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For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School

Spring 2012

Vol. 27 No. 2

winded in the winds:

A ski traverse of the classic NOLS Course with Liz Hardwick page 16

A new way to explore: NOLS enters the world of packrafting

feature, page 11

Redefine ‘Possible’

belay off, page 30


From the Director

Campaign NOLS: Endowing our Core Values The end of 2011 brought us roughly to the halfway point of Campaign NOLS. This $20 million effort, for both the annual fund and the endowment, was planned to provide long-term funding to implement our strategic plan that is guiding NOLS from 2009 to 2013. When I took my first student course, a Semester in Africa in 1979, NOLS did not have an annual fund, and an endowment was something we didn’t even dream about. NOLS in that era was addressing many other challenges, and the role of philanthropy had not yet been established. A decade later the annual fund was initiated, and support for the annual fund was largely directed toward the growing need for scholarship support. It wasn’t until 1996 that NOLS kicked off our endowment with the first campaign. Today, over 15 years later, our philanthropic support has provided scholarships to thousands of students who otherwise would not have been able to attend a NOLS course. In addition, our now-essential philanthropic support helps fund many areas of our strategic plan, including our research department, local programming out of our international schools, facility expansion, and staff training and development. The last months of 2011 were an especially important time for Campaign NOLS, as we had a significant challenge to which we were rising. Three graduates, volunteers, and supporters had put forth a $2 million challenge. If we successfully hit the $10 million mark by the end of the year, their $2 million pledge would immediately launch us into the second half of the campaign, bringing us to $12 million. I am very pleased to report that we met the challenge and are now focused on the second half. I want to thank all of our donors, volunteers, and staff who played key roles in bringing us to this point. NOLS has always been an organization that thrives on both challenges and goals. Whether it is a summit (see cover article), a long travel day (see page 5), the perfect baked breakfast (see page 23), or Campaign NOLS, we are compelled by and find satisfaction in challenges. While reaching the midway challenge provided its own satisfaction, we are far more thrilled to watch and implement the many goals and stories that are only possible through this philanthropic support, both in the coming year and in perpetuity through the endowment. The support and engagement of our supporters has significantly elevated both our possibilities and our stability as an organization. Possibility and stability may at first appear to be at opposite ends of the scale, but I believe they are both key qualities to guide an organization’s future. I believe fostering both at NOLS will bring us to a healthy future, regardless of the challenges it may bring. Late winter daylight is creeping back as I look toward the Wind River Range on my way home from work. It won’t be long before it’s time to leave the skis behind and seek summer adventures in the mountains. With each passing season, we are fortunate to have the support to make adventure and education available to students of all means. Join us!



John Gans, NOLS Executive Director


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

March 2012 • Volume 27 • No. 2 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 or (800) 332-4280. For the most up-to-date information on NOLS, visit or e-mail A paperless version of The Leader is available online at

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: What do we take home from an expedition?

10 World Triathlon Adventure, Part II

6 Issue Room: Until there’s no water under the bridge

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) 332-4280 or email The answer to last issue’s “Who is This” is Nancy “Gnat” Wells, 1970s NOLS instructor and current NOLS kitchen manager in Lander, Wyo.


Q&A: A perspective on WMI’s entire existence


Alumni in Action: Dixon inspires her peers to be healthy


Alumni Profile: Meet the crew of STS-135

8, 14 Alumni Trips: This issue’s adventure: Lander, Wyoming.

Charlie Wittmack, the man who set and completed the World Triathlon, takes us into a moment on the second leg, biking 9,000 miles from France to Nepal.

21 Reviews: How to, history, and help yourself 22 Gear Room: How would you rate your NOLS bus ride?

12 Packrafting in the Last Frontier

23 Get Out There: Alumni Adventures in Wyoming

Read about how “old age and treachery” gave life to an innovative approach to adventure in Alaska.

24 Recipe Box: Eggs + backpacking 25 Jabberwocky: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives 25 Giving: Easy and painless 26 Sustainability: What’s the future of the NOLS bus? 27 Wild side of medicine: WFA retention study 27 Real Life Drama: WFA recert retention & application

14 Service with a Smile

Alumni Service Projects bring together like minds, the NOLS community, and answers to preservation needs in the backcountry.

28 Branch notes: Insider news from your base 30 Belay Off: What was once impossible …

16 cover: winded in the winds

32 Traverses: A creative take on the NOLS experience

Liz Hardwick and two friends make their way north on skis—enduring colds, blizzards, and blows to self confidence.


Alexa Miles Field Notes, pg 5

Emily Stanley Field Notes, pg 5

Evan Horn Feature, pg 12

Liz Hardwick Winded in the Winds, pg 16

Charlie Wittmack Feature, pg 7

Miles, who lives in Denver with her husband, works as an environmental consultant for Parsons, where she most enjoys doing environmental compliance for the National Park Service. Her husband has instructed for Outward Bound and NOLS. The two spend as much time as they can playing outside.

Stanley is the Program Director with Edge of Seven ( She has a background in experiential education and encourages people to get out and create their own adventures ­the kind that give back. 

Horn is an instructor and the training manager at NOLS. He has been leading outdoor trips since he was in high school, and he has come to particularly enjoy leading instructor courses. Horn’s favorite piece of outdoor gear is the packraft, which he was delighted to write about in this issue of The Leader. Horn lives in Lander, Wyo., and has worked with NOLS for eight years.

Hardwick has been teaching NOLS courses for 10 years. She calls the mountains of British Columbia home but is currently based in Boulder, Wyo. at the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch. She lives there with about 70 horses, her partner, and a dog named Goose.

Wittmack is an attorney and adventurer who lives in Charlotte, N.C. and a 1995 graduate of the 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.

Spring 2012



what do you think? Join the conversation. Join the conversation. 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.

‘Awesome’ i’m a wMi instructor and Nols/wMi grad. i just wanted to tell you that the new Leader arrived in my mailbox this morning and it looks AwesoMe! the format is great and the quality of the read is really improved. Nice work! hope all is good in lander! Jo Rolls, via email

too small unfortunately, one of the things the new leader has is a teeNy-tiNy foNt that is impossible for old eyes like mine. there was plenty of leftover white space. please use it and a bigger font if you want the old alumni to read it. john church, via email

Thanks, Jo! We hope you like this one, too!

We heard this more than once, and we hope you find this issue easier on the eyes.



We are investigating ways to cut paper use and implement tablet-based publications. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can unsubscribe from the hard copy and read the online version at


kudos the new format was a pleasant surprise. Much more engaging. thank you. well done. perhaps lightning will strike for future content. Jeremy Stapleton, via email

mAtt cArter A peanut butter proof

mike pope find a secret rooftop, watch the sunset

Gear room

iConiC nols gear: the banks fry-bake

The pan ThaT STarTeD a revoluTion assistant

iT sTarTs wiTh a fLaT, 15-inch “perfect pan” together after he watched her circle of aluminum. With a lug around a giant cast iron skillet in her tool called a circle sheer, this backpack for the duration of the trip. Pam aluminum sheeting is cut into refused to carry Teflon pans because early shape before being spun over models were not durable and the coating ofa mold and formed into the ten flaked after hard use. Pam needed someshape of a pan. thing better. She needed a lightweight pan After the edge is cut and that would hold up to years of wear and tear smoothed out, in a process called “de-burrin the backcountry. ing,” the pan is sent to the factory, where In 1978, after perfecting the design and it will receive its Uniform Anodic Coating. experimenting with the manufacturing proThis process begins when small electrodes cess, Pam ordered 12 pans be sent to NOLS are attached to each pan. The rack of 200 Rocky Mountain. Before she could even lay electrode-equipped pans is then dipped in a eyes on them, though, the box had been pool of sulphuric acid and the pans are given opened and pans had been taken. The first a jolt of 45 volts. Upon receiving this charge, battery of tests were performed in some of the surface of the aluminum is attacked by the harshest conditions in all of the lower 48 the acid, which effectively eats away at and states. The feedback she received from the impregnates the aluminum with the hard- first models was great—so great, in fact, she coat treatment. An hour later, the pans are had 200 additional pans made the following ready to for cooking. year (150 of which were for NOLS.) This process has seen very few changes Since those early years of product testing, since the pan’s early days. The Banks FryNOLS students have carried Pam’s frying pan Bake frying pan has accompanied NOLS in and out of the backcountry, creating meals students on over 6,500 courses around the that most, even in their wildest of dreams, world since its creation in 1979. could not imagine possible. From pipingThe Banks Fry-Bake is the brainchild of hot pepperoni pizza to delectable delicacies NOLS instructor Pam Banks, who drew like cinnamon rolls and cherry pies, students up a blueprint in a coffee shop after a famhave been pushing the limits of what’s posily trip in 1977. Pam’s father, Pete owned sible in some of the most wild and remote a metal shop and suggested they create the areas on the planet. the fry-bake made possible backcountry meals

Jenn neAl find a mud puddle, or dress up in full rain gear and goggles, stand in a big puddle and convince drivers to splash you as they pass by

some students couldn’t create in the front-country. Courtesy of Tracy Baynes/STEP


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





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 lid is redesigned to prevent coals from slipping

pam orders first big shipment of 200 pans (50 for herself and 150 for nols)

off the top


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


What an obviously good point! There are several options in the Fry Bake: 10.5 inches in diameter by 2 inches deep at 29 ounces and 8 inches in diameter by 1.5 inches deep at 10 ounces.

Illusrations: Ashley Reeves


shelli Johnson i wANt My spot to hAve A cAMerA. only makes sense. “life streaming” coordinates, even with the improved ability to add a text message, is missing something significant... photo of the location.

we asked, “how do you have an adventure when you are stuck in the middle of a city?”

key information i note that your recent article on the banks frybake, plus your ads for the same, never mention a key parameter about this item: its weight. you would have thought that weight would be a concern for those who carry their camping equipment on their back or ask others to do so. Fred Menger, via email by Jared steinman, Wmi eQuipment

we asked, “if you could invent or change a piece of gear, what would it be?”

pocket knife.

We hope you find the content on the following pages exciting and informative.


ditch the paper i always enjoy catching up with The Leader once a year when i go home to visit my parents (The Leader is still sent to my parents as i’ve yet to settle anywhere for more than a few years). but this year when i picked it up, it struck me as sort of ridiculous. why? Nols, the people who instilled with me such a strong respect for environmental awareness all those years ago, still sends out 60,000 of these a run? it’s a waste of resources (physical and financial). i guess it struck me as especially absurd this year because of the market penetration of ipads and other devices. there’s really no need for a hard copy anymore. it’s a nice publication, but is it so essential and important to warrant a 60,000 hard copy run several times a year? there are so many ways and means for getting this out there electronically. email, Apple Newsstand subscriptions, apps, etc. lead! it’s what you do best! cullen Mcgraw, via email

Facebook Feed

colleen sinsky volunteer! there’s a lot to be learned and explored in urban poverty, and you don’t just have to wear a hairnet at a soup kitchen.

Field Notes


Truly a gift for all involved By Emily Stanley, Pacific Northwest Backpacking 2001, and Alexa Miles, Fall Semester Mexico 1999

From where we sat sipping tea in the warmth of the teahouse kitchen, we could smell the Sherpa stew cooking over the open fire. The day had begun working with local Nepali skilled laborers, and by mid-afternoon we had bid farewell to the families that had so generously welcomed us into their homes. After dancing, singing, and emotional goodbyes, we began our steep hike to Taksindu adorned with, or rather completely engulfed in, marigold necklaces and celebratory scarves called “kata.” We were exhausted from the last nine days of construction work but filled with a sense of calm satisfaction so often missing from our everyday lives. In November of 2011, we joined 12 other volunteers to construct a school in the village of Phuleli in the Everest region of Nepal. Although we are alumnae of different NOLS courses, the ties between this volunteer trip and our NOLS experiences are innumerable. NOLS instilled in us a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, a love for adventure, and the ability to approach life with an open mind. These values brought us to Nepal and enabled us to emerge from the experience empowered and inspired. The village of Phuleli is remote, and like NOLS course areas, nature is dominant. Phuleli is inaccessible by vehicle and a two-day walk from the nearest dirt landing strip. Our NOLS experiences prepared us for the rugged terrain and trained us to balance risk and reward. Ultimately, the trip reminded us of our takeaway lessons from NOLS: simplicity in lifestyle is a source of clarity, and people (their differences, similarities, strengths, and the richness of their diverse cultures) are often the greatest sources of learning. In Phuleli, our days were filled with moving and crushing rocks, laying earth bags (polypropylene bags filled with dirt that function like bricks), and carrying lumber. The school will house seventhand eighth-grade students, eliminating their three-hour commute. The project

The Nepali village of Phuleli showed volunteers as much generosity as they received during the Edge of Seven project. Emily Stanley and Alexa Miles

will enable more Nepalis to receive an education in a sustainable, healthy environment, safe and close to home. We stayed with local host families and were humbled by their open, positive approach to life. We had heard Nepali people were kind-hearted but still found ourselves impressed by their smiles and generosity—we had consumed 12 cups of tea by the end of our first day (in rural Nepal, tea is served as a sign of hospitality). We went to Nepal to volunteer, to give to a community by building a much-needed secondary school. Instead, we walked away feeling we had gained from the experience: new friendships, an appreciation for the local people, and a glimpse into another culture only possible through an adventure like this. The smiles, the admiration for the local laborers who bore heavy loads and worked tirelessly, the giggles created by language barriers, and the communications we forged in mutual appreciation—these are the things we’ll remember. We traveled to Phuleli with Edge of Seven, a nonprofit organization that fuses international travel with service, creating opportunities for personal and global

development. The organization’s community development program supports sustainable, locally driven infrastructure projects that improve the lives of girls and their communities in rural Nepal. While poverty levels in Nepal have dropped recently, nearly one quarter of the population still lives on less than $1 per day. In the remote Everest region, literacy rates are low, quality healthcare is almost nonexistent, and the barriers to education are quite high, especially for girls. The need for this project was immense. It is our hope that improved access to education will allow the students of Phuleli to make a positive impact in their communities and to continue to strive for their dreams. As NOLS alumnae, we are familiar with the way adventures like these can impact participants. Like we did, NOLS students leave the comforts of their homes expecting to climb mountains and forge rivers. They don’t always realize at first that the memories they will hold onto the longest are lifelong friendships and a greater awareness of themselves and the world around them.

Spring 2012


Issue Room

Navigating Uncharted Waters in the Colorado River Basin

By Aaron Bannon, NOLS Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability director

Running a wild river in wooden boats, John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition encountered a world seen by very few. The stretches of the Colorado River Powell and his men pioneered remain treasures among today’s river runners of the arid West: the Gates of Lodore, Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, Cataract Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. River courses launching from the NOLS Vernal base in Utah have opportunities to explore many stretches of this historic trip as they travel along the Green River. Students learn river rescue and safety techniques, paddle canoes and kayaks through flat water and rapids, and explore a river environment rich in biodiversity and prehistory. It can be easy to take the steady flow of the river that creates this classroom for granted; however, its long-term sustainability is threatened by unpredictable weather patterns associated with climate change and by mounting pressure from a growing population. The Green River begins its journey in the northern reaches of Wyoming’s Wind River Range. When Wyoming has a strong snow year, river runners in Utah can anticipate a thrilling season; conversely, light snowfall results in a shorter runoff season. Dramatic seasonal fluctuations, consistent with expected trends in climate change, have magnified these annual variations. In 2007, for example, after eight years of drought in Wyoming, flows beneath Flaming Gorge dam on the border of Wyoming and Utah were barely enough to sustain endangered fish populations, making river trips challenging. In 2011, by contrast, many mountain ranges were at 200–300 percent snowpack, leading to runoff that lasted five to six weeks longer than average. Further threats to future flows are con-

cerns that the availability of water within the Colorado River Basin is based primarily on estimates taken almost 60 years ago, when the Colorado River Compact was established. Many experts believe the water allocations allowed under the compact were based on above-average rainfall and therefore allocated more water than is actually available. Evidence seems to support that claim. Since 1999, Lake Powell on the UtahArizona border had been affected by a drought, most severely demonstrated when the reservoir shrank in length by almost 40 miles from its 186-mile capacity in 2005. This past summer, the combined storage of the two largest manmade reservoirs in the U.S. was about 55 percent of capacity. Compounding the water stress of this system are the increased demands of growing metropolitan centers. Colorado’s burgeoning population, in particular, has taxed the state’s established water supplies and increased demand for unallocated

water. In anticipation of this demand, the private corporation Million Resource Conservation Group proposed the construction of a massive pipeline, diverting 250,000 acre-feet of water (enough to cover almost 400 square miles in a foot of water) from the Green River near Flaming Gorge across the Continental Divide to Denver. So far, the project has been mired in red tape. If the company fails, a public entity may step in to fill the gap— with a higher likelihood of success. In coming years, the challenge of balancing recreation, population growth, and Mother Nature will test the ability of policy makers and personnel tasked with maintaining flows to find workable solutions. It will be vital for groups interested in maintaining a viable river recreation economy to be engaged in these conversations. Future NOLS river students and other recreation enthusiasts, keen to float segments of the historic route charted by Powell 150 years ago, depend on it.

Wilderness Quiz



What is the first Wilderness area designated in New Zealand? Extra credit for knowing the year!


NOLS students are just a few among the countless people who are affected by the management of watersheds like the Colorado River Basin. Amy Christeson


Q & A with

Melissa Gray By Jenna Helgeson, WMI Registrar

How has your role as Director of the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) changed since you founded WMI?

My job has changed a lot over the years. I have done every job there is at WMI, from answering phones and packing gear to marketing, registering students, and teaching all course levels. We have had to create systems that would support the phenomenal growth we have experienced. My role as WMI director has become supervising the many people who now do the jobs I used to. Honestly, I no longer consider myself qualified to do many of those jobs as well as my colleagues. How would you describe your leadership style?

I think my special skill is collecting the right people and providing the vision and leadership that allows them to do what they do best. Being the oldest of 25 grandchildren, I’ve always been comfortable taking charge. I’m a direct communicator, which is not always appreciated; it can turn people off. Throughout my years, I’ve worked hard on becoming a more intentional communicator so I can collaborate and work more effectively with many types of people toward a common goal. It has made me a better leader, and over my career it is what I have come to value most. What is your most memorable student moment?

It was in our early days in Pitkin, Colo. before a mock rescue on a Wilderness First Responder course. One of the students had been asked to simulate breaking his leg. Two of his course mates reacted. One offered the solution of calling for the instructors, thinking the simulation was real, and the other said, “No, don’t get the instructor, we can do this on our own. We are prepared for this.” Our goal at WMI is to provide students with the skills and confidence they can take with them into the field so they have the ability to act on their own, competently. This example was

Founder and director of WMI Melissa Gray has seen her role and the institute grow since 1990, and she is excited about what the future holds. Melissa Gray

early on in our program development and offered a perfect example of what we were trying to accomplish. The student felt like he could act, so he did. What do you see are some future opportunities for NOLS?

what they learn on our courses, and they apply that knowledge all over the world. We don’t know when or where students are applying their skills, but we do know that what keeps students coming in is the difference in the quality of education they receive. I like to grow things, but I do know that growth is not the only measurement of success. We need to grow so we can serve more students, and it is our duty to maintain educational quality at the same time. That is what NOLS does.

We all know the mission of NOLS is to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serves people and the environment. By NOLS expanding the last 10-plus years with departments like NOLS Professional and WMI, our school is diversifying and building upon our curriculum into a vaWatch: Scan this QR code to watch an instructional video riety of different venues. This evolution on patient assessment or of educational style allows us to reach a search “Patient Assessment” larger, diverse group of students in many on NOLS TV. more classrooms worldwide. Additionally, NOLS is constructing the multi-use campus outside of Lander, Wyo., which will serve as an extended, off-site facility for the school well into the future. Learn more about the Wyss Wilderness wilderness Medicine Quiz Medicine Campus and its construction on the NOLS Blog. A possible spine injury is managed with: Any parting words?

Our history is in education; we put education first. Every lecture and every skill set is designed with purpose. People take

A. Traction on the cervical spine. B. Range of motion tests to rule out injury. C. A rigid litter with c-collar and head immobilizer. D. Tests for usability.

Spring 2012


Alumni in Action

Dixon sets an example, embodies change

By Avi Katz, WMI Equipment Assistant



M any NOLS graduates try to share their experience with family, friends, and community. For Morgan Dixon, a leading education consultant in the U.S., the group to share with is much bigger than just her immediate peers. Upon recognizing that black women today are facing a pandemic of overweight and unhealthy physical lifestyles, and realizing that few programs to help combat this exist, Dixon decided to take action. Beginning with small personal goals, including a NOLS Pacific Northwest Trip Leader course, Dixon resolved to make a change in her life and has risen to become a leader and role model of healthy living in the black community. Dixon created an outreach and education program to combat the current health crisis. She said she left her NOLS course “wanting to create a support system for others to see what healthy living looks and feels like at its best.” So, in 2008, she co-founded GirlTrek—a national nonprofit organization that improves the health of black communities by creating opportunities for women to get physically active and serve as healthy role models. The organization empowers women to make healthy changes in their lives through a national walking campaign, guided hiking outings, free yoga classes, and more. Not only does GirlTrek help women on a day-to-day basis, it also hosts fitness tours, wellness retreats, once-in-alifetime outdoor experiences, and a summit aimed at developing leadership and increasing awareness of health problems many black women face today. This dynamic program has created an enormous ripple effect in the community as women are inspired and empowered to get healthy and, in turn, inspire their communities. In the future, Dixon hopes to develop partnerships with entities like NOLS (in the works now!), REI, and other outdoor industry leaders to provide the black


Morgan Dixon, third from the right, leads women on athletic and outdoor adventures to empower them to get healthy and, in turn, inspire others. Morgan Dixon

community with knowledge of, and access to, new opportunities for health, wellness, and outdoor activities. In her personal future, she also hopes to become a NOLS instructor. What makes his powerhouse of optimism and vision, tick? As the daughter of a woman who desegregated her high school, granddaughter of sharecroppers, and great-granddaughter of AfricanAmericans born into slavery, Dixon is descended from a long line of strong women who have faced harsh adversity. In turn, she has utilized leadership skills learned on her NOLS course to build a sense of team and to inspire a heightened awareness of health problems and the rewards of leading healthier lifestyles. In doing this, she has encouraged numerous women to become GirlTrek Healthy Role Models and created a grassroots network of over 50,000 women around the country who spread the word about healthy living. Step by motivating step, Morgan Dixon and GirlTrek are putting the “move” back in movement. To learn more, join, or support GirlTrek, visit: or find GirlTrek on Facebook.

ALUMNI TRIPS If you’d like to introduce your family to the great outdoors, consider an alumni trip. The NOLS Alumni office offers short backcountry trips specifically designed for our working grads. We encourage you to bring family and friends along on these weeklong expeditions to reconnect with the school and introduce others to the NOLS experience. Family Camping in the Wind Rivers Date: July 29–Aug. 3, 2012 Cost: $1,275 Relive your fondest memories of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains. This trip includes llamas for carrying the majority of gear. It covers basic wilderness skills including navigation, cooking, and Leave No Trace techniques. There is also time for fly-fishing and exploring the beauty of these rugged and majestic mountains. This is a great way to introduce loved ones to the essence of a NOLS wilderness course. Kids aged 10 and up are welcome. For more information about this and many other alumni trips or to sign up, call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or visit alumni.

Alumni Profile

NASA astronauts bid farewell to a fleet By Casey Dean, NOLS PR specialist & writer

At the end of an era, as the postflight activities wind down for NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, Rex Walheim, Sandy Magnus, and Chris Ferguson, the crew of the final shuttle mission reflect on their first days in a different frontier. “There are amazing similarities between the first few days of a NOLS trip and the first few days of a shuttle trip,” said Hurley, a two-time NOLS grad and pilot on the shuttle. Walheim, mission specialist, agreed his three NOLS courses have helped him cope with “initial on-flight difficulties.” “In an expedition like that, the first couple of days can be awful,” he said. “I learned from NOLS you can’t let the first few days color your whole outlook.” NASA astronauts have been participating in customized NOLS Professional Training courses since 1999. Courses differ little from other NOLS courses and aim to bolster crews’ leadership and communication skills prior to space travel. Though this team didn’t have time to kick off training for the final space shuttle mission with a course, all are two- or

In the meantime, NOLS Continues to train astronauts for longduration space flight. International Space Station (ISS) missions, to extend until at least 2020, are six months long. Half of the six ISS crewmembers swap out every three months, so the group dynamics and culture shift regularly. “We re-focused the curriculum towards group formation, group dynamics and expedition behavior,” said Rick Rochelle, director of NOLS Professional Training and three-time NOLS-NASA instructor. Last fall, NOLS Professional Training partnered with NASA to train recently named members of three overlapping ISS crews on a Pacific Northwest sea kayaking expedition. Those astronauts are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan next year.

three-time NOLS graduates. “We had to think back and meld our NOLS experiences together,” said mission specialist Magnus. That was made easier by the fact commander Ferguson has NOLS courses in common with two crewmembers, graduating from a hiking course with Magnus and a kayaking course with Walheim. Initially a skeptic, Ferguson said he went into his first NOLS course in 2004 asking, “Why are we all going camping?” Now, he’s the first to offer an example of a NOLS lesson applied at NASA or similarity between the two programs. And, despite not “going camping” together, each member’s time in the backcountry benefitted this team’s efficiency. It proved valuable long before the mission began. On a fast-forwarded training flow, teamwork and communication under pressure were essential. “[After a NOLS course], you’re able to see not just how other people react, but how you react,” Ferguson said. “Recognize … warning signs that your chain is about to get so short you’re about to yell at somebody.” “Which didn’t happen, by the way,” Walheim interjected. On the other hand, he did recall a fit of laughter. Walheim related the tale of a fast-moving storm on his course pushing him and the commander into the tent in the middle of the night. The two found themselves just clinging to the tent pole under the storm’s onslaught. “Then it started to hail!” he continued. “And we just looked at each other and started laughing.” Ferguson concluded adverse conditions don’t only help an individual find his or her own capacity to find humor. “You realize everybody really does have an inner strength,” he said. The demanding, and successful, final mission of the shuttle program rolled to a stop at the Kennedy Space Center July 21, 2011.

Space shuttle Atlantis and its four-member crew lift off on July 8, 2011. This was the 33rd flight of Atlantis, the 37th shuttle mission to the space station, and the 135th and final mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. NASA

As much as the astronauts take from the wilderness to space travel, they also continued to carry NOLS skills with them post flight. The crew was on postflight public relations trips until November, traveling the globe to speak to audiences of all ages before parting ways. Because they were preparing for the final shuttle mission, each milestone was marked by people leaving their positions. “But everything has a cycle,” Magnus said. Walheim embodies that comment. Having returned to Earth on the final space shuttle mission, his next challenge is the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, the next generation of spacecraft. “The Orion MPCV is being designed and tested to go further than we’ve ever gone and do things the shuttle could never do, namely explore deep space,” the NASA website states.

Spring 2012


venture: the dIchotomy of securIty and ad

s Ie r o t s ’s k c a m t It W charlIe n o l h t Ia r t d l r o W from the part II



bY ChaRlie WiTTmaCk, semesTeR iN easT afRiCa ‘95


When I was a kid, I played games with time. I used to lie awake at night and imagine I was in a different place or a different time. I would create a picture in my mind of where I wanted to be, and I would blink my eyes. When I opened my eyes an instant later, I often found I had arrived at my destination and years had passed by unnoticed. For example, one night I wanted to be finished with high school. I stared at the ceiling, imagined my graduation in perfect detail, and blinked. When I opened my eyes, I had graduated. One night in the heat of adolescence, I badly wanted to be married. I imagined the girl, the wedding, the wedding night, and then I blinked. When I opened my eyes, I was buried in satin and tulle. I kept blinking. Years later, as an adult, my eyes kept opening to find more time had passed. I realized the trick of life isn’t to make time pass more quickly but to figure out how to slow it down. I came to understand it is the hard times that truly slow the clock, and I learned to stack adversity into neat piles of memories gained through expeditions. The problem we face as explorers or climbers or adventurers is that our love of life and our desire to slow the passage of time require us to continually seek greater hardship and greater adversity. We have learned that if we pull away from our pursuits for even a moment, years slip by unnoticed and unappreciated. As a result, we relentlessly press on, with tacit acceptance of the great irony that our desire to grip life so tightly may eventually prevent us from holding onto life at all. Over the years, I have had many friends die in pursuit of many dreams. I’ve also had friends die from other causes, such as cancer and car accidents. Each of these deaths was senseless and tragic. However, each of these lives led me to conclude that if I met a premature end, it should be on my terms. More than 7,000 miles into the World Tri, on an abandoned stretch of the Tibetan Plateau, the strength of that conviction was tested. While attempting to ride my bicycle over the last of a series of high mountain passes on my way to Tibet, I simultaneous suffered pulmonary and cerebral edemas. Toward the acme of the final climb, I lost my balance and collapsed in a delirious and senseless fit of coughing. Pasang, my conscientious attendant and guide, loaded me into a Land Cruiser and drove me down into a nearby valley to recuperate as the light began to fade.

When I woke, the cerebral edema had reduced the vision in my right eye to a small point of green light. Disoriented and uncertain about my whereabouts, I made a quick physical assessment. Beginning at my feet, I was reminded of the four toenails that had been missing since the swim—the painful result of having spent five weeks swimming 8 to 10 to 12 hours per day. In my knee, I found two small pebbles, which had been embedded into my leg when I was hit by a car in Kazakhstan. The pain in my groin was growing, due to a mild hernia that had occurred months earlier in Poland. My middle abdominal muscle was poking out an inch or two beyond the others, a strange condition that had been lingering since a bout of dysentery had forced two trips to the hospital in England. My lungs were contaminated with a pulmonary edema, and as I laid in the fetal position hacking, I spit a mouthful of pink fluid to the dirt floor of the hut. I had always believed that if I suffered a premature death, it would be catastrophic and instantaneous. I was wrong. As I lay in that dusty hut on an unnamed road in Tibet, I understood for the first time that death had come for me in increments. As the life drained from my body, I imagined my wife, 12,000 miles away. I imagined my 3-year-old son swinging in the backyard. I felt the touch of grass under my feet and smelled the bratwurst on the grill. I heard a radio playing softly in the kitchen. Then I took a deep breath, and blinked. The final installment of this series, which started in the fall 2011 issue of The Leader, will be published in the next issue.

The problem we face as explorers or climbers or adventurers is that our love of life and our desire to slow the passage of time require us to continually seek

greater hardship and greater adversity.

Time passes differently for adventurers of various ages. Charlie Wittmack (left, in Yavoriv, Ukraine) learned the most adventurous moments last longest. Right: Charlie’s bike sits with a young adventurer in Dhulikel, Nepal. Charlie Wittmack Spring 2012




bY evaN hoRN, Nols TRaiNiNG maNaGeR


In 1982, during the first annual Alaska Wilderness Classic, a 160-mile human powered adventure race, Dick Griffith, who was old enough to have fathered any of the other participants, needed an edge. After hiking for over 24 hours, Griffith caught his competition on the banks of the Delta River as they were strategizing ways to swim across the raging glacial stream. He pulled out his “secret weapon,” an old Army surplus raft, inflated it, and rowed to the far bank. Griffith famously laughed and hollered to his fellow competitors, “Old age and treachery will conquer youth and skill any day!” This moment is commonly referenced as the “birth” of packrafting. What began as a clever trick in a competition has evolved into a sport that enables adventurers to traverse great expanses of terrain. The concept of the packraft is widely popular among Alaska adventurers. Fourteen mountain ranges litter the vast landscape of Alaska, each with a multitude of river corridors. However, hikers exploring the Alaskan bush can be thwarted by impassable river drainages while river runners are typically confined to a single river corridor. The packraft made it possible to explore multiple river drainages and traverse mountain ranges in a single expedition. The modern packraft, a combination of an inflatable raft and a personal kayak, weighs about six pounds, and rolls down to the size of a three-person tent. Packrafts can be used to cross rivers, float lakes and even run whitewater. On early packrafting adventures, Army surplus rafts like Griffith’s were the craft of choice. Then, in 2000, four friends (and several future NOLS alumni) embarked on a 70-day traverse of the Brooks Range in Alaska. Sam Newbury (Rocky Mountain Instructor Course, 2003), Dan Dryden (Alaska Mountain Instructor Course, 2005), Thor Tingey, and David Fowler (Northwest Outdoor Educator Course, 2003) used simple nylon rafts to assist their journey. Upon hearing they were plagued by continual repairs to their boats, Tingey’s mother Sherri set out to build a lightweight but rugged personal raft. Alpacka Raft was born. The following year, the friends headed out on a second Brooks Range traverse, armed with prototype rafts. Alpacka Raft has been leading the industry in the production and evolution of packrafts ever since, with Sherri Tingey still at the helm. In 2011, NOLS got on board with its first packrafting course. I was one of the instructors steering the expedition as we traversed the Talkeetna Mountains, commencing on the Susitna River and concluding on the banks of the Talkeetna River a few hundred feet from downtown Talkeetna, Left: Students line a packraft through a rapid to those who had already climbed downriver. Above: Whether packing their rafts or rafting with packs, students on this inagural course covered a lot of ground. Evan Horn

Alaska. The course travelled over 200 miles, splitting time between rivers and alpine tundra. We paddled the 30-foot-wide Clear Creek when it was flowing at 300 cubic feet per second (CFS—think of a chicken as a rough guide of a cubic foot, then imagine 300 running by every second), watching Sockeye salmon swimming and spawning beneath us. By the time we reached Talkeetna, our packrafts felt very small on a river over 3,500 feet wide cruising at over 150,000 CFS (that’s a lot of chickens!). The students and instructors on this course joined an elite group of adventurers like Erin McKittrick and Brentwood Higman. In 2007–08, McKittrick and Higman trekked over 4,000 miles from Seattle, Wash. to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska by skiing, hiking, and packrafting. They tied their boats together to paddle through ocean currents and swells and hunkered beneath their boats as makeshift shelters in severe weather. Packrafts are truly a unique and versatile new tool in wilderness exploration. Roman Dial, who wrote a guide to packrafting and has pushed the limits of whitewater the craft are capable of running, notes packrafts aren’t only suitable for longdistance adventures. While Dial is no stranger to extended expeditions, many of his adventures in a packraft are afternoon creek runs in Alaska, where he witnessed the birth of the sport. He was one of those competitors in the 1982 Alaska Wilderness Classic enviously watching Griffith as he paddled across the Delta River. If you’d like to leave the riverbanks like Dial and countless others have, visit to enroll in the next Alaska packrafting course. As one carries all the equipment for both river travel and hiking while packrafting, lightweight travel systems are essential. The course ditched tent poles in exchange for paddle shafts; one pair of tennis shoes performed triple duty as a hiking boot, river shoe, and camp shoe. The expedition cooked simplified meals in titanium pots, often using twiggy fires along the gravel bars surrounding the rivers.

Spring 2012


Servicewith a Smile By Melissa Hemken, NOLS Foundation Relations Officer



“Half a lifetime ago, I ended up in Yellowstone National Park in the middle of wintertime with NOLS for three weeks of skiing. For my next vacation, I wanted nothing but a sunny beach and drinks delivered,” chuckled Melvin Ivey of Merrill, Ore. “However, not long after that, one returns to the wilderness, and the Wind River Mountains is one of the places that I wanted to be. I wanted to come back to NOLS, to do something for the land.” The 1981 alumnus participated in the Alumni Service Project (ASP) in August 2011 in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. Now in its fourth year, the ASP program provides opportunities for alumni who have a desire to give back to the wilderness. NOLS alumni and instructors, Student Conservation Association (SCA) staff, and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) employees repair trails, rehabilitate campsites, or build other backcountry infrastructures. Ranging in age from 18 to 72, the 12 participants of last summer’s trip came from across the country to build two puncheons—wooden bridges laid as boardwalks across marshy meadows. Lew Shelley, of Walpole, N.H., is a Wind River Wilderness 1975 grad and the training manager for the SCA who was immediately interested upon hearing about the program. “I went, ‘Hmm, that’s kind of what SCA does, maybe I can help out.’ I’m always looking for an excuse to be a part of NOLS,” Shelley said. “It’s a great way for us to give back.” Through land stewardship efforts and Leave No Trace (LNT) practices, NOLS makes sure the wilderness classrooms are enjoyable and left intact for future visitors. “It’s important to us to make sure we’re good stewards of this land,” said Aaron Bannon, NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director and one of the instructors leading the 2011 ASP. “Even though as a school we are practicing a strong LNT ethic, you have to recognize that you can’t use a place like this and not have any footprint at all. These trips are also a lot of fun as we work hard, laugh hard and spend time together in the Wilderness.”


In 2011, the ASP participants worked in a spring-fed meadow filled with soft-stemmed plants that only grow a couple months of the year. With this type of flora, it only takes a few boot prints to cause the vegetation to wither. Todd Burritt, USFS wilderness ranger, explained the group essentially built a small bridge over a very narrow channel of water to protect the soft edges from horse and human steps. “With a narrow channel of water, most people find it hard to understand why it is such a fragile spot,” he said. But it only takes a few people leaping a stream and causing bank erosion for a mud pit to form, Burritt said. He noted trails tend to expand around riparian areas, particularly as travelers try to avoid the mud, so the USFS takes responsibility for creating safe, low-impact means of traveling through them. The puncheons this ASP group crafted concentrate use on the hardened, stabilized trail. Tampa, Fla. residents Orie Byars and her husband Steve Richards attended this, their second alumni trip, to be a part of a lasting, positive impact on the wilderness. “I’m getting to leave behind a bridge that I built. So I’m now a part of the Wind Rivers forever,” Byars said. The NOLS Alumni Service Project (ASP) focuses on trail building and maintenance on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Wind River and Absaroka Ranges of Wyoming. The ASP alumni trip provides an opportunity for grads, friends, and family to return to the backcountry with NOLS, enjoy the camaraderie of interesting adult cohorts and conduct real service and products that enhance and protect public lands and wilderness. If you are interested in participating in an ASP, visit

Watch: To learn more about the most recent ASP, scan this QR code or search “Alumni Service Project” on NOLS TV.

Photos: Top: The puncheon will protect these wetlands for a long time. Bottom, from left (1): Roger “Zimmo” Zimmerman and crew dance on the completed puncheon. (2): Aaron Bannon, NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability director, celebrates success with alumni volunteers. (3): Trip participants use the words “hard work” and “fun” in equal measure. (4) The job entails schlepping stones. Rich Brame and Jess Rice

“ returns to the wilderness, and the Wind River Mountains is one of the places that I wanted to be. I wanted to come back to NOLS, to do something for the land.�

Spring 2012


Winded in the Winds

A ski traverse of the classic NOLS course



By Liz Hardwick, NOLS instructor


I make my first turn in the frozen avalanche I’m skeptical, but I have learned not to question Emily’s resolve. debris, and my ski comes off. As I ragdoll head-over-heels with a full pack, I wonder if I will stop. When I do stop, I see my ski rocketing down the slope hundreds of feet below, then launch out of sight off a rollover. “Hold on! Are you alright? I’m coming down!” yells Emily from above me. Then her ski pops off and whizzes past my ear. We’ve just come over Angel Pass in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Nothing about this feels angelic as I slide on my butt, semi controlled, down to my ski. The next day, I have watermelon-sized bruises on my legs from the debris biting me all the way down. This is not my most dignified descent. Emily Ledingham, Matt Hartman, and I are in the midst of an attempt to ski the Wind River Range, traversing 112 miles from the Sweetwater Guard Station in the south to Trail Lake in the north. We have 14 days of food in our packs, one New Yorker magazine, and an epic winter snow pack still deep in May. Our team is comprised of NOLS instructors, but none of us have hiked the classic NOLS course through the Winds. I can see them from my front window in Boulder, Wyo., but I have only been in the Winds delivering re-rations to NOLS students on horseback. Emily has never been here at all. Only Matt has worked here, coaching students up classic granite climbs on rockclimbing courses, dreaming of ski lines while peering up at couloirs in the summer. For us, this is a pilgrimage, of sorts. The Winds are embedded in our psyches, as much a part of NOLS culture as puffy jackets. It’s time for us to get to know our roots. So, early in 2010, Emily and I dreamed up the firstever (to our knowledge) Canadian, lesbian traverse of the Winds. And, because Matt knows the lyrics to every Indigo Girls song ever written and can name all the provinces in Canada, we decided he should come along. Matt and Emily drive to Boulder from Lander, but we have to delay our departure, as Emily succumbs to the plague she’s been fighting off all winter. For two days, she lies horizontal in a dark room and we pour hot liquids down her throat. On the third morning, Emily emerges, pale and blowing her nose. “Let’s get this thing done,” she says.

Left: Matt Hartman leaves beautiful tracks. Above: Liz, Emily, and Matt gather one final photo before piling into the car at Elkhart Park. Emily Ledingham

Anticipating mud, we load chains, boards, and shovels into the vehicle and head to the Sweetwater Guard Station. It’s mid May, but a giant snow drift stops our vehicle 12 miles from the trailhead. We strap our skis to our backpacks and walk out into the sage. Am I really worrying about tick fever on a ski trip? I cringe, imagining brown ticks crawling into my armpits. We struggle over fences, passing heavy packs and skis across barbed wire. The snow-covered Winds tease us in the distance. Late in the day, we step into our skis and link patches of snow between sage and mud. We check our armpits for ticks before bed. In the first days, my pack feels ridiculously heavy. I can feel my joints grinding into dust. Matt and Emily chatter happily at breaks, waiting for me to catch up. “How are you doing?” they ask cheerfully, or worse, they tell me I am a rock star. I turn my head away so they can’t see the tears in my eyes. In a low moment on the second day, I fantasize about calling the NOLS staffing office and telling them I will be retiring as an instructor. I never want to carry a backpack again in my life. I don’t know why I feel this weak; I’ve never not been strong enough to carry my pack before. A surge of empathy for all the students I have coached through the first tearful day on a course washes over me. I always tell them they can make it. Now I understand how irrefutably they know they will not. I’ve decided I can’t finish this trip before we are even 20 miles in. I don’t know what to do. I break down and ask for help. My expedition mates take weight and give me hugs. This makes me cry more. They

The Winds are embedded in our psyches, as much a part of NOLS culture as puffy jackets. It’s time for us to get to know our roots. are humble and kind. I fear I am freaking them out. Sage gives way to lodgepole pine. Spring shrugs off, and we are back in winter. The second night, a storm drops over two feet of heavy snow on us, and we wake with our legs pinned by the roof of the tent. We spend the day like moles, pulling from the bottle of Jim Beam Emily packed. We get out of our sleeping bags only to pee or dig the tent out. All it takes is a thousand feet of skiing in soft wind slab to remind me why we decided to do this. From East Temple Pass at 11,600 feet, we grin like kids and float on our skis, making giant slalom turns down to Temple Lake. Rimed walls rise over our heads into cloud. On the lake, we regroup and high five. I’ve forgotten any of the pain it took to get here. My heart floats like my skis in powder. The expedition starts to seal together. Matt learns Canadian province capitals and lesbian subculture references. I learn what “crib” and “grill” mean. Matt might look like a nice white boy from Maryland, but he has an extensive urban vocabulary. Emily sings Katy Perry songs and shows us her best dance moves. The fifth morning drops us into Big Sandy Lake. All that is heinous exists below 10,000 feet. Skiing across the lake, isothermal snow globs on our skins like concrete. We begin to melt in the heat. Snow pinwheels on south faces, balls rolling as big as VW Bugs. I take my turn breaking trail up to Jackass Pass. “Are you angry at something?” Matt asks when he catches up to me a while later. Spring 2012


Maybe I am. Maybe I need to exorcise some demons in these horrible conditions after feeling so helpless in the first few days of the trip. I feel useful again, even though Matt and Emily are still carrying more than their share. I think they are afraid of me crying again. We make it, my demons still nipping at my heels, to the Cirque of the Towers. “Why have I never been here before?” I ask myself. “Nothing could be this perfect.” The Warrior and the Watchtowers, Wolf ’s Head and Pingora gleam at us like points in a crown. The sun sets, and we sit and watch spindrift plume off the peaks into the pink sky. The Cirque is silent but for wind and empty except for the three of us and possibly a coyote, whose tracks we followed climbing up here. I can imagine being here in summer and passing the lines of NOLS students, maps in hand, wearing wind pants and carrying large green backpacks. But the Winds in winter are a spiritual sanctuary. We might be the Cirque’s only visitors this season, and we are about to lay our bodies down, pilgrims making an offering. The couloir between the Watchtower and South Watchtower demands this of us. It is a beautiful line: 600 feet of 45-degree skiing filled in by spindrift. Matt and I set our alarms for 4 a.m. so we can ski the couloir and keep traveling in the morning. Emily opts for a few more hours of sleep, as she is still fighting the plague. An early morning moon shines above the Watchtower as Matt and I climb. I am always grateful to get up early

Sunlight cuts the coulior in half, and we cut tight turns across the line from shadow to sun. Rooster tails plume off our skis. I hear Matt whoop, but I am still in silent awe. I feel rapture.



and see light this way. The sun rises, polishing the peaks around us until they glow. I wish for ski crampons on the steeper frozen sections, but we scrabble through. At the base of the couloir, we load our skis on our backpacks and bootpack up. We don’t say much. Eight inches of soft snow fills the couloir. I’m lost in reverie about how fantastic the skiing will be. It is. Sunlight cuts the couloir in half, and we cut tight turns across the line from shadow to sun. Rooster tails plume off our skis. I hear Matt whoop, but I am still in silent awe. I feel rapture. Jolted out of my reverie, I hit the frozen crud below the couloir and try to stay on top of my skis. We carve our way down to Emily, glad she hasn’t left us. Later that afternoon, after breaking a thousand feet of trail up Texas Pass, she confesses she felt so miserable waking up this morning


she thought about evacuating herself. After watching her charge up the pass with a third of her normal lung capacity, it is hard to imagine she’s feeling all that bad. There is a particular kind of determination among NOLS instructors. They have a stolid persistence, not always elegant or graceful, that allows them to doggedly push through anything. And Emily might be the most determined person I know at NOLS. It’s one of the factors, along with her ridiculous sense of humor and penchant for making her tent-mates play word games at night, that make her a perfect expedition mate. I’ve never seen Emily consider pulling out of anything before. She must be feeling really grim. We ski down the Washakie glacier on strange frozen rivulets like breaking ocean waves. We are not graceful surfers, but we make it. Our route takes us crisscrossing over the spine of the continental divide. When we were planning the route, we poured over maps, looking for passes we guessed would work, hoping avalanche conditions would cooperate. Each time we cross back over to the west side, I feel relief we weren’t trapped on the east side by avalanches or impassible terrain. On the west side, I feel a tug at my heart knowing all the creeks we pass are flowing down toward my partner and home. We ski through heat traps and whiteouts. Storms whip up in the afternoon. We mostly cook in the vestibule and log 10 hours a night in our sleeping bags. We have both blissful and ragged descents. We pass under spectacular granite faces. I find myself wondering why the Winds are not part of the classic repertoire of ski traverses to do in North America. In British Columbia, where I am from, people come from all over the world to do classic traverses in the Selkirks or the Purcells—traverses where you ski straight up for thousands of feet in a day to make it over one pass, where the avalanche terrain keeps your heart in your throat almost permanently. Here in the Winds, the passes are inviting. We find terrain benching when we need it, allowing us to get up almost everything. We ski beautiful north-facing descents with little overhead hazard. A thousand feet of climbing takes us from one spectacular bowl up and over into another one. We climb three passes in a day, moving from one magnificent granite face to the next. This place feels like a dream. Midway through our trip, we arrive at Baptiste Lake. We aren’t sure about getting out of Baptiste and over to Sylvia Lake. The pass looks steep, and a storm is rolling in. I take a digital photo in a window of visibility before scurrying into the vestibule to cook dinner. The storm breaks in the morning enough for us to start the climb, but once we are through the pass, the west side down to Sylvia Lake is white on white. It is as if I have cotton balls stuffed in my eyes. Skiing by feel, we take 20 turns and yell Marco Polo to each other, leapfrogging down into

Left: Matt Hartman and Liz Hardwick make their way across a slope. Above: Liz’s gear sets a bright tone for the bluebird day. Emily Ledingham

the white curtain. The abrupt transition to the lake lets us know we have survived the descent. “Holy crap, we nailed it,” crows Matt, when a small break in the whiteout shows the rock bands ringing this basin. Our ski tracks thread through the one break in the cliffs in the whole bowl. It is day 11. Snow keeps us in bed for hours this morning, even though the New Yorker has been read entirely. Sheepish, we leave camp at noon and ski across Wall Lake. Cracker crumbs spray from my hands like confetti when we stop for a snack break, even though we are hiding from the wind behind a giant boulder. The storm intensifies on the climb up to Elephant Head Pass. Coming through the pass, I am blown backward on my skins. We lose sight of our descent, and I ski like a granny, blind on bullet ice. I am timid after the Angel Pass debacle. Spots of visibility open and the peaks of Indian Basin impose themselves, rimed and witchy. We dig a platform and wind walls and crawl back into the tent where we belong. It is counterintuitive to camp at the highest point of the divide in a storm like this. Fremont Peak, the third highest peak in the range, rises above us, but I can’t even imagine it is there behind the whiteness. We’ve been talking about skiing Fremont’s east couloir since we started planning this trip, but right now I feel cowardly. Wrapped in my sleeping bag, I wait for the dinner Emily is cooking in the vestibule and secretly think of home. It’s only 20-some miles away if we sneak out now. No expedition ever goes as planned. If visibility opens up and we book it over Indian Pass tomorrow early, we could still make the whole traverse if storms don’t stop us again. We have three more days of food, and in three and a half days, Emily needs to catch a flight in Riverton. The weather doesn’t seem to want to clear. We wouldn’t have made it over Indian Pass in this storm regardless, but I feel like we sealed our fate with our morning in

the sleeping bags. The wind has been taken out of our sails. Matt and I caught Emily’s plague, and our coughs are getting worse. We improvise a new hacking symphony each night. We agree that if the storm is still on us in the morning we’ll beat an honorable retreat, but I can’t help thinking we’ve let ourselves down somehow. Letting go is hard. Being OK with letting go is harder. I have to admit, I am attached to the goal. In the morning, we pack up quietly, turn our backs on Fremont Peak. I am thankful it is covered in cloud and can’t taunt me. Our feet are beat up by salt rash, and our bones are weary. We are out of chocolate. We’ve had the contemplative and ridiculous conversations that sprout on an expedition. Matt needs some meat, and probably the company of men. Emily has a flight to catch. I feel my partner’s nearness. We strip our skins, point our skis west, and push off toward the Elkhart Park Trailhead. Midmorning, the clouds open and we can see back into the glorious Titcomb Basin. I hang my head a little. We chose the easy road, and we’ll miss a few more days of skiing. In the sunlight, I look around, and all I can see are ski lines. I know this is OK. The ski lines will always be here, only 20 miles away. I have the Watchtower couloir to keep with me. It is time to go home.

Spring 2012


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18 minutes

by peter bregman

noLS graduate and former instructor peter bregman recently authored 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done. The market is filled with self-help books. bregman’s twist is his directive to avoid multi-tasking, or as he describes it, “switch tasking.” he gives great examples of how focus makes us more productive, contrary to how most of us have been trying to manage our busy lives. among other hints, bregman suggests we avoid talking on the phone while doing something else and taking the time to listen to one thing at a time. This certainly resonates with noLS grads, who have experience doing without external distractions while out in our wilderness classrooms. part way through his book, bregman explains his book’s title, “18 minutes.” he writes that we

need discipline to stay focused throughout the day and suggests consistently allocating five minutes for planning at the beginning and end of the day and one minute per hour (assuming an eight-hour work day) to stop and ask yourself if you’re on track. reflect on your hour, he suggests. did you accomplish what you expected? bregman writes well and includes enjoyable anecdotes. his optimism and drive for selfempowerment via personal planning and focus is extremely valuable for thriving in today’s hectic world. read the book and start carving “18 minutes” out of your day—it just might boost your professional effectiveness and personal enjoyment of life. Reviewed by Diane Shoutis, NOLS Alumni Relations coordinator. © 2011, Business Plus

Adventure sports photography; creating Dramatic images in wild places by Tom bol

Tom bol’s book is perfect for anyone interested in outdoor photography and is especially suited for those interested in gaining an edge in adventure photography. This would be a great book for any aspiring photographer to read before his or her noLS course. Adventure Sports Photography covers the basics of photography: gear, planning, composition, and lighting, as well as more specific shooting scenarios for water sports, mountain sports, winter sports, and portraits. additionally, bol touches on video, which has become a feature on nearly every digital camera on the market. he also includes information on workflow titled “In the office,” which gives a short overview of digital asset management, a major component of any photographer’s work. The book is full of stunning photos that look like they were taken on a noLS course, and throughout bol references his 14 years as a noLS instructor, even quoting paul petzoldt. Typically, books of this genre become outdated quickly, and while specific gear references will most likely be dated in a few years, the majority of the book covers timeless concepts like bol’s “10 composition tips” and “five ways to light a portrait.” I consider myself a knowledgeable photographer, and still I had several “ah-ha” moments while reading the book (I can’t wait to get an orange gel for my flash to amp up my next series of portraits). I also found myself coming up with a multi-thousand dollar shopping list of new gadgetry. Reviewed by Brad Christensen, NOLS Creative director. © 2012, Tom Bol

green Fire

aldo Leopold and a Land ethic for our Time Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time is the detailed life story of aldo Leopold. a forester, writer, and teacher, his innovations on environmental ethics during the early 1900s are on the forefront of today’s conservation movements. co-produced by the aldo Leopold foundation, U.S. forest Service, and the center for human nature, Green Fire is narrated by Leopold’s biographer, conservation biologist dr. curt meine, and includes numerous interviews with family members and other top conservationists. beginning with aldo’s childhood in the late 1800s, the film progresses through his life noting how his travels, careers, and strong connection with the outdoors became the foundation for his groundbreaking ideas, making one of the most prominent figures in the history of environmental ethics. although many share a slight disinclination with documentaries, Green Fire keeps viewers’ attention surprisingly well. The 72-minute narrative combines outstanding cinematography with still photos, scores of aldo Leopold’s most intriguing quotes, and plenty of factual information streamlined well enough to not overwhelm the viewer. The overall flow of the film makes it an easy watch. with plenty of films focusing on the history of conservation and ways to protect our wilderness, Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time stands out from the rest. an informative film with a strong message for all who love the outdoors, it’s definitely worth checking out. Reviewed by Mike Hepler, NOLS PR & Marketing intern. © 2011, West World Media

Spring 2012


Gear Room

Iconic NOLS Gear: The Unmistakable Yellow Student Hauler

A moment to get the wheels turnin’ By Jared Steinman, nols Marketing Representative



Excitement, doubt, anticipation, and anxiety are all emotions that come to mind when reminiscing about the bus ride from NOLS Rocky Mountain to a remote trailhead on the edge of the Absaroka wilderness. The ride on NOLS bus—classic or new—is one element that nearly every NOLS expedition shares. NOLS Rocky Mountain has transported more students on buses than any other NOLS location worldwide, and not just by a few. Since the early 1970s, the buses of NOLS Rocky Mountain have been transporting student courses to and from the Wind River Range, Absaroka Wilderness, the Green River, Fremont Canyon, Split Rock, and Sinks Canyon, just to name a few. Over 46,000 students have been safely dropped at the edge of wilderness or back in the heart of civilization. When I think back to my course, the bus ride doesn’t stand out immediately; however, it was in those bench-style seats that I had the greatest opportunity for reflection. Maybe it’s due to the idle nature of four-wheel travel. Perhaps it’s because of the strong feeling of anticipation both to and from the field. Think back to your NOLS expedition. You might envision the back of an openbed stock truck, or a Korean War military ambulance, or a dual-rear-wheeled crew cab with a penchant for transmission problems. You might have clocked seemingly endless hours on a lightly padded seat or in a Mercedes Sprinter van (complete with curtains). Over the years, more than one course has shoveled, pushed, or chained its vehicle into or out of a road head. NOLS buses have received a number of facelifts to meet safety standards, become more capable off-road vehicles, and improve fuel efficiency (we continue those changes—see page 26). “Something we are always thinking about is how to streamline the process of transporting students,” said Steve Matson, NOLS transportation manager. “In 2007 we modified our buses to be able to carry


two courses at once, effectively cutting the number of necessary trips to and from the trailhead in half.” Throughout the rich history of NOLS Rocky Mountain, the retro-fitted, student hauling, school bus has been the backbone of it all. With the introduction of the school bus into the fleet, students could be hauled longer, farther, and more safely than ever before. It is for this reason that a NOLS bus, with one of the skilled, good looking drivers behind its wheel, has been, is, and will continue to be one of the most reliable and capable pieces of iconic NOLS gear.

The NOLS bus has changed a great deal over the years, and the transportation timeline is far from complete. John Salisbury

keep reminiscing: Alumni reunions Alumni reunions bring NOLS into your community for networking, camaraderie, tales of adventure, food, raffles, and fun. In 2012, reunions will feature presentations by NOLS instructors Keith Heger, Rob Walker and Dave Anderson. We’re teeing up reunions in Seattle, Chicago, Denver/Boulder, Salt Lake City, Boston, Annapolis, and Missoula/Bozeman. Keep an eye on our website for details ( Keith: Hear of Keith’s Pole-to-Pole journey, 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 April 25. Rob: Rob will present his “Three Rivers Traverse Expedition,” a remarkably challenging, humanpowered journey over 1,450 miles of the vast Yukon and Alaskan Arctic Wilderness. Dave: Dave will recount his adventures in China’s Genyen Massif last year, in which he made a number of first asents and worked to establish a language school.

Get Out There

This issue’s adventure:

yukking it up in the Yurt By Marcio Paes Barreto, NOLS Professional Training Program Coordinator

This section details simple, weekendthemed 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, in and out, cross-country ski trip for families and small groups at the Beaver Creek Nordic Ski Area 22 miles south of Lander, Wyo. Located in the Shoshone National Forest and run by the nonprofit Lander Nordic Ski Association, the yurt is about a 1.5-mile ski on a groomed trail from the roadhead at mile post 52 off Highway 28. The comfortable yurt, which sleeps about eight, includes a robust woodstove (wood provided), but little else. It’s perfect for overnight camping or as a resting point between laps on a day trip. Situated with access to 10 kilometers of rolling, groomed trails, this is a great winter destination for spending time outside with kids. Three members of our party were under age 6, so we snuggled them into runner-equipped kid carriers towed by the adults.

Adding a structure like the yurt to the picture can make outings more manageable for adults, less stressful for parents, and more comfortable for the kids. Blair Stone-Schneider

for the weekend. Swing by landernordic. Pre-ski: org/The_Yurt.php to check the calendar There’s only one yurt at Beaver Creek, so and make a reservation. At that point, it’s the first step is making sure it is available time to start thinking about food. Preparing soup and breakfast burritos, for example, to be heated over the yurt’s woodGear & Hints stove, makes for quick and easy meal • Fill the kids carrier with a sleeping bag preparation. Wood and a splitting maul during the ski travel; it provides a good are provided, but cook gear is not. Description:

insulation. • Pets aren’t welcome at Beaver Creek. • The yurt is maintained with donations. Leave some dough behind in the lock box when you pack up. • A vault toilet is available near the yurt. • Your water supply is the snow, so bring a cook pot suitable for melting your own water- remember to add a little liquid water to your snow pot—it’ll keep it from picking up a scorched taste.

Day One: After shuttling gear from the parking lot to the trailhead and loading kids (if you have them) into a child carrier equipped with skis, start gliding down the groomed track toward the yurt. A kiosk is located at the trailhead for finding your way, and a map can be downloaded from Classic touring skis and skate skis alike will suit.

At the Yurt, a spaghetti bowl of groomed ski trails is at your fingertips. Kids and adults will find the area’s fresh powder and trails to be exciting. At the end of the day, start a fire, dry your clothes, and enjoy a warm meal. Sneak out on the deck to take in the stars, or take in a midnight ski under a full moon. The stove provides a cozy refuge between outings. Day Two: Munch on re-warmed breakfast burritos, load up the kids, clean up the yurt, and you’re ready to make your way home. Thanks to the shelter, you’ll probably have less gear to worry about and will be able to get back to town before the kids’ (or your) afternoon nap.

Spring 2012 23

Recipe Box

Quiche Moraine Josh Beckner

Submitted by Casey Pikla, nols Word of Mouth Coordinator

We have reached a milestone!

“A n open savoury tart with a rich custard filling to which bacon, onion, cheese, etc., are added” doesn’t invoke images of the backcountry, but when have we ever taught bland or standard recipes in the NOLS kitchen? Today, we bring you quiche moraine from the newly released spiral-bound version of the NOLS Cookery. Students and instructors alike will be pleased to find this book (with this recipe on page 32) will withstand rain and being stuffed in a pack much better than earlier versions. As for the question of eggs and durability, powdered eggs like Anywhere Scrambles are the only way to go, as they’re lightweight, durable relative to whole eggs, and taste like the fragile real deal. Crust:


1 ¼ cups flour (white is preferred, but a mixture of white and wheat can be used) ½ tsp. salt 1/3 cup margarine 3 Tbs. water

1 ½ cups crumbled or diced cheese 1 ½ cups powdered milk 1 cup powdered egg 3 cups water 2 Tbs. dried onion, rehydrated 1/8 to ¼ tsp. Tabasco or cayenne 2 Tbs. dried green and red peppers, rehydrated salt and pepper to taste

For crust, mix flour and salt together. Cut in margarine, using two knives or spoon edges. Mix in water to form dough. Roll out and fit into a fry pan. For filling, layer cheese on the bottom of the crust. Mix milk and egg powders in a bowl. Slowly add water, stirring constantly to prevent lumping. Stir in vegetables and seasonings. Pour into crust, cover, and bake, using a twiggy fire on top. Bake 30 minutes or until crust pulls away from side of pan and filling is set.



Watch: Scan this QR code to watch Casey whip up a quiche and spread the joy or search for “NOLS Cooking Show” at NOLS.TV.


Get your own field copy of the NOLS Cookery at

Thank you! This past winter, NOLS alumni, family, and friends stepped up to help us meet the $10 million challenge of Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values with an overwhelming surge of gifts. Including the $2 million combined gift we received for reaching $10 million before Dec. 31, 2011, Campaign NOLS is now sitting at over $14 million! Although we are well on our way to the $20 million campaign goal, we still have a lot of work to do in the final two years of Campaign NOLS. The same three donors challenged NOLS to a second goal for the end of 2013. Once we have raised a total of $18 million, the same three donors who posed the mid-campaign challenge will provide a capstone contribution of $2 million. This captstone gift will bring Campaign NOLS to a grand total of $20 million, effectively doubling the school’s endowment and providing $5 million for annual philanthropic support. This campaign will not only help us achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, but it will also allow NOLS to financially prepare for the future, and we are grateful for all the support we have received thus far. If you would like to contibute toward the $18 million checkpoint, there are many options. Means of giving to Campaign NOLS include gifts to the endowment, the NOLS Annual Fund and—for the first time in the history of capitol campaigns at NOLS—irrevocable planned gifts. Join us in reaching our goal.


Contact the Alumni Office via telephone (800-332-4280) or email ( to find contact information for any of your coursemates. Grads from the ‘60s Richard ‘Dick’ Ross Wind River Wilderness ‘66 and former instructor Dick became a grandfather for the first time Nov. 11, 2011 to a baby boy named Colin Ross Lucey. His daughter Kelli, her husband Matt, and Colin are all doing well. Grads from the ‘90s Ted Lubeshkoff Wind River Wilderness 23+ ’90 and Pacific Northwest Trip Leader ’94 Ted recently became the 19th person to lead trips to 278 peaks above 5,000 feet in southern California for the Hundred Peaks Section of the Angles Chapter of the Sierra Club. Ted was awarded the prestigious John Backus Leadership Award in 2009 for outstanding leadership on Hundred Peak Section outings. In December 2011, he completed the requirements of the American Society of Consulting Arborists to become a Registered Consulting Arborist. Scott Ackerman Semester in the Pacific Northwest ‘94 After completing his NOLS semester, Scott returned to

Clemson University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, tourism management with an emphasis in recreational resource management. He’s moved to Florida and is now the general manager of a hotel and casino. Scott is married with a 10-month old daughter. Richard Moore Outdoor Educator ’97, Skiing 23+ ’98, and Baja Sea Kayaking 23+ ‘02 Richard has been a National Park Service Ranger since 1998 with stints in Yellowstone National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and seven years in Denali National Park. In February, he became Chief Ranger at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. Grads from the ‘00s William ‘Jordan’ Wendelken Pacific Northwest Backpacking ’01 and Semester for Outdoor Educators ‘04 Jordan graduated from Baylor University. He is now the owner of Hide Lock Take, a company that lowers vehicle crimes in Texas and other states. Jordan’s leadership skills,

problem solving mentality, and overall acclamation to the world around him was something he learned at NOLS. Shealene Shafer Wilderness Horsepacking 23+ ’06 Shealene recently completed an associate’s degree in networking technology from Oregon’s Pioneer Pacific College. She opened her own technology company, Polaris Technology Systems in Springfield, Ore. When she is not working, Shealene and her dog Cody are often out hiking and camping in the Deschutes, Siuslaw, or Willamette National Forests. Dan Imhoff Baja Sea Kayaking 16+ ’06 On Aug. 1, 2011, Dan retired from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. On Aug. 18, he began a two-month, 1,700mile solo paddling journey in his homemade kayak. Dan launched on the Hocking River at Athens, Ga., paddled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and ended the trip in the Gulf of Mexico. People along the river were great.

GIVING Longing for a way to stay more connected to the school is normal for 98% of NOLS’ graduates—100% of whom report withdrawal symptoms long after their course, some even up to 47 years later.* Monthly giving to the NOLS Annual Fund offers an easy way to give regularly without feeling the financial pinch a one-time donation might incur. In fact, many NOLS staff donate bi-monthly through payroll deductions, resulting in greater annual donations through manageable payments. For NOLS graduate Dennis Pendleton and his partner Paul Ford, it’s a logical way to give. The two made a conscious decision to adjust their budget and send NOLS a monthly sum to help the school now, rather than waiting until large donations might be comfortable. Pendleton explained, “We believe the benefits of contributions in this manner helps to keep the life in NOLS.”

It’s easy to set up a monthly or quarterly giving plan. Visit us online, or call:, (800) 332-4280 *Our designer gathered these numbers in an entirely unscientific survey. (Well, she made them up, but don’t they sound nice?)

Abram Perry Semester in the Rockies ’08 It’s been just over three years since his first NOLS course, just shy of two months since his last, and he is applying for the next. Greatly aided by his NOLS experiences, Abram has meandered all over North America and has been fortunate to have enjoyed and grown through many successful expeditions. From climbing into bald eagle nests to mushing through the Canadian bush, daily portaging around backcountry waterfalls to life on the big muddy paddlin’ down the Mississippi; one day at a time. Isabel Scherl Alaska Backpacking 16+ ’11 Isabel currently lives in normal, boring suburbia and not an exhilarating backcountry setting. Despite the extremely frontcountry location of New Jersey, she finds her NOLS education comes into play every day. Her Alaska Backpacking course turned her into a more independent and confident leader. Marriages & Engagements Winslow Carroll Wind River Wilderness 16+ ‘01 Current NOLS instructor Winslow married Mark Pachucki Sept. 24, 2011 at the bride’s family property in Norwich, Conn. She is an administrative coordinator for The Edible Schoolyard, and her new husband is a sociologist with the Robert Wood Foundation. The couple resides in Berkeley, Calif. Mark C. Yanni Semester in the Rockies ’01 and former instructor Mark married Robin dela Fuente Oct. 23, 2011 in Newport, R.I. He also recently Spring 2012 25


joined his brother’s firm, Yanni & Associates Investment Advisors, LLC, while completing his master of business administration at Robert Morris University. Mark and Robin live in Wexford, Pa. Ben Eriksen, Sailing Outdoor Educator ’97 Teresa Carey, Semester in the Southwest ’99 Ben and Teresa met through a sailing blog in 2007. They spent two years living an unconventional life aboard their sailboats and sailing from Maine to the Bahamas and back. Last summer, they joined forces in one boat to film an adventure documentary called One Simple Question (, which is due out this summer. Now, Teresa and Ben are living aboard their 28foot boat in Annapolis, Md. and planning their July wedding. Teresa is a writer and Ben is a web designer. New Additions Derek Wolfe, Wilderness First Responder Raven Padmos, Yukon Wilderness 30+ ’04 Derek and Raven are the proud parents of a second baby boy, Elias Sunny Cedar Wolfe, born Dec 1, 2011 in Canada’s Yukon Territory. He was welcomed into the family by his big brother Micah Sage.



Mark Jordan, NOLS instructor Laura Jordan, Prince William Sound Sea Kayaking ’97 Mark and Laura are the proud parents of Noah Roald Jordan, born Oct. 12, 2011. Noah weighed eight pounds, 12 ounces at birth and was welcomed into the family by his sister Audrey Anne.


Natalie Kaplan Semester in the Rockies ’94 Toby Schmidt, North Cascades Mountaineering ’92 Former NOLS instructors Natalie and Toby are the proud parents of a new baby girl, Eva Becker Schmidt. Eva was born Dec. 15, 2011 and weighed five pounds, 11 ounces at birth. Dan Short Alaska Mountaineering ’96 Kendall Clifton Short, Southwest Outdoor Educator ’00 Former NOLS instructors Dan and Kendall are the proud parents of a baby boy, Colter Iluka Clifton-Short. Colter was born Dec 31, 2011 in Bega, New South Wales, Australia. Colter weighed 7.5 pounds at birth. He is also the grandson of former NOLS board member and instructor Neil Short. Betsy Treadway, former instructor Pascal Beauvais, current instructor Longtime NOLS instructors Betsy and Pascal welcomed their new son, Henry Winter Beauvais, into the world in Bozeman, Mont. in December 2011. In Remembrance Matthew Potel Semester in the Southwest ’08 Matt died Sept. 30, 2011, in a climbing accident in Mount Colden’s Trap Dike. Matt brought joy and confidence to all those he met with his exuberant energy and caring attitude. Matt was wise beyond his years, an excellent student, and a very loving son, brother, and grandson.

Michael Colpo Outdoor Educator ’99, former instructor Mike, passed away unexpectedly Dec. 7, 2011. On Aug. 20, 2011, he married Elizabeth Mosco, and it was said that he was a more patient and loving husband than anyone could ask for. During his career, he was a beautiful writer and editor and worked for Patagonia for 11 years. Mike also taught for NOLS and treasured his time teaching others to appreciate the mountains he loved so passionately. He learned to cook on a camp stove in the wilderness and was known for, among so many other things, his amazing culinary talent. Courtney Darnell Wind River Wilderness ‘02 Courtney passed away in a tragic accident in June, 2011 in Arkansas just shy of her 26th birthday. Full of life and always happy, Courtney was a creative and artistic person who enjoyed visiting the racetrack and riding horses and motorcycles.

Sustainability Update

NOLS Pilots Greener Transportation By Karly Copeland, Sustainability Coordinator

When it comes to buses full of students and trucks full of gear, green transportation might seem like a stretch for NOLS. In light of this operational demand, the school has focused primarily on using its vehicles as efficiently as possible—carpooling courses and in-town runs, purchasing higher efficiency vehicles, and adopting idling policies. NOLS recently decided this wasn’t enough. So the school will start developing institutional knowledge of the more environmentally friendly technologies available. After much investigation to determine which technologies could meet NOLS’ transportation and environmental standards in the future, NOLS resolved to investigate the following technologies in small pilot programs this year. • Hybrid Vehicles: Several NOLS locations already own hybrid vehicles: for in-town use. • Bio-Diesel: NOLS Pacific Northwest has a diesel tractor that will run on bio-diesel. • Ethanol: NOLS Southwest owns a flex-fuel van that will run on E85. • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): NOLS Rocky Mountain is considering the use of CNG vehicles in about two years, when there is wider availability of the vehicles. • Vegetable Oil: NOLS is investigating the use and source of veggie oil in some of our vehicles. After our pilot programs have run for a year, NOLS will examine the success and possible implementation of these technologies around the school. Shrink your Footprint: Go idle-free! There is no advantage to idling gas-powered vehicles for more than 10 seconds. Turning off your vehicle saves on carbon emissions and fuel costs.

Wild Side of Medicine

WMI applies lessons from

WFA retention study By Tod Schimelpfenig, WMI of NOLS curriculum director

In 2010, Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS (WMI) did something no one else has done: conduct research to measure retention of skills and knowledge from Wilderness First Aid (WFA) courses. Assessing the quality of your product can be intimidating, but if you’re going to be the best, measuring this information is as critical as measuring a patient’s vital signs. There is literature on skill and knowledge retention in hospital-based medical training, most of which is focused on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), and advanced cardiac life support skills for professionals who use their medical skills regularly. The results are as expected; without use, skills deteriorate. The literature for laypeople (those who might take a WFA course) has findings that are similar or, in many cases, worse.

The research was designed and supervised by our colleagues at the University of Utah, Jim Sibthorp, Scott Schumann, and Rachel Green. Seventy-two participants from WMI WFA courses in Wyoming participated in the study by taking written and practical exams and a self-efficacy scale—a measure of their confidence to perform their skills. You can read the detailed study methodology, results, and limitations at research. Our findings are not surprising. Major points include: • We quickly forget what we do not practice. The longer the time interval after training, the more we forget. • Written tests do not correlate with performance on practical tests. • Our opinions on our competence (selfefficacy) do not always correlate with our practical performance. 

We found these results empowering rather than discouraging. We have the confidence and the diligence to assess our outcomes and make improvements. So what’s next? WMI has already made revisions to the WFA curriculum; cutting unnecessary content detail, finding more practice time (although we already believe we allot more than most WFA courses), and developing other instructional tools to increase retention. We’re excited to take these important courses even higher and to continue to teach a curriculum that is accurate, practical, and relevant to the wilderness adventurer. We quickly forget what we do not practice. If your certification has expired, it’s time for a refresher. To find an upcoming WMI recertification course near you, visit or call us at (866) 831-9001.

Real Life Drama

Recertification immediately put to use By Raven Alder, Wilderness First Aid recert ’11

Recertifying my Wilderness First Aid was pretty timely for me. I was in New Hampshire last week, and on my flight home, a flight attendant asked if there was a doctor on the plane. There wasn’t, but there was a physician assistant, a nurse, and me. Less fortunately, the nurse was the wife of our patient, and she wasn’t focused as a result. Our patient was a mature gentleman of the outdoor persuasion with a history of hypoglycemia. He had nearly fainted in the restroom (the number of people who have serious health problems in bathrooms never ceases to amaze me), and had tanking blood sugar when we got the beep. It wasn’t exactly the wilderness I’d imagined when I had recertified the previous weekend, but I was really glad the practice was so fresh and that I always carry my emergency medical technician basics in my purse. The patient got

my A-game; my hat is off to the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS for the surprises you pull during your recertification courses. When it happens for real a week later, you’re not surprised or nervous. It’s just go time again. The physician assistant and I got a row cleared, laid him down with his feet up, and got some sugar, salt, and hot liquids into him. We treated for shock. Did you know Southwest Airlines no longer carries blankets on board at all? I do now. So the patient got both of my jackets and my outer layer and his wife’s jacket, in addition to his own jacket. It was pretty touchy for a while (he lost his radial pulse on occasion), but he pulled through, and by the time we landed in Chicago, he was alert and oriented to person, place, time, and event, and he walked off that plane under his own power. (I did get my clothes back.) I handed

the paramedics my notes with four sets of vitals and a complete patient history. They mistook me for a paramedic; I’m flattered. Apparently I have a (different) job in Chicago if I want it. Of the whole experience, the most uncomfortable part for me was the hero treatment. All I did was follow my training, and I happened to get a patient with one of the few conditions on which a person with minimal medical resources can intervene and make a drastic difference. So, yeah, he looked really bad, and then he looked really good, but what I did was pretty basic. But while I waited for my next flight, people thanked me and told me how glad they were I was on the plane. If I hadn’t been, the physician assistant would have taken care of it. I tried to be gracious, but it was unsettling.

Spring 2012 27

Branch Notes

If you find yourself curious about what your “home branch” is up to more frequently than The Leader hits your coffee table, worry not. The NOLS Blog is full of news about courses, construction projects, awards, and the quirks of the location employees. Pay us a visit whenever you find yourself NOLS-sick: NOLS Mexico: • Our wilderness classrooms stretch over 1,200 miles of the Baja Peninsula. • We have the largest Drascombe Longboat fleet in North America. • In 2012, we’ll run our first Spanish-language sailing course for educators from all over the Republic of Mexico. • Our entire Coyote Bay facilities use 78 solar panels for charging independent battery banks; the branch’s original design won an American Society of Architects’ award for its sustainable systems approach. NOLS Teton Valley: • We host over 80 instructors each year on training seminars including professional level avalanche certification, telemark teaching, and canoe/raft training trips. • We’re a skiing kinda place. If there’s snow, you’ll find our instructors, students, and staff at Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole, Teton Pass, Grand Teton National Park, and on the Teton Valley Nordic Trails. • In September, we gave energy back to the power grid; in October we were net zero; in November we used 166 kilowatts—this all means we used 3,000 fewer kW in those three months than in same months last year. NOLS Alaska: • The Winter Solstice is behind us. This is the Solstice that those of us who live in the northern latitudes really love to see and celebrate. The sun is at its lowest point in the winter sky (see the noonish photo here, looking due south). From here on, our daylight begins its uphill climb to summer. We are really getting excited for the energy of summer at NOLS Alaska!

From efficiency (top) to family-style meals (bottom left) to midnight sun, all NOLS locations have something to share.

• Other highlights for 2011 include a leadership trip for a Yukon youth organization, a U.S. Naval Academy canoe expedition, and our first partnership with Katimavik (a national Canadian youth service/volunteer organization) hosting a part-time summer volunteer. NOLS Southwest: • NOLS Southwest recently joined over 80 other local organizations in a community-wide Tucson event called BEYOND, commemorating the anniversary of the January 2011 shooting in Tucson. BEYOND was a celebration of health, diversity, goodwill, and inclusiveness. We collectively embraced the goodness and

decency of the community, creating something positive and lasting out of tragedy. • In early January, NOLS Southwest’s new 19.7 kW solar array began generating power from the Tucson desert sunshine. The array is made of 64 individual solar panels that are mounted on the roof of our main office building.  The array should generate 36,192–37,848 kW hours per year, offsetting the branch’s electricity usage by 73–80 percent.

Wilderness Quiz Wilderness Quiz Answer (from page 6)



NOLS Yukon: • Thanks to the Donner Foundation again for supporting six Canadian students with generous NOLS scholarship support. • The Donner Foundation also partially supported participants on the third annual Duke of Edinburgh Adventurous Journey Expedition in 2011.


Answer: Designated in 1984 and contained within the Raukumara Forest Park on New Zealand’s North Island is the 9,7976-acre Raukumara Wilderness. Although the area is not closed to recreational visitors, it is managed specifically for its conservation values; therefore, no recreational facilities are maintained within it. Three main river systems flow west into the Bay of Plenty—the Motu, Raukokore, and Haparapara / Kereu Rivers. The unspoiled Motu River is fully protected by a national water conservation order and is well used by whitewater rafters, fishermen, and other recreational users. The Raukokore was New Zealand’s first Wild and Scenic River, designated in 1983.

We prepare people to make sound decisions in remote places You will learn through a unique combination of lectures, case

eXpand your mediCal horiZonS

nolS WilderneSS mediCine eXpeditionS For healthCare proFeSSionalS CONTINUING EDUCATION AVAILABLE Sailing in BritiSh ColumBia, Canada NOLS Pacific Northwest, Conway, Washington June 9–16, 2012 | Difficulty: Easy

BaCkpaCking in the Wind river range, Wyoming NOLS Rocky Mountain, Lander, Wyoming August 26–September 2, 2012 | Difficulty: Moderate

mountaineering in the CaSCadeS, WaShington NOLS Pacific Northwest, Conway, Washington September 12–20, 2012 | Difficulty: Challenging

BaCkpaCking in the galiuro WilderneSS, ariZona NOLS Southwest, Tucson, Arizona October 7–14, 2012 | Difficulty: Moderate Find more inFormation and a Complete CourSe SChedule at,, or (866) 831-9001.

TAKE LNT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL tAkeYOUR the leAd As An ENROLL IN A LEAVE NO TRACE MASTER EDUCATOR COURSE TODAY! lnt mAster educAtor Developed byNo NoLS, theMaster LNt Master educator course thehighest highestLNT leveltraining, of Leave No The Leave Trace Educator Course is isthe trace traininggraduates available. As a graduate the course, you will be qualified to offer and qualifying to teach LNTofcourses. teach two-day LNt trainer courses. April 29–mAy 3 Backpacking, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia mAy 7–11 Backpacking, Escalante National Monument, Utah June 11–15 Backpacking, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming August 9–13 Sea Kayaking, San Juan Islands, Washington August 20–24 Backpacking, Grand Canyon, Arizona

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

Longing for a way to stay more connected to the school is normal for 98% of NOLS’ graduates—100% of whom report withdrawal symptoms long after their course. Monthly giving to the NOLS Annual Fund is one way to alleviate these symptoms and stay connected to NOLS. Find out more at NOLS ANNuAL FuNd

284 Lincoln Street, Lander, WY 82520 (800) 332-4280 |

Belay Off

Taking on the Laughable By Mary Jantsch, Fall Semester in India ’11



There was no deafening gunshot reverberating off stadium walls. It was simple, really. At 7:30 a.m., a firm “go!” sliced through the crowd. Nothing extravagant, but it got the job done, fitting of the India I had just spent three months taking in. Thousands of stationary feet became quite mobile, and the Delhi Half Marathon had officially begun. We were emerging from Nehru Stadium, for me a name formerly reserved to history books. I looked to my left for the reassurance of that goofy grin from Jack Boler I knew I could count on, then over to my right at Jesse Crowell, who had already started making friends with other runners.


We’d shared many trails over the last couple months, we’d shared seats on a raft, we’d shared packed Jeeps winding up mountain roads, we’d even shared preferred trowel techniques; now we sharing another experience that would try our resilience and test our ability. Our semester NOLS course had just come to an end two days prior, placing us in Delhi just in time for the city’s half marathon. Though we had spent months in the mountains, we hadn’t been running, and none of us had ever run even half of the distance we were trying for that day. Unable to come up with a reason not to run, however, we were committed. Runner Magazine has nothing on NOLS, though—I couldn’t have asked for better training. Throughout my course, I had been connecting the dots between physical and mental endurance. I saw it in my peers who strapped on

Belay Off

Opposite page: Jack Boler hangs out after the race with friends he made while running. Far left: Sam Verplanck, Jesse Crowell, Mary Jantsch, Jack Boler, and Maggie Dillon post after the race. Sam and Maggie, coursemates, met up with the runners at the end of the race. Left: Mary’s tongue speaks for her feet as she makes her way through Delhi. Mary Jantsche

packs for the very first time and walked into the Himalaya. I saw it in the people who lived in the mountains we passed through. I saw it in the mother of my home stay, who would come down from the hills every day after cutting grass with a stack so big it looked like part of the hillside was moving. I even saw it from the earth as massive boulders clenched the steep mountainsides like that last baby tooth unwilling to fall from your gums. Maybe we hadn’t been hitting the pavement, but I had been hit with something much stronger. India had become more than just a place where gigantic tectonic plates waged war on each other to challenge me. It was finally my turn to exercise the power of mental fortitude that I had been developing throughout my course, and in the rather flat landscape that is New Delhi, I would face my biggest mountain yet. There was a day toward the end of our first backpacking section wherein we gathered around an old sit-pad with the word SMART thickly imprinted in it with a Sharpie. Goal setting. On the day of the race, Jack, Jesse, and I set our own specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goal. It was simple: never stop running. Our goal was shorter than the tool itself, and though it became a lot harder around kilometer 18, I’m proud to say, as my throbbing toes and knees could attest, we all met that goal. Though our fellow runners didn’t know what to think of the three westerners chanting “NOLS” around kilometer five, or why we began offering feedback to everyone around kilometer 10, or even why we apologized to LNT every time we threw the water bottles to the ground, they did know we were giving 100 percent. We made new best friends among the other runners as Jack and Jesse took to motivating any runner who even looked like he or she was thinking about walking. I learned more about the lives of strangers than what’s probably normal during a race and got a running tour of the monuments of Delhi people travel all this way just to see. Indian college bands that had passed the tryouts performed along the sidelines of the course, and one in particular helped me through a time when I thought my legs were going to fall off. It’s possible I was delirious and dehydrated, but as I began the last, longest kilometer of my life, I met eyes with the lead singer. He had taken his eyes off his cell phone only for a second, as he was using it to look up the lyrics of “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams. I was pulled in a hundred differ-

ent directions, but mostly, I wanted to just stand there and laugh at the situation I’d found myself in. Foot after foot, though, I continued on, leaving that scene where I like to imagine that band is eternally playing Canadian rock songs. And then it came. Boler and Crowell had just crossed the finish line and were there waiting for me with smiles bigger than their faces. Twenty-one kilometers later and we were all still standing. The thought of that kind of distance before my NOLS course would have just made me laugh in disbelief. Post-NOLS, however, it wasn’t

On the day of the race, Jack, Jesse, and I set our own specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goal. It was simple: never stop running. even a question. I was certain in our ability because of our determination, our grit. We looked at each other trying to understand how we just conquered the last two hours. We were giddy, we were ecstatic, and we could hardly move without our muscles screaming at us. It was a beautiful thing. NOLS had given me that sense of power in mind that I knew I would finish what I had started. The three of us would fall asleep in a rickshaw in the middle of Delhi later that day, but in that moment, at that time, I felt alive.

Spring 2012



National outdoor Leadership School 284 Lincoln Street Lander, WY 82520-2848 • (800) 710-NOLS




boULder probLem one boulder asks many questions how will you get to the top? This way or that? where will you place fingers, palms, heels, and toes? will you lean left or right? who are you? what are you worth? can you find the line to peace? The problem compels us to answer confronting the elements, the minerals, The grain of granite, how heavy stones Tread lightly on earth, asking the same of us: Use the sun. feed the lichens and moss. Speak with the quiet of eons. Shed water to the roots Spread out beneath the surface. Listen well. never wobble. Tiny nubbin a solution or at least, answer enough. Poem by Stephen Siperstein, who took a Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator course in 2008. Photo by Dave Anderson.

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The Leader - Spring 2012