone stays safe while fully enjoying the experience.

For example, Rahravan said, when two students became separated briefly from the group during a recent backpacking trip, leaders quickly devised a plan to locate them. “So everybody made it back, and we came home with the right number in the end,” she said.