The Leader Summer 2013

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For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School
Summer 2013  •  Vol. 28 No. 3

From the Director


Casey Dean Editor Sam Baker Designer Alisha Bube Designer Rich Brame Alumni Relations Director John Gans NOLS Executive Director

OUR GOALS AND YOUR GOALS As we wrap up NOLS’ 2013 Strategic Plan this year, a great deal of reflecting has been taking place school-wide. We’ve looked back on the last five years and the goals we set in 2008 with a sharp eye, and I can say we’ll be wrapping up “Expedition 2013” with pride. In fact, a number of successes have been documented just in this single issue of The Leader. On the cover, you’ll see a huge undertaking NOLS has taken to be the leader in increasing diversity in the outdoors. Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors will enable us—and the rest of the industry—to continue progress toward essential diversity goals, even without summitting. In fact, learn more about the importance of knowing when to turn around on page 7. Then turn to page 16 to read about Expedition Denali and what it means in today’s world on page 16. Another powerful initiative that came out of the current strategic plan is the annual NOLS Faculty Summit. It is of utmost importance to us that our instructors have every opportunity to develop into the best possible teachers they can be. One means of facilitating that development is providing them with a week of instruction, networking, and collaboration each year. Get an insider’s look at the gathering of minds at the third annual NOLS Faculty Summit from our own Adam Swisher on page 12. As you keep reading, you’ll see our enduring efforts to protect access to our wilderness classrooms on page 6 and exciting progress on our environmental stewardship goals on page 26. As you can see, the 2013 strategic plan, which you can learn more about at, guides NOLS from a multitude of angles, making sure we are prepared for the future as we, in turn, continue to prepare our graduates for the future. The inspiration is cyclical and exponential as our grads both inspire our commitment to excellence and motivate their own networks as a result of their courses. I never tire of hearing about the myriad ways in which our alumni are changing the world, from creative outreach about the environment (see graduate Jonathan Rosen’s video on page 32) to keeping a team safe through self awareness and strong judgment and decision-making skills (read about grad Ian Overton’s tough decision not to summit on page 7) or breaking glass ceilings in the outdoor industry (meet grad Lynn Hill on page 9). This is why it is important that we set lofty goals for each strategic plan. As we wrap up the final months of the current plan, we are also gathering input and looking forward so that we can continue to enable NOLS graduates to set and achieve their own world-altering goals. As we reflect on all that we have achieved and how we remain the leader in wilderness and leadership education, it’s important to remember the sometimesintangible outcomes our courses continue to have. We know NOLS teaches leadership in unrivaled ways and outdoor skills better than anyone else. But there is also that spiritual experience our students come away with that sticks with them. Semester in New Zealand graduate Carolyn Highland wrote about this while on her course, and her piece on page 29 is one that will bring every NOLS graduate back to the transformative experience of his or her course and reinvigorate your passions as you change the world.


5 FIELD NOTES: Expeditionary Fortitude 6 ISSUE ROOM: NOLS before Congress 7 WILD SIDE OF MEDICINE: On turning around 8 ALUMNI PROFILE: He’s taken how many courses? 9 ALUMNI PROFILE: Shattering glass ceilings—safely 20 ALUMNI TRIPS: Return to the backcountry. Bring a friend.

The first ever Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester just wrapped up. Get a peek into what this already popular course entails and where it will lead its first—and future graduates.

Recognize this person? The first 10 people to contact us with the correct answer will receive a free NOLS t-shirt. Call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or email [email protected]. The answer to last issue’s “Who Is This” is Lena Conlan, current NOLS and WMI instructor from Bozeman, Mont. and has been working courses since 1986.

The NOLS Faculty Summit brings together instructors to network, share ideas, and continue their education. Instructor and Curriculum Publications Manager Adam Swisher gives a tour.

21 REVIEWS: Octopuses, outlaws, and the great outdoors 22 GEAR ROOM: NOLS gets a new backpack 24 RECIPE BOX: Camping in luxury 25 JABBERWOCKY: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives 26 SUSTAINABILITY: Facility efficiency around the world 27 BRANCH NOTES: By the numbers 27 GIVING: Staff to endow a scholarship 29 BELAY OFF: What does wilderness mean to you? 31 TRAVERSES: Golden Ears, an animated film

July 2013 • Volume 28 • No.3 Published three times a year in March, July, and November.

A team of NOLS graduates have found themselves working together to bring youth into contact with wilderness and adventure.

Postmaster: Send address changes to National Outdoor Leadership School 284 Lincoln St. Lander, WY 82520 The Leader is a magazine for alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit school focusing on wilderness skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. It is mailed to approximately 60,000 NOLS alumni and an additional 10,000 prospective students. NOLS graduates living in the U.S. receive a free subscription to The Leader for life. The Leader accepts paid advertising and welcomes article submissions and comments. Please address all correspondence to [email protected] or call (307) 332-8800. Alumni can direct address changes to [email protected] or (800) 332-4280. For the most up-to-date information on NOLS, visit or e-mail [email protected]. The Leader is printed with soy-based inks in Portland, Ore., on paper using 30 percent post-consumer-recycled content. A paperless version of The Leader is available online at

Expedition Denali is inspiring youth of color to find their passion in the outdoors. Read about the climbers and their motivations.


IAN OVERTON Real Life Drama, pg 7 Overton is a graduate of NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute’s Wilderness EMT course. He operates part time as the medic for EDGE8000, a Hungarian high-altitude climbing movement. When not climbing, he can be found skiing, hitchhiking, and otherwise adventuring in the Rocky Mountains.

JAMES EDWARD MILLS Cover Article, pg 16 Mills is a freelance journalist and independent media producer based in Madison, Wisc. He’s the host and creator of the blog/podcast series The Joy Trip Project dedicated to reporting on the business, art, and culture of the active lifestyle.

BRENT WALLEN Feature, pg 10 & Book Review, pg 21 Wallen knew he had an obsession with the outdoors when he realized he had set all of his computer desktop backgrounds to some picturesque landscape and stared at it long after he was done with whatever he was working on.

CAROLYN HIGHLAND Belay Off, pg 29 Highland is a 23-year-old aspiring writer, Maine native, and graduate of a NOLS Fall 2012 semester in New Zealand. The months following her NOLS course have found her coaching cross-country skiing in her home state, backpacking through Patagonia, and teaching English in Northern Chile.

John Gans, NOLS Executive Director

WHAT ARE THESE BOXES? They’re QR codes—two-dimensional barcodes that can be read by smartphone cameras. Search “QR code” to find a free app for your phone, then use it to read images of the QR codes in The Leader. Scan the code above to see the latest episode of The NOLS Cooking Show.




Summer 2013



Field Notes



VOL. 27 NO. 2





What do you think? Join the conversation.
Send your feedback or conversation starters to [email protected], post it to Facebook, tweet it (@NOLSedu), or give us at call at 800710-6657 ext 2254. Find back issues online at





National Outdoor For Alumni of the 28 No. 2
Spring 2013 • Vol.

Leadership School

My Two Cents
What follows are one reader’s thoughts on the article, “Technology in the Field: NOLS explores Nooks on courses,” from the Spring 2013 edition of The Leader. We found it so powerful, we decided to dedicate the entire feedback page to it. If you feel strongly about anything we publish in The Leader, please let us know, and we’ll make room for your words, too!
The pros seem to outweigh the cons as long as the cost is manageable for carrying Nooks on backcountry courses. As an outdoor leader, I myself make good use of my iPhone while leading backcountry trips. In response to, “...the question of eReaders being a distraction or untrue to a “pure” backcountry experience.” I would like to offer this enlightenment. In the 18th century books were primarily housed in libraries, as they were too large and expensive to carry wandering about the countryside. As technology improved and made them more compact and cheaper, some began to combine book study with enjoying nature. As the Romantic period arrived in the late 18th century, poets began to realize and promote the idea that nature was the epitome of writer’s inspiration. Despite this, William Wordsworth, one of England’s four great poets and perhaps the best of the Romantics, still viewed book study as something “untrue to a “pure” backcountry experience.” This is evident in his poem, The Tables Turned, as you can see to the right. The point is that we ought not to be afraid of change. Books seem more pure to this generation because we grew up using them in the backcountry. But even they can become a distraction. This past Spring Break I went on a canoe trip in Florida. The leaders took all phones and allowed no electronics in an attempt to promote group dynamics. There was one new leader among the leadership team who was a strong introvert. He brought a book. Due to the stresses of being a new, introverted leader, he spent hours with his nose in the book every day and few of the group really got to know him. The point is that even good ol’ paperbacks can be a distraction if over used. I implore that NOLS staff hearken to the data rather than to tradition in this mater of using electronics in the backcountry!

By William Wordsworth
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books; Or surely you’ll grow double: Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks; Why all this toil and trouble? The sun above the mountain’s head, A freshening lustre mellow Through all the long green fields has spread, His first sweet evening yellow. Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife: Come, hear the woodland linnet, How sweet his music! on my life, There’s more of wisdom in it. And hark! how blithe the throstle sings! He, too, is no mean preacher: Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher. She has a world of ready wealth, Our minds and hearts to bless— Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health, Truth breathed by cheerfulness. One impulse from a vernal wood May teach you more of man, Of moral evil and of good, Than all the sages can. Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; Our meddling intellect Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:— We murder to dissect. Enough of Science and of Art; Close up those barren leaves; Come forth, and bring with you a heart That watches and receives.

Sincerely, David Garner An outdoor leadership major, Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tenn.

“YOU JOKERS ARE GOING UP THERE ?” Alan, a seasoned farmer on the South Island of New Zealand, greeted us with this sentiment as Christian Martin, Andy Clifford and I (with a cameo from NOLS New Zealand equipment manager Ari Hertz) crossed the first road we’d seen since we left the west coast. Knowing Kiwis routinely and efficiently cover steep, rugged, mountainous terrain off trail, we received Alan’s mixed reaction with confusion. Was he impressed with our plan to continue our month-long traverse of the South Island following the 42nd parallel—an expedition we dubbed “42ude” (read: “fortitude”)—or did he think we were crazy? And in either case, what sort of adventure were we about to delve into? Using the 42nd parallel as the guiding element to our route made little sense in terms of efficiency of travel or access to New Zealand’s extensive wilderness infrastructure of trail and hut systems. Perhaps it is for these reasons that, to our knowledge, our conceptual route had not been previously (or intentionally) completed. The 42nd parallel’s appeal was the continually mountainous terrain from west to east coast, the associated physical challenge, and the potential for experiencing a true, wild crossing of New Zealand. By hugging the parallel, we anticipated we would trade days of slow travel through world-class bush whacking, bluffy alpine ridges, difficult route finding, and exposure to weather for the chance to explore New Zealand wilderness nearly never seen by humans. By the time we met Alan after crossing the rugged Paparoa Range, we had already realized the exploratory nature of our route would require constant vigilance and problem solving. The slower-than-expected travel had already forced us to troubleshoot through two dry camps, our ensuing dehydration, and fatigue from consistent sun-up to

The expedition covered 26 days, over 62,000 feet of elevation gain, and 179 miles. Alice Hill

sun-down travel. The finicky, steep, and often forested terrain combined with convoluted ridges had us constantly studying maps and practicing precise compass navigation. Amongst the plethora of micro ridges and poor terrain visibility in the thick bush, the map reader would yell from the back “we need the north-northeast ridge at 30 degrees, not the northeast ridge at 40 degrees!” The jungle gym-like bush saw us swinging down slopes too steep to travel safely were it not for the Dr. Suess-like trees. Our route and its challenges, previously known to us only through a topographic map, were mentally and physically exhausting. So when Alan expressed surprise and a hint of doubt when we described the next leg of our journey, we knew we had more adventure in store. Twenty six days, over 62,000 feet of elevation gain, and 179 miles after setting out from the west coast, we plunged into the Pacific waters on the eastern shore of the South Island. With exhausted and worn bodies and a revised appreciation for New Zealand’s staunch, wild mountains, we felt immensely satisfied in completing our exploratory adventure. Exploration, whether a business con-

cept, school project, or mountain traverse, is full of uncertainty. As NOLS alumni, we’ve all experienced various forms of uncertainty. We’ve also seen how managing and working through uncertainty is a rewarding learning experience rarely available without taking the risk to forge into unknown territory. On our aptly named “42ude” project, we relearned the importance of fortitude— mental and emotional strength in the face of adversity—to be successful. By embracing the uncertainty surrounding our route, and supporting each other when individual fortitude waivered, we benefited from opportunities to hone our judgment skills. Doing so without the bias of pre-existing ‘beta’ is an experience virtually absent in this age of trip reports, smart phones, and guide books. We found real adventure on our route, though we were doing a relatively ordinary thing: hiking around the wilderness. The 42ude traverse was a powerful reminder that seeking uncharted paths without expectations provides space for using experience-based competencies and judgment to facilitate creativity and discovery, and this is when real growth and invention soars.




Summer 2013

Issue Room

Wild Side of Medicine



me in his native Hungarian. I couldn’t make my hands properly load my rappel device. When we reached 18,372 feet, David watched as I took three steps and collapsed to my knees. When we called the turn around and, ultimately, the end of the expedition I was heart broken. I felt like I had let David and Zoli down, that I was disappointing my friends and family back home and in Budapest, not to mention our sponsors. And while my heart WE MUST REMEMBER wanted so badly AS ALPINISTS THAT NO to see what was ADVENTURE, NO SUMMIT, beyond the next IS WORTH THROWING ridge (“It’s just OURSELVES OFF THE like this,” David MORTAL COIL. assured me, “more snow and rocks.”) I was self aware enough to know it was time to go. We packed our gear and started the long, cold walk back to Base Camp. The American alpinist Ed Veisturs is quoted as saying, “It’s a round trip. Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” We must remember as alpinists (and seafarers, arctic explorers, bigwall climbers etc) that no adventure, no summit, is worth throwing ourselves off the mortal coil. It would be a far greater disappointment to those we love if we did not return to tell the harrowing tales. The mountain will always be there, waiting for some brave soul to reach its summit, snow-capped peak, freezing temperatures, howling winds et al.

Places like this are not only powerful classrooms, but they are also owned by everyone, and NOLS works to protect them for everyone’s enjoyment. Kyle Cassling.

BEyOND PRESERVING LANDSCAPES AND CALLING ATTENTION TO ACTIVITIES the easiest way to preserve and restore its naturalness is to reduce visitathat degrade the naturalness of our classrooms, the NOLS Environtion … through constraining commercial outfitter providers. mental Stewardship and Sustainability Department works to ensure • We have seen this approach unfold across the three federal land management agencies. In the mid-1990s, Canyonlands National Park that the school can continue to operate in a fundamental way. We put reduced overall group sizes to seven, a number we could not sustain significant resources into maintaining permits, preserving access to economically. We were forced to cease our operations there. In 2005, our operating areas, and promoting the outdoor recreation economy. we saw group size levels in the Dirty Devil drop from 20 to 12… We do this by connecting with federal agency personnel and elected [We fear] it is becoming common practice to limit group size in officials at every level of government. order to meet wilderness management objectives. This is not the best In the interest of promoting outdoor recreation, NOLS was recently answer, and its effectiveness is questionable. invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation at a hearing PERMITTING POLICY entitled “Impediments to Public Recreation on Public Lands.” While there are agency personnel at every level of government who • The bureaucratic morass that has become the new normal is stifling creativity and growth in the outdoor industry. Under the current perare true advocates for outdoor recreation and its providers, they are fremitting policy on National Forests, new or expanded permits can’t quently constrained by a burdensome network of policies, regulations, be issued unless their issuance clearly will not exceed the carrying and analyses. NOLS addressed the constraints of this system, in addition to promoting the rapidly growing outdoor recreation economic capacity of the forest. If Forests are unsure of the carrying capacity, they must conduct a capacity analysis… Most Forests have either not sector in this country. Following are key excerpts from the testimony. undertaken a capacity analysis, or have initiated and then halted one, due to lack of resources ... New permits do not get issued, and longTHE RECREATION ECONOMY standing permitees must pay tens of thousands of dollars to conduct • NOLS is but one example of the national recreation economy. The an analysis of modest growth on one permit at a time… economic impact on rural economies of our rural operations is measur• This process stagnation is not just bad for NOLS, it is bad for able. And the impact of recreation spending nationally is significant. the would-be recreating public. Many who would pursue outdoor • Travel spending in Wyoming was $2.9 billion in 2011. It has recreation lack the technical skills necessary to engage in a pursuit increased 5.4 percent per year for 13 years running. Travel spending directly supports nearly 30,000 jobs, generating earnings of $731 on their own. They therefore seek out a school that can teach them million. Local and state tax revenues generated by travel spending is the necessary skills, or an outfitter who can guide and equip them… We are service providers, meeting that demand and opening the approximately $120 million. doors to rich experiences. GROUP SIZE LIMITS It is heartening to see members of U.S. Congress, from both sides of • Land managers struggle to balance the dual mandates of the Wilderness the aisle, pay attention to issues that impact outfitters. At NOLS, we are Act: on one hand preserving naturalness while on the other retaining proud of our legacy, and we hope that with the support of Congress we opportunities for visitors. When the wilderness resource is impacted, will be assured of our ability to provide our services for years to come. WILDERNESS QUIZ
What is The Bay of Loreto National Marine Park? Answer on page 25.

Boldness and wisdom don’t always run together, but self awareness guided wise actions on this bold expedition. Ian Overton.

“SO... WE’RE GOING DOWN TO ISLAMabad to eat chapatis?” David’s question was tinged with a bit of humor trying to lighten my mood. I shed my goggles, wiped away sweat and a few tears, and looked out across the glacier, scanning up to Mazeno Peak. I could feel my heart smashing against my breastbone. With a frustrated smile and laugh, I dropped my goggles and simply said, “I guess.” I signaled him to cut the camera before I completely lost composure. We were sitting with our Camp 2 cache at 17,700 feet, the base of a steep icefall in our attempt to be the first team to summit Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet) in the winter. So far we had survived severe weather, un-roped crevasse falls, an avalanche in the dark of night, and a bivouac in which the temperature dropped to somewhere around -35 de-

grees Fahrenheit. Now, with another storm en route and my health declining, we were talking about going home. After heading down to Chilas and sending off our other team member, Zoli, who was suffering from Khumbu cough and frostbite, we returned to Base Camp rapidly. Not wanting to lose precious time and risk getting hit in another storm we made the mistake of not giving ourselves time to acclimate. For this breech of expedition behavior, I was paying the price. I came down with High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), a potentially fatal form of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). While we had started off strong earlier in the day, my body started to fade. Nausea, headache, ataxia, irritability and hallucinations began to creep in. I heard birds that were definitely not there and thought my partner was speaking to

Ian Overton is the Expedition Medic for EDGE8000, a Hungarian high-altitude climbing movement. In January and February of 2013, the EDGE8000 team, consisting of David Klein, Zoltan Acs and Overton, attempted to perform the first winter summit of Nanga Parbat. As a graduate of WMI’s Wilderness EMT course, Ian learned valuable risk assessment and leadership development alongside life-saving medical care for remote locations. He would like to thank his teammates, friends and family, as well as EDGE8000’s sponsors at Johnnie Walker, C.A.M.P-USA, Mountain Hardwear, Princeton Tec, Tubbs Snowshoes, Bodri Wines, and everybody who supported the Indiegogo campaign.

a. Can present with ataxia. b. Develops from HAPE. c. Presents with shortness of breath. d. Is treated with Nifedipine or Albuterol. Answer on page 26.
Summer 2013





Alumni Profile

Alumni Profile




WHy WOULD ANybODy WANT TO bUILD A snow cave? This question is what drew alumnus David Cassaro into the NOLS community back in 1974. After reading an article in Esquire by that title, he signed up for his first course “just to see what it would be like to build a snow cave.” By the end of his Ski Touring and Winter Mountaineering course in February 1975, the 26 year-old had built and slept in a snow cave, an experience he describes as “nice and warm and cozy, but not for someone with claustrophobia.” Despite the tight quarters, Cassaro was hooked. Now 64 years old, he just enrolled on his eighth NOLS course. After seven backcountry NOLS experiences, Cassaro maintains that his first course was the hardest thing he ever did, David pauses for a moment during a 23-and-over Wind River Wilderness course, his fifth. David Cassaro. before or since. With only four previous days of skiing under his belt, he jumped those ski tips,” Cassaro remembers. “The outfit” from the original lumberyard right into skiing with a 60-pound pack. absurdity of it all just made me stand of the 1970s (“a jury-rigged outfitting there and laugh. From that moment on, center if ever there was one”), he is happy I could put everything into perspective that some things have not changed. ON A NOLS TRIP EVERYTHING IS REDUCED TO and I knew that I could make it through “Coming back to the Noble Hotel THE BARE MINIMUMS, SO I CAN APPRECIATE the remaining six days. Since then, when and the town of Lander is like seeing old EVERYTHING I HAVE WHEN I AM BACK AT the going gets tough on trips, I think of friends again. What I do appreciate is HOME. EACH TRIP REMINDS ME OF THAT. that moment and I am able to carry on.” that the courses are still challenging and When asked what keeps him com- have not been dumbed down to make ing back to NOLS, Cassaro has “lots of them easier.” On one day in particular, he remembers reasons.” In addition to the challenges, Cassaro retired in 2012 after working waking up to find that the thermometer beauty, and new friends that each course for 29 years for the Bank of America. outside his tent read a balmy -29 degrees entails, he is most thankful for the per- He now spends his time mountain bikFahrenheit. While waiting for other spective that a NOLS experience brings. ing, hiking, skiing, traveling, and tourstudents to finish getting ready that morn- “On a NOLS trip,” he observed, ing around his long-time home of San ing, he and a few of his coursemates “everything is reduced to the bare mini- Francisco. His next NOLS experience is started skiing in a circle together to stay mums, so I can appreciate everything I a lightweight backpacking course runwarm. He kept his head down in the bitter have when I am back at home. Each trip ning out of NOLS Rocky Mountain this cold and followed the back ski tips of the reminds me of that.” July. He does not plan to stop adventurstudent in front of him. After a few This has remained true over the almost ing any time soon. minutes, he looked up to find that they 40 years that Cassaro has been com- “Now that I am retired,” he said, were in a different part of the forest. ing to NOLS. In fact, he notes only a “I have the time to train and be better “Turns out, he split off from the oth- few changes during that time. Though, prepared for future trips. There is a lot ers to find the latrine and I just followed “NOLS has matured into a more efficient that I haven’t seen yet.”

Lynn Hill makes her way up the Pancake Flake pitch on the Nose of El Capitan. Heinz Zak.

1993. BILL CLINTON IS SWORN INTO office, and Michael Jordan scores his 20,000th career point. One feat received far less attention than these headlines but had an enormous impact on climbing and outdoor recreation gender equality. In 1993, at the age of 32, a woman by the name of Lynn Hill became the first person to free climb The Nose route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Using a rope and removable protection but only her hands and feet to make upward progress, Hill climbed the nearly 3,000foot granite face in a four-day push. If that wasn’t enough, she came back a year later and climbed the same route, in the same style, shaving three days off of her time to become the first person to free climb The Nose in under 24 hours. The route wouldn’t see another free ascent for five years. With this accomplishment, Hill found her way into the record books and, in certain circles, became a household name. In what is widely considered her most important climbing achievement (there are many), Hill silenced critics

and doubters who believed not only The Nose couldn’t be free climbed, it certainly wouldn’t be climbed by a woman. The news spread and her fame exploded. In 1995, she traveled to Krygstzan with a team of world-class climbers to explore the climbing potential in the Karavshin Valley and, for one of the first times in her life, felt the very real and unrelenting reality of remote wilderness. “To my knowledge, none of the climbers I was with were formally trained in the way of wilderness medicine and with only a medical kit and no radio communication... I knew that if anything went wrong of if someone needed help, we couldn’t do much of anything,” she explained. Hill took her first WMI course in 2004 and has been re-certifying her Wilderness First Responder ever since. She spoke frankly about the fundamental responsibilities and duties of a medically trained wilderness traveler. “Being trained as a Wilderness First Responder means having both the knowledge and confidence to take care

of emergencies and possibly even save someone’s life during those extreme circumstances,” she said. These days, Hill commits much of her time and energy to raising her 10-yearold son, Owen, who recently found a love of Parkour (the art of moving through space by using obstacles and momentum). Hill has had to employ some of her WMI training with the bumps, scrapes, and bruises that come with this territory. “Washing and disinfecting wounds and making sure they stay clean are really important skills to know, especially as a mother, “ she shared. “Being a WFR really gives you the confidence to judge the situation and decide if it’s an injury that needs more medical attention or just time and relaxation.” The legacy Hill has left is profound. With a healthy amount of life lessons and wilderness medicine skills, she hopes to raise her son in an environment where he may push himself toward far-away goals, just like those she achieved nearly 20 years ago.




Summer 2013

Introducing the



THIS YEAR, NOLS ADDED A NEW COURSE—A UNIQUE blend of wilderness medicine skills, wilderness skills, leadership skills, and environmental studies—to its inventory. The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester caters to those who might seek careers as medical professionals, either in the back or frontcountry. The curriculum encompasses a unique blend of wilderness skills, medicine, rescue, leadership, and environmental studies. The semester starts with a four-week Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course, followed by nine weeks of canyon backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing. The structure is typical of a NOLS course in that it implements the core curriculum taught on every course. Leadership skills, expedition behavior, and communication and decision-making are all critical in the woods or in a hospital if an unforeseen emergency is going to be handled properly. The course also focuses on environmental studies and the impact of the environmental health on human health. Students wrapping up the first-ever Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester reflected on the course positively. One student mentioned he really enjoyed the progression of the course, as each section seemed to build on the last one. He also said NOLS did a great job to help develop the course as it went along, implementing feedback from students immediately.

One of his coursemates commented, “The course taught me how to help prepare for the unexpected, have tolerance for adversity, be ready for anything, and slow down my ‘knee jerk’ reaction and get a handle on a situation before making any moves.” Each section of the semester offers its own proprietary rescue skills. During the backpacking section, for example, students focus on wilderness evacuations such as litter carries and sustaining a patient’s condition while waiting for air rescue. The river section offers swiftwater rescue skills, involving adrenaline-pumping scenarios. “We were neck deep in water after intentionally swamping our own canoes and getting tossed around,” one student recalled. “I was expecting hands-on situations, but nothing like that, and I wasn’t opposed to it.” The rock climbing section implemented various methods of rock rescue skills, including escaping the belay and a full vertical rescue scenario at the conclusion of the section. Students graduated at the beginning of May with an education that covered not only all these wilderness medicine and rescue skills, but also lasting lessons about being great leaders and the environment and their role within it. There is no doubt this semester is demanding and will challenge students both in traditional and wilderness classrooms. The days are long, and the expectations are high, but so too are the outcomes. As with any NOLS course, all the hard work pays off many times over as it will provide a solid foundation for a career in outdoor recreation, medicine, or search and rescue. In the future, graduates may become members of search and rescue team, wilderness trip leaders, running safety on river rapids, leaders on rock rescues, or working on urban ambulances.



The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester affords students the oportunity to be certified in Wilderness and Urban Emergency Medical Technician, CPR Instructor, Leave No Trace Master, Basic Swiftwater Rescue, and Rock Rescue. Tod Schimelpfenig, Robin Larson Summer 2013




THE THIRD ITERATION OF THE NOLS FACULTY SUMMIT WAS A HUGE for instructors. Curriculum and research manager John hit. Started in 2011 as a part of NOLS’ strategic plan, the Faculty Gookin was, “psyched by how well the 200 NOLS expeSummit is a conference designed to give NOLS instructors and staff dition instructors participated. We had deep discussions from around the world the opportunity to meet each other, network, about important topics from nutrition to climate change.” and learn about what’s trending at the school. The Summit is hosted As an added incentive for professional growth, seminars every May in NOLS’ hometown of Lander, Wyo. scheduled before and after the Summit gave instructors This year, the summit had a strong focus on career planning for in- opportunities for skill development. Topics included rockstructors, environmental stewardship, risk management, and diversity rescue training, defensive driving, a two-day leadership and inclusion in the outdoors. workshop, and a fly fishing clinic. “It was a tremendous opportunity to connect with people at all lev- Other highlights from the Summit included a heliels of the school,” instructor Mandy Pohja said. copter evacuation scenario and an awards ceremony for Keynote speaker Shelton Johnson wowed the audience with his excellence in education. During the helicopter evacuastorytelling skills and a heartfelt message. tion scenario, instructors were divided Johnson, originally from Detroit, found his into three groups, given a radio, and WHERE ELSE DOES A THREEcalling while working as a seasonal employee instructed on helicopter landing proDAY EMPLOYEE CONFERENCE in Yellowstone National Park during college. cedures. Soon after, the local helicopter INCLUDE HELICOPTER LANDSince that time, he has worked as a park ranger rescue service, Lifeguard, flew in their INGS, TRULY ENGAGING SPEAKall over the country, and through his work has “bird,” allowing instructors to practice ERS, AND A FLASH MOB? promoted diversity in the outdoors. Given the guiding it in for landing. changing demographics of our country, his The awards ceremony began with a mission is an important one. heavy-hearted speech from Norm Plotkin that brought “All you need to get to heaven is a good pair of boots,” he said. many tears to the audience, and a vow for continued excelJohnson has also been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the lence in education from the instructor community. The inKen Burns National Parks documentary. augural Thomas Plotkin Mentorship award went to Emily Other noted guest speakers included Elizabeth English, the head Ledingham. Instructor of the year went to Tracy Dumais, of the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles; Jamie Williams, Presi- and the combo awards for work both in-town and in the dent of the Wilderness Society; and Dr. Kay Merseth, professor at the field went to Anna Haegel and Jamie O’Donnell. Harvard School of Education. All three spoke eloquently of the need The sense of purpose felt around the Summit was imfor excellence in education, offering ideas for making our courses mense, yet was tempered by playfulness, a trait shared by even better. All noted the importance of places like NOLS in our many NOLSies. As the Summit came to a close, an unchanging world. At one point Merseth told a comical anecdote about suspecting flash mob of roughly 12 instructors dancing to her preference of NOLS over other schools that certainly stoked the tune of Starships took center stage. The dance party some egos in the audience. then moved outdoors where local band Fluffy Buffalo Many senior NOLS instructors also shared their two cents in work- rocked the house late into the evening. shops designed to give instructors real-world tools for creating out- “I walked away feeling inspired and ready to implement standing learning experiences. Daren Opeka spoke of mindful ways to tangible pieces of learning on my next course. Plus, where incorporate readings into courses, Gary Cukjati and John Kanengieter else does a three-day employee conference include helicopgave ideas for intentional leadership development, and Emily Led- ter landings, truly engaging speakers, and a flash mob?” ingham and Liz Hardwick presented an excellent LGBT workshop Pohja reflected.




The annual NOLS Faculty Summit features a wide range of learning experiences. Brad Christensen. Summer 2013


Avid4 Adventure

Getting Kids Outdoors

AVID4ADVENTURE, A BOULDER, COLO. CAMP THAT provides children aged 3 to 17 opportunities to get outside and go climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, or hiking hires highly motivated outdoor professionals, so it’s no surprise a significant number of their staff have NOLS backgrounds. NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute instructor Paul Dreyer directs Avid4’s overnight camp and oversees the program’s ongoing expansion to the San Francisco Bay area. He cites his 12 years with NOLS as a formative experience, both personally and professionally. “NOLS helped me to be really well prepared as an individual—whether it’s a 30-day backpacking course or a one-day top rope for kids. Having intention and professionalism behind what I’m doing translates to any setting,” he said. Dreyer is a believer in the benefits of experiential education and he sees proof of this as his young students actively learn and grow every day. Like most outdoor educators, Dreyer is passionate about what he does. He left a job in the financial industry in favor of something more fulfilling, vowing to be personally invested in what he does. “It just seemed to make the most sense to me that if I loved something, I would be good at it and also be able to share that love with other people in a completely authentic way,” he said. Sarah Pekala is a NOLS field instructor and director of camps and school programs at Avid4. Her passion for the outdoors started at an early age. After a number of skiing trips and with a budding interest in climbing, she first came to NOLS for a Wind River Wilderness course back in 2000. She carries that experience with her still. “I use what I learned at NOLS on a daily basis,” she

said. “I manage and evaluate staff, and I’m always thinking back to how I learned to provide effective feedback and be an effective leader. Those programs prepared me for my current job better than most of my schooling.” A number of Avid4 instructors have taken NOLS courses, and Pekala says their leadership, risk management, judgment, and decisionmaking skills are excellent. “A lot of our best staff are NOLS grads, and that’s not an accident,” she noted. Pekala also speaks to the Avid4 mission and the importance of shaping I USE WHAT I LEARNED AT youth to be healthy, active, and enviNOLS ON A DAILY BASIS... ronmentally conscious. THOSE PROGRAMS PREPARED “As screen time [time children spend ME FOR MY CURRENT JOB using electronics] increases, outdoor BETTER THAN MOST OF MY activities go out the window,” she exSCHOOLING. plained. “At Avid4 we feel that it’s our duty to get kids outside and get them hooked on the outdoors at an early age so that they continue doing it for the rest of their lives.” Avid4 uses outdoor recreation and nature as mediums to foster confidence, self-esteem, and fitness in a non-competitive and fun environment. The result is an experience that is meaningful and gratifying for both campers and staff. Facilitating this atmosphere is second nature to Avid4 administrators and instructors, and it shows in their enthusiasm and in the quality of their programs. Dreyer explains, “What I love are things like building community, being outdoors in natural places, and doing and sharing athletic things, and so when I’m able to combine all three in a professional environment it seems like the most natural thing in the world.” NOLS’ educational lessons made a positive impact on a number of Avid4 Adventure’s staff, and that positive, outdoor-oriented impact continues to grow as they teach and connect with young people in Colorado and beyond.

NOLS grads introduce children to the great outdoors through Avid4 Adventure and apply their NOLS education every day. Sarah Pekala. Caption. Photographer.



Summer 2013



School makes history. In fact, the more profound effects from most any NOLS course is the impact it might make on the future. But a special group of students who attempted to summit Alaska’s Mount Denali aim to do both. At the heart of NOLS’ mission to educate positive ethical leaders who can change the world is an ambitious project to put the first AfricanAmerican team of climbers on top of the highest peak in North America. In a bold demonstration to create role models and mentors among those people of color least represented among outdoor enthusiasts and conservation activists, the NOLS initiative called Expedition Denali aspires to change the face of the outdoors, perhaps forever. At 20,320 feet above sea level Mount McKinley, known best by its Native American name Denali, is the highest physical point anyone can reach in the United States. After our long, painful history of racial segregation and discrimination, this lofty peak represents for many the ultimate expression of freedom that defies the restraints of ignorance, prejudice, and fear. With dizzying heights, bitterly cold temperatures, and the constant objective hazard of avalanches or crevasses, the mountain demands of all those who even attempt to achieve its summit nothing less than their deepest commitment and utter determination. Indiscriminate of race or gender, the climb to the top is as much a test of one’s character as their mountaineering skills. And in true NOLS fashion Expedition Denali has brought together a team of outstanding individuals to work in cooperation toward a common goal. At 19, Tyhree Moore is the youngest member of the team and a journalism student at the University of

West Virginia. With an extensive climbing resume over several NOLS courses, he also brings a youthful spirit and exuberance to the group. Erica Wynn from Queens, New York is a junior at American University where she studies psychology and communications. She only recently discovered her interest in mountaineering, but Erica aspires to be an example of healthy living through education and advocacy in her community. Scott Briscoe, 41, is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast with vast experience hiking and climbing throughout the Northern Cascades, the Central Rockies, and the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains near his home in San Francisco. Working with low-income schools and young people with minimal exposure to the outdoors, Scott helps kids make lasting relationships with nature. Born in Seattle, Wash., Rosemary Saal is a graduate of the NOLS Waddington Range Mountaineering course. On the advisory board of Passages Northwest, part of the YMCA’s Girls Outdoor Leadership Development program, Rosemary, 20, works to empower young women through the arts and outdoor education. A leader in the business community, husband, and father of two little girls, Stephen DeBerry is an aspiring mountaineer. When he’s not working as an entrepreneur developing small businesses with a strong social consciousness, this goal-oriented athlete is training to be among the first team of African Americans to reach the highest summits on each of the seven continents as part of the Pioneer Climbing Expedition. Adina Scott has a Ph.D in electrical engineering from Purdue University as well as a bachelor’s in music from Case Western Reserve University. Raised in Tacoma, Wash., she has an extensive background in mountaineering that includes NOLS courses in the Waddington Range and on Mount Baker. Adina also works as volunteer for the YMCA’s Boys Outdoor Leadership Development program in Seattle. A modern Renaissance man, world traveler, and avid reader, Billy Long is between adventures while tending bar and studying engineering in New York City. Having spent two weeks on the

Left: The team makes its way up Mount Baker last fall during a training expedition. Above: The team spent a day climbing in Sinks Canyon near NOLS Headquarters in Lander, Wyo. prior to departing for Alaska this summer. Brian Fabel, Brad Christensen. 16



Summer 2013


(19,600 ft) Cache (16,200 ft) High Camp (17,200 ft) 14k Camp (14,200 ft)

Denali Summit

11k Camp (10,900 ft) 9,500 ft Camp

7,500 ft Camp

The team's training on Mounta Baker last fall prepared them for long days, climbing in the dark, and risk management.. Brian Fabel.



Kahiltna International Airport (KIA) 7,200 ft

a Gl



The team's progress was posted on the blog as they made satellite calls from the mountain. They reached a height of 19,600 feet but had to turn around due to inclement weather before they could reach the peak. Sarah Losen graphic.

Matanuska Glacier training with NOLS in the Chugach Range of Alaska, he returned to NOLS Alaska to make a bid for the big one. The oldest member of the team and perhaps the most experienced, Steve Shobe, 56, is an avid climber with great ambition. A card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild, he works a challenging day job as a career line technician for AT&T. When not ascending to the top of cell phone towers, Steve is also the leader of the Pioneer Climbing Expedition having already reached four of the Seven Summits. And finally the one member of the team who had made a previous attempt to summit Denali aspires to bring the experience of climbing and other adventure sports to more people of color. Ryan Mitchel, 46, is a professor of science at DeVry University in Philadelphia and a master road cyclist who encourages inner city youth to include bicycles in an active lifestyle. With such an eclectic mix of unique personalities, there are at least two things that every member of the Expedition Denali team has in common—an abiding love for the outdoors and a profound desire to share their passion with those who have yet to experience it for themselves. By joining together as a team, each climber

hopes their collective presence will inspire other African Americans to imagine a place for themselves in outdoor recreation and perhaps one day follow their example. Several in the group admit to often being the only person of color among their peers who actively engage the natural world through adventure sports like skiing and rock climbing. For many of them, training for Denali was the first time in their experience as outdoor enthusiasts when they were not in the minority. “Praise to NOLS for drawing us all together,” said Scott in an interview. “When we first got together it was so amazing. We sat in this large circle and I just remember people saying over and over how amazing it is to see somebody who looks like me and to know that they’re doing these things that I feel so passionate about!” Expedition Denali wants to share that passion for the outdoors with the broadest audience possible by extending an invitation to people of color. Just as NOLS put this team together by reaching out directly to under-represented minorities, the nonprofit organization aims to grow its number of participants to create a more diverse student body and staff of instructors. And while this initiative is a measure to do the right thing, in a changing world that will soon favor a non-white majority, NOLS recognizes that diversity is key to its long-term vitality. If the school fails to attract members of this emerging demographic, it’s only a matter of time before NOLS becomes irrelevant. “What it means to be irrelevant is that we shrink and shrink until we cease to exist as a school. If we continue to cater to a slice of the

pie that’s becoming smaller and smaller ... we’ll have to shrink our organization,” said Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, NOLS diversity and inclusion manager. Rajagopal-Durbin insists that’s not going to happen. She said NOLS wants to grow and continue to be an international organization, a leader in outdoor experiential education that works aggressively toward proactive change. Expedition Denali aims to make that change possible by providing the African-American community with role models and a clear path toward outdoor recreation as a favorite pastime or even a potential career. “My benchmark for success isn’t going to be the number of NOLS students and staff from the AfricanAmerican community who come in,” Rajagopal-Dubin said. “It’s a win when a young black man, because of this project, doesn’t necessarily join NOLS but goes to work for Denali National Park, to work in outdoor retail, or work for a group like the Nature Conservancy. I believe it’s all the outdoors and everyone wins when more people participate.” The primary purpose of Expedition Denali, then, is exposure—to raise the profile of outdoor recreation in general and in high-altitude mountaineering in particular among people of color in the U.S. Currently NOLS has only three African-American course instructors out of almost 800 staff members worldwide. Among them is Robby ReChord, a backcountry ski and water sports guide who is program supervisor at the NOLS Teton Valley branch. He’s also an aide on Expedition Denali and as part of this team of black climbers he’s a solid role model for anyone who aspires to follow a similar career path. “I made a lot of choices to live this life,” he said in a conversation at NOLS’ Noble Hotel in Lander, Wyoming. “But I spend my win-

ters skiing and I paddle all over the world. I couldn’t be happier.” Inspired by veteran NOLS instructor Philip Henderson, river program manager for NOLS Rocky Mountain, Robby joined NOLS to emulate the career and lifestyle of an outdoor professional he truly admired. Along with Cliff Debride, a Portland-based nursing assistant, whitewater paddling instructor, and the third of NOLS’ African American instructors, ReChord now serves as an example of the possibilities that are available to anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, who are looking to venture out into the natural world as a way of life. This new cadre of climbers, fresh off the West Buttress of Denali and having come tantilizingly close to the summit, will hopefully expand that number of positive role models even further. Far more critical than reaching the summit, the goal of Expedition Denali is to set a benchmark for all people to strive toward in the decades and centuries to come. The object is not merely the top of this one mountain, but the creation of a clear path that others might follow to ascend any peak they choose. The adventure will indeed be found not in the destination but the journey. The success of this historic project won’t be truly realized until well in the future when young black men and women across the nation imagine for themselves a place in the world where their highest aspirations are limited only by the depth of their greatest ambition.




Summer 2013


Alumni Trips & Reunions


Learning from the Octopus
By Rafe Sagarin, Semester in the Rockies We live in a society that relies heavily on established security systems and organizations. We blindly put our faith in our government and other big organizations, assuming they will make the right decisions. But are they really doing the right thing? Ecologist and security expert Rafe Sagarin (Semester in the Rockies ’90) thinks not. He suggests instead of pouring resources into planning, predicting, and preventing disasters from occurring, we should look at the way nature has dealt with uncertainty over the past 3.5 billion years. In Learning from the Octopus, Sagarin makes the argument that it’s not about how to develop a perfect solution to a given security problem, rather how to develop a flexible system for solving problems. Different scenarios and the effectiveness of human actions is discussed and compared with similar responses found in nature, with a particular focus on the octopus. “Octopuses learn not only how to survive, but thrive, in almost any environment,” writes Sagarin. Another analogy he uses is this: Fish don’t try to turn sharks into vegetarians; this forces fish to develop ways of dealing with risk. Sagarin drives home the point that adaptability is key to dealing with risk, variation, and uncertainty. He says we must change the way we look at risk and realize that everyone is qualified to respond to threats, not just a few “elite” experts. Learning from the Octopus is more intellectual than practical, but it raises interesting points about the way we respond to the ever-present risk of danger. We might just want to pay attention to what the octopus is teaching us. Reviewed by Brent Wallen, PR & Marketing Intern © 2013 Rafe Sagarin

Brad Christensen

If a month is too much to ask from the boss, the NOLS Alumni office offers shorter backcountry trips specifically designed for our working grads. We encourage you to bring family and friends along on these weeklong expeditions to reconnect with the school and introduce others to the NOLS experience. These trips have the same top-quality instructors, and though they aren’t guided trips, we do cater a bit more to the desires and maturity levels of our participants. Customized trips are also available. Call us to design your dream adventure. Signing up: A $200 per person, nonrefundable deposit is required for enrollment on all alumni trips. For more information or to sign up, call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or visit


Dates: Aug. 11–17, 2013 | Cost: $595
Time to give back and get out all at the same time! This year’s service project will take us into the Stough Creek Basin region of the Wind River Mountains. We will do some wetland mitigation projects and trail maintenance with the local Forest Service and Student Conservation Association. This is a great way to get outside in a beautiful area, meet and work with amazing people, and give back to our natural environment. Come enjoy great camaraderie and the satisfaction of serving!

Brad Christensen

Wyoming’s Outlaw Trail
By Mac Blewer, Wilderness Natural History Wyoming’s Outlaw Trail gallops along the rise and fall of the mythic trail that stretched from Canada to Mexico and was frequented by horseback outlaws during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The book gives an overview of this period through historical photographs that are accompanied by short vignettes of the outlaws and lawmen—often describing how they met their demise. Calamity Jane, Butch Cassidy, and Wild Bill Hickock are all examined, along with a long list of lesser-known characters. The point of the book is not to give a full biography of these celebrities, but instead give enough context to understand the images. Many of the places in this book will be familiar territory to those who have taken a course at NOLS Rocky Mountain: Lander, the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Red Desert, the Hole in the Wall, to name a few. This book makes a great addition to any western collection. Reviewed by Brad Christensen, Creative Director. © 2013 Mac Blewer


Dates: Oct. 28–Nov. 9, 2013  |  Cost: $2,395
On this wonderful adventure you will immerse yourself among the high peaks of the Indian Himalayas. This trip treks along the Pindari River to the terminal moraine of the Pindari Glacier. The route offers a moderate level of hiking, and burros will help carry gear and food to lighten your load. Join a small group of NOLS grads, friends, families, and Indian instructors for world-class hiking in the rugged, glacially carved mountains of India Himalya’s Kumaon region.

Dates: Nov. 17–22, 2013  |  Cost: $1,650
As winter looms at your door, consider expanding your summer season with a week of paddling among the stunning islands of the Bahamas. Dive in and enjoy the warm water, snorkeling, and developing your paddling technique. Whether you are a novice or expert, pristine coastline and beautiful sandy beaches await. Come join in on the fun!

Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World
By Dr. Stephen R. Kellert, NOLS parent, spouse, and former Research Advisory Board member In his newest book, NOLS parent Dr. Stephen R. Kellert explains the inherent connections humans have to nature, and how that relationship directly correlates to our health, cognitive ability, emotion, and overall quality of life. Kellert makes his case using university studies and research supplemented with delicately placed “interludes”—poems, literary excerpts, and personal stories. This mixture gives the book a feeling that is simultaneously academic and narrative, both informative and entertaining the same time. Kellert approaches the merits of a strong connection to nature from a number of angles. He writes about time outdoors as formative experiences for youth and mentions NOLS specifically. He explores the benefits of greenways in urban centers, animal care rehab programs, fish tanks in doctor’s office waiting rooms, microbial composters, and how observing a hawk helped him recover from an automobile accident in Africa. In the chapter titled “Childhood,” Kellert stresses the importance of unstructured outdoor playtime to the development of young children. He argues that nature is instrumental in fostering feelings of independence, resourcefulness, self worth, and that early exposure to nature is necessary in the creation of responsible and ethical human-nature relationships. As it relates to environmental conservation, establishing a strong childhood connection to nature could not be more important, and Kellert makes a moving argument in favor of getting youth to interact with their natural surroundings. Birthright reinforces the importance of nature in a healthy, fulfilling life and is an illuminating read that will resonate with lovers of the outdoors. Reviewed by Jack Fisher, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Intern. © 2012, by Yale University Press.

NOLS is coming to your community this fall! We’re hosting alumni reunions for grads, friends, families, and guests all across the nation. Reunions include snacks, adventure tales, a free gear raffle, camaraderie, and networking. Watch for events in your area this fall:


Dates: Feb. 2–8, 2014 |  Cost: Cost: $1,450
Explore the remote beaches, beautiful islands, abundant marine wildlife, and stunning seas of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula with a stalwart team of NOLS grads, friends, and families. Learn or polish your sailing skills on NOLS’ 22-foot, open-cockpit, yawl-rigged Drascombe Longboats and camp nightly on the beach. On this expedition, you will have the opportunity to travel in one of the most unique sailing adventures out there.

• Oct. 5: San Francisco, Calif. • Oct. 17: New York, N.Y. • Oct. 24: Washington, DC • Oct. 26: Charleston, S.C. • Nov. 2: Minneapolis, Minn. • Nov. 6: Austin, Texas • Nov. 8: Atlanta, Ga.

Dates: Feb. 17–22, 2014 | Cost: $1,450
Looking for a mid-winter break from the cold? Check out this opportunity to boost your rock climbing skills at the gorgeous, varnished and steep Red Rocks climbing area just outside of Las Vegas. Easy logistics and inexpensive airfare allows access to some classic long climbs. Take the chance to build your climbing skills and rope work techniques in this beautiful and unique area.

For more information, see




Summer 2013


Gear Room

Wild Side of Medicine



The Leave No Trace Master Educator Course is the highest LNT training, qualifying graduates to teach LNT courses. AUGUST 2–6, 2013 Front Country, Wolf Ridge WLC, Minnesota AUGUST 8–12, 2013 Sea Kayaking, San Juan Islands AUGUST 19–23, 2013 Backpacking, Flat Tops Wilderness NOVEMBER 8–12, 2013 Backpacking, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
For more information on courses and available scholarships visit or call (800) 710-6657 x3

Tell your story!
You heard about NOLS through a friend. Now you can do the same. This week, tell five people about your NOLS experience. What were your top highlights of your NOLS course?

1 2 3
U.S. Patents 7,901,018 & 8,127,690 Sets up in a flash.

NOLS expedition backpacks are the result of a strong partnership with Deuter. Brad Christensen.
Holds all your stuff.

You NEED a Grub Hub.

Extremely easy to jam in the car.


NOLS HAS bEEN COLLAbORATING WITH DEUTER TO DEVELop and provide excellent backpacks on NOLS courses since 2004. Our first prototypes were developed in April 2004, and our first production was launched in the summer of 2005. Over the past eight years, we have continued to try different materials, make the packs lighter, and redesign the hip belts and shoulder harnesses to create what we believe is the ideal pack for our students and instructors. Deuter has responded with enthusiasm to the changes we’ve made and is willing to get prototypes to us in a timely manner so we can critique and refine the packs. Working in conjunction with instructors and students, NOLS’ partnership with Deuter has yielded many updates for our Expedition packs. The most significant progress revolves around suspension. The new Expedition packs, which will be available on courses this fall, feature the full benefits of Deuter’s Aircontact back system, which reduces perspiration by 15 percent. Two reinforced aluminum stays in an X forma-

tion (rather than the V formation of previous models) offer a balance of torsional rigidity for large, heavy loads and enough flexibility to allow for movement. The critical component of any suspension system is the waist belt. Deuter has responded to feedback from NOLS students and instructors by taking action. The waist belt now pivots to follow the backpacker’s every movement and, similarly to the shoulder straps, is interchangeable (Deuter added a third size, extra small) for optimal fit. The waist belt also features two zippered pockets on each side to enable access to on-trail essentials. Advancements in suspension yield improved comfort and performance for both students and instructors, but Deuter did not stop there. Two one-liter water bottle pockets on either side have elasticized openings and overlaying compression straps. The top lid easily converts into a day/summit pack. Deuter updated the axe loops to accommodate carrying two tools and extended the coverage of the Cordura fabric around the bottom and up the front of the pack. Lastly, the shorter torso “SL“ version increases capacity from 70+10 to 80+10.

Makes Base-Camping Cool. Built Stout (Very Stout) “NOLS2013AL” for $80 discount

Take it with you.

Vacation Condo - Sleeps 9 Frisco, Colorado
NOLS Alumni - Exclusive Offer Summer $89/night + tax Winter $139/night + tax

Intensive Wilderness Medicine Training
+ The month-long course includes classroom education, practical skills, scenarios,
and full-scale mock rescues, in addition to clinical rotations with real patients.

+ Learning takes place in the classroom and in outdoor settings regardless of

weather conditions. Come prepared for wet, cold, muddy, or hot environments. information at:


[email protected]






+ Thinking of taking a WMI WEMT course this year? See financial aid

NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute
The Leader in Wilderness Medicine Education • (866) 831-9001




Summer 2013 23

Gates Richards

Recipe Box



Contact the Alumni Office via telephone (800-332-4280) or email ([email protected]) to find contact information for any of your course mates.
GRADS FROM THE ‘70S Julia Simonds, Wind River Wilderness ‘74 Julia coaches a Massachusetts ski team that competes against a team coached by another ’74 Wind River Wilderness grad. Small world. GRADS FROM THE ‘80S Caroline Byrd, Yukon Wilderness Canoeing, ‘84 and former instructor Caroline is the new executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. A longtime conservationist with strong ties to the Yellowstone region, she has admired GYC’s accomplishments for years. Caroline, her husband Garry, and daughter Cate are looking forward to their move to Bozeman. instructor and NOLS public policy director, has been named the Nature Conservancy’s Southwest Wyoming program director. Lamb works with local communities and partners to promote regional conservation. GRADS FROM THE ‘90S Stefan Jackson, Alaska Outdoor Educator ‘94 and former instructor Stefan is the first Presumpscot Regional Land Trust executive director. Stefan, with almost two decades working in conservation, is the previous director of the diversity program and head of the Nature Conservancy’s Saco River Project in Maine. Before that, he was NOLS’ public policy manager. GRADS FROM THE ‘00S Brian Lane, Wilderness First Responder ‘08 WMI alumnus and awardwinning author Brian Lane just released his new book, “Hikernut’s Canyon Lands Companion—A Guide to the Best Canyon Hikes in the American Southwest.” This guide includes detailed trail descriptions, beautiful color photography, and addresses safety concerns, proper gear essentials, and more. Julianna Aseltine, Semester in Patagonia ‘09 In November 2010, Julie and her brother rode their bikes from northern California to the tip of the Baja Peninsula. They produced a short, 20-minute film on the road. Their fourmonth, self-supported trip ended in Cabo San Lucus. Julie stopped at NOLS Baja and volunteered for a few days before heading back stateside. MARRIAGES, ENGAGEMENTS & ANNIVERSARIES Phillip Topalian, Semester in the Rockies ’08, and Erin Gallogly Philip and Erin were married on Dec. 29, 2012 in Mystic, Conn. Phillip is a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He and Erin live in Pensacola, Fla. Christy O’Rourke Habetz, Wind River Wilderness ‘05 & Brooks Range Backpacking ’07, and Scott Habetz Christy married Scott Habetz of Raleigh, N.C. at Cavallo Point in Calif. Christy led a fun hiking trip in the Marin Headlands the morning of her wedding. They now live in Danville, Calif. and have open spaces right out their back door.

Instructor Jim Chisholm shredding the gnar, circa 1987.

Having a base camp frees you to bring items you wouldn’t pack on your back and make meals you couldn’t expect in the backcountry.

A S MUCH AS WE ALL LOVE EXTENDED bACKCOUNTRy EXPEDItions, sometimes we don’t have the time to embark on such adventures. Nonetheless, this should never stop you from spending any bit of time you can in the outdoors. Car camping is the perfect marriage of our frontcountry and backcountry lives. Many of the principles you’ll employ on a weekend of car camping are the same techniques used on NOLS courses for base camping while rock climbing or cave camping. One of the keys to car or base camping is the seriously expanded possibilities for luxury and elaborate meals. All it takes is a little preparation. You can make more delicious food (and eat it on fun, heavy plates on a table with a table cloth) and have the time to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible if you bring your car camping kitchen stocked and well organized. You can see a prime example of this in the latest episode of the NOLS Cooking Show in which we prepare marinated steak for our breakfast burritos, which we stuff with

foods we chopped and grated at home before we headed to Sinks Canyon State Park. If you’re going to bake in your Dutch oven like we do, mix dry and wet ingredients in ziplock bags before you leave the house to ease the preparation process at the picnic table. If you’re not going so far as Dutch oven baking, do take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade your stove. Consider a two-burner propane stove over which you can heat as many pots and pans as your heart desires over more precisely managed heat without sitting on your heels the whole time. A huge advantage of car camping is the reality of a camping refrigerator, also known as a cooler. Keep it clean and cold, and throw in, say, some sour cream for your breakfast burritos without worrying about heat or weight. Frozen waterbottles are a great alternative to ice packs or loose ice for keeping these treats cool. At the end of the day, remember cleaning and organization are as important in a local campground as they are in the backcountry. Watch your morsels of food and food scents, and return everything to its place so you can spend more time playing and less time digging under the seat for that darned spatula.

Jennifer (Jen) Lamb, Wind River Wilderness ’88 and Professional Instructors Course ‘04 Jen Lamb, former NOLS

Julie Brown, former WMI & NOLS instructor, and Tom Jilot, Wilderness First Aid ‘10 Julie and Tom were married May 18 at “The Knoll” outside of Springfield, Mo. They currently reside in De Forest, Wisc. NEW ADDITIONS Steve Alexander, Utah River Instructor Course ’04, and Marianne Steve and Marianne are the proud parents of Arlo Owen Alexander. Arlo was born on April 21, 2013, and weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces. NOLS instructors Matt Ackley & Kirstin Henninger Matt and Kirstin are the proud parents of Xavier Hawkey Ackley. Xavier was born on April 30, 2013 and weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces. NOLS Instructors Chris Agnew & Lara Agnew (nee McClusky).

The Agnews welcomed new baby boy, Weston Gray Agnew, into the world on March 10, 2013. IN REMEMBRANCE William ‘Bill’ Garrison, Mountain Guide ‘69 and NOLS East Director Bill passed away May 5, 2013. He was well known to many NOLS East students in the 1970s, running the program for two years out of Washington, Conn. He and his wife Ellen lived with their daughter Jani, also a NOLS grad, at the time of his death. Craig Patterson, Wilderness First Responder Recertification ‘08 Craig died in an avalanche Thursday, April 11, 2013 in Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon. He was a veteran backcountry skier and avalanche forecaster. He was working for the Utah Department of Transportation at the time of his death.

THE BAY OF LORETO NATIONAL MARINE PARK IS: an amazing region of the world often visited by NOLS courses and NOLS Alumni trips that is a haven for marine and terrestrial wildlife. The Sea of Cortez in Mexico has a long history of being one of the world’s most diverse and abundant seas. History has shown, however, that aggressive overfishing and bottom trawling are taking their toll and the sea is at risk. These developments have lead to the diligent efforts of the Loreto community to establish The Bay of Loreto National Marine Park. The park was created on July 19, 1996. The Marine Park covers 797 square miles in the Sea of Cortez ranging from Isla Coronado in the north to Isla Catalan in the south. On July 14, 2005, the Park was inscribed to the United Nation’s list of protected World Heritage Sites. With over 800 species of marine life inhabiting the Sea of Cortez and many of them currently endangered, the need for protection of these delicate ecosystems is great.




Summer 2013 25

Branch Notes


The 2012 in-town employee awards were presented on March 25 at the Branch Director’s Forum, and the faculty awards were presented at the NOLS Faculty Summit (read more on page 12). This year’s in-town employee awards went to NOLS Patagonia Director RACHAEL PRICE and Payroll Manager JESSIE HELLYER FEHRINGER . Price has been with NOLS since taking an in-town job at NOLS Alaska following her course. Since then, she has instructed and worked in town in Alaska, NOLS Mexico, and NOLS Professional Training—and now directs NOLS Patagonia. Fehringer returned to NOLS 10 years after her Semester in the Rockies, following family tradition. She quickly became a “Jack of all trades” with invaluable skills to support all of areas in her department. JAMIE O’DONNELL and ANNA HAEGEL received the combo award for their work in the field and in town. O’Donnell instructs students and fellow instructors in mountaineering, climbing, hiking, and winter courses at NOLS Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and Mexico. His work in town demonstrates his strong investment in school-wide environmental studies curriculum. Students compliment Haegel’s technical skills, energy and enthusiasm, and strong coaching abilities. Her desire to provide excellent student outcomes was evident during her time as a program supervisor, as she became the leading programmatic voice for the rock-climbing curriculum at NOLS Rocky Mountain. TRACY DUMAIS received the instructor award. Positive energy, enthusiasm, desire to learn, and penchant for helping others are terms that have defined her tenure at NOLS. Colleagues compliment her creativity and ability in using a variety of teaching styles for presenting formal classes and skills. EMILY LEDINGHAM received the first Thomas Plotkin Mentorship Award. In reading through student evaluations of her, the following words are ubiquitous: sincere, caring, passionate, honest, genuine, leads by example, checks in with every student, an amazingly engaging instructor, suburb listening skills, makes a point to build rapport with all students. A majority of her career has been working semester courses and she has had the opportunity to mentor students, through an entire semester in many different skill sets.

Alex Chang – Cornell Leadership Expedition

Left: NOLS Pacific Northwest will run its first Waddington Mountaineering and Sailing course this summer. Right: NOLS Southwest installed a 2,000-gallon cistern to collect rainwater.

In the past several years, NOLS has made great strides in reducing energy use as a school. We swapped out incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents, started buying Energy Star rated appliances, put overhead lighting on motion sensors, and turned down the heat. All of this made for great reductions— NOLS’ carbon footprint is 18 percent smaller than it was in 2006. But as we approach our 2020 goal of 30 percent reduction, we recognize the need to methodically address every opportunity for energy efficiency and cost savings. 

In the fall of 2012, we launched the NOLS Facility Efficiency Audit. We developed a facility checklist to ensure that the basics of energy efficiency were covered at each NOLS location. The list was long and included checking every light bulb and weather stripping on every door, as well as interviewing occupants to see which lights were routinely left on after hours and where there were issues with building comfort. Even though these projects were already addressed in many locations, we needed to quantify how much “low hanging fruit” was left in order to strategically plan to meet our 2020 goal. What we found was striking: incandescent bulbs where we thought there were none, windows that don’t close, holes in ceilings, noticeable gaps between doors and doorframes, and more. These audits revealed the numerous opportunities we have to meet our 2020 reduction goal in a way that saves NOLS money . We are optimistic that we’ll meet our 2020 goal with time to spare! SUSTAINABILITY TIP: One of NOLS’ biggest opportunities for energy savings is in reducing the amount of heating and cooling lost through leaks in the “building envelope.” This involves installing weather stripping on doors, fixing faulty windows, improving insulation, and other typically straightforward fixes. Have you sealed your building envelope?

Remember the moment you first set foot in a NOLS building, wherever in the world it was? All novel and unfamiliar in the first days, it was comfortable and familiar by the time you were de-issuing and celebrating your course. Well, it’s business as usual at NOLS locations around the world; stay up to date on the activities here or on the NOLS Blog at NOLS TETON VALLEY: • In the spring, six educators and professional paddlers completed NOLS’ Professional River Instructor Course, paddling the Salmon River at high water to be assessed as new NOLS instructors. The international group hailed from Brazil, Scotland, Canada, and the U.S. • In the spring, six educators and professional paddlers completed NOLS’ Professional River Instructor Course, paddling the Salmon River at high water to be assessed as new NOLS instructors. The international group hailed from Brazil, Scotland, Canada, and the U.S. NOLS SOUTHWEST • This spring, NOLS Southwest installed a large cistern to capture rainwater. The 2,000 -gallon cistern collects and stores water during the intense monsoon thunderstorms of late summer. During the operating season, the water will be used for washing course gear and watering plants. • A Gila Monster has been spotted in various locations around the branch. One of only two venomous lizards in the world, the Gila Monster was the first venomous animal to be placed under Federal Protection. • Semester students hiking in our area mountain ranges of the Sonoran desert experience as many as five biomes or life zones while traveling from the dry desert lowlands to the high spruce-fir-aspen forests. • NOLS Southwest operates in three national parks, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Saguaro National Park in Arizona and Big Bend National Park in Texas. NOLS ALASKA • 2013 is NOLS Alaska’s 42nd year operating in the Last Frontier. • We have land-use permits with nine different land management agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Bureau of Land Management. • The NOLS operations base in Alaska is a historic 40-acre farm in Palmer. The farm was originally part of the Matanuska Colony Project in 1935. • The state of Alaska is 663,300 square miles, or about two times the size of Texas. Alaska has 33,000 miles of coast, 29 volcanoes and over half of the world’s glaciers. NOLS PACIFIC NORTHWEST • In early June, two Semesters on the Borders finished their course. These unique NOLS semesters split their learning between climbing and hiking in the desert Southwest and the mountains and bays of the Pacific Northwest. Their first section here was dominated by grand views, lots of marine wildlife, and exploring new inlets in Desolation Sound, British Columbia. • As we transition to summer, our focus shifts to hiking and mountaineering. We’re excited to run the first Waddington Mountaineering and Sailing course this July and August. This course traverses the Homathko Icefield from east to west, hiking down to tidewater to meet our sailboats Sol Quest and Luna Quest, for a sail back south toward NOLS Pacific Northwest.

a.  Ataxia or loss of balance is a reliable sign of HACE. Shortness of breath is a sign of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) or simply working hard at altitude and Nifedipine or Albuterol are medications used in the treatment of HAPE. HACE is thought to be a separate illness from HAPE, although they can occur at the same time.




Summer 2013 27

Belay Off


What’s the difference?
Think of NOLS as a large investment, like buying a house. You have to make payments on your mortgage, but you also need to pay to keep the lights on. In the world of NOLS fundraising, the endowment is like the long-term investment of mortgage payments, while the annual fund is like the immediate need to pay the utility bills.


Needs to Increase with the Growth of the School
Savings Account

Checking Account Every Year

Expenses Not Covered by Student Tuition
Available to Use


BUFFER Long-term


Stability During Times of Recession

Immediate Needs


Small Gifts Making Large Impacts

Lasting Security

THE THING AbOUT THE WILDERNESS IS THAT IT EQUALIZES us, it sets us all on flat, even ground. We are all small in the face of mountains, all vulnerable before swelling seas, all dwarfed by the limitless sky. Facing the elements we are our raw, basic selves. All else falls away. In that rawness there is clarity, all the wind on the water going still so we can see straight into the depths. We are no longer defined by the years we have lived, or what we have been called, or the things we can do. We are all equally young and alive, swaying in the arms of the ancient earth. We are all equally young next to the rocks and the waves. With us we have only the parts of ourselves we can carry, only what travels with us always. We may find things that have been hidden, we may remember what we had allowed ourselves to forget. We may stretch ourselves taller and wider to mimic towering trees, taller and wider than we might have ever imagined. Back where we’re from the land is covered. Cloaked in artifice, pounded and blasted and moved and molded to our convenience. Back where we’re from we are

covered. Steeped in beliefs that belong to others, folded over and compressed and colored until we forget the feel of our own skin. Out here the grass grows long, the trees grow tall, our eyes open wide. Where we’re from we are so often looking down, down at the tiny screens we hold in our hands, down at our own feet as we walk, down when we can’t meet someone else’s eyes. Being out here WE ARE ALL SMALL IN THE FACE OF calls you to look in MOUNTAINS, ALL VULNERABLE BEFORE all directions at once. SWELLING SEAS, ALL DWARFED BY THE Not just down, at the LIMITLESS SKY. plants and animals you walk beside, but out, at all that lies between you and the horizon, up, at the sun and the clouds and the big ancient blue above us, and also in, at the tiny reflection of the universe we hold within our ribs, behind our eyes, in our fingers and ears and mouths and toes. Our eyes no longer squint, trained on abstract things we hold in our hands, they open and clear to take in all that is around us. Where we’re from we’re kings and queens of concrete, we cradle the power in our hands. Returning to the wild we are reminded that

Endowing Our Core Values

Short Term


Carolyn Highland wrote this piece about her experience while on her course in New Zealand. Alisha Bube illustration.

Summer 2013 29



all we have created are constructs, all our control conjured up Being out here makes you feel big in ways you need to feel in our minds. Out here we do not have to go to churches and big. We are not a set of nine numbers, we are not a one-word temples to pray to the idea of something greater, we can sim- definition, we are not contained. There are mountains and ply stand before mountains and see it. seas and skies within us. Try to think of all the shades of your Being out here makes you feel small in ways you need to self, of everything you’ve ever seen or thought or dreamed or feel small. We are not all-imfelt or believed and try not to portant, we are not all knowTRY TO THINK OF ALL THE SHADES OF YOURSELF, feel infinite. You cannot. ing, we are not invincible. We OF EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN OR THOUGHT Being out in the wild reminds are blades of grass, we are parOR DREAMED OR FELT OR BELIEVED AND TRY NOT us of all the smallness and largeticles of wind, we are stones TO FEEL INFINITE. YOU CANNOT. ness of ourselves because this smoothed by water. Think of earth, this sea and sky and rock all the trillions of things happening each second all over this and tree and mountain, this is where we are from. Not a town planet, the breathing, the flowing, the moving, the growing, with a name and a sign, but the ancient, persisting, elemental the loving, the living, the dying, and try to feel like you are all earth. We are not names and birthdates but hearts and souls that matters. You cannot. reflecting the browns, the blues, the greens.

• The NOLS community is embracing Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values , our $20 million campaign to strengthen the school’s endowment and the NOLS Annual Fund. • To achieve this ambitious goal, we’ve reached out as never before to alumni, parents, friends, and staff across the country and around the world, creating a true culture of giving at the school. • In-town staff and faculty have rallied to give back. In a remarkable show of dedication, 55 percent of staff members donated to NOLS in 2012. As Campaign NOLS enters the home stretch, staff are again striving to raise $100,000 to endow a scholarship for one student per year, forever. • The stability and strength of the NOLS endowment is critical to ensuring the continuation of our core values— wilderness, education, leadership, safety, community, and excellence. These values define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it. Please join us as part of Campaign NOLS this year.

The fall following his NOLS course, Rosen began his senior year at Bard College, where he was working toward a bachelor’s degree in film production. As a senior at Bard, each student works on a senior project all year, and Rosen made a handdrawn animation based on his NOLS experience. “Golden Ears,” a Suessian story about the mountains, specifically about a mountaineer (with mountains for ears), has screened in festivals all over the world. Watch “Golden Ears” at or by scanning this QR code.

We’d love to hear from you!
Send letters, cartoons, rants, limericks, or watercolors our way, and we’ll get them on the pages of The Leader. We’re easy to contact—try Facebook, Twitter @NOLSedu, email ([email protected]) or the phone at (800) 710-NOLS.
Summer 2013





National Outdoor Leadership School
284 Lincoln Street Lander, WY 82520-2848 • (800) 710-NOLS THE LEADER IN WILDERNESS EDUCATION



William Bunnell

“We are always surrounded by nature, whether we recognize it or not. Spending time in the outdoors gives you a sense of responsibility to help protect nature however you can. My donations to NOLS help others to gain that same sense of responsibility, something that I hope they will carry throughout their entire lives.”
Yukon Backpacking 2008, scholarship recipient and donor.

Endowing Our Core Values

Be a part of the change. Donate to Campaign NOLS today.

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