Adventure and Leadership

Leadership in Adventure Literature



Lee Burdette Williams, Ph.D.,
Interdisciplinary Studies
Appalachian State University

Chuck Dumke, Ph.D., 
Health, Leisure and Exercise Science
Appalachian State University

Activities will include backpacking, instructional rock-climbing and a peak ascent in the Rockies. No outdoor experience necessary.



Lee Burdette Williams, Ph.D.,
Interdisciplinary Studies

Chuck Dumke, Ph.D., 
Health, Leisure and Exercise Science


The purpose of this course is to utilize outstanding examples of adventure literature as a lens through which to view leadership, and having considered these examples, spend significant time in experiential settings similar to the ones described in the texts. These experiences will allow students to consider their own abilities and limitations in wilderness settings.


  • Through the use of non-fiction accounts of adventures, consider the styles of leadership conducive to and obstructive of success in wilderness settings; this entails learning basic theories of leadership
  • Examine and experience the effects of altitude on normal physiology, specifically, how do individual physiological responses and adequate nutrition contribute to decision-making and personal interactions in a wilderness situation? 
  • Through hands-on experience, learn basic rock-climbing, mountain-climbing and paddling in such a way that the texts used in this class are more easily understood and the physical challenges chronicled are more evident.
  • As a group, move intentionally from a leader-directed class to one that is group-directed, in the process modeling a particular form of leadership that will encourage critique of traditional leadership styles.

  • Texts:

  • Alexander, Caroline (1999). The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. New York: Knopf.
  • Blum, Arlene. Annapurna 
  • Roskelley, John (1987, 2000). Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition. Mountaineers Press.
  • Stark, Peter. Last Breath: The Limits of Adventure 
  • Additional selected readings in leadership theory and on the effects of altitude on physiology, expedition nutrition, and fitness for outdoor adventures.

  • Films:

  • Annapurna: A Woman’s Place
  • Everest: The Death Zone
  • Shackleton

  • Assignments:

  • Attendance at every class session and field trip is mandatory
  • Guided reflections on the readings, due every other day
  • Guided journal (personal reflections) on all four experiential excursions
  • Co-leading class discussion in a prepared fashion one time during course
  • Final paper analyzing book of choice (not including texts listed) using course material, due by August 8.

  • Calendar: