Page 1



For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School Fall 2011 Vol. 27 No. 1 •

Guster’s Adam Gardner greens the world, one concert at a time

alumni profile, page 9

WMI instructor John HOvey faces a fear of falling

belay off, page 30

The Dichotomy of Security and Adventure:

Charlie Wittmack’s Stories from The World Triathlon page 14


From the Director

In with the New Welcome to the fall 2011 issue of NOLS’ alumni publication, The Leader. If you’re one of our over 200,000 graduates, you’ve undoubtedly already noticed the publication has changed. If this is your first issue, congratulations on your recent graduation from a NOLS course and welcome to the redesigned Leader. Starting with this issue, we’ve switched up the paper, format, and content to better showcase our programs, be more relevant and interesting to our readers, and be gentler on the environment. NOLS’ alumni publication, first called the Alumnus, started in 1971—long before our involvement with wilderness medicine, codified Leave No Trace principles, post-consumer waste recycled paper, or the Internet. That first edition’s very first words set the trajectory for this edition of The Leader and are as applicable today as they were in February of 1971: “We are establishing this magazine to fill a very critical gap: our communications with you, our graduates…. We can and will keep you up to date on NOLS news. We will present articles by members of our staff concerning the school, new ideas, plans for the future, and courses of particular interest. However, much of the projected format centers around you and your participation…. We want this to be a magazine for you and about you. We will not be exclusively a journal of mountaineering…. What we wish is to be as comprehensive as our courses.” We hope to make this publication collaborative and interactive—a magazine created by this community. Feel free to drop us a note with your thoughts, contribute a story idea, submit a photo, and pass this edition along to friends and family. As excited as we all are about The Leader you hold in your hands today, we must take a moment to observe two challenging moments NOLS has faced since our past issue. On the day we printed the summer Leader, we learned a grizzly bear had attacked students on a course in Alaska. Fortunately, the seven students involved responded calmly and responsibly, caring for their worst injured comrades until they could be evacuated. We are pleased to announce they have all recovered and returned to their normal activities. Only months later, we suffered our first student death in more than 12 years. We are saddened to share the news of the loss of Tom Plotkin, a student on a Semester in India course. The Minnetonka, Minn. native fell while hiking a historic, well-traveled trail in northern India. It is believed he fell into the Gori Ganga River approximately 100 yards below the trail. The entire NOLS family aches with the loss of this incredible young man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his friends, family, and coursemates. Despite the heartbreak we have felt in recent months, the school has been moving forward and making exciting strides that can’t be ignored. You will find the thrilling tales of NOLS’ endeavors and alumni accomplishments in the following pages. Join us in recognizing the ways in which the past year has been successful for the NOLS community. Flip through this issue to preview the site of our new Wilderness Medicine Institute campus, to step into a powerful moment we created with Wyoming Catholic College, to join us in our sustainability improvements, to applaud our 2011 award recipients, and explore the redesigned Leader.



John Gans, NOLS Executive Director


Leader Casey Dean Editor, The Leader Allison Jackson Graphic Designer, The Leader Rich Brame Alumni Relations Director John Gans NOLS Executive Director

Special thanks to Joanne Haines and Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin for their vision behind the redesign and continued guidance. November 2011 • Volume 27 • No. 1 Published three times a year in March, July, and November.

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 or call (307) 332-8800. Alumni can direct address changes to alumni@nols. edu or (800) 332-4280. For the most up-to-date information on NOLS, visit or e-mail admissions@ A paperless version of The Leader is available online at alumni/leader.

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.




5 Field Notes: Applying NOLS lessons to life in the big apple

10 NOLS Lessons “In God’s Country”

6 Issue Room: Wyoming conservation is far from resolved 7

NOLS orients Wyoming Catholic College students to the great outdoors

Q&A: Why row solo across the Atlantic?

8 Alumni in Action: A curriculum to make a difference

Who Is This? Recognize this person? The first 10 people to contact us with the correct answer will receive a free NOLS Leadership Week t-shirt. Call NOLS Alumni at (800) 3324280 or email The answer to last issue’s “Who’s This” is Skip Shoutis, former NOLS instructor and assistant director under Paul Petzoldt 1971–1976.

9 Alumni profile: Green spotlight on Reverb

12 WMI Breaks Ground on Campus

20 Alumni Trips: Check out the perks you can get now!

Golden shovels scooped the first piles of red dirt at the site of the new campus in September.

21 Reviews: Keep these books on hand for snow days 22 Gear Room: Featuring iconic NOLS gear starting this issue 23 Get Out There: Alumni Adventures! A new section by you 24 Recipe Box: Going lightweight? Take this staple for energy 25 Jabberwocky: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives 26 Branch Notes: Insider news from a few of our branches 27 Medicine in the wild: Winter means cold and frostbite 27 Real Life Drama: “Unanticipated” NOLS lessons 28 Giving: On pace for NOLS scholarships 28 Sustainability Update: What we do, and what you can do 30 Belay off: After a fall and recovery, John Hovey reflects 32 Traverses: A creative take on the NOLS experience

13 Campaign NOLS, One year in NOLS rises to the challenge issued by Board members, but fundraising work remains

14 The World Tri Adventure:

Charlie Wittmack takes us inside the first stage of the World Triathlon and gives us a glimpse into the mind of the man who dreamed it up.

Photos this page: contributors courtesy of writers; “Who’s This?” from NOLS Archives; opposite page: Brad Christensen


Howard Tomb Field Notes, pg 5

Charlie Wittmack cover article

Steven Cutting Real Life Drama, pg 23

John Hovey Belay Off, pg 30

Kumari Ratnayake Traverses, back cover

Tomb completed his wilderness course in the Winds in 1976 and advanced rock climbing the next year. Tomb climbed Mt. McKinley in 1982 with NOLS alumni Scott Fisher and Mike Allison and joined Allison again in 1988 to summit Mt. Elbrus. Tomb’s seven humorous phrasebooks, including “Wicked French,” have sold more than 1.3 million copies. His guide to dangerous sports, “The Cool of the Wild,” has sold about a hundred copies, mostly to NOLS instructors who quote from its pages on proper expedition behavior. He works in the forbidding canyons of Wall Street.

Wittmack is an attorney and adventurer who lives in Charlotte, N.C. and a 1995 graduate of NOLS Semester in East Africa. He leverages his expeditions to complete a variety of humanitarian projects. He is an ambassador for Save The Children and operates maternal health programs in Nepal. He is also an advocate for cancer survivors and leads adventurebased survivorship programs on five continents. Charlie has been featured in

Cutting holds a B.A. in Russian and a M.A. in English language / linguistics from the University of ARI. He has lived much of the past 20 years overseas, starting with a year in Moscow in the exciting times just after the fall of communism, followed by two years teaching English in Korea. Since 1999, he has made Japan home, teaching at Kanda University of International Studies, then Tokai University. For the last eight years, he has been working with the Rural Leaders Training Program at the Asian Rural Institute in Northern Japan, where he lives with his wife Miki and daughters Sarah (7) and Ellie (4).

Hovey teaches more-or-less full-time for the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) of NOLS. Though he has now been part of the NOLS community for over six years, Hovey's path to NOLS was anything but direct. He studied film and mechanical engineering, bartended, and served as a Marine Corps captain before completing Rocky Mountain and WMI instructor courses in 2005. Hovey now lives in Portland, Ore., where he is engineering a three-year escape to Barcelona to get some sun, study bullfighting, and learn the finer points of Spanish wine.

Ratnayake was the 2010 winner of the NOLS Dream Expedition Video Contest ( contest/), and her prize was an OECW course this summer. From her course, she sent an illustration of her experience to NOLS Headquarters, which is a perfect fit for a new department in The Leader: Traverses. Ratnayake has since been focusing on work as interpretation supervisor at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She has been staying in touch with the outdoors and getting closer to her dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. In the meantime, she has wrapped up a complete illustration of her course.

media outlets across the globe including Nightline, CNN, ESPN, Outside Magazine, Mens Journal, and Triathlete.

Fall 2011



welcome To one of The many new feaTureS of THE LEADER. A “letters to the editor” section of sorts, we designed this space for feedback on our work and dialogue amongst yourselves. Editor’s note: Because the previous issue didn’t have a call to action requesting feedback, we pulled a few comments about NOLS to kick start the conversation: “i once baked an amazing calzone (with 3 different kinds of cheese) from scratch in canyons that were 6 days hiking distance from any sort of civilization. i would be perfect for this job position.” thank you nols for allowing me to write these things on my job applications.

majesty of nature to my soul. aaron mendelovitz, via facebook

nols Wilderness first responder Course taught me the value of a human life, and brought the beauty of the infinite

Suggestions for Stephanie? Send your responses her way on Facebook.

the site of the new wilderness medicine campus for Wmi. @expedition, via twitter

any instructors out there have advice for people applying or thinking about applying for an iC in the future?

got my catalog in the mail. beautiful pictures and i like the new square format freddy cheng, via facebook

Pretty sweet, right? Check out our feature on the campus on page 12.

robby Kutchin, via facebook

Joseph napolitan, via facebook

You’re welcome, and thanks for sharing! Good luck with the job, Joseph. If you don’t get it, check out a new recipe on page 24 and hone your lightweight cooking skills for the next application.

what do you think? Join the conversation. help us fill this space! send your feedback or conversation starters to, post it to facebook, tweet it (@nolsedu), or give us at call at 800-710-6657 ext 2254.

Current or former instructors, do you have any advice for Robby? Respond to Robby’s post on Facebook. any nols instructors out there who are married and have kids? Wondering how one might manage to balance that sort of work/life situation. thanks! stephanie stucker mcmahon, via facebook

Thanks, Freddy! What do you think of the new Leader format?

@nolsedu the only diploma i've ever had framed. :) can't even tell you where my hs one is.

i'm better, because of my @ nolsedu brooks range comrades:

@dreamingNomad49, via twitter

@yellowstoneshel, via twitter

thank you @nolsedu @outwardboundusa @the_sca for putting on such a great #wilderness risk management conference last week! #wrmc

You can keep track of your fellow grads and update them on your life through Jabberwocky on page 25.

@cityKidsWp, via twitter

in the news




• The final nAsA space shuttle mission landed July 21 with four nols grads the end of an era, the connection between nasa and nols is strong as ever; nasa astronauts have been participating in custom nols courses since 1999. Courses differ little from other nols courses and aim to bolster crews’ leadership and communication skills prior to space travel.

• India’s president honored Reena Dharmshaktu, a nols instructor, with the tenzing norgay national adventure award aug. 29. raised in a town from which the himalayans are visible, the darjeeling native now regularly leads nols courses into those very mountains. in addition to mountaineering with nols and other organizations, dharmshaktu was the first indian woman to ski from the coast of antarctica to the south pole. • Justin padgett, an active member of the Wilderness medicine institute (Wmi) of nols community, was recognized with the most prestigious wilderness medicine award in the southern appalachians. padgett is the co-founder and executive director of landmark learning, a year-round, multi-certification training center for outdoor educators and emergency medical personnel.

• NOLS Director of Admission and Marketing bruce palmer and nols board secretary Jane fried presented before u.s. ambassador to germany philip murphy, as well as about 50 ambassadors from across europe and heads of international schools in berlin. the topic was “bridging the secondary and university experiences: gap year and summer opportunities at phillips academy andover and nols.” • Wmi’s operations in torpshammar, sweden were featured on swedish public broadcasting. in the 24 hours after the clip was posted, it became a top view in sweden. Check it out (though it’s mostly in swedish, parts are in english) at extremraddare_formas_i_fransta?lid=puff_257 2076&lpos=rubrik




• NOLS was named to Outside Magazine’s fourth annual “Best places to work” list for the fourth year in a row. nols was ranked no. 28 out of 50 selected companies. the full list and related story were published in the september issue of Outside Magazine. The “best places to Work” project celebrates the innovative companies setting a new standard for a healthy work-life balance.


Field Notes

Everything I Need to Know (About life in New York) I Learned at NOLS

By Howard Tomb, Wind River Wilderness '76, and author of the oft-cited finer points of Expedition Behavior

onions, maybe sausage. Artichokes, if you’re determined to be outlandish. Not chicken wings. Not French fries. Do not mention shrimp or pineapple, even in jest. The same with bagels and coffee: they should not come in jalapeno or hazelnut any more than tents should come in zebra stripes or tomato red. Keep a positive attitude. In a tent in a snowstorm or a crowded queue for a soldout show, a few cheerful words herald the leader and raise spirits all around. In a tight spot, hostility and resignation mark the dead weight—somebody who won’t get invited next time—and stain what could be a memorable moment. Not to get all Zen, but the weather and the wait are part of the experience. You didn’t know it snowed in the mountains? Or that Lady Gaga was popular? Go back to your Xbox in the suburbs. Leave a small footprint. The woods, like the city streets, are open to the public. By which I mean thoughtless Neanderthals. They honk their horns and shout before dawn, park in bus stops and leave ugly, durable things behind to mar the landscape. We can’t do much about Trump Tower, but we can and should dispose of some other unsightly leftovers. Discarded plastic bags, for example, blow into trees and get stuck there for years like rotten fruit. Retrieving them from high branches is nearly impossible, so grab them off the sidewalk before takeoff. After minimizing the noise and garbage, the wise citydweller also leaves a small Urban Legends emotional footprint. The Life in a metropolis just translates to having more NOLSies within crowds that make an envireach, even if it’s not always over a twiggy fire. Not surprisingly, ronment urban can generate many of NOLS’ 200,000+ graduates live in urban environments. friction, impatience and even It’s also no surprise our alumni like to connect, get outdoors and hostility, which can lead to network with fellow NOLS adventurers. comments about intelligence, One way our energetic grads connect is through our informal parentage and body cavities. alumni chapters. Several large cities have active alumni groups Resisting the temptation to shepherded by enthusiastic local volunteers and supported by respond in kind marks the NOLS’ alumni department. true urban sophisticate, the NOLS NYC Group: The Big Apple’s sidewalks, subways, parks, one without a broken nose, and cubicles are teeming with NOLS graduates. A troika of alumni who calms, rather than involunteers organize paddle days, day hiking adventures, pub cites, the mob. socials, holiday parties, ski trips, and a large annual reunion.

The experienced adventurer knows that fully enjoying the picture-postcard wilderness takes teamwork, practical skills, and the right attitude. My NOLS expeditions and subsequent climbs of Denali and Elbrus helped me learn this vital lesson, which has served me well in my almost 30 years in the urban wilderness of New York City. In fact, I’ve found comfort and satisfaction in both places by following many of the same rules of expedition behavior: Stay flexible. Legions of NOLS campers have learned a basic lesson on their first day in the mountains: conditions can change dramatically in minutes. Having the right clothing on hand is crucial, since getting wet or cold can mean hours of discomfort. The weather in New York is relatively predictable, but public transportation is not. Subway not running? No taxis to be found? The greenhorn will be forced to travel on foot and arrive late. The veteran may hail a limo or gypsy cab—and settle on a price before taking a seat. Study the masters and learn. You’re not the first person to load a backpack, read a topo map or climb a 5.7, so don’t try starting from scratch or inventing your own methods. That’s how “Into the Wild” turned ugly. Instead, emulate the experts until you qualify as one yourself. The same rule holds true when ordering pizza in New York. Consider the age-old toppings: cheese, tomatoes, olives,

No matter where you wander after your NOLS course, there’s likely to be a selection of interesting, outdoor-oriented grads near you. Subscribe to NOLS’ online social networks and alumni e-lists ( to keep up with NOLS in your community.

Learn to recognize the flora, fauna, and microbes.

The fast pace of New York isn’t so very different from life on an expedition. Courtesy of Gwen Phillips

wise the sucker who plays three-card Monte or shops in Times Square. Newcomers to New York have to learn from experience and keen observation until someone writes a decent field guide to hustlers and junkies. A couple of hints to get you started: The guy with the runny nose who needs $12 from you right now so he can fix his car and visit his dying mother in Jersey probably can’t show you a car, registration, insurance, driver’s license, car keys, library card, or picture of his mother. And you might have some unpleasant surprises during a “date” with a deep-voiced woman on a darkened street. I treasure outdoor memories like gems: topping a rocky pass to look down on a perfectly un-peopled valley and its glacial lake, cooking dinner for my friends in a 90,000-square-mile kitchen whose fixtures include Cook Inlet and half the Alaska Range. And those memories are rivaled by New York stardust: a Richard Serra show at the Modern that deprived me of the power of speech, scallop sushi under the expectant gaze of Yasuda-san, Central Park at midnight in the hush of winter. From where I sit now, I think any road can lead to adventure—or disaster—depending on our own attitudes and behavior. I took my first steps toward mastering those at NOLS in 1976. I’m walking still.

We pity the outdoor adventurer who doesn’t know poison ivy when he sees it. Like-

Fall 2011


Issue Room

Ongoing battle for the protection of the Wyoming Range By Aaron Bannon, NOLS Wilderness Advocacy Coordinator

K nown for his wit, former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal stood before a crowd of nearly 300 at the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch in Boulder, Wyo., where he had been asked to speak, and let loose with a few zingers aimed at NOLS before settling into his speech Aug. 20. He acknowledged the progress that has been made to protect the Wyoming Range and the work that remains. Having been a stalwart supporter of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act of 2009, which withdrew 1.2 million acres of the state’s namesake mountain range from future oil and gas leasing, the former Governor’s keynote was welcomed by the audience. “We have to till the field, sow the seeds, so that someday we’ll be able to harvest the preservations of great parts of this country,” he said. “There are places where we have economic activity, and places where we don’t. Where we have economic activity, we can make sure that it’s done right to preserve the kind of lifestyle that we want, but you’ve got to be vigilant.” This advice was poignant given the administrative aftermath in the two years since the Wyoming Range Legacy Act was signed into law. At issue are 90,000 acres within the withdrawal boundary containing leases that were either validated or in the process prior to the passage of the Act and therefore beyond its scope. While the vast majority of the mountain range will never be developed, natural gas extraction on these last acres could still deal a significant blow to outfitters and operators in the area, including NOLS. Energy companies claim development of these leases is essential to reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies and that they would generate critical revenues for Wyoming. Sportsmen groups, conservation groups, and others argue the mountains are essential to a diverse and sustainable economy based on tourism and the outdoor recreation industry and that the development in question would be a drop in the well of oil and gas activity in the state. The development currently under consid-

eration on the 90,000 acres encompasses two adjacent projects proposed by two companies. One lies in the Noble Basin south of Jackson and would start as a 136-well operation drilled on 17 well pads. The other project, known locally as the 44k due to being roughly 44,000 acres, is south of the Noble Basin along a prized watershed home to mule deer hunting and cutthroat trout fishing. It is also home to summer and winter NOLS courses. The 44k would be a 181-well development featuring approximately 25 wells directionally drilled from each of eight 50-acre well pads, each the size of more than 65 football fields. “Conserving the 44k is what’s best for the Wyoming Range and the entire Greater Yellowstone region,” said Steff Kessler, Wyoming program manager for The Wilderness Society and former NOLS instructor. Kessler has been advocating for the protection of the Wyoming Range since 2005. Due to significant public backlash, both proposals have gone back to the drawing board after already having undergone years of environmental review. Critics expressed concern the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), in analyzing two adjacent areas for similar environmental footprints, had reached two very different conclusions.

In a draft version of the project plan, the USFS recommended development of the Noble Basin leases proceed along the lines proposed by the company. The 44k leases were recommended for cancellation. This time around, the USFS is assuring the public both projects are drawing from the same studies and reinforcing the others’ data. For the crowd gathered to hear Freudenthal in August, drawn-out project plans are not uncommon. They knew they had their work cut out for them on this and other matters, but they also celebrated how far they’d come. They ate barbeque, told stories, and laughed when the former Governor took a moment to recall a recent trip into the Wind River Range with his daughter, a NOLS grad. “I hold [Kessler] and the National Outdoor Leadership School responsible for every sore muscle I had,” said Freudenthal. “Some time ago our daughter did a semester in the Southwest. And she came back an honest-to-god NOLS Nazi. It is her cause to get everybody out into the wilderness and to make sure that you backpack.” Due to his support of the Wyoming Range conservation effort and other landscapes across the state, there is a fair chance that his grandchildren could end up muscle sore, too.

Wilderness Quiz Afghanistan recently established its first: A) Designated Wilderness B) ­National Park  C) Ibex Refuge



Find the answer on pg. 25


Activities such as horseback riding through a wildflower display in the Wyoming Range could be jeopardized by natural gas development. Courtesy of Aaron Bannon


A Visit with the NOLS Board Chair

Tori Murden McClure By Katrin Herden, NOLS Marketing Representative

Do you believe leadership can be taught?

Absolutely! It wasn’t until I reconnected with NOLS that I recognized how much of my own leadership came out of my two semesters with NOLS. The really monumental things are comfort in uncertainty and tolerance for adversity. Many leaders today are not at all comfortable with uncertainty. If they don’t know what’s over the horizon, they’re not going to move. I was taught by NOLS to go see what’s over the horizon. All of the tenets of NOLS leadership play a role, and in the end what is required to make a difference in what we laughingly call “the civilized world” is endurance, persistence, and resourcefulness, all things you learn from strapping on a pair of boots and walking through difficult terrain. What did you learn from three-time World Champion Boxer Muhammad Ali when you served as director for development at the Muhammad Ali Center?

Having spent a fair amount of time with Muhammad, I recognized that in the beginning, he was just flat making stuff up. Many celebrities make up myths about their lives and fail to live up to them. Muhammad made up his own myth and then grew to fit it. It was Muhammad who said, “Tori, you don’t want to go through life as the woman who almost rowed across the ocean.” And while I think I would have gone back even without that encouragement, it made for a pretty good excuse! What did you take away from your solo row across the Atlantic?

I had to row across the ocean because I was a slow learner. Most women don’t have to row across an ocean to realize that friendship and love are good things. But I was a slow learner and an intellectual and was searching for enlightenment between my ears. My ultimate “Aha!” was when I figured out that maybe the enlightenment I was looking for wasn’t between my ears but instead was a matter of heart. So, that’s what I was looking for alone, in a rowboat, in the middle of the ocean. Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places!

NOLS Board of Trustees Chair Tori Murden McClure brings the wisdom earned on impressive adventures to the NOLS Board. Courtesy of Tori Murden McClure

As President of Spaulding University, which sees success from a diverse group of students, do you see a way we can make our school more accessible to a wider range of students?

I think that’s a challenge for NOLS just because of the price point. As NOLS continues to mature and grow its endowment, there will be more opportunity to access a broader range of students. Building our endowment will allow us to share that kind of educational experience with a broader range of people who wouldn’t necessarily be able to front the bill or have their parents front the bill. But that’s going to take another 10, 20, 50 years of building a case for NOLS and building our endowment. What inspired you to join the NOLS Board of Trustees and to serve as its chair?

A board member approached me about it in 2000 or 2001, when I had just joined the Smith College Board. I was new to the Board of Trustees scene and told him to call in five years. So he did, practically on the dot! When I got involved, I thought, “Wow! I can’t believe I didn’t get involved the first time!” It’s just an extraordinary group of people with good hearts and fabulous heads, and they want to make a difference.

How have your expeditions and experiences shaped the style with which you govern the Board of Trustees? 

My expeditions have taught me not to grab the steering wheel if I don’t need to. It really is a highly functioning organization in that it does not need a lot of correction. How does the Board decide what is best for the school as a whole?

One of the really unusual things about this Board is that NOLS takes us into the woods together once a year. Initially I thought, “Well, that’s just a little perk.” Now, I recognize that having paddled or climbed or hiked with these folks we’re much more willing to disagree with one another without having to worry about it becoming an international incident. The decisions are well-researched, the passions are heartfelt and yet we reach consensus pretty readily with a healthy regiment of discussion. Why the continued interest in NOLS?

I think it has to do with urban wilderness. My adventures tend to bounce back and forth from true wilderness, isolation, recharging with a couple of friends on a mountaintop to the urban wilderness, where you’re engaged in difficult, pick-and-shovel work in scrappy places. So many young folks in the urban wilderness could benefit from the sense of selfsufficiency that a NOLS course offers.

Fall 2011


Alumni in Action

Sometimes the best way to get in touch is by going

Into the Woods

By Larkin Flora, NOLS Development Communications Coordinator, and Rich Brame, NOLS Alumni Relations Director

NOLS courses engage students with the land and often empower them to share their wildland connections with others. NOLS educator courses enhance teaching skills and provide opportunities for practice and feedback. Occasionally, skills, passion, and circumstances combine to allow a NOLS grad to accomplish truly great things. NOLS Southwest Educator grad Raeford Dwyer is an inspiring example of the power of one. It is difficult to foster a personal connection with the planet if you’ve never truly stepped outdoors. Young people who are deprived of outdoor experiences don’t form

Hailing from the poorest and most urban district in the country, many of his students have never been outside the Bronx and are not aware of the outdoor opportunities that are within reach of public transportation. connections to the Earth, and as future stewards of our planet, it is extremely important that they do. Dwyer recognized this need and, with the aid of a grant from the Sierra Club, started Into the Woods, a popular, selective, afterschool enrichment program that gets urban kids outdoors. For the past two springs, Dwyer has taken 30 students from a middle school in the Bronx, out to explore green and wild places in the surrounding area. Hailing from the poorest and most urban district in the country, many of his students have never been outside the Bronx and are not aware of the outdoor opportunities that are within

wildrness Medicine Quiz Which of the following is a treatment principle for frostbite? a. slow warming at room temperature. b. rapid warming in warm water. c. rapid warming near an open flame or a heater. d. massaging frozen tissue.



The answer is on pg. 23, but you might want to stop by pg. 27 first.


reach of public transportation. Working with young people in the outdoors is, in some ways, the easiest part of Dwyer’s program. Before stepping outside, he had to scrounge up funding, win over school administrators and develop solid curriculum. Into the Woods utilizes an experiential environmental ethics curriculum based on Leave No Trace ethics, navigation skills, and natural history. Piloted in a middle school in the Bronx, Dwyer has put his curriculum into practice in the parklands of New York in collaboration with Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. Outings include exploration of Hunter Island’s coastal wetlands and canoeing on the Bronx River. Along with encouraging the students to document their experiences through photography, drawing, and journaling, Dwyer teaches them many of the things he learned on his NOLS course. He focuses largely on Leave No Trace wilderness ethics, encourages good expedition behavior and breaks the students into small groups to give each a chance to practice leadership skills. The students learn orienteering, and, to practice, Dwyer allows them to get off course. Some of the kids fear being lost in the woods, but Dwyer says the supervised experience is always a positive one. Before coming to NOLS or launching Into the Woods, Dwyer followed his own

circuitous path. Born in South Africa, he worked in television, designing set graphics and as a photographer. But Dwyer realized he needed more to his life. That’s what brought him to NOLS. It wasn’t until he completed his course that he considered becoming an outdoor educator. Dwyer still spends a large portion of his time in front of a screen or behind a camera, but once Into the Woods gains momentum, he hopes to expand the program into other schools. The organization currently conducts 10 programming days a year, but Dwyer would like to provide the experience year round, “so we can do things in every season and see nature’s changes.” As his endeavor gains more funding and volunteers, Dwyer wants to include a short overnight backpacking trip. "I think the outdoors is every child’s birthright. Sleeping outside, looking at the stars, climbing in a tent, which is a mini-house you just built yourself, and cooking your own food is a huge opportunity for a connection with nature. I really want to make it happen for these kids.” Into the Woods now has a volunteer program. If you are interested in volunteering, email Raeford at, and he will mail you a packet to start the process. For more information, go to

NOLS Southwest Educator grad Raeford Dwyer stands with his students before taking a canoe trip down the Bronx River. Courtesy of Raeford Dwyer

Alumni Profile

Greening the World, One Concert at a Time Reverb Inspires Bands and Fans to Take Environmental Action By Katrin Herden, NOLS Marketing Representative

A new nonprofit organization is taking the music world by storm. Having greened over 100 national tours, Reverb, which produced its first green tour in 2004, has been working hand-in-hand with musicians to inspire environmental stewardship. Reverb helps musicians become more environmentally conscious while using them as a platform to educate their fans. It all started when Adam Gardner, NOLS Wind River Wilderness ’90 graduate and guitarist for the popular band Guster, found that he was living two contrasting lifestyles. Switching from his healthy, eco-conscious home in Maine to the gas-guzzling wasteful life on the road with his bandmates ultimately proved to be too much of a dichotomy in his life. So Adam and his wife began formulating a plan to bridge the gap. With the support of many like-minded musicians, they founded Reverb, an organization dedicated to engaging artists and fans to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Reverb’s approach

Reverb’s approach to greening tours is not just a question of carbon footprints; it’s a matter of education. to greening tours is not just a question of carbon footprints; it’s a matter of education. Working with musicians such as Dave Matthews, Train, Maroon 5, Jack Johnson, and Drake, Reverb uses concerts as an opportunity to educate fan bases and inspire them to take action on environmental issues. For example, Reverb encourages carpooling and offers carbon offset programs at Eco-Villages bordering concert venues, where local environmental organizations have opportunities to educate fans and gain a following. Maya Jaafar, a recent NOLS Pacific Northwest Mountaineering Outdoor Educator graduate, is the newest member of the Reverb team. With a background in outdoor education, Maya is thrilled to be working with a company that offers continued education on such a large scale. “There is no venue that is inappropriate to teach someone something,” she said.

Maya Jaafar, Reverb office assistant and NOLS grad, and Adam Gardner, Guster band member and Reverb co-founder are greening sound waves across the nation's stages. Courtesy of Reverb

Whether on a summit in the Cascades or in 30,000-person auditorium, the opportunity is there, and Reverb is taking full advantage. Reverb also realizes that a powerful example is set when bands walk the talk. In partnership with Native Energy of Vermont, it calculates the carbon footprint for entire tours and helps offset each tour’s impact. The organization also helps bands use biodiesel instead of gasoline-fueled transportation, eat locally grown food on the road, use recyclable water containers, and recycle. “Bands nowadays have not only casual fol-

lowers, but devoted fans,” Gardner said. Reaching out to those folks is as easy as sending out an electronic newsletter. “It’s an amazing opportunity to influence social change,” he said. Who else can say they are greening the world one concert at a time?

Learn more at and stay informed about future volunteer opportunities in your area by becoming a fan at

Fall 2011


NOLS Lessons ‘In God’s Country’ NOLS Orients Wyoming Catholic College Students to the Great Outdoors By Brian Fabel, NOLS Professional Training Marketing Coordinator and Jenna Helgeson, WMI of NOLS Registrar


Mount Geikie in the Wind River Range, hands interlocked, singing in perfect harmony. Early morning light on the Sky Pilot blossoms and red boulders of the peak resembles stained glass in a cathedral. In front of the students loom granite spires as far as their eyes can see. Also in front of the students are four years at Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), where they will be involved in rigorous academics, religious studies, and experiential outdoor education and will leave as responsible adults trained to be tomorrow’s leaders. In May 2011, WCC graduated its first class of 30 students, all of whom are NOLS graduates, some multiple times over. NOLS’ relationship with the Lander, Wyo. based four-year college entails providing its students with a three-week expedition as part of their freshman orientation program. Courses focus on the intersection of spirituality and leadership, emphasizing valuable cross-faith lessons such as expedition behavior and equity. To date, NOLS has educated more than 180 incoming WCC freshmen. “My NOLS course was truly the best experience I have had,” reflected Antonio Padilla on his graduation day this spring. “I remember we had to cross a 12,000-foot pass and the group was fading. I helped carry their weight, a satisfaction I hadn’t yet experienced and will not forget.” Antonio, a 2007 and 2010 NOLS/WCC graduate, also used his NOLS skills while working for WCC’s Outdoor Leadership program, leading his fellow students on trips to the Tetons and running the program’s equipment room. Since leaving the WCC Outdoor Leadership program, Lander, and NOLS, Antonio has begun a career in law enforcement, where he expected to apply the skills he learned at both NOLS and WCC. Peter McCullough, also a member of the first graduating class of WCC, sees NOLS affecting his future, as well. “My NOLS course helped me to become a well-rounded person, help run the WCC Outdoor Leadership program, and teach younger classes leadership skills on my trips,” said the three-time NOLS grad. “Someday I would love to become a NOLS instructor.” The WCC founders believe that to instill wonder in their students they must “expose them to what seems more than man, what is grand: a lofty mountain range, vast night skies full of far-distance stars, or an unstoppable storm.” Antonio said his NOLS/WCC experiences opened his eyes to deeper understanding. “I have seen a lot of beautiful things these last four years, and I have learned all philosophy starts in wonder,” remarked Antonio. “It’s hard to wonder in a classroom. But in nature, wonder is all around you.”



ifteen students kneel atop


Father Robert Cook, WCC president and primary founder and visionary of the leadership program at WCC, said wonder is just one aspect of the wilderness experience he thought important for his students. “It was thought that if our students could experience a comprehensive and vigorous immersion in the many challenges that over time can lead to real leadership, then we should have the supremely capable and knowledgeable instructors of NOLS lead our students in this effort by a three-week backpacking expedition for all incoming freshmen,” said Cook. “The jump start that WCC’s Students experience true wonder in the wilderness. Photos courtesy of Wyoming Catholic College students get from NOLS is essential and acts as a solid cornerstone for the building of real leaders at WCC for the future.” WCC/NOLS courses are unique because of the goals surrounding spiritual development. Priests participate in each expedition as spiritual instructors who facilitate mass and further foster sense of place. “When you are up on the top of a peak having mass, this is the connection between God and man. It brings your faith down to a level that will carry you after graduation anywhere,” WCC student Caitlyn Milligan reflected. NOLS Curriculum Director John Gookin agrees. “Extended wilderness expeditions are spiritually strengthening, no matter what your belief system, and spiritual strength helps you be a more passionate version of yourself,” he said. NOLS Senior Instructor Jesse Quillian said it was amazing to see the WCC students react to difficult travel days on their NOLS expedition with her. “From the look on their faces to the tone of their voices, they were drawing on a powerful inner strength that I have not seen before,” she reflected. This fall saw the new iteration of that development; 39 new WCC incoming freshmen entered their program, anticipating the chance to develop leadership skills in a place that is truly God’s country.

Consider a wilderness experience for your spiritual group. NOLS Professional Training already works with groups like Fort Washakie Charter School, Albany First United Methodist Church, and St. James Episcopal Church Teva Adventures for Orthodox Jewish Populations to create custom expeditions to meet their goals. To learn more about custom NOLS courses, visit

“The jump start that WCC’s students get from NOLS is essential and acts as a solid cornerstone for the building of real leaders at WCC for the future.” –Father Robert Cook

Wilderness Medicine Institute

Breaks Ground on New Campus By Melissa Hemken, NOLS Foundation Relations Officer


ollowing the donation of a parcel of land and a

generous monetary gift in December of last year, NOLS has made great strides toward fulfilling the goal of building a year-round wilderness medicine residential education facility in Lander, Wyo. Project leaders dug the ceremonious first shovelfuls of red dirt at the future Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) of NOLS site Sep. 22. In 2010, 12,350 students graduated from 550 wilderness medicine courses. NOLS has one of the largest intensive EMT training programs in the country and is the largest provider of Wilderness EMT courses. Six of those monthlong EMT courses, as well as several shorter courses and two instructor-training courses, have long been conducted in rented space near Lander. “Our WEMT program is growing,” said WMI of NOLS Director Melissa Gray. “It is imperative that we have our own facility that provides student housing, classrooms and open space available for wilderness medicine scenarios.” The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus is being built on 243 acres of land in Red Canyon, 13 miles south of Lander. Approximately 20 acres will be developed for the campus, while the remainder will be managed for animal habitat and plant health under conservation easements. Slated for completion in fall 2012, the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus will consist of student cabins, a main educational facility, and a caretaker residence. The campus will employ highly efficient building and energy usage technologies that will be used to educate users on sustainability. “NOLS has been able to begin this project through the generous gift of Hansjörg Wyss,” said John Gans, NOLS ex-

“We are thrilled to be realizing the dream of a permanent campus for WMI” – Melissa Gray, WMI of NOLS director

ecutive director. “Hansjörg’s commitment to medicine and land conservation coincides well with our mission to continue developing wilderness medicine, training professional caregivers and caring for the land.” While traditional classrooms with four walls and a ceiling are an important part of the WMI educational experience, the NOLS “classroom” extends outdoors with real-life scenarios. The Red Canyon property is ideal for scenariobased education with the Little Popo Agie River slicing through the property, and hoodoos, pinyon pine, and juniper studding the landscape. “We are thrilled to be realizing the dream of a permanent campus for WMI.” said Gray at the groundbreaking. “This land we stand on today will be the site of many life-changing educational experiences for decades to come.” Construction has begun, but funding goals haven’t quite been met. To make a donation, contact the Development office at (800) 332-4280. If you’d like to take a WMI course, check out

Our donors have been generous so far, in spite of a difficult economy. We have some work ahead of us before the end of the year, but we’re optimistic that we’ll make the challenge.

— John Gans, NOLS Executive Director

one year in,

work remainS in campaiGn nolS Photo this page: Ignacio Grez; opposite page: Melissa Gray; artist’s rendition of Wyss Campus: High Plains Architects

by amy rathke, development Communications Coordinator


campaign NOLS’ public phase: Endowing Our Core Values. Though the year has been marked by the school’s first seven-figure commitments and donations totaling nearly $9 million, there is still work to be done. As we announced in the Summer 2011 issue of The Leader, NOLS Board members Amy Wyss and Fox Benton and former Board Chair Michael Schmertzler challenged the NOLS community with their lead gifts totaling $4 million. They asked NOLS to raise the first $10 million of the campaign by Dec. 31. With this deadline fast approaching, just under $1 million remains to be raised. “Our donors have been generous so far, in spite of a challenging economy,” said NOLS Executive Director John Gans. “We have some work ahead of us before the end of the year, but we’re optimistic that we’ll make the challenge.” That work includes realizing some gifts in progress and reaching out to supporters who have not yet been contacted about this fundraising effort. While we continue to push forward, we can share and celebrate the achievements we’ve reached so far this year:

STaff parTicipaTion raTeS up Another area of success during the first public year of the campaign has been staff education and participation. “With this campaign, we are making the school’s first significant effort toward informing staff about the importance of fundraising at NOLS,” said NOLS Associate Director of Development Heather Wisniewski. Thanks to these efforts, 35 percent of staff members at NOLS are currently giving back to the school, which is an increase of 12 percent over last fiscal year. This metric, which communicates our staff ’s dedication to the school’s mission, can be compelling for foundations and other donors. “We’ve been excited about the response,” Heather said. “It’s definitely a cultural shift for us as a school, to ask staff to donate.”

annual funD exceeDS Goal In fiscal year 2011, we exceeded our NOLS Annual Fund goal by $24,299. Strong support for annual giving is a critical component of this comprehensive capital campaign. “Our donor numbers were tracking behind for much of the year,” said Annual Fund Manager Cindy Carey. “But we ended up finishing ahead in both number of donors and dollars. We’re looking forward to another great year in the Annual Fund and excited by annual giving contributions to Campaign NOLS.”

you can conTribuTe, Too! If you are interested in getting involved and supporting NOLS, you can attend or host an event in your area and help connect us with people in the greater NOLS community who may be interested in participating in the campaign. Likewise, if you have been considering rewriting your will or are completing an estate plan, a gift to Campaign NOLS may be an excellent fit. And creating a recurring gift to the NOLS Annual Fund has never been easier with our new online form. Contact NOLS Development at (800) 332-4280 or with any questions or for more information.

cTober marked The end of The firsT year of

reGional STeerinG commiTTeeS in full SwinG Regional campaign steering committees have been established around the country in San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Denver, Chicago, and New York. “We have a group of friends of the school helping, allowing us to reach out to communities to gain support for this important philanthropic initiative,” NOLS Development Director Pip Coe said. “Since our volunteers know their communities so well, they are the ideal people to reach out to others.”

Fall 2011


The Dichotomy of Security an

d Adventure:

Stories from The World Triathlon ount of Excerpts from a Forthcoming Acc

the World’s Toughest Triathlon

er in East Africa ‘95

arlie Wittmack, Semest

Story and Photos By Ch

I grimaced as another wave broke against my back, grinding my knees and elbows into the sharp rocky sea floor. I held my breath as icy water wrapped around me and shoved me a few inches closer to France. As the water surged back to the sea beneath me, I scratched and clawed at the rocks in a weak attempt to maintain those last few inches of progress. I took a quick breath and braced myself for the next wave. “Get up on that beach!” Andy was screaming from another world somewhere behind me in the darkness. The words of his simple instruction were orphaned from one another as they bounced around in my head, losing their meaning. I was too tired to understand. I gasped for air, but my tongue was swollen and bleeding from the seawater that had unavoidably found its way into my mouth during the day’s swim, making it difficult to breathe. The next wave crashed against me, driving a fist-full of water into my nostrils and sinuses. When the water disappeared again, I laid my sunburned cheek on a small patch of sand and started to cough. After five weeks of swimming up to 14 hours a day, seawater had slowly accumulated in my lungs in a form of swimming-induced pneumonia. My ribs were bruised and my stomach muscles torn from the frequent coughing fits, but the pain seemed somewhat less in recent days, if only on account of its familiarity. Between my hacking, I could hear Andy’s maniacal screams urging me on in the most colorful language I had ever heard. “Mate … f***ing … beach … sandy … bastard … finish!” Another wave provided a few more inches of violent progress. My fingers wrapped around a couple of algae-covered rocks, and I carefully pulled myself forward. Like a horizontal rock-climber, I worked my way up the beach, inch by agonizing inch, the waves breaking at my waist, and then at my calves, and then at my feet. Cheers from the anchored escort boat washed in with every wave; and with each pull on the rocks, the cheers grew louder and louder. I pulled myself up slowly like a child standing on his own

On the first leg of the world triathlon, Charlie Wittmack swam the length of the Thames River and across the English Channel. Then he got on a bike bound for Everest.

for the first time; carefully testing every muscle as it responded with aches and screams to being called upon for this strange new motion. I straightened my back and lifted my head as I heard the horn on the escort boat fire off into the night, signaling the official completion of the swim. I had swum 251 miles over five weeks. To reach France, I had overcome two bouts of amoebic dysentery, a crippling case of pneumonia, countless jellyfish stings, numerous encounters with the infamous eels of the River Thames in England, and the relentless fatigue that comes from swimming up to 24 miles in a single day. On the final day of the swim, I had mapped a distance of more than 30 miles during a continuous 12-hour swim across the English Channel from the United Kingdom to France. Ordinarily, a crossing of the Channel, let alone a crossing preceded by a downriver swim of the River Thames into the North Atlantic, is cause for celebration. But, as I stood, shivering and exhausted in the dark, I knew my journey was just beginning. I had reached France, but my ultimate destination remained almost 10,000 miles away. It would be a triathlon like no other. Over the next 10 months, I would bicycle across 12 countries in Europe and Asia to Kathmandu, and then run more than 450 miles into the Himalaya before climbing to the summit of Mount Everest. As I stood in the moonlight on that chilly beach in France, I was filled with the naiveté and optimism of a man who had given up his life to pursue a boyhood dream that most rational people would have left in the past, a dream that had been almost 20 years in the making. If I’d had any inkling of the suffering and tragedies that would occur over the next 10 months, I would have booked the first flight home. Granted, there was no longer any “home” to go to. Having failed to obtain sufficient sponsorship for the expedition, my wife Cate and I had sold our house, cashed our limited investments, and walked away from two promising careers. We packed a backpack full of books for our 2-year-old son and booked three one-way tickets to London. Now our only path home was over the summit of Mount Everest. Standing in the spotlight just west of Cap Gris Nez, my body cast a long shadow on the sand. At the end of the shadow, on the rocky wall that encased the beach, stood a small statue of the Madonna. Her flowing gown, thoughtful gaze, and outstretched arms were ever recognizable, even though decades of rain had washed away the features of her face. Her outstretched hand pointed to a small cleft in the rock wall that created a barrier between the country and the sea. I looked more closely and saw that the cleft was a small ramp. It was a perfect connection between the sea and the French countryside beyond, and the access point I needed to continue my journey by bike. Miraculously, I had swum directly to my first transition point. As I looked down at my feet, I noticed blood dripping from beneath the largest toenail on my right foot. It was the fourth toenail I had lost in the last month, and I had grown familiar with what to do. I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth, and took a deep breath. Then, in a single motion, I ripped the nail off my toe and flicked it down the beach and out of sight. The light from the escort boat flickered in the night and another wave of cheers arrived at the beach.

Fall 2011


By munching and drinking high-carb beverages for 90-second intervals throughout a day of swimming, Wittmack was able to end each swim with only about a 10,000-calorie deficit.

Physiologists estimate a mara thon swimmer will burn up to

14,000 calories during a typical

“Let’s get the f**k out of here mate!” Andy screamed. I picked up three small rocks and stuffed them into my swimsuit. Then I headed back to the escort boat to an incredibly seasick Cate, then back to England where our two-yearold son James was fast asleep.



When I was younger, I believed expeditions were like other any other sport. The goal would always be clear. The expedition team would be strategically composed of people with the right talents and skills. The expedition would begin, and it would end with the goal accomplished. And, most importantly, fulfillment would come from the satisfaction of reaching the goal. But over the last 20 years of exploration and adventure, I have learned expeditions are not like sport. They’re more


20-mile swim.

like life. We embark with a destination in mind, but the colorful fantasy that caused us to set out often fades to a black and white reality. We encounter challenges that we could not have imagined. We struggle to find the creativity and strength necessary to overcome these challenges. Our friends and teammates often disappoint us and fail. Strangers miraculously appear to take their places and help us move forward. And just as any great expedition doesn’t have a clear beginning, it also doesn’t have an end. Like a fallen tree that changes the path of a river, expeditions change the course of our lives, subtly and slowly creating canyons where there had only been rock. Then, when we reach our destination—if we reach our destination—we look back over the great expanse and find that it was the journey that mattered. It was the journey that changed us. Perhaps it was the journey that we sought. If I were to look back, it would be difficult to credit any moment as the genesis of The World Tri. Many trees fell along the way, shaping the course of

my life. My parents divorced when I was in high school, so I signed up for a semester with NOLS in East Africa and learned about adventure. I borrowed the tuition from a local bank, which meant that I returned from Africa to a job on a concrete crew, where I learned about hard work. After a couple of years, my union boss convinced me to go to college, so I enrolled at a local university, where I developed discipline. I fell in love with a girl and we wanted to start a family, so I went on to law school and learned how to make money. I became a lawyer and a husband, and learned about balance. We had a baby boy, and as a family we learned about unconditional love. Then, when our son was 1, my wife was diagnosed with cancer and we learned the true value of money and love. There we were, making our way into our 30s and finally learning about priorities. As our priorities changed, we became embarrassed by the material possessions that surrounded us and regretful about the time we felt had been wasted pursuing those possessions. Suddenly, we realized it was our shared experiences we valued most. It was the way we invested our time, not our money, that truly brought us satisfaction and fulfillment. We opened our eyes to find everything around us had changed. We took a deep breath and began to plan. I had completed my swim to France 12 hours earlier, but every time I tried to close my eyes to sleep I found myself floundering through the darkness of the Channel. My bed had become a boat—rocking back and forth through my imagination as my stomach turned and the sea pounded in my ears. I stared at the ceiling and tried to take control of my mind, but it was no use. I had been dreaming of swimming the English Channel most of my adult life, and now that I had finally crossed it, the dream didn’t want to let me go.

An even bigger challenge? Charlie’s motivation for the world’s toughest triathlon, as dubbed by ABC News, was seeing his good friend in Nepal nearly lose his child shortly after birth. So he made his adventure about awareness. He joined forces with the Every One campaign of Save the Children. To demonstrate the basic solutions to save children’s lives that exist around the globe, he made a campaign video on behalf of the nonprofit organization. At the top of Mount Everest and the conclusion of this triathlon, Charlie did two things to illustrate his point about basic solutions: a Rubik’s cube and a flag from Save the Children. He solved the puzzle, waved the flag, and began his descent. Save the Children serves impoverished, marginalized and vulnerable children and families in more than 120 nations with the mission of creating a world in which every child has the right to survival, protection, development, and participation. For more information about Charlie and Save the Children, see

A gentle breeze blew through the window of our third-floor bedroom, filling the room with salty air and completing the illusion that I was still at sea. As I listened to the curtains tap against our bedroom wall, I could hear Cate breathing softly beside me—each breath echoing the waves that were rolling up the rocky beach outside our window. James was curled up into a ball between us, tucked neatly under Cate’s left arm with his little nose and eyes buried safely into her ribs. Months earlier, I had often woken up early to train, only to discover that James had snuck into our bedroom in the night. In this quiet state, my son simultaneously became the source of my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. I was torn between my desire to savor these precious and fleeting moments of parenthood and my ambition to complete a goal I had pursued for almost two decades. Most mornings when I woke to this dilemma, I decided I could do both. I wrapped my arms around my family and delayed my workout for 20 minutes. Hours later, on the back end of a 20,000-yard workout, I frequently wondered whether those moments would be so special without the context that my training and expeditions provided. For years, I had lived in a tiny little space that I had chiseled out of the dichotomy of security and adventure as I simultaneously pursued two sets of incompatible dreams. In one life, I had a wife and a son whom I adored and a fulfilling career that paid the bills and offered a promising future. In my other life, I had become obsessed with achieving a set of objectives that civilized society had, for the most part, deemed impossible, often with the very real threat of physical harm or even death. It had taken 15 years for me to find a balance between these two worlds. I pursued my marriage, my career, and parenthood with the passion of a man who recognizes these things as the incredible gifts that might all be gone tomorrow. At the same time, I drew on the security that was provided by my family and career to find strength to dig deeper in pursuit of the impossible. Inside the dichotomy of security and adventure, I found strength. As the bed began to rock again, I decided to get up and begin the process of patching my body back together. Marathon swimming is an incredibly rigorous sport, but the hangover that results from a 20-mile swim is far worse than the challenges of the swim itself. Physiologists estimate a marathon swimmer will burn up to 14,000 calories during a typical 20-mile swim. If you have an experienced escort pilot, a well-organized support team, and a carefully planned feeding program, you may be able to replace up to 4,000 of those calories during a day of open-water swimming with a highcarbohydrate energy drink tossed overboard to you every 45 minutes. If the seas are calm and you can successfully reach the bottle, your escort pilot will allow you to tread water or float on your back for up to 90 seconds while you attempt to ingest the drink. If you can down the entire drink between the waves, you’ll get your 4,000 calories, leaving you with a 10,000-calorie deficit for your daily swim. This deficit will cause your body to enter a state of shock after about six hours of swimming, as you literally begin to digest yourself. Some English Channel swimmers have reported losing more than a pound per hour of swimming. The history books on Channel swimming are filled with stories of swimmers who successfully reached France only to

Fall 2011


Above: Charlie and Cate, along with 2-year old son James, gave up the possessions they had accrued over the years to pursue a new dream on the world triathlon. Right: After covering 251 miles in a wetsuit, Wittmack jumped on a bike to cross the 9,000 miles to Kathmandu.

Inside the dichotomy of security

and adventure,

I found strength.



collapse on the beach at Cap Gris Nez. The trouble with collapsing on French soil is that you can’t just catch a ride to the hospital in Calais. Swimming across the Channel is not a legally recognized method of entry into France, and there is no immigration post at Cap Gris Nez. Accordingly, after completing the crossing, you have to swim back to your escort boat and take a very long boat ride back to Dover, England. Fortunately, I made it safely back to England before my body crashed. My muscles burned, and my joints ached deeply. I was covered in a light sweat, and I knew from experience my fever would continue to climb for several more hours before breaking. Each pulse of blood through my body caused a sharp pain to course from my brain to my eyes, and my heart was beating wildly. The tendons around my shoulders had been abused, and my arms were involuntarily locked at my sides. During the previous weeks of swimming, I had aspirated a dangerous amount of seawater, and my ribs were bruised from the coughing fits that resulted. One of the bones in my left forearm hurt quite a bit more than usual, and I wondered


whether I might have a stress fracture. My stomach had given up trying to find the nutrients required to rebuild my body and was protesting with a painful cramp. From my fingertips to my toes, everything ached. Even the hair on my head hurt, having spent the better part of each day trapped inside a tight swimming cap. I leaned on my left arm as I attempted to roll out of bed, but my limbs had checked out hours earlier. As I weighted my arm, it collapsed, and I cascaded out of the bed onto the hard wooden floor. I landed solidly on my right shoulder and hip as a new layer of agony coursed across my body. Not wanting to awaken James, I clenched my teeth together and swallowed a scream. Then I stood up, dusted myself off, and carefully limped down three flights of stairs to the kitchen. Today, I would begin a bicycle ride to Kathmandu, Nepal. But first, I had to find some breakfast. Charlie went on to complete the world's longest triathlon—over 8,000 miles­—in 10 months. He leverages his expeditions to complete a variety of humanitarian projects. Watch: Charlie’s endeavor required some creativity in the face of adversity. Scan this QR code to see one example, or go to and search for “brian’s shorts b-a-n-a-n-a-s.”

Alumni Trips

If a month is too much to ask from the boss, the NOLS Alumni office offers shorter trips specifically designed for our working grads. We encourage you to bring family and friends 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 vacations, 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 non-refundable 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

Contact us at alumni@ to receive an Alumni offerings brochure, which has the full line-up of trips, seminars and reunions.

Rock Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park

Canyon Hike

This trip takes place in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. To maximize climbing time, you’ll be based in a rustic area campground. Designed for climbers of all experience levels, this seven-day camp focuses on skills—climbing techniques, rope handling, belaying, protection placement, traditional and sport climbing systems, rappelling, and lead climbing theory. You’ll also develop face and crack climbing skills and gain experience with multi-pitch climbing. Bring your camera to record the desert’s unique, sundrenched beauty.

On this trip you will live and travel in the desert environment with a focus on the area’s natural and human history and geology. This six-day trip traverses a 26-mile section of Grand Gulch and Bullet Canyon, one of the top NOLS hiking destinations in Utah.

Date: Feb. 24–March 1, 2012 | Price: $1,495

Keelboat Sailing in the Grenadine Islands— Day Skipper Certification Date: March 20–27, 2012 | Price: $1,995

Join us on a weeklong sailing trip in the breathtaking Grenadines aboard two three-cabin, 39- to 44-foot keelboats. Twelve students and two instructors will explore the colorful world of the Caribbean, dipping inside the many cays and isles of the archipelago. The English-speaking and UK-governed Grenadines is an unsurpassed sailing classroom with sheltered bays, scenic islands, and fairly predictable and student-friendly winds. Students will learn advanced skills with the goal of gaining the ability to independently charter and skipper their own boats. International Sail and Power Academy Skipper certification is available.

Date: March 26–31, 2012 | Price: $995

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Date: April 17–25, 2012 | Price: $3,475

Venture into the breathtaking wildlife and culture of Tanzania for the opportunity to climb to the top of one of the world’s seven summits. Kilimanjaro stands at 19,340 feet and is the “roof of Africa.” This is a challenging and rewarding trip that is sure to leave memories that will last a lifetime.

Tahiti Coastal Navigation

Dates: May 17–19, 2012 | Price: $475

Tahiti Keelboat Sailing

Dates: May 20–27, 2012 | Price: $2,200

During the coastal navigation class, which takes place the three days prior to the Tahiti Sailing trip, you will gain essential costal navigation skills. We will practice chart work and learn navigational theory on land, then put those lessons to work out on the water. Then, join us as we sail from island to island, where you will learn seamanship (or hone the skills you already have), navigation, and other important skills of expedition sailing. There will also be plenty of time to discover the world down below while snorkeling.

Alumni Reunions

Watch for spring reunions in your area.



We’re teeing up alumni events in Denver, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Jackson, Seattle, and Missoula. See you there!


Alumni reunions bring NOLS into your community for networking, camaraderie, tales of adventure, food, raffles, and fun. Reunions were held in cities around the country this fall. Grads were treated to great presentations by NOLS instructors Keith Heger and Rob Walker on their recent expeditions.

Keith Heger Keith shared his Pole-to-Pole journey from 2009, in which he stood on the South Pole Jan. 25 and a short three months later concluded a grueling 35-day expedition to the North Pole on April 25. As a part of a two-man team, Keith created one of the most fascinating North Pole documentaries in modern times: Into the Cold.

Rob Walker  Rob presented “The Three Rivers Traverse Expedition,” an extraordinary boot, canoe, and packraft adventure from Skagway, in southeast Alaska, to Kaktovik on the Beaufort Sea. His remarkably challenging, human-powered journey explored 1,450 miles of the vast Yukon and Alaskan Arctic wilderness. His three-month expedition was a human-powered feat that required two summers to complete.

Photos from top: Steven Brutger, Keith Heger, Rob Walker

For more specific details, visit or email


Play Again

What are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature?

NOLS grads will not be surprised by the evidence and conclusions presented in the 80-minute film Play Again, which follows a group of self-professed teen “screen addicts” as they head outdoors on their first camping trip. Although it’s a bit ironic to watch a film about the evils of video, it presents a compelling, but unsurprising, list of statistics about modern youths’ disconnect from nature and constant connection to an expanding array of screens. From TVs to cell phones to online social media to immersive video games, today’s young people spend 90 percent of their time indoors for an average of seven hours daily with entertainment media. Play Again initially interviews its articulate subjects about their screen habits and perspectives. The mix of teens is diverse yet depressingly similar in how video connection largely defines their identities, days, and social frameworks. Much of the film covers the group’s adventures camping in the Pacific Northwest, but

Play Again’s most interesting element is the post-trip challenge of a “screenfast” (“fasting” instead of consuming video media). Witnessing the kids’ video withdrawal in their home environments is illuminating in the context of new NOLS students returning home from their expeditions. Play Again’s ultimate thrust is that future generations will make difficult decisions about our planet’s conservation, human consumption, and ecology, all of which require awareness of, and belief in, stewardship. But today’s youth face a societal uphill challenge to participate in the immersive, regenerative and real world of the outdoors. Play Again provides a worthwhile and intimate view into contemporary teens’ relationship with media. Reviewed by Rich Brame, Alumni Relations Director. © 2011, Ground Productions

NOLS Soft Paths, 4th Edition By Rich Brame and David Cole

When NOLS Soft Paths was first written in 1987, it integrated practical techniques developed over decades of ecological and social research to give backcountry recreationists tools to make better decisions in minimizing their impact on wilderness. It has long been the go-to resource for Leave No Trace skills and ethics, even before the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor ethics was opened in 1994. The initial Soft Paths recognized ecological impacts on the land, water, and wildlife, as well as social impacts—how one’s use of the wilderness could affect others’ experience. The goal was to prevent our wild places from “being loved to death.” Since that first edition, the need to enjoy our public recreational lands without harming them has become ever more profound. Recreational wilderness use continues to grow, making it more imperative than ever to walk on “soft paths.” This new edition includes expanded

information on camping practices, and it prescribes better minimum-impact techniques across many outdoor environments, such as deserts, rivers, coasts, tundra, and snow, as well as updated practices specific to activities like horsepacking and camping in bear country. It is also NOLS’ second full-color book, with spectacular photos by NOLS instructors. In addition to leading NOLS’ early Leave No Trace curriculum development, author Rich Brame has also taught NOLS conservation practices in the wilderness on five continents over his 27+ year career with NOLS. Coauthor David N. Cole, Ph.D., (see page 24) is a research geographer with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont. Reviewed by Joanne Haines, Book Publishing Coordinator. © 2011, Stackpole Books, $19.95

The Nature Principle By Richard Louv

Modern-day society and its distractions do not allow people to think through problems. The result is a condition called continuous partial interruption. “Electronic immersion without a force to balance it creates a hole in the boat, draining our ability to pay attention, think clearly, be productive, and creative,” writes Richard Louv in his latest book dedicated to the adult version of Nature Deficit Disorder, The Nature Principle. The premise of Louv’s book is what he has coined the nature principle, which “suggests that … the future will belong to the naturesmart—those … who develop a deeper understanding of nature, and who balance the virtual with the real.” Although formalized by Louv in this book, the principle lies at the heart of the NOLS experience. On one hand, in order to provide our students with a true wilderness experience, we do not permit them to take iPods or phones into the field. On the other hand, “nature-smart” instructors who already have an appreciation for the wilderness carry devices like the iPod Touch, in lieu of papers that often get wet and damaged. Instructors can download all curriculum and class preparation materials to a single object the size of one hand. Although nothing about The Nature Principle is revolutionary, the book is thoroughly engaging. Throughout, Louv refers to fascinating studies, such as one of lab rats that shows intelligence is enhanced by exposure to a microbe found in dirt. Louv, author of bestseller Last Child in the Woods, also introduces us to characters who are at the front and center of the movement to reconnect humans with nature. Perhaps the most compelling suggestion he makes is that we are not faced with a choice of technology or nature. Progress is embracing both. Reviewed by Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin. © 2011, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Fall 2011


Gear Room

Iconic NOLS gear: The Banks Fry-Bake

The Pan That Started a Revolution By Jared Steinman, WMI Equipment Assistant


The National Outdoor Leadership School is started by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt






At 19, Pam Banks enrolls in a NOLS Instructors Course

Billy cans are used to store and cook food. “Spooza” (cooked glop stuck in cans) is widespread and is the leading cause of sickness


“perfect pan” together after he watched her lug around a giant cast iron skillet in her backpack for the duration of the trip. Pam refused to carry Teflon pans because early models were not durable and the coating often flaked after hard use. Pam needed something better. She needed a lightweight pan that would hold up to years of wear and tear in the backcountry. In 1978, after perfecting the design and experimenting with the manufacturing process, Pam ordered 12 pans be sent to NOLS Rocky Mountain. Before she could even lay eyes on them, though, the box had been opened and pans had been taken. The first battery of tests were performed in some of the harshest conditions in all of the lower 48 states. The feedback she received from the first models was great—so great, in fact, she had 200 additional pans made the following year (150 of which were for NOLS.) Since those early years of product testing, NOLS students have carried Pam’s frying pan in and out of the backcountry, creating meals that most, even in their wildest of dreams, could not imagine possible. From pipinghot pepperoni pizza to delectable delicacies like cinnamon rolls and cherry pies, students have been pushing the limits of what’s possible in some of the most wild and remote areas on the planet.



The idea for the frybake is born and the Banks order 12 Pam takes family trip carrying a 14” cast-iron skillet

The fry-bake made possible backcountry meals some students couldn’t create in the front-country. Courtesy of Tracy Baynes/STEP



The fry-bake lid is redesigned to prevent coals from slipping off the top

Pam orders first big shipment of 200 pans (50 for herself and 150 for NOLS)


23 years after the Fry-Bake’s last innovation, Pam is at it again “cooking” up a new design for her line of dependable backcountry cooking pans

The smaller, lighter “alpine model” is created

Illusrations: Ashley Reeves

It starts with a flat, 15-inch circle of aluminum. With a tool called a circle sheer, this aluminum sheeting is cut into shape before being spun over a mold and formed into the shape of a pan. After the edge is cut and smoothed out, in a process called “de-burring,” the pan is sent to the factory, where it will receive its Uniform Anodic Coating. This process begins when small electrodes are attached to each pan. The rack of 200 electrode-equipped pans is then dipped in a pool of sulphuric acid and the pans are given a jolt of 45 volts. Upon receiving this charge, the surface of the aluminum is attacked by the acid, which effectively eats away at and impregnates the aluminum with the hardcoat treatment. An hour later, the pans are ready to for cooking. This process has seen very few changes since the pan’s early days. The Banks FryBake frying pan has accompanied NOLS students on over 6,500 courses around the world since its creation in 1979. The Banks Fry-Bake is the brainchild of NOLS instructor Pam Banks, who drew up a blueprint in a coffee shop after a family trip in 1977. Pam’s father, Pete owned a metal shop and suggested they create the

Get Out There

Take a hike in the

Pemigewasset Wilderness Area By Doug Raymond, Fall Semester Rockies '90 & Wilderness First Aid '11

Editors note: To help make it easy for you to revisit the outdoors after your course, this new section details simple, weekend-themed adventures supplied and field tested by NOLS grads. Send us your easy trip overview, and we’ll send you a cool gift if we use it. Activity:

Two-day, point-to-point hike traversing five of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks in the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area of the White Mountain National Forest. The hike’s views and fall colors are stunning, and it’s an easy 2.5-hour drive from Boston. The 20-mile hike gains and loses just over 5,000 feet of elevation. Description:


On a weekend trip, consider camping Friday night at the Forest Service’s Hancock Campground on the scenic Kancamagus Highway ($20, first-come basis). This sets you up for a quick start on the two-day hike. Because it’s a southbound, point-to-point hike, you’ll need to use a vehicle shuttle or a pair of vehicles (White Mountain National Forest Parking Permit required) to facilitate transportation before and after the hike.

Day One: Drop a car at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center across from the Hancock Campground. Drive or shuttle to the North Twin Trailhead off Route 3. Climb North Twin The “Shuttle Connection”  ( can facilitate Gear & Hints:

vehicle options on this one-way hike (~$13/ person). You’ll need seasonally-appropriate overnight pack items for New England. Guyot Campsite has a shelter and good water. A bear bag or a canister is a must for this area. with  reasonable fitness, thisForis aadults perfect hike Insider’s Thoughts:

for viewing fall foliage. If the Guyot Campsite is full (or getting full), ask the caretaker about the much quieter “overflow” spot on the ridge. Check out the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery in nearby Lincoln, N.H. for post-hike refreshments.

An adventure doesn’t require 30 days. This crew of Boston alumni hiked this point-to-point hike in the Pemigewasset Wilderness in a weekend. Courtesy of Doug Raymond

(4,761 feet) and South Twin (4,902 feet), gaining most of the trip’s elevation over nine miles of gradually rising trail and three rockhop water crossings. Overnight at Guyot Campsite (Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) fee $8).

Day Two: Hike between summits on the tree-line ridge to West Bond (4,541 feet) and Mt. Bond (4,698 feet). Continue on the ridge trail to Bondcliff (4,265 feet). Enjoy some of the best views in the White Mountains, photo ops and the remote, quiet setting. There is boulder hopping on this 11-mile section of ultimately descending trail which finishes with a gentle, easy section of old railroad bed to the trailhead. The hike ends at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center.

References: AMC White Mountain Guide, AMC White Mountain Map #2 or the Wilderness Map Company’s Exploring New Hampshire White Mountains Topographic Map & Guide. Check the White Mountains National Forest website ( for current conditions and regulations. Doug Raymond (Fall Semester Rockies ‘90 & Wilderness First Aid ‘11) and a crew of Boston alumni stalwarts hiked this route in September.

Wilderness Medicine Quiz Medicine Quiz Answer (from pg 8)

ANSWER: B Warming with the radiant heat of an open flame or heater, with hot water from a faucet, warm air from a hair dryer or by massage is known to cause significant tissue damage. Rapid warming in warm water is the ideal treatment.

Fall 2011 23

Recipe Box


2011 Alumni Awards

Jalapeño Grits Submitted by Casey Pikla, Word of Mouth Coordinator

On Oct. 15, much of the NOLS community gathered at Headquarters in Lander, Wyo. for our annual meeting and the culminating banquet, at which a number of awards were doled out. Luis Camargo Alumni Achievement Award

This recipe is to be prepared at home, as it makes a large batch. The dry mixture can then be divided into individual meals (typically about four ounces per person per meal) for consumption in the field. Depending on the system you’re using, this will generate about four meals for your enjoyment after a long day of walking.

Jantzen and Dillon Wray Alumni Service Award


The Alumni Achievement Award is given to an alumnus who has taken what they’ve learned at NOLS, has been successful and achieved a great deal in the outdoor recreation, education or conservation industry. This year’s award went to Luis Camargo (SIC 1998, former WMI & NOLS Instructor) founder of the Colmbian nonprofit Organización para la Educación y Protección Ambiental (“OpEPA”), whose mission is to connect youth with the outdoors. During the past decade, OpEPA has introduced environmental education and ethics to over 20,000 economically-challenged youth. Through OpEPA, Luis has demonstrated an unwavering and inspiring dedication to protecting the natural resources of Colombia.

1 cup instant grits ½ cup nut mix ½ cup crushed Fritos ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese ¼ cup dried jalapeños

¼ cup bacon bits or imitation bacon bits ½ teaspoon onion powder ½ teaspoon garlic powder Pinch of salt

At home: Prepare the nut mix by combining equal parts almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is granulated, but not powdered, and set aside. Prepare the crushed Fritos in the same fashion and set aside. Both the nut mix and Fritos are a great way to add calories without adding much weight. Combine instant grits, nut mix, crushed Fritos, Parmesan cheese, dried jalapeños, bacon bits, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt in a large container. Using a scale, measure the desired amount of grits mixture to take into the backcountry and place in a bag. In the backcountry: Boil ½ cup of water for each serving. Remove the pot from the stove, and pour a serving of the grits mix into the water. Place the pot in an insulating cozy for about five minutes, then enjoy!

Watch: Watch Casey’s mastery in the backcountry kitchen as he makes these grits in the latest episode of The NOLS Cooking Show by scanning this QR code or by searching “cooking show” at NOLS.TV.

The Alumni Service Award is given to devoted grads who have served the school in exemplary ways as NOLS pursues its mission to teach leadership, conservation, and outdoor skills. This year’s award recognizes brothers Jantzen and Dillon Wray (both Fall Semester Baja 2009) for their consistent and heartfelt promotion of NOLS during their musical career travels. From donated performances at NOLS events, to lessons on leadership during radio interviews, Dillon and Jantzen have been tireless advocates of the school. David Cole NOLS Stewardship Award The NOLS Stewardship Award, presented annually since 1990, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional stewardship of public lands and the environment. NOLS chose to honor Cole for the significant body of research he has accumulated in the field of recreation ecology, as well as for the works he has authored on the subject. In addition to numerous impact monitoring sourcebooks and procedures, Cole co-authored “Wildland Recreation: Ecology and Management,” which is widely regarded as the seminal work in wilderness recreation management and science.



NOLS faculty and staff were also honored, with awards going to Chris Brauneis, Kurt Hotchkiss, Andrew Knutsen, Jamie Musnicki, Deborah Nunnink, and Jesse Quillian.



Contact the Alumni Office at (800) 332-4280 or to find contact information for any of your coursemates. Grads from the ‘70s Chip Hunter Mountain Guide ’71 and former instructor After leaving NOLS, Chip worked for an Outward Bound program in Florida. He was a studio potter for a number of years, but eventually became a professor of counseling psychology, teaching for 15 years in Florida, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Fiji. Chip left full-time teaching last year to become a mental health officer for Doctors Without Borders. He spent much of last year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ted Forsberg Wind River Wilderness ‘71 While in the Tetons last fall, Ted finally had the opportunity to visit the EXUM Guides base camp and saw the plaque with photos of Glenn Exum and Paul Petzoldt. It had been 39 years since he was a NOLS student in the Wind Rivers. Ted resides in Tucson, Ariz. Grads from the ‘80s Tara Waters Lumpkin Semester in Kenya ’80

Tara’s NOLS experience inspired her to start an online multi-media platform called Izilwane ( The all-volunteer e-zine focuses on biodiversity loss and human relationships with the environment. They are looking for volunteers, writers, photographers, videographers, bloggers, and donations. If you want to share your recent trip outdoors, this is the venue for you. Tara would also love to hear from anyone who was in her NOLS Kenya course in 1980. Email: Grads from the ‘00s Charles ‘Charlie’ Brummitt, Wind River Wilderness ‘05 Charlie has been traveling the globe for his PhD research. He recently returned from South Korea, a country where the unofficial national sport is hiking, given all the mountains there (70 percent of the country!). Charlie has transferred his NOLS hiking skills from the backcountry of Wyoming to the steamy mountains above the urban jungle of Seoul.

Wilderness Quiz

Photo: Carl Montgomery

Wilderness Quiz Answer (from page 6)

Answer: B  On April 22, 2009, in celebration of International Earth Day, the Director General of Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) declared Band-e-Amir as Afghanistan’s first national park. Band-e-Amir is a series of six lakes in central Bamyan Province. The lakes present a stunning visual landscape, with their clear, azure-blue color set against red-rock cliffs and dry grasslands. The lakes are held back by natural travertine dams, created by calcium deposits. Some of the dams are breathtaking: 30-foot rock walls stretching across the valley in long, graceful arcs. The combination of desert, water, and rock make for landscapes that rival those of national parks anywhere in the world. Though much of the park’s wildlife has been lost, recent surveys indicate it still contains ibex (a species of wild goat) and urial (a type of wild sheep), along with wolves, foxes, smaller mammals and fish, and various bird species.

Kris Grant Wyoming Adventure ’08, Wind River Wilderness ’10 Kris is working on a fishing boat to fund an expedition in North Cascades National Park next summer. Kris starts his senior year of high school this fall and is considering Colorado College in the future. David W. James Wilderness EMT ’09 Last summer David helped Team USA take sixth in the International Association of Ultrarunners World Trail Ultramarathon Championships in the Connemara region of Ireland. A few weeks later, he won the USATF 100 Mile Trail National Championship in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Marriages & Engagements: Michael Spayd Mountain Instructor Course ’01 and Allison Holmes Mike and Allison were married Sept. 3 in Carbondale, Colo. on a beautiful piece of property near their home. It was a wonderful celebration filled with family and friends. Kurt Simer SW Mountain Instructor Course ’08, current instructor and Fay Cleaveland Kurt and Fay were married Sept. 10 at her parent’s home in Omaha, Neb. Kurt’s best man was another NOLS instructor, Sam Christman. Kurt is the son of Peter and Cyndy Simer, both former NOLS instructors. Katie Neary Absaroka Wilderness ’02, Mountain Instructor Course ’07 and Scott Wood Katie and Scott were married Sept. 3 on the bank of Jakey’s Fork Creek in Dubois, Wyo. They are currently living in Jackson, Wyo., where Scott owns a graphic design firm and

Katie works in marketing. Katie is the daughter of former NOLS instructors Dave Neary and Carolyn Gillette. Nicholas McDade Absaroka Wilderness ’07 and Lori Eick Lori and Nick married June 4 at The Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio. The couple resides in the rolling hills of Ohio. New Additions: Ann Kelley Giardino and Kevin Giardino, former instructors Ann and Kevin are the proud parents of a baby girl born July 28. Mattson Marie Giardino weighed 9.1 pounds and was 21 inches long at birth. Matty and her parents reside in Farmington, N.M. Brian Darr Outdoor Educator Semester ’99 and Traci Darr, former NOLS employee Brian and Traci are the proud parents of a baby boy, Cedar Ridge, born Aug. 16,. He was welcomed into the family by his big sisters Zoey and Aspen. Emily Shoutis-Frank Wind River Mountaineering ’96, Mountain Instructors Course ’02 & Latane Frank Mountain Instructors Course ’99 Emily and Latane are the proud parents of a baby boy, Christopher Mawson Frank, born Sept. 25 and weighing in at seven pounds, 11 ounces. Jed Sims Semester in Patagonia ’94 and Olivia Webber Jed married Olivia Marie Webber in June, 2008 in Alaska. Jed and Olivia are now the proud parents of Diego Marcello Sims, born Feb. 11 in Anchorage. Diego weighed seven pounds, eight ounces. Continued on page 26

Fall 2011 25


In Remembrance: Christine Fayad Semester in Kenya, Mountain Instructors Course ’75 Christine, a former NOLS instructor from the 1970s, passed away on July 29 due to cancer. She was a loving wife to her husband and best friend Vince, also a former NOLS instructor, and a loving mother to her children Lanner and Tercel.

Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS Often Imitated, Never Duplicated

If you spend any time in remote locations, you need wilderness medicine training. For 21 years, the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS (WMI) has defined the standards in wilderness medicine training. With a wide range of course and certification opportunities, our graduates travel into the backcountry prepared to act with confidence, make complex decisions, and manage emergencies. To find a course near you, contact us at or (866) 831-9001.

Ronald ‘Chris’ Sekul Absaroka Wilderness ‘96 Chris died at his home in Jackson, Miss. on June 11. He is survived by his mother Toni Neely Sekul, father Ronald Sekul and sisters Elizabeth and

Olivia. Chris loved animals, music, martial arts, golf, and scuba diving. He enjoyed touring as a road manager for the New Orleans band Galactic. Edwin ‘Bean’ Bowers River Instructor Course ‘95, former instructor Bean Bowers of Ridgeway, Colo. died in July after a brief battle with cancer. He was only 38. Bean started his career at NOLS in 1995, working over 80 climbing and whitewater weeks in the field. Bean was a respected and well-liked instructor. He is survived by his wife, Helen.

Branch Notes

Thomas Plotkin Semester in India ‘11 Thomas Plotkin, 20, of Minnetonka, Minn., died near Munsiari, India after falling from a trail on his NOLS India course. He was an impressive student athlete and a young man with great compassion. He was on the course as a junior at the University of Iowa, where he was studying international business. His coursemates honored him Sept. 29, and a memorial will be held in his honor at a later date.

Featured course:

Wilderness Medicine Expeditions for Medical Professionals

Skiing in the Tetons February 26–March 4, 2012, Driggs, ID This expedition offers an unparalleled opportunity for medical professionals who want to learn practical, hands-on wilderness medicine education, and earn CEU’s while exploring the stunning Teton Wilderness in winter. Experience the realities of wilderness medicine and decision-making on a true wilderness expedition.

• All of that epic snow will be great for winter participants. We have added another 12-day, age 23 and older winter ski course in March. • We are also running a new Wilderness Medical Expedition with WMI in late February. Participants can earn continuing education credits and ski powder! • Teton Valley has purchased sets of Alpine Touring (AT) gear to give some courses a choice between alpine and telemark skiing.



NOLS Teton Valley: • The numbers are in! Sustainability measures cut electric use by 35 percent and heating oil use by 226 gallons in fiscal year 2010! • The tiger moth caterpillars are very furry and have lots of black in their coloring. That means another big winter is lining up for the Tetons. Maybe we will repeat last winter’s totals of over 600 inches of snow in the mountains!


NOLS Alaska: • 2011 season highlights included our Denali Expedition reaching the nation’s highest point, the Brooks Range Expedition reaching the Chukchi Sea after paddling 446 miles in folding canoes, and a NASA course paddling in Prince William Sound. • Our first packraft course was a great success. Four instructors and 12 students traversed the entire Talkeetna Range, traveling 120 miles on water and 120 miles on land over the course of a month.

• Our “Sustainability Cookies” raised enough money to buy a new wood-lifting fork for our tractor. In winter, wood heats our main building and cuts energy use. NOLS Southwest: • We’ve acquired two new permits this year and will be operating our first ever California-based rock climbing courses at Joshua Tree National Park and Suicide Rocks/Taquitz climbing areas. • After a severely dry spring in the desert, we’ve been thankful for an almost normal summer monsoon season. September’s above-average precipitation has allowed some staff to run the local (normally dry) washes in rivercraft! NOLS New Zealand: • Sept. 4 marked the one-year anniversary of last season’s major earthquake. Since that 7.1 magnitude event, the branch has endured 8,374 seismic shocks with a 5.1 magnitude shake as recently as September.

Photo: Fredrik Norrsell

Thomas Plotkin

Alexander Briceño Outdoor Educator Semester ‘10 Alexander “Alex,” much beloved brother and son, died suddenly on Sunday, Sept. 11 in Houston, Texas at the age of 28. Alex attended St. Thomas High School in Houston and the University of Alabama. A private memorial gathering will be held at a later date.

Wild Side of Medicine

Medical decisions:

Field warming of frostbite By Tod Schimelpfenig, WMI Curriculum Director

made this decision, for real, in the field. Once tissue is frozen, damage is done. Thawing is the next critical phase, which, practically, might be slow warming in armpits or on a friendly belly but ideally is rapid and by warm-water immersion. Frostnip, the freezing of the outer skin layer, is not the problem. If you see the white, waxy patch on nose, ears, or fingers, and it’s only the surface, warm it immediately. It will burn, sting, and eventually heal. If it’s a deeper injury, you have a decision to make. Once the underlying cause is corrected— be it exposure, hypothermia, wet or inadequate insulation, dehydration, or poor nutrition—most frostbite will spontaneously thaw. Trying to keep it frozen is difficult and will likely only increase the damage. The ideal thawing technique is rapid warming in a warm water bath at 37°C to 39°C (98.6watch: Watch the NOLS bootie system video for 102.2°F). Practically, with more tips on keeping your feet warm to prevent the frozen ends of the fingers frostbite. You can also find this video by searching and toes we commonly see “winter warmth” at NOLS.TV.

One of the Wilderness Medicine Institute’s (WMI) most important wilderness medicine curriculum themes is the NOLS leadership skill of judgment and decision-making. When we perform first aid in town, we don’t often make critical decisions. Our care is simple. We can quickly and easily get the patient to the doctor. In the wilderness, our care may not be so simple, and transport decisions have real consequences. New questions arise: How sick or injured is this person? How quickly do they need to see a doctor? What is the risk of the evacuation to the patient, rescuers, and expedition mates? Might my treatment decision cause harm to the patient? The decision of whether or not to thaw frostbite in the field is a prime example of judgment with consequences. I know. I’ve

Decision-making skills

in the field, a warm armpit or belly often will suffice. However, if the frostbite is extensive or accompanied by hypothermia or other serious medical problems, it may be safer to keep the part frozen until it can be thawed once, and well. It is essential to avoid a freeze-thawfreeze cycle, which produces tremendous tissue damage. This is the decision I faced: to thaw or to walk. I kept my toes—solid as a rock, numb as wood, cold as ice, and white as a sheet—frozen for hours. I walked six miles and found prompt transport to a hospital, where rapid warming in water, and a bit of luck, saved my toes. This tough decision is best made with a sound understanding of the consequences of freeze-thaw-freeze, the dangers of prolonging the frozen state, and the reality that thawed tissue is not only sensitive and easily damaged but also difficult to ski on, in the case of toes. Better yet, the tough decision is best avoided with outdoor skill competence, another NOLS leadership skill. Real Life Drama

informed a nonprofit’s survival By Steven Cutting, Patagonia Mountaineering ‘97

For the last eight years, I have been living and working in Japan at a school called the Asian Rural Institute (ARI), which teaches sustainable agriculture and leadership to community leaders from developing countries. The school is located in northern Japan, so we were shaken up and damaged by the earthquake. We also had to deal with the fact that our beautiful organic farm has been contaminated with radioactive Caesium from the Fukishima Nuclear Power Station. In the weeks after the earthquake, I found myself frequently recalling my NOLS Patagonia Mountaineering Course. These two experiences, more than anything else in my life, demonstrated to me the awesome forces of nature and just how small we humans and all our endeavors on this Earth are. I also began to realize just how much of my “unanticipated” NOLS learning was coming into play. More than the river-crossing techniques,

crampon lessons, or the even our Tyrolean traverse, it was the mental and psychological trials of that course that shaped me as a leader. We are not always in control, rational decisions are sometimes disappointing, plans change—these are just a few of the hard-won lessons. In Patagonia, we ran into obstacle after obstacle, each slowing us down and diminishing our goal of crossing the ice field and taking a toll on the group’s motivation. In the same way, at ARI the damaged buildings, ruined land, and the threat that we would no longer be able to continue our way of life weighed heavy on the hearts of staff. We had to seriously consider canceling our upcoming nine-month training program. Being a non-profit, there was a high risk that such a decision would result in massive loss of funding and permanent closure of the school. This meeting brought me back to the day our NOLS group sat in a circle on the ice and

made the unpleasant decision to turn back rather than pursue our goal of traversing the ice field. It was a deeply disappointing day. Difficult decision making is a part of mountaineering, a part of leadership, and a part of life. At ARI, however, we were able to employ a bit of creative thinking and hold the first three months of training at an alternate location. It took a lot of work, but it allowed us to sustain our program. In a similar spirit of experimentation, we are working to decontaminate our soil with radiation-absorbing plants and by processing contaminated bio-matter through a bio-gas system with a xyolite filter. To me, this is not at all different from the scenario in Patagonia when we got one person safely to the other side of a glacial river to set up a Tyrolean by building a boat of Therma-rests, sleds, and empty fuel containers. For more information about the ARI, check out Fall 2011 27


NOLS Employee Runs for

Scholarship Dollars By Liz Hall, NOLS Development Officer

Running is not just a form of exercise for one NOLS employee. For Pearson Smith, NOLS marketing representative (Australia Backpacking 2008), it is a passion. So it was a natural fit for her to combine a marathon with a chance to raise scholarship funds for NOLS. This spring, Pearson ran her hometown’s Boston Marathon for the first time, beating her goal time of 3 hours, 30 minutes, and raising over $2,000 for the NOLS Annual Fund. When asked what inspired her to link the marathon to fundraising for NOLS, she described the powerful impact of the student experience. “I thought, if I run the Boston Marathon, I’ll run for myself, but how can I do more? How can I make my run go further? I kept being drawn back to my belief in NOLS. I am moved by the school’s mission, the impact I see among students and staff, and their passion for learning and care for wilderness

classrooms,” she said. Her approach was simple: write a letter to friends and family, tell them about the Boston Marathon, and invite them to send a donation to NOLS. It didn’t take long before the donations started rolling in. “By asking folks to give to NOLS in honor of my run in the Boston Marathon, it not only gave me a chance to contribute to future scholarship students, but also gave my friends and family a chance to be involved in two important parts of my life,” Pearson said. “It was inspiring running for my own goals, but even more so knowing that my run was for a larger goal.” Pearson trains for marathons and triathlons in and around Lander, Wyo., where she works at NOLS Headquarters. If you are interested in fundraising for NOLS in connection with a race or athletic event, please contact us at


Shrinking Footprint Has Growing Impact



In 2008, NOLS set the ambitious goal of diminishing our carbon footprint while boosting our enrollment. This year, we saw the results of accepting that challenge: At the end of our 2011 fiscal year, NOLS celebrated a 2.6-percent reduction in our carbon footprint from 2006 levels coupled with an increase in student days over 2010. Each is a huge achievement on its own. When you consider this was also the first year we were able to calculate and include the carbon from our locations in India and the Amazon, it becomes even more worthy of celebration! As our carbon reduction gains momentum, we are excited to engage our faculty, staff, and students on a grander scale. In the


next year, we will tackle our energy use at our International Headquarters in Lander, Wyo., exploring new technologies to help us reduce our fuel use for transportation and extending our education and outreach programs. We look forward to working with you as we continue to expand our educational impact and shrink our environmental footprint. For more information about environmental stewardship and sustainability, check out http:// and_sustainability/sustainability.shtml

Shrink your Footprint: Walking, biking, carpooling, and limiting your vehicle use as much as possible might sound cliche, but several NOLS locations have been able to reduce their gasoline and diesel use by up to 10 percent using these strategies.

Photos from top: Pearson Smith, Ignacio Grez

By Karly Copeland, NOLS Sustainability Coordinator

Midwest Mountaineering, the 2010 Backpacker Magazine Retailer of the Year, Presents

the 53rd Bi-Annual

November 18-20, 2011 100 FREE Presentations 70 Exhibitors EVERYTHING ON SALE!

at Midwest Mountaineering, U of M Campus and Big-Top Tents F r i . 2 - 9 , S a t . 9 - 6 : 3 0 , S u n . 11 - 5


The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour NOLS’s Rob Walker: Alaska’s Three Rivers Traverse Brian Block: Mt Everest Lonnie Dupre: Denali Solo in Winter Dave and Amy Freeman: 900 Miles by Dogsled in NWT. Rod and Sharon Johnson: Utah Canyoneering

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nols risk management trainings are hands-on sessions aimed at building or improving your organization’s risk management plan. every program must invest in their crisis planning, staff preparedness, and legal protocols. all too often, though, these steps are overlooked or incomplete. after training with us, you’ll walk away with the skills and knowledge to apply our strategies to your own program. Visit our website for complete information and to register: • (800) 710-6657 ext. 3

TAKE YOUR LNT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL ENROLL IN A LEAVE NO TRACE MASTER EDUCATOR COURSE TODAY! developed by Nols, the lNt master educator course is the highest level of leave No trace training available. as a graduate of the course, you will be qualified to offer and teach two-day lNt trainer courses.

upcominG courSeS april 29–may 3 backpacking, shenandoah national park, Virginia may 7–11 backpacking, grand staircase escalante national monument, utah June 11–15 backpacking, yellowstone national park, Wyoming august 9–13 sea kayaking, san Juan islands, Washington

for more information on courses and available scholarships visit or call (800) 710-6657 x3

‘Tis the Season to Give» wayS To Give: • Secure online gift • Credit card gift by phone • Check made payable to NOLS Annual Fund nolS annual funD 284 lincoln street, lander, Wy 82520 (800) 332-4280 | |

Belay Off

The Fear of Falling By John Hovey, WMI of NOLS instructor



It wasn’t a dark or a stormy night. It was a crisp and brightly moonlit morning in January on Mount Hood, and I was climbing with my new partner Jon. Our goal was Reid Glacier Headwall, a moderately difficult couloir on the mountain’s west side, which neither of us had climbed before despite our previous independent ascents of Oregon’s highest peak. We considered ourselves to be competent, experienced, safe mountaineers. We were wrong. The winter snow was crusty and strong. We pumped up the Palmer Glacier like it was a StairMaster. At Illumination Saddle, we rested. We strapped on our crampons and tied in short to 10 meters of rope, and I asked Jon who would lead and what he planned to do for protection. “We still have half a mile of easy, descending traverse to the north before we reach the couloir,” Jon said. “When we start going up, I’ll run pro.” We had ice screws and snow pickets ready to go, and Jon’s plan sounded reasonable to me. We turned on our headlamps, checked our equipment one last time, and stepped out off the saddle and onto the 40-degree slope. We planned to traverse it, but the mountain had another idea. Mt. Hood wore a six-inch-thick shell of rime ice that night, dull and impenetrable, that both Jon and I failed to register. Had it been snow, nothing unusual would have happened. As it was, we walked onto the ice and out of luck. My foot slipped and, calmly as I could, I yelled, “falling!” to tell Jon to wait up a second. Thirty feet ahead, he instinctively lunged into self-arrest position, true to form as a seasoned alpine guide. His dive set off a nightmarish chain reaction: instead of clinging in place, Jon rocketed down the slope in a plume of scraped ice. His crampons and ax scratched pitifully and gave no purchase. The last nanoseconds of my life became a grim Bugs Bunny cartoon as I glanced down at the rope tightening around my waist, frowned, and also dropped into self-arrest position. The pick of my axe sunk in about as deep as it would have into an asphalt parking lot. I was going to lose this tug-of-war, and I was going to lose it fast. Hold the fall, John, you must hold the fall…


After taking a fall he thought would kill him, John Hovey has learned, “The path forward is filled with tense moments and scary memories, but unless I’m going to give up the mountains altogether, getting back out there is the only way.”

Snap! You failed. You’re sliding. What now, what now, what now? Try again … Bang! Broken ankle. God it hurts. Lift your feet, lift your feet. Try the ax … Bang! Ax is gone! Oh blank, oh blank, oh blank! What now? Use your arms! Not working. Going faster now. What’s below me? You just killed yourself, John. You just killed both of you. You’ll smash into a boulder soon. Or you’ll fall into a crevasse. Will it hurt or does it just go black? Does it take much longer? We slid forever, and I knew I was a dead man. Then I felt the rope jerk against my harness a second time, and suddenly I wasn’t falling anymore. I was hanging, and I used my good foot to kick into the steep snow. My drinking hose had ripped open and was dribbling juice onto my jacket and pants. Everything smelled like coconut. “Are you okay?” I heard Jon yell from above.

“I don’t know yet. How did we stop?” I yelled back. “I caught us. Snow is soft again down here.” “Thanks.” I checked my altimeter. We had fallen 450 feet. Getting off the mountain was painful enough that I don’t care to relive it too vividly. My ankle turned out to be horribly sprained, not broken, and over the next eight hours or so Jon and I climbed back up to Illumination Saddle and then hobbled back down to my car. My neck and jaw were swollen and cut from where the adze of my ax had slashed them, my shoulder was hurt, and I could not remove my boot for all the pain in my ankle. My thumb was smashed. Physically speaking, my injuries weren’t all that bad. Less than three months after the fall, I was healthy enough to work a hiking

Photos this page: John Hovey; opposite page: Kyle Duba

Left: Hovey ascends Mount Rainier, a comfortable mountaineer before taking a frightening fall. Right: All smiles with these climbing buddies on Moutn Rainier, Hovey learned lessons in blame and friendship on a later attempt at Reid Glacier Headwall on Mount Hood.

course out of NOLS Southwest. But mentally and emotionally? That’s a different story. After the accident, I was a changed person. At first I accepted my half of the responsibility for not choosing a safer climbing strategy to traverse that slope, but I grew more and more bitter as time passed until I convinced myself it was all Jon’s fault. My diet devolved to mostly junk, and I drank too much. Pain and lethargy made me angrier, so I withdrew from my loved ones. Frustrated, I drove to southern California for a few days without telling anyone. Then I got angry at California just for being, well, California, and I drove back home. Nights were the worst. Some nights I would lie in bed and try for hours not to relive the fall, not to feel every minute of terror over and over again. The harder I tried to forget, the stronger the memory came back. Once my injuries healed and my mind began to settle, I gave rock climbing another try. I joined some friends at NOLS Red Rocks Rendezvous. The moment I tied in, I realized my mind was shot for climbing. I was way too scared to even try leading, and I was reluctant just to follow on top-rope. Fear of falling, and its usefulness, is something I’ve examined in detail lately. See, to top-rope, you only need to trust your harness, your rope, your anchor, and your belay, and you can test these things very

matter-of-factly. You can set up your top- now an exercise in willful forgetfulness. The peculiar brand of functional irrationality it rope, climb three feet off the ground, and just sit. The belay holds you and you understand, takes to expose myself to risk again, knowing first-hand that it can hurt me, is slow viscerally, that you are safe. Off you go. and difficult to learn. I may never be able to Leading is different. You still need to believe in your harness, your rope, and your belayer—but you have to trust all three The last nanoseconds of my life became under conditions of the a grim Bugs Bunny cartoon as I glanced much higher force of a fall. down at the rope tightening around my Furthermore, you must trust whatever protection you use, waist, frowned, and also dropped into be it clipping bolts or placing self-arrest position. gear, and you need to know what’s immediately below you and trust you won’t injure yourself. Be- trick myself into believing 100 percent that I cannot fall, now that I know for sure it’s cause every minute of every lead climb presents different objective hazards with different not true. My best tactic is to build up the consequences, you cannot often research or library of injury-free climbing experiences in my head to try to outweigh and overpower test lead falls to gain any assurance. the nasty memory that’s taking up so much So, there is another, bigger thing to manroom at the moment. age besides your gear: your fear. And negative The path forward is filled with tense moexperiences are not useful in managing this ments and scary memories, but unless I’m fear. Not one bit. Bold climbing requires confidence, which going to give up the mountains altogether, grows from the thoughts you hold in your getting back out there is the only way. And, mind. To climb with confidence, you must on that note, I think it’s time I stop writing believe you won’t fall. Those who have never this. I’ve got to head outside for an injuryfree climbing experience. taken a fall do this more easily. But an accident adds too easily and too intensely to the library of negative thoughts available to one’s consciousness. So for me, climbing is

Fall 2011


National outdoor leadership school 284 Lincoln Street Lander, WY 82520-2848 • (800) 710-NOLS THE LEADER IN WILDERNESS EDUCATION


Kumari Rathnayake wrote to us from the field, providing NOLS Headquarters with a chuckle and a work of art—she drew this on the back of a topo map! Kumari is one of our 2010 NOLS and Patagonia Dream Expedition Video Contest winners for her entry, “I Dream of the Appalachian Trail.” The prize? The very course from which she wrote this message. We’ll keep you posted on the next NOLS Patagonia video contest. In the meantime, check out the winning videos at http://www.nols. edu/contest/. 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 ( or the phone at (800) 710-nols.

The Leader - Fall 2011  

The Leader - Fall 2011

The Leader - Fall 2011  

The Leader - Fall 2011