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For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School Summer 2015 • Vol. 30 No. 3




FIFTY YEARS AGO, JUNE 8, 1965, THE FIRST NOLS STUDENTS HEADED INTO THE Wind River Range for a grand and unknown learning adventure. Their feelings were probably similar to our students of today—a mix of excitement, anxiety, adventure, and awe. Leading the expedition was Paul Petzoldt, and for Paul it was about more than this one course; it was about a new model for experiential learning and wilderness education. Clearly Paul was a visionary with high expectations for what NOLS would accomplish, but even with his creative vision, he probably didn’t imagine the scope of NOLS 50 years later. Paul didn’t imagine a school that will operate in 28 countries this year, or he probably would not have selected the name The National Outdoor Leadership School. He probably did not envision that we would be the only school in the world that taught leadership from below sea level to outer space. He likely dreamed of reaching our current scope, where we have now taught over 254,000 students, but I doubt he envisioned that we would be teaching United States Naval Academy students, Google directors, and students from the top business schools, in addition to mountain guides and land management staff. While 50 years is a noteworthy milestone, my overwhelming feeling is a phenomenal sense of optimism and relevance as we look forward to the next 50 years. Both this summer and year, NOLS will reach more students than any previous year. These students are coming from a wider geographic footprint, with broader and more diverse backgrounds. The demand for our quality and unique education in outdoor skills, wilderness medicine, and leadership education is only going up as our world becomes more complex. I thank all of you for spreading the word about NOLS’ educational opportunities to a growing body of potential students. At the 50th anniversary celebrations I’ve attended, it has been a joy to hear how our graduates are using their NOLS education in their everyday lives and making a positive difference for our world. The story of any school is the combined stories of graduates and staff. While it is impossible to capture the comprehensive story of all of our graduates, many are leaders in their fields. The NOLS leadership lessons stay with them and lead them through their lifetimes. Our graduates learn leadership, appreciation, and advocacy for our public lands, value for young people and optimism for the future, expedition behavior and appreciation for community, and much more. All of these values and contributions shared by our graduates made me incredibly proud to be a part of, and to lead, this organization. Thank you for a powerful 50 years. Onward!

John Gans, NOLS Executive Director

Leader Editor Casey Adams Designers Eryn Pierce Liz Schultz Kristen Lovelace Alumni Relations Director Rich Brame NOLS Executive Director John Gans Creative Director Brad Christensen Art Director Samantha Pede Editorial Board Bruce Palmer Larkin Flora Pip Coe Melissa Hemken Alisha Bube Molly Herber

August 2015 • Volume 30 • No.3 Published three times a year in April, August, 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 65,000 NOLS alumni. 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 admissions@



The Leader is printed with soy-based inks in Portland, Ore., on paper using 30 percent post-consumer-recycled content. A paperless version of The Leader is available online at






6 ISSUE ROOM: NOLS advocacy grows up 7 WILD SIDE OF MEDICINE: Evolution of 8 9



Recognize this person? The first 10 people to contact us with the correct answer will receive a free NOLS t-shirt. Call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or email


Wilderness Medicine Training ALUMNI PROFILE: ‘A Strange and Awesome Connection’ ALUMNI PROFILE: NOLS Historian: Just Close Enough ALUMNI PROFILE: Spanning the Generations ALUMNI TRIPS: Return to the backcountry, and bring a friend

23 REVIEWS: 30 Days to Survival, High on the Wind Rivers

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LEADERSHIP The NOLS leadership model has a rich history based in adventure and reflection.

14 ‘ PAY BACK WHEN ABLE’ Today, NOLS offers $1.7 million in scholarships. Once upon a time, Paul offered notes on napkins.


24 GEAR ROOM: Look Good, Feel Good

NOLS ACROSS THE GLOBE From a cabin in Wyoming to an international presence, NOLS has an eye on the future at each location.

26 RECIPE BOX: Try a classic recipe from the first Cookery 27 JABBERWOCKY: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives 28 SUSTAINABILITY: Walking the walk


29 SCHOOL NOTES: Miss your home base? Catch up! 30 INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: James “KG” Kagambi 31 BELAY OFF: How I Spent My Summer … in 1967 35 TRAVERSES: Trekking Tunes for the Ages

COVER FEATURE: NOLS FOR LIFE What did students take from their courses in 1965, and how is that similar—and different—from today’s students? Take a close, personal look at NOLS’ impact over the generations.


ANSWER TO LAST ISSUE The answer to the last issue’s “ Who Is This?” is Timothy Mulvey, an Illinois grad who has the distinction of taking 13 NOLS courses.

KIM FREITAS Field Notes, pg 5

BEN LESTER Profile, pg 9

LARKIN FLORA Profile, pg 11; Feature, pg 15

MADELYN WIGLE Cover, pg 18

Freitas is a Vermonter who moved out to Wyoming to work for NOLS after taking a Wind River Wilderness course. She is usually found running all over town, nordic skiing and hiking.

Lester got his first taste of journalism after college as a science reporter and liked it so much he quit writing for eight years in favor of working on old-style sailing ships and as a NOLS instructor and facilities manager. Back at a desk now, he’s found joy in combining his love of the outdoors and his hatred of the passive voice.

As a writer and explorer, Flora enjoys connecting with fellow adventurers and telling their stories. When not working at NOLS Headquarters, you can find her and Bosco the dog hiking one of the many trails near Lander.

Wigle is a writer and photographer who recently— via Skype, from a hostel in rural Mexico—accepted a position as a full-time NOLS marketing representative. When she's not thinking of her next meal or planning adventures, you can find her trolling the library or playing in the woods.

Summer 2015


What do you think? 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. Find back issues online at

Letters to NOLS HI CASEY,


I received a spring issue of The Leader and I found an article about my film. Thank you. It's nice to get NOLS support to get the word out. I saw Mike Betz was the one to review the film and write an article about it. I don't know him but please extend my gratitude to him. Maybe because it's a review, not an article or interview, you didn't bother to check in with me about the article before publishing it. I understand. But there is a critical mistake in the language. The word “tribe” is used by the U.S. government and it implies colonization and assimilation. Sioux tribe is one such example. Gwich'in, as well as many Native American communities, have a strong negative association with the word tribe. Therefore, I never use the word “tribe” to describe a certain group of Native Americans. If you ask them, many would tell you to use nation instead (so, Sioux tribe would be Lakota nation if you are talking about Lakota). For the future, I would strongly encourage whoever writes about culture that is different from yours to check in with the person who is familiar with the culture or whose work is in the article. I feel responsible for the words being used in this article to describe my work, but I was not given an opportunity to make sure that the article is not offending the Gwich'in people.

The article by Brette Bricke, My Playground, My Dad, My Leadership Voice, in the spring Leader caught my eye. I am an alum from the NOLS ELLE course (August 2014) and I was also 70 years old when I participated in my first trail hike with NOLS Rocky Mountain. Brette’s description of her Dad on his first hike on a trail reminded me of several similar experiences. As with her dad, the uncertainty of going downhill with hiking poles was a constant concern. I was also very concerned that I would slip and break something, thereby making it a bad day for my trail mates. One day, the leader, Tim Cusick, noticed me falling a bit behind and in true NOLS leadership fashion, he doubled back and checked on me. He said, “Brother, you don’t look well. Sit down.” He gave me water and a chocolate treat. Within 10 minutes I was ready to go, but still nervous about those pesky loose rocks. Like Brette’s dad, I had run marathons and so forth, but the age and the trail, the altitude in the Winds, and my age also caused me to be worried. One of our instructors, Bob Schoultz, was great with suggestions like those Brette gave her dad. Thanks for the article.


THANKS, MIHO. My apologies for the error. I will learn from your feedback.



Casey Adams, Editor, The Leader


Ivan Dunn


IT’S NO SECRET NOLS USES MANY ACRONYMS. AS NEW HIRES, interns, and first-day students know, if you’re not familiar with the common NOLS phrases and acronyms, it’s hard to understand what folks are talking about.

After 50 years of linguistic license, it’s time NOLS compiled a resource of NOLS educator lingo. The following will help you prepare for speaking with folks about NOLS, whether here in Lander for the 50th celebration or in your own community.

When placing climbing anchors strive for: Equalized, Appropriate Angle, Rock, No Extensions, Solid, Timely.

A term for “stop” when climbing or mountaineering on a rope team. Also used when you’ve had too much of something and want it to end.

When crossing a river, consider: Access, Bottom, Current, Depth, Exit, Further (downstream), Gradient.

Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, hot Tang— a common way to end a travel day on course.

Patient assessment notes regarding Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan.

Leadership Navigation Challenge, a custom team-building workshop for NOLS Professional Training clients.

The Fear Of Not Carrying Enough.

Often witnessed on winter courses: the Spontaneous Student Face Plant.

Instructor team working a course together and comprised of one CL (course leader) and PL (patrol leader) or instructor.

The field Instructor Course, an aspiring outdoor educator’s golden ticket to teaching field courses for NOLS.

Don't make big decisions when you're: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

When kayaking and analyzing waves Watch, Anticipate, React, and Recover.

Independent Student Group Expedition, often the culminating event of a student’s course.

The hardest part of any endeavor, the “crux” is also the hardest part of a climbing route.

Treat some injuries with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

The National Outdoor Leadership School. Or is it Nerds Out Lost Somewhere, or Never-ending Opportunity for Long-term Suffering?

Or “pea soup,” a slang term for NOLS program supervisors who oversee programming at NOLS locations.

Or “woofer,” Wilderness First Responder, the standard certification for our field instructors.

Summer 2015



NEWS OF NOLS’ 50 TH ANNIVERSARY reached Congress this spring. On April 30, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) strode to the congressional podium to commemorate the milestone. “One of the things that makes NOLS alumni so successful is they have learned how to make decisions and face adversity,” he said. “I am confident in the future leadership of our communities and nation because I know tomorrow's leaders are receiving NOLS instruction and experience today.” For a school that began modestly in a small cabin, this level of acknowledgement is remarkable. Building upon the foundation of NOLS’ founder Paul Petzoldt (who testified before Congress in support of The Wilderness Act shortly before founding NOLS), NOLS’ work in the policy realm has grown significantly. Today NOLS is considered a consistent, trusted, and informed advocate for wilderness and for people—especially youth—to experience firsthand public lands and wilderness around the world. The core of NOLS’ policy work has been, and will continue to be, focused on the integrity of the outdoor classroom and our access to it. As NOLS began to open new operations around the world, engagement on policy issues tended to be led at the local level, frequently by the local branch director. Policy began to take on a more centralized role in the 1980s as NOLS spearheaded the development of a Leave No Trace (LNT) ethic.

Sen. John Barrasso, Jen Lamb of The Nature Conservancy, John Gans, and Sen. Mike Enzi celebrate NOLS' history.

LNT became the recognized standard across public lands, and NOLS, the Forest Service, the Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management established themselves as national partners on the preservation and appropriate use and management of wilderness. To further integrate and centralize diverse policy efforts, NOLS hired its first public policy director in 1991. The vision, which has largely played out, was to ensure that NOLS had a voice in the highest halls of power. Frequently, NOLS builds bridges between disparate groups that share a common goal but are not traditional partners. “Whether it is on developing balanced guidelines for bolting in Wilderness, bridging sportsman and conservation




QUESTION The Shoshone National Forest is the oldest forest in the U.S. and NOLS' oldest classroom, having supported courses since our beginning in 1965. What did the Shoshone's recently released, long-term land use plan—which was a 10-year process—reveal? Answer on page 27.


communities, or connecting for-profit and not-for-profit outdoor programs, this is the most effective work we do,” said NOLS Executive Director John Gans. NOLS public policy work has evolved to serve local operating area needs while engaging in national conversations of access and building connections with the outdoors. Today, NOLS is engaging with diverse outdoor interests and federal agencies to streamline permitting requirements and create more opportunities for people everywhere to connect with the outdoors. NOLS’ ability to grow will rely on the integrity of permits, and its ability to maintain and expand access to the world’s finest classrooms. This responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the staff that engage on issues of policy.


IN OUR 50TH YEAR, FIRST AID EDUCATION IS an expected part of an instructor’s training. No one questions the need. Good training is widely available. But in the early years of NOLS, wilderness medicine courses were few and far between, often taught by the local mountain club or ski patrol. First aid certification wasn’t mandatory for instructors, nor was it required by the land management agencies. We picked up our training here and there, often by teaching during our field courses. It wasn’t until 1978 that NOLS required instructors to have at least Advanced First Aid training (the card did not need to be current as long as you had the training at some point). I remember the day dedicated to first aid on my 1973 Instructor Course. It was educationally painful—lots of talking, very little doing. I learned stuff we no longer teach: to cut and suck the venom from a snakebite, to keep a person with a head injury awake lest they sleep and never wake, to splint angulated fractures “as they lie.” However, the day was not totally without value. I felt ill-prepared to take care of my students and motivated to find better training and gain experience. I joined a rescue service and began a career path focused on the teaching and practice of wilderness medicine. The first aid classes on my Instructor Course may have been poor in content, but they were certainly representative of the Paul Petzoldt philosophy on prevention: time is better spent learning

how to avoid accidents than learning first aid. I can’t disagree. NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt had his priorities in order: good judgment, good planning, and effective risk management are the best medicine. NOLS has come a long way, and we are in a good place. We have consistent, relevant, and practical curriculum; accepted credentials such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR); more textbooks than we can read; and a medical journal dedicated to wilderness medicine. Instructors are prepared to provide excellent first aid in the field and, most importantly, good judgment and

decision-making in medical situations. After all, the first aid we can practice in the wilderness is limited, but good judgment is boundless.

In the Wilderness Handbook, Paul Petzoldt recommended that “One or two persons on every expedition should be knowledgeable about accepted first aid procedures concerning splints, treating shock, closing cuts, and detailed symptoms indicating appendicitis, pulmonary edema and hypothermia.” (Petzoldt 1974, pg 230).

Just as medicine has changed over the years, so has the way NOLS teaches wilderness medicine. NOLS Archives

WILDERNESS MEDICINE QUIZ EVACUATION CRITERIA FOR A PATIENT WITH A FRACTURED RIB INCLUDES A. point tenderness. C. shortness of breath. B. coughing. D. chest muscle tenderness. Answer on page 28.

Summer 2015



David (back, red shirt), with his course and instructor KG, in the front with red socks. Courtesy of David Watson



INSTRUCTORS OFTEN TELL STUDENTS THAT when they go home, their parents will want to know everything, to see the photos and hear the stories, but that they will never quite understand the snowstorms and peak days, burned macaroni, and the transformation of self and group that takes place in the crucible of wilderness expeditioning. There are, of course, exceptions. When David Watson picked his son, Thomas, up from the airport last summer after his Wind River Wilderness course, he knew exactly what his son had experienced in the mountains. David had taken two NOLS courses at Thomas’ age. The connection goes one step further: both father and son had the same instructor nearly 30 years apart: the legendary James “KG” Kagambi. David recalled the drive home from the airport: “I asked about his instructors. He went through the names, and mentioned ‘KG from Kenya.’ And I said, ‘Oh really?’ and I didn’t even register it, but said, ‘That is really cool, how long has he been instructing?’”


Thomas: “I don’t really know for sure, but it seemed like a really long time.” “I’m thinking no way—there is no way that can happen,” David reflected. When David pulled out photos from his 1987 Semester in Kenya, father and son made a remarkable discovery. “It was this amazing moment; a strange and awesome connection,” the elder Watson remembered. David, a vice president at Delta Air Lines, remembers KG well. “KG was embedded in the culture and could really help us understand the thinking and the cultural processes, not only in people's day-to-day lives, but also as we would come through their world. He was able to open doors and offer insights that never would have been available to us otherwise. He played a critical role.” The younger Watson, a junior at The Westminster Schools, said of KG, “I learned so much from him. He would always keep spirits up, and remind us to not complain. He had an amazing attitude.”

He added that KG made a great cake. “Every Tuesday he would say it was his birthday and bake an incredible cake,” he said. The course similarities continue. Thomas: “The weather wasn’t … great. It was early June, and we got held up for a two-day storm with 22 inches of snow. We got hit pretty hard—enduring that was definitely tough.” David: “We got stuck in a blizzard on July the 3rd, and it was a total whiteout—it was just cool—it’s something I never would have thought would have happened, but it was an amazing day.” Both father and son are keenly aware of the value of their experiences. “It created a sense of self-reliance and confidence that I have been able to carry with me for the rest of my life,” David said. “In terms of being able to overcome and persevere through things that may seem difficult at the time, NOLS forces you to adapt to your circumstances. And I view that as a strong and critical skill in life—things aren’t always going to go your way. Being able to understand your circumstances and adapt to them and continue to press forward is helpful.” Thomas calls on the experience in the midst of the challenges of high school and college prep. “Obviously junior year has been pretty tough,” he said. “It just makes me want to be back out there.” David is a “huge believer” in the NOLS experience, and “it is something I have been and continue to talk about with [my sons].” Now he shares that experience with two of his three sons. “The third son is chomping at the bit.” Read more about KG under the Instructor Profile on page 30.


IN HONOR OF OUR 50TH YEAR WE REACHED out to two NOLS alumni to compare their reflections: Andy Carson, a former instructor and student on the first course in 1965 and Grace Kerner, a 13-yearold student at Archer School for Girls, which partners with NOLS Professional Training to send students on week-long courses. They confirmed the long-held beliefs that cheese is always a hit, The Beatles rule, and nothing beats the wilderness experience. What was your favorite piece of gear you had with you? Grace: My sleeping bag. It was cozy and warm at nights when I needed it to be, and waking up at 4 a.m. to see the stars I could cuddle up in it and watch them from my bag. Andy: An ice ax. It is such a simple but indispensable tool, and, along with a rope, is the classic symbol of alpine travel. It seemed so exotic to me at the time, never having handled one.

on a campfire. It is a can of essentially any size with a couple of holes along the rim where you could attach a wire bail to hang it from, or grab it, or otherwise use as a handle.

What do you do with your free time?

Grace: I love to read and watch movies. I like to read a lot of historical fiction, such as John Le Carre books on the Cold War spies or historical fiction about the World Wars. Some of my Hot Tang or hot chocolate? favorite movies are in the science fiction Grace: Definitely hot chocolate. I’m a and fantasy genres. HUGE fan of tea (Earl Grey!) but Hot Tang is just not my kind of tea. So I Andy: Let the dogs out … just a shorthand way of saying follow your instincts and would have to go with hot chocolate. inclinations to find something rewarding Andy: Only choice? How about “warm to do with that free time. green death,” a hot lime Jell-O drink? Despite 50 years between courses It didn’t coat teeth but it did look and generational differences, these alarming—down it went. two show that the shared experience What was the one song you couldn’t of a NOLS course is one of the things get out of your head on your course? that make the school remarkable. In this increasingly disconnected world, Grace: I believe it was, “We Are Never NOLS brings us together. Strangers in Getting Back Together,” by Taylor Swift, the airport will stop and reminisce if they see a NOLS luggage tag or wave to it’s just such a catchy song. a person with a NOLS bumper sticker. Andy: “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob This connection ripples beyond our time Dylan. It was on constant play on any with NOLS into our lives, making our communities better places to live. radio station in the frontcountry.

What was your favorite meal out of the NOLS Cookery? How did you The Beatles or the Stones? prepare that meal? Grace: The Beatles have a few more songs Grace: Cheesy bagels. We would have that I love to sing and dance along with. to light the stove and then place the pan on the stove and then you put the bagels Andy: Beatles, with Stones as a warm-up. into it and put some cheese on top and let it melt. It is so good. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Andy: Mac and cheese. Quickly, in a Grace: Triple Chocolate Chip. billycan, with lots of cheese and lots of oil (bring on the calories). A billycan was Andy: Udderly Chocolate. Or, chocolate. the standard cooking tool when cooking Don’t leave out the chocolate, either.

“ Add Cheese and Fry It” Cheese is one of the most favored items in a NOLS ration. More than just delicious and protein-rich, it can be relied on to fix almost any type of backcountry cooking disaster. When a meal takes a turn for the worse, a desperate and hungry student may get the classic “NOLSpeak” instructor line to “add cheese and fry it.” It’s simple and it works. Just throw some butter, cheese, and your over-cooked pasta onto your frybake—problem solved! Molly Hunt, Alumni Intern

No matter the decade, no matter your age, a NOLS education is a shared experience for 50 years of NOLS grads. Upper right and lower left: Courtesy of Grace Kerner Upper left and lower right: Courtesy Andy Carson

Summer 2015






NOLS’ “4-7-1” LEADERSHIP MODEL IS BY NOW A FAMILIAR—AND hallmark—element of the school’s curriculum. But leadership wasn’t always taught this way on NOLS courses. Indeed, the 4-7-1 framework for talking about leadership only came about in the late ‘90s, as way of carrying NOLS’ pedagogy into the new century. In the early years of the school, said NOLS Executive Director John Gans, the emphasis was on leading like NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt led, “that larger-than-life style.” There was lots of talk about leadership, but the particulars weren’t well defined. In lieu of an official “instructor notebook,” faculty simply swapped class ideas and copied notes from one another. When Petzoldt left NOLS in 1975, “we lost the one leader that people looked to emulate,” said Gans. By the late ‘70s, instructors were moving away from the “great man” theory of leadership and instead emphasizing a diversity of leadership styles. The template of a 30-day wilderness course looked much like it does now: an emphasis on student autonomy, and a progression toward an independent expedition. But the long shadow that Petzoldt had cast over the curriculum began to fade. “Our culture changed, but the world changed, too,” recalled John Gookin, NOLS curriculum manager. “There was a revolution in ‘flatter’ leadership structures that empowered people to accomplish the organizational mission and objectives.” From the mid ‘80s to the mid ‘90s, there was a push to document NOLS’ policies and curriculum. When Gans became executive director in 1995, after a long career as a field instructor and branch director, he soon set about creating the Leadership Project to define an official, rigorous leadership curriculum. Gans and Board Chair and Instructor Allen Macomber oversaw the project team, which was headed by Molly Doran. The team also included Gookin and Rachel Greene, who would later edit the first Leadership Educator Notebook. Material for the evolving curriculum often came from veteran instructors and faculty newsletter articles. Gookin began to insert business-reply forms into the bimonthly staff newsletter soliciting suggestions. “We weren’t coming up with anything new,” he said. “We were primarily giving language to existing ideas: how do we talk about what we already do on expeditions?” The ultimate goal was to identify the greatest successes of teaching leadership at NOLS and using those to record the school’s written curriculum. Even so, Gookin added, each member of the Leadership Project team was tasked with drawing material from beyond NOLS. Doran brought a wealth of knowledge from psychology, Macomber from his role as a high-level executive at Citibank, and Gookin from the military and religion. The four leadership roles and seven leadership skills came from a long weekend locked in a conference room with the Leadership Project team. The list of proposed skills would steadily grow, and Macomber would firmly insist that it be pared back down. “Allen held us to seven,” recalled Gookin. Thanks to a bit of editorial chicanery, however, “judgment and decision-making” and

More than 254,000 graduates have left the field with a solid grasp on leadership in the past 50 years. NOLS Archives

“vision and action” were allowed to stand as single items. The first edition of the “Leadership at NOLS” pamphlet defined leadership for NOLS after a schoolwide review in 1996. It made no mention of the “one,” or what we today call a leader’s “signature style.” “That emerged a bit later,” said Gans, as the model was field-tested. Instructors realized that even the most comprehensive list of traits couldn’t account for a leader’s particular strengths and weaknesses. “Signature style” was a way of honoring one’s quirks and predilections—the good, the bad, and the ugly— while also building self-awareness of those traits. When veteran field instructor John Kanengieter became the first director of the nascent NOLS Professional Training in 2000, he began to adapt the leadership curriculum for shorter, highly customized courses. From indoor classrooms to outdoor ones, and three-day courses to 30-day ones, the school now had a “language of leadership” it could teach anywhere. Indeed, since the late ‘90s, the model has acquired a nickname (4-7-1) but otherwise remains virtually unchanged. “It had to be rigid, otherwise I don’t think it would have stuck,” said Gans. In other words, no tinkering allowed. There was a push some years ago, he recalls, to rebrand “tolerance for adversity and uncertainty” as “resiliency.” But even that seemed a suspect proposition. If you begin moving the stones of a foundation, what happens to the house built atop it? Gans, who calls the development of the leadership model the “proudest legacy” of his tenure, now smiles when asked if he’s softened on the idea of tweaking its language, if not its actual tenets. “I’ll enjoy watching where it goes,” he said.

Left: The NOLS leadership model is based on the lessons of an expedition, rather than the other way around. NOLS Archives

Summer 2015







IT’S THE MID 1960S. YOU’RE SITTING AT A BAR IN CONVERSATION WITH legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt. He tells you about his school out in Wyoming for outdoor leaders. You’re interested but say you can’t afford it. Casually, he writes a few letters on a napkin, signs his name, and slides it over to you. “PBWA,” it reads. Pay back when able. He tells you if you show up in Lander, Wyoming, and hand this in, it will get you on a course at the National Outdoor Leadership School. For free. Standing at my desk in 2015, I’ve heard this story, or variations of it, from more early grads than I can count. PBWA, work trades, scholarships … it’s been a murky search for the truth about early financial aid at NOLS. Financial records are scarce from back then, and scholarships weren’t tracked like they are today. I have yet to find such a napkin, but I have found other written correspondence corroborating the stories from those early grads. In this rabbit hole of research I’ve found myself in, one thing is clear: making NOLS accessible to anyone who wants to attend has always been a priority. As many as 20 percent of NOLS students between 1965 and the early 1970s attended with the help of a PBWA scholarship, and more through work trade. The program seemed to work: by the end of 1970, enrollment was up and 71 percent of the 1965 scholarships had been repaid. From what I’ve heard—and read while flipping through the tremendous amount of written correspondence in NOLS’ archives— the school was a family. Petzoldt, Tap Tapley, and other early leaders looked out for their own, and if you came to the school, you were part of the family. “The scholarship was part of a core ‘we can get stuff done’ attitude,” former instructor and marketing director Paul Calver told me during a recent phone call. “The scholarships and opportunities for people back then were really valuable. It was the ‘60s and people were hitchhiking around and kind of floundering. A lot of people found a home at NOLS that they wouldn’t have if they hadn’t had some kind of scholarship support.” Calver himself hitchhiked to Lander in 1973 and traded work for his first course, driving the stock trucks to drop off students at roadheads. Many people who chose to stay on and work for the school did so without pay, in exchange for continuing their NOLS education. Others were offered PBWA scholarships to develop the skills necessary to instruct NOLS courses. “Some people say that we were pioneers. I say that we were just

As many as 20 percent of NOLS students between 1965 and the early 1970s attended with the help of a PBWA scholarship, and more through work trade.

lucky that we were able to stumble upon NOLS,” explained Diane Shoutis, a PBWA scholarship recipient and long-time NOLS employee. “The same beliefs and principles are still being taught today, but it was a smaller and more tight-knit unit back then.” Petzoldt’s legacy of making NOLS accessible to all students lives on. In 2014, over 600 students received scholarships to attend NOLS. As a fundraiser for the school, I know how meticulous we are about the scholarship process now. We have a much broader reach than during those early years, both in giving financial aid and as a school in general. We know where the money comes from and where it goes. We track, assign, partner with other nonprofits, fundraise, then track some more. On the front end, students continue to have life changing adventures, just as they did 50 years ago.

These documents are examples of "Pay Back When Able" scholarships being put to good use. Brad Christensen

Left: Early students were allowed to pay back when they were able, and NOLS still gets donations from such scholarship recipients. NOLS Archives

Summer 2015





NOLS Alaska began in

INDIA: Since its first moun-

1971 with an ambitious attempt on Denali and a sea kayaking course. In 2015 the base, or “The Farm,” plans to run 63 courses, including NOLS Professional Training Ashley Wise (Pro), Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI), mountaineering, river canoeing, and packrafting. In the future, they’re excited to expand their reach to more Alaska Natives, build a classroom on the base, partner with federal land management agencies on citizen science projects, and increase their community and Gateway Partnerships so that all students can have a lifechanging NOLS experience.

taineering course in 1991, NOLS India has run up to 12 field courses and 8-10 wilderness medicine courses every year. Located in Ranikhet in the forests of northern India, Kirk Rasmussen the base offers courses in paddling, mountaineering, and cultural experiences with rural families. In the next 50 years, they hope to be a hub for more NOLS courses in the Asia-Pacific region; run sea, river, and land-based courses in at least two languages other than English; and consult for the government to influence policy in conservation and sustainable adventure tourism.

AUSTRALASIA: T h i s r e g i o n


incorporates two Southern Hemisphere locations—NOLS Australia in Broome, Western Australia, and NOLS New Zealand in the Aniseed Valley on the South Island. Brian Hensien Between these two bases, students can backpack, canoe, sea kayak, and immerse themselves in Australian Aboriginal or New Zealand Máori culture. Australia’s climate is tropical, while New Zealand operates in a wet climate with large snowy mountains, big rivers, and torrential downpours. Their main goal for the future is to have the opportunity for NOLS courses to serve more local students. 16



MEXICO: Once based out of a 15x15 foot house only accessible by plane and operating in just 70 square miles, today NOLS Mexico has 17 buildings, a 1,000-square-mile operating area, and runs entirely on Alisha Bube sustainable energy. The base maintains partnerships with Mexican universities and CONANP (the equivalent of National Parks), offers seabased courses like sailing and sea kayaking, plus hiking, courses in Spanish, and many WMI courses. In the next 50 years, they hope to attract more students, further expand their operating area, and continue to build strong relationships in Mexico and Latin America.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST: NOL S Pacific Northwest lies on a 30acre campus that illustrates the growth from the humble beginnings of a handful of summer mountaineering courses in 1971 to having students in Brad Christensen the field nine months of the year, offering six different skill types (hike, mountaineer, climb, sea kayak, sail, and wilderness medicine), and supporting operations in five different countries (U.S.A, Canada, India, Sweden, and Norway). Being located so close to large urban areas, NOLS Pacific Northwest sees itself representing how NOLS can provide wilderness access to a broader representation of students and businesses in the coming 50 years. PATAGONIA: Starting in 1989 with one semester course, this base now runs multiple semesters each year and the only yearlong program at NOLS, plus courses for instructors, NOLS Pro, WMI, and SpanAlex Chang ish programs. Courses cover mountaineering, sea kayaking, cultural competence, and rock climbing. The campo is a 420-acre farm outside of Coyhaique, Chile near the Andes. In the next 50 years, goals include returning to the Magallanes region, developing more Chilean and Brazilian instructors and students, increasing sustainability with on-farm food and energy production, preserving Patagonia’s pristine wilderness, and developing robust Spanish programs. ROCKY MOUNTAIN: This is where NOLS began. Beginning with the classic Wilderness course, NOLS Rocky Mountain now oversees bases in Vernal, Utah; Boulder, Wyoming; Saranac Lake, New York; and Arusha, Brad Christensen Tanzania. It runs most course types except ocean-based courses. Combining all of its locations, it hosted over 1,800 students and 56,000 field days in 2014, plus numerous NOLS Pro and WMI courses. The historic Noble Hotel remains a second home to students and instructors, and the base hopes to remain relevant and central to NOLS over the next 50 years.


SCANDINAVIA: One of the newer locations, since 2008 it has moved from Norway to the mountains of Sweden, near the Arctic Circle, and grown from one course to eight courses annually with various combinations Carrie Dodge of backpacking and sea kayaking. They hope to continue to grow as much as they have been (from students spending 330 total days in the field in 2008 to 2,384 in 2015) and keep expanding the awareness of NOLS in Europe. SOUTHWEST: Starting as a part of NOLS Rocky Mountain, in 1991 NOLS Southwest became its own entity and soon after moved to its current location in the Sonoran Desert just outside of Tucson, Arizona. Now it Lindsay Nohl offers a variety of field courses, NOLS Pro and WMI backcountry expeditions, alumni trips, and Leave No Trace Master Courses in backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, and caving. One goal is to add technical canyoneering to the course skill offerings.

TETON VALLEY: NOLS first ran winter ski mountaineering expeditions in the Tetons in 1971. Currently, the campus is housed on 15 acres in an old brick church and a longstanding farm. Students thrive Brad Christensen on skiing and splitboarding in the winter, and backpacking and rafting on the Main Salmon River in the summer. It’s a hub within NOLS for Adventure programming (14- and 15-year-olds) and is expanding Prime courses for students 23 years and older to include rafting. In 50 years, they hope the students who came as adolescents this summer will be leading in conservation, community, and education. WYSS CAMPUS: From 83 students on three courses in 1990 to more than 17,000 students on 750 courses in 20 countries last year, WMI continues to expand its reach. Though operating on a 243-acre wilderness mediBrad Christensen cine campus is a far cry from their humble beginnings, the hallmark of a course experience remains the WMI instructor with a dry-erase marker in hand. Moving into the next 50 years, WMI will seek to maintain the integral relationship between instructor and student so they can continue to prepare graduates to make difficult decisions and care for others in times of need. Summer 2015


NOLS for Life





“ YOU’RE TAKING A NOLS COURSE,” MY FATHER SAID TO ME FROM behind his Weekend-at-Bernie’s sunglasses and pyrrhic disposition at our kitchen table. I was 10 years old. I had only a vague and distant understanding of what this “NOLS” meant to my dad, who at this point had explored much of the world. In the mix When seasoned or of adventuring, he took a NOLS ski course in ’76. early NOLS employees, He’d built a silent and susinstructors, staff, and tainable reverence for nature alumni reflect on NOLS and all things "experiential." I couldn’t touch the back then, it ’s as if things he’d done or relate they ’re trying to to the places he’d been, for describe magic. a few reasons. 1) I had only just reached double-digits, 2) Getting those stories out of him was like pulling teeth, and 3) I hadn’t taken a NOLS course. Yet. When seasoned or early NOLS employees, instructors, staff, and alumni reflect on NOLS “back then,” it’s as if they’re trying to describe magic. There’s a reason for the almost mystic air to their recollections. In the earlier days of the school, folks knew they were creating something special—something groundbreaking. They were committed to overcoming the pervasive disconnect between people and nature, themselves, others, and personal ethics. In the film High on the Wind Rivers, which followed NOLS mountaineering students in 1970, the sentiment among them was largely rooted in trying to develop and strengthen mind and body while efficiently traveling the wilderness. Toward the beginning of the film, Paul Petzoldt says, with regard to students, “The most important thing they learn is about themselves. They drop the veneer of civilization and see other people as they really are.” That is just as true today as it was in 1970. We still drop the veneer and are still forced to look our coursemates in the eye and learn to communicate and grow with one another. It’s a general understanding that what students get out of their NOLS course is close to, if not the same as, what they got out of it 50 years ago. What is worth exploring, though, is what is the same? The answer is transference. In fact, it’s clear that the transfer of skills, notions, values, and ethics are nearly exactly the same as they were in 1965. My dad may have been wearing wool pants, whereas I wore teal and blue windpants, but it's safe to say that the feeling in our guts was similar when we summited our first peak. Where he returned from his course to the comforts of home and a traditional Italian family, I returned to my cell phone, the Internet, and college life in Virginia. However, we both had the smattering of people close to us asking, “why did you do that?” or “what did you get out of it?” What I know now is that the answers to those questions are nearly identical for both of us. And that shared transference is a testament to the school’s enduring mission.

High on the Wind Rivers follows NOLS mountaineering students of the 1970s. Today’s students can still relate. William Roth

My dad and I re-joined our previous routines and habitats with a stronger sense of what matters to us, and a desire to live simply to the best of our ability. For me, that meant getting rid of about 75 percent of my clothing, and making a deal One of the things that I with myself to invest in experiences rather than got from NOLS was the possessions. For my idea that I didn’ t just have dad, that looked like re- to do one thing with my configuring his entire camping kit. Anything life—that I could explore that wasn’t absolutely and have adventures. essential was given away, because he realized that having the right piece of equipment is better than having many pieces of equipment. “What was more striking was my attitude change— I didn’t worry about whether or not I could take care of myself in a difficult situation,” he said. He had learned to live in some of the harshest backcountry conditions. He reflected, “We had a couple hypothermia cases and a bout of frostbite to address. It was not a trip without adversity and physical risk, but I felt all the more self-reliant.” Pru Smith, a student on 30 Days to Survival (see page 23) recalled, “One of the things that I got [from NOLS] was the idea that I didn’t just have to do one

Top Left: Author's father skiing in the ‘70s. Bottom Left: Author on a backpacking trip. Courtesy of Madelyn Wigle

Summer 2015


Perseverance, tolerance, teamwork, and so much more will always be lessons nature teaches. NOLS Archives



thing with my life—that I could explore and have adventures. In college I was trying to get off campus, so I did a bunch of trips. I went to Nepal. I spent some time in the Southwest with the Pueblo Indians.” She said that NOLS instilled her with a genuine sense of adventure. My dad would agree, and that same sense of adventure was passed onto my siblings and I. We have, as an organization and community, come leaps and bounds in terms of technological advances, and it’s worth pointing out while reflecting on NOLS then and now. What is amazing about these advances is that while that aspect is changing and evolving, it still supports the school’s original goals. Not much has changed other than the scale in which we do it. For example, if we take a look at the NOLS IS department, we know that they are communicating efficiently to all of our locations across the world. Further, as an organization we have developed the tools and resources to reach our alumni in a very real way. That is an astronomical advance from where we started. But we’re still bagging rations, still doing things with our hands. We’re waking up in the morning and spitting into the wind after brushing our teeth. We are bandaging wounds and getting intimately acquainted with what we’re made of. That rugged process is something we can still facilitate. Other commentary from the High on the Wind Rivers film outlines that NOLS Pru Smith, ‘69. NOLS Archives courses teach students


“to enjoy life even under difficult conditions.” Tom Day who was part of the documentary, 30 Days to Survival, says his course helped him be more independent, and function as a leader. “I got into my independence, and taking charge,” he declared. On Day’s course, Petzoldt’s unique teaching style played a role in fostering that independence. “I was kind of stuck. It was the first time I’d ever rappelled and I just couldn’t get over the cliff. Paul said, ‘If you don’t get on your rappel line, Mr. Day, I’m going to come over there Day Thomas, ‘69. NOLS Archives and throw you off!’ So I did the rappel and came running back up saying, ‘Gosh, that was great! Can I try it again?’ and Paul said, ‘Nope, you only get one try,” Day recalled. He continued, “Paul was kind of gruff in that respect, but it got me unstuck. Looking back on it, he did an excellent job working with us as young folks.” The reason for that is largely surrounded by the fun component of NOLS courses. One minute of fun or a few moments of laughter can make an entire day stuck in a tent during a storm or exposed in a rainstorm feel worth it. Based on countless interactions with grads of all decades, I can attest that finding such laughter is a skill developed and transferred, across the board. You’re not likely to find a NOLS grad complaining about a flight delay, car trouble, or being lost. Why? They just deal. They tend to shed the part of themselves that once sweated the small stuff somewhere in the backcountry. Furthermore, grads also tend to welcome challenges just for the potential to overcome them, because they know from personal experience what is gained. John Hannsz, a student on the course featured in High on the Wind Rivers viewed the opportunity to go out West and climb mountains as an exciting adventure. “[NOLS] gave me a strong sense of independence, a strong enjoyment of outdoors; it led me to being a Scoutmaster. I think that

in part it led to my son becoming an Eagle Scout,” he reflected. Tolerance for—even embracing—adversity, independence, and appreciation for the wild are examples of a fundamental widening of graduates’ worldviews. The filmmakers observe in High on the Wind Rivers that, “Your whole way of life changes, your values. What counts is what you’re actually doing—it’s a one-to-one thing. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, or the length of your hair—it’s a real set of values.” Throughout time, the “younger generation” has had the tendency to receive a mark of judgment on some level. Where there are young people, there are older people calling them lazy, entitled, rogue, or provocative. Just like millenials are tasked with overcoming a slight attack on their unique character these days, so were their parents and grandparents tasked with overcoming similar obstacles. Oftentimes, what the young people will do is seek escape from that environment. And through the generations, NOLS has been able to provide an escape from the culture of a time, and provide a way in which young people measure themselves that has nothing to do with the opinion of generations before them. Petzoldt observes on screen in Wind Rivers, “students are seeking adventure, and seeking something real.” He continues, “the young people today are tough, they’re not like some people think they are.” NOLS students, by and large, are motivated from the start. NOLS curriculum and progression-based framework of the course teaches them to learn to work with, and further value, people that are unlike them. The result of that experience is that they are less likely to be judgmental of the next genWe committed to eration. In fact, it opens up understanding one the potential to connect with another, no matter groups of people they otherwise wouldn’t have. how many differences My dad is 44 years older were in place, and I than me. NOLS allowed us know part of our NOLS to begin building a relationship in which we had things education contributed in common. Where I once to our willingness to rebelled against any and all overcome an obstacle. suggestions from the man, I came to see that they were kicks in directions he knew I’d thrive in. As a result, I found common ground with him. Now we could fill a room with similarities— whether it’s the outdoors, coffee, or distrust for the federal government. We committed to understanding one another, no matter how many differences were in place, and I know part of our NOLS education contributed to our willingness to overcome an obstacle. So while courses now require helmets and students no longer carry external-frame backpacks, they are still focused on the same set of values, and students are still being rocked out of their comfort zones—despite all of today’s modern comforts. They’re put in a role where they are responsible for making important decisions, and those decisions have consequences. They are carrying the exper-

ience with them long enough to stump their 10-yearolds with declarations of NOLS-filled futures. It’s been 50 years since NOLS was born, and to say we’ve achieved remarkable growth is an enormous understatement. However, while much has changed—gear, curriculum, risk management practices, operating locations—there seems to be little difference in terms of that intangible something with which students walk away from their courses. Further, it seems that where students find and draw inspiration from on their courses is essentially the same: the landscape, the challenge, and, particularly, their instructors. A great deal of NOLS grads will go on to summit peaks, run rivers, and regularly and tirelessly charge the wilderness forever; that’s a surface transfer of skills. But what transfers for the grads that shoot a different bearing? It’s my impression that these folks recognize and welcome the potential for anyone to be great. That comes down to our human treatment of one another, and that, to me, is legendary. There is an honor in how we treat each other based on communication skills learned on a NOLS course. It’s how we show up. It’s how we get it done and ask for little applause. How we attempt to maintain a sense of humor through trying circumstances. Maybe that’s the reason for the almost mystic lean to recollections from those who were here in the beginning.

The author and her father on a road trip in Italy. Reda Wigle

Summer 2015



“NOLS HAS BEEN ON THE PERIPHERY OF my life for 40 years,” said Kate Dernocoeur. She sees that as a boon to her position as the author of NOLS’ forthcoming history book. “I’m close, but not too close.” Dernocoeur completed a Wind River Ski course in 1973 and a Wilderness Horsepacking course the next summer. “I get a lot of credibility when I tell old-timers my stuff burned up in the lumberyard fire in ‘74 [that partially destroyed NOLS Rocky Mountain].” On that first course, an instructor mentioned a new idea in medicine: the “emergency medical technician (EMT).” She remembers immediately thinking, “That’s what I want to do.” After graduating from Boston University with a degree in journalism in 1976, she enrolled in paramedic school and immersed herself in the world of emergency medicine. In the late 1970s, the modern emergency medical services (EMS) system was still in its infancy. EMT training was based around medical techniques that hospital-based doctors were used to practicing. But Dernocoeur’s experience as an EMT showed her that other aspects of medicine on the street were just as important, as well as more challenging. “You could handle 1,000 chest pains—same medicine. It’s the scene that’s unique. I thought, ‘why isn’t anyone teaching this street sense stuff?’” The end result of her observations was the publication of Streetsense in 1984, the first in what would be a series of four books and hundreds of articles focused largely on the interpersonal complexities of street medicine. “I saw things that really went south. Other things, I said ‘Wow! that really works,’” she explained. Streetsense introduced the world of EMS to a skillset no one had thought to teach before. Now, said Dernocoeur,

the field has grown up. The book, which went through three editions, is an out-ofprint classic. During the more than 20 years that Dernocoeur worked full-time in EMS, she had little contact with NOLS. As she related in the August 2000 edition of The Leader, she darted from her 1974 horse-packing course directly to Alaska for a sea kayaking trip. But just two days in, she evacuated herself from the course for vague medical symptoms she couldn’t figure out. Although the Anchorage hospital diagnosed possible encephalitis, Dernocoeur felt the sting of failure. “Leaving the course left me feeling somehow inadequate. Reports from others of wonderful NOLS experiences always made me … wishful that I could go back. Dernocoeur wrote that Leader article after acting as expedition medic on a National Geographic expedition down the Blue Nile in 1999. That trip healed her and convinced her to reconnect with NOLS. It also helped her realize that her

time at NOLS had been formative. “I have skills,” she said. “But I’ve never been able to put my finger on where they came from. Day by day, I give more credit to NOLS.” Dernocoeur left EMS in 2003, returned to school, and completed a masters program in creative non-fiction in 2010. In the summer of 2014, she found herself on a NOLS alumni hiking trip in the Dolomites of Italy. She overheard a conversation about the NOLS history book project. When the school later put out a call for author applications, Dernocoeur was ready. “The best part of this project is having the confidence of a place I really respect. That’s also the scariest part,” she added. NOLS hopes to publish the history book in 2016. After more than a year researching and writing the authoritative history of the school, Dernocoeur will never be able to claim “fringe NOLSie” status again.

Kate Dernocoeur has the distance to see—and document—NOLS' history from above. Linda Lindsey

Summer 2015


Rich Brame

Steve Harrington

ALUMNI TRIPS Are you interested in returning to NOLS in the backcountry but can’t take weeks off work? Do you want to share your NOLS experience with your non-grad friends and family? Do you want to adventure and network with like-minded, outdoorsy adults who know the meaning of EB? If you bellowed, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” then join us on an alumni trip in 2015. NOLS offers short backcountry trips for our alumni and guests. These trips have

top-quality instructors, and though they aren’t guided adventures, we do cater a bit more to the desires and maturity levels of our participants. Customized trips are also available. Call us to design your dream adventure. Signing up: A $200 per-person, non-refundable deposit is required for enrollment on all alumni trips. For more information or to sign up, call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or visit



Dates: September 2–9, 2015 | Cost: $2,575 (includes pre and post-trip lodging!)

See for event dates and details. • Santa Fe, New Mexico


• NOLS Alaska | Palmer, Alaska • NOLS Yukon | Whitehorse, Canada • Memphis, Tennessee • New Orleans, Louisiana • Houston, Texas • NOLS Southwest | Tucson, Arizona • NOLS Teton Valley | Victor, Idaho • NOLS Pacific Northwest | Conway, Washington • New York, New York • Chicago, Illinois • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania • Greenwich, Connecticut • NOLS India | Ranikhet, India



• Austin, Texas


Hiking hut-to-hut on this “classic route” means light packs, outstanding scenery, alpine trails, fantastic meals, and the best of Tyrolean culture.

Dates: September 19–25, 2015 | Cost: $2,350 (includes pre and post-trip lodging!) Join NOLS alumni on this unprecedented sea kayaking adventure in southern Croatia! Work hard paddling and exploring the islands and coastlines by day and enjoy the comforts of guesthouse style accommodations in the evenings.


Date: November 15–21, 2015 | Cost: $1,995 (includes pre and post-trip lodging!) Paddle the Bahamas’ scenic cays with a stalwart team of NOLS alumni adventurers. Learn paddle strokes, navigation, rescue techniques, and more. There will be opportunities for walks on the beach, snorkeling, and just enjoying the Bahamas! This trip is suitable for all levels of paddlers.

Directed by Richard Catron & Edward Summer. Watch at NOLS.TV

“They’re going to get adventure one way or another, whether the old folks like it or not, so this is maybe better than LSD or marijuana … or Hot Rods.”–Paul Petzoldt, 1969. 30 Days to Survival is an accurate title for Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary on the experiences of NOLS students traveling for a month in the Wyoming backcountry. The film’s focus on the dynamic relationship between coursemates and the guidance of mountaineering legend Paul Petzoldt illustrates a style of learning thought to be more experimental than experiential at the time. However, when Wadleigh’s documentary first reached audiences on NBC, it sparked a much-needed conversation in education and environmental stewardship: how do we teach people about nature and about themselves? The film was a boon for NOLS. The year following the film’s release, attendance at the young NOLS in Lander, Wyoming, tripled. Students, parents, and educators alike saw the critical value in expedition experience. Embedded in the bedrock of this experience to this day is student transformation. Students were given choices, not commands. Wadleigh’s efforts to illuminate these principals capture a reality for students that was not only a vision of alternative education, but of survival. At the time, in the final week of the course students were asked to give up their frontcountry rations and depend only on the land and their new skills to complete their journey. As Petzoldt points out in the documentary, “People start to forget that food comes from the land, not from Safeway or the supermarket.” 30 Days to Survival is a landmark in NOLS history, and a reminder of the continuing need to inspire people of all ages with challenge, leadership, and survival. Reviewed by Kirk Rasmussen, Video Production Intern. © 1970, TIME-LIFE.

In 1970, when filmmakers Richard Catron and Edward Summers traveled deep into the wilderness of Wyoming’s Wind River Range to document early student expeditions with NOLS, they found young adults and instructors learning from classrooms carved by glaciers. With cameras in hand, they told the stories of students finding themselves as part of a team and truly responsible for themselves. “I think that this month, this month has been the most important one of my life. When you get into an environment like this there’s a oneness about it, and it all blends in,” one student says on camera. After 30 Days to Survival aired on the NBC’s Alcoa Hour, Americans across the country began to recognize Petzoldt’s vision to inspire a new generation of leaders. However, Catron’s film looks deeper than the details of the course and into the introspection and personal development of its participants. “The most important thing they learn is they learn about themselves,” Petzoldt declares on screen. More than Petzoldt himself, the documentary’s focus on the student experience gives specific examples of wilderness learning, from rock climbing, fishing, and glacial travel to the necessity of independence and competency in the mountains. The dramatic landscapes, limited narration, and emotional shot type gives the feel of Catron’s storytelling, and the experience of some of the first NOLS courses, showing us the foundational practices of why NOLS returns again and again to the wild. Reviewed by Kirk Rasmussen, NOLS Video Production Intern. © 1972, Benchmark Films.



Directed by Michael Wadleigh. Watch at NOLS.TV

OCT. 8–10, 2015





Summer 2015 23


A NY BACKPACKING ENTHUSIAST CONSTANTLY STRIVES TO MAKE HIS OR her pack lighter, shoes more durable, and stove more efficient. This type of high-tech gear consumer might cringe at a picture of an oldschool NOLS student. Since 1965, NOLS students have benefitted from the ever-evolving gear and equipment industry, which provides

innovative outdoor products each year. From stoves to backpacks, gear has become lighter, more efficient, and advantageous for any backcountry explorer. But while gear may have changed over the course of 50 years, leadership, safety, and competence have consistently remained the heart of every NOLS experience.

Packs have become lightweight and far more comfortable over the years. External-frame packs with a three-bag system were the standard of 1965.

The NOLS logo was a bit different on early patches.

Early students wore wool pants with heart-shaped butt patches! Tall wool socks were key for keeping the elements out.



Before the Fry-Bake, students cooked meals in billy cans–tin cans with wire handles attached.


Army Surplus boots were used before Gore-Tex.

Cooking by fire was a common practice until the ‘80s.

A modern NOLSie can be easily identified by her gaiters.

It’s important that students’ boots are waterproof, we recommend Gore-Tex.

The ubiquitous puffy jacket has replaced the double sweaters and heavy wool shirts. The NOLS windpants have become a classic, beloved for their ugliness.

The Fry-Bake was invented by a NOLS student in 1977 and quickly became a staple.

Whisperlite stoves are lightweight, reliable, and easy to repair.

First Aid • Gear Apparel • Books • Staff Favorites The Ultimate Camp Kitchen and Campsite HUB.

Use Code NOLSGH15ALM for $50 Discount

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New Deep Alpine product inspired by NOLS staff Photo Credit: Skip Shoutis

Thank-You NOLS Thank-You NOLS for 23 Years of Business! Photo Credit: Skip Shoutis

for 23 Years of Business! Banks Fry-Bake Company Banks Fry-Bake Company 518 851-5207  888 FRY-BAKE 518 851-5207  888 FRY-BAKE NOLS alumni know these pans

Since 1979 NOLS alumni know these pans Since 1979

Announcing PayPal Donations NOLS is now accepting dontaions through PayPal.


PayPal is a great alternative method for making your contribution. By using PayPal, you have the option of donating through your existing PayPal account, or by simply using your credit card.


Ingredients Flat Bread ½ cup flour ½ cup cornmeal ½ cup water Pinch of salt Margarine (to grease frying pan) Toppings Thinly sliced cheese Bacon-bits or sausage

Over the years, many a fun, creative, and scrumptious recipe has occupied this section of The Leader. In honor of NOLS’ 50th anniversary, it seemed fitting to go back to the beginning and pull a recipe from the very first edition of the NOLS Cookery. Printed in 1974, the first edition includes recipes that still grace the NOLS Cookery to this day. Similar to today, it also includes valuable concepts to guide the budding backcountry chef. Many of these nuggets remain quite relevant. In today’s food-crazed culture, where innumerable volumes exhort what we should and should not eat, it’s hard to argue with the simple wisdom on wilderness dining shared by Petzoldt in the introduction: “eat when you want and what you want.” This recipe box revives an old classic. Chapati—Indian griddle bread—which actually appeared in the first Cookery. Though it continues in current editions, it’s often overlooked for the more ubiquitous fry bread. So, I challenge readers to incorporate this quick, versatile bread into their next expedition! Flat Bread Prepare flat bread by mixing all ingredients except margarine. Form into thin flat patties and fry in a lightly greased frying pan until golden-brown. Toppings Place cheese and meat on top and melt cheese by placing hot coals on the frying lid for 5-10 minutes.



The covers have changed, some nutritional tips and recipes have changed, but the NOLS Cookery remains a staple for the discerning outdoor traveler.


Contact the Alumni Office via telephone (800) 332-4280 or email ( to find contact information for any of your coursemates.


GRADS FROM THE ‘70S George Hunker, Wilderness Mountaineering Course ‘70 Longtime NOLS instructor and professional fly fishing guide, George was recently awarded Orvis’ Professional Fly Fishing Guide Lifetime Achievement Award. George is the owner and operator of Sweetwater Flyfishing Expeditions. George and his wife Paula, a former NOLS instructor, live in Lander, Wyoming. GRADS FROM THE ‘80S Kevin Harris, Wind River Wilderness Course ‘84 Kevin is starting a catering company and small cafe in Bethesda, Maryland this summer and has named the company after the Wind River Range. His first contact with Wyoming and the great outdoors was his NOLS course, a transformative life experience he will always cherish. He also has 11 year-old twins that he hopes will take a NOLS course one day. Kate Gunness Williams, Wind River Wilderness ‘85, former instructor, former NOLS Board Member One Percent for the Planet, one of the world’s largest environmental networks, is excited to announce that Kate stepped into the role of CEO on May 1, 2015.

Kate Gunness Williams. Brad Christensen

GRADS FROM THE ‘00S Justin Mast, Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals ‘04 & PNW Trip Leader ‘05 Justin is in Sierra Leone working in an Ebola treatment unit. See his blog about his experiences: https://

Kyle Drake, Outdoor Educator Semester ‘08 & NOLS Instructor Kyle Drake and Ashley Brothers, both of Bend, Oregon, were married March 14 at Aspen Hall. The bride is a 2007 graduate of Santa Clara University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is a youth recreation leader for the Bend Park & Recreation District. The groom is a 2004 graduate of Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado, where he earned an associate degree in general studies. IN REMEMBRANCE

Ryan Tharp, Fall Semester in the Rockies ‘07, WFR ‘09 Ryan graduated from the University of Colorado Law School in 2013 and passed the Colorado bar that July. He’s now a corporate transactional attorney at Fairfield & Woods, PC in Denver, Colorado.

Walt Tulecke, Mountain Guide Course ‘73 Walt Tulecke died peacefully with family nearby at Ohio’s Friends Care Center on Jan. 28, following surgery for a broken hip. He was 89 years old, two weeks shy of his 90th birthday.

William ‘Bill’ Lee, Wind River Wilderness–Prime ‘14 & WFA ‘06 Bill recently completed the Boston Marathon 2015. He finished with a very respectable time of 4:07:58. Congratulations, Bill!

Stephen P. Adamson, WFR ‘04 Stephen, a Jackson Hole attorney, and a climbing partner died after being involved in an avalanche on the Sickle Couloir on Mt. Moran in Teton National Park on May 17.

WILDERNESS QUIZ Answer: Large parts of the Shoshone are now designated as unsuitable for industrial oil and gas surface development. Also, although no new Wilderness areas were created, the Shoshone’s highest quality non-wilderness backcountry areas will be managed for year-round non-motorized recreation.

Top: George and Paula Hunker with George’s Orvis Award. Courtesy of George Hunker Bottom: Bill Lee makes his way through the Boston Marathon. Courtesy of Bill Lee Summer 2015 27

Andy Tyson, Fall Semester in the Rockies ‘90, Summer Instructors Course ‘92, NOLS Instructor Andy died April 10 when a small plane carrying Andy, two coworkers, and the pilot crashed in central Idaho. They had been researching a solar and hydroelectric project for Creative Energies, a company that Andy co-founded, at a remote ranch. His love of the outdoors was stimulated by family summer trips, outdoor programs in college, and a semester course at NOLS. Andy returned to NOLS and became an instructor. Over the years Andy worked in various capacities with NOLS, Alpine Ascents International, Exum Mountain Guides, and Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. While at NOLS, Andy met his beloved wife Molly Loomis Tyson. They were married in 2006 and lived in Teton Valley, Idaho. Joseph R. Eversole, WEMT ‘12 Joe Eversole, 22, passed away Friday, March 13, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was a certified wilderness EMT, enjoyed playing music, and loved archery. He will be remembered for helping and caring for others and his ability to be lighthearted and make people laugh.




C: Most people with fractured ribs are evacuated because a fractured rib is not a lot of fun, but the key assessment is for underlying lung injury.



Aaron Bannon

A.J. Linnell, Semester in Patagonia ‘98, Summer Instructors Course ‘99, NOLS Instructor A stack of books sits on AJ’s bedside table. It includes Thrive, Warrior Athlete, The Power of Habit, Insurgent, and a book on cycling. That stack captures A.J.’s wide-ranging interests. He was hard to pin down with a single label because he wore so many: consummate NOLS instructor, mountain guide, professional cyclist, solar panel installer, city councilor, volunteer, skier, snowboarder, reader, teacher, student, apprentice electrician, and, most importantly, friend, son, brother, and husband. A.J. died in a small plane crash in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness on April 10. He was returning from a project site at a remote ranch when the plane went down shortly after takeoff. A.J. and the plane’s three other occupants, including his two friends and Creative Energies co-workers, Rusty Cheney and Andy Tyson, were all killed. NOLS is where he met his true love, Erica DeBois Linnell. The pair married in Teton Valley, Idaho, in 2005. A.J. continued to guide internationally, but wanted to devote more time to life with Erica and his Teton Valley community. They settled permanently in Victor, Idaho, built a LEED-certified home, and became active members of their community.


At NOLS it is among our core values to foster in our students their own environmental ethic. Practicing Leave No Trace backcountry camping techniques is a key component of fostering this appreciation for wilderness in its untrammeled state. It is our hope that our grads will carry this value system with them throughout their lives. It is therefore important that we at NOLS demonstrate the significance of carrying this ethic throughout the school. Such was the thinking in 2005 and 2006, when we chose to embark upon a sustainability initiative “It was all about needing to walk our talk in the frontcountry,” says Jen Lamb, who launched the initiative as NOLS public policy director. “We have these time-tested values of how we travel in the backcountry, and we needed to transfer them to our frontcountry operations.” In the 10 years since the work began, we have made significant strides as a sustainable school. We created a sustainability coordinator position to develop a system of policies, guidelines, and benchmarks for every aspect of sustainability, from reducing our carbon footprint to selecting environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. We have made great progress and the evidence is apparent. NOLS now boasts solar arrays on nine structures, generating over 220,000 kwh of energy each year. We have begun testing alternative-fuel vehicles within our fleet at many locations. And we have integrated sustainability guidelines into our purchasing practices, whether it be paper, food, or gear. Our work is not done. In the first year since we started tracking our carbon consumption, we saw a 2-percent increase after years of decline. We have some locations that, due to their remoteness, have limited opportunities to pursue. But, as our students, instructors, and staff consistently place a high value on sustainability practices, we continue to make progress toward our goals.

Lawmakers Recognize NOLS’ History U.S. Senator John Barrasso and U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis, both of Wyoming, spoke on the Senate and House floors celebrating NOLS 50th anniversary this spring. These proclamations come after the Wyoming State Legislature signed a joint resolution in February recognizing NOLS’ 50-year commitment to education and responsible land stewardship in Wyoming. The joint resolution concluded, following a list of high praises, “the undersigned members of the Sixty-Third Wyoming Legislature commend the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming for its extraordinary and commendable commitment to the state of Wyoming, its abundant natural resources, and its citizens.” Rep. Lummis declared her pride in the Cowboy State being the hometown of the leader in wilderness education. “NOLS is headquartered in Wyoming, in Lander, and we are proud that NOLS’ mother ship is in our dear State,” she said. Sen. Barrasso’s statement noted his support for NOLS as a doctor, a legislator and a leader. He stressed the importance of wilderness medicine training, the impact of the NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability department’s work and the lifelong lessons of “hard work, sacrifice and appreciation and respect for nature” taught on NOLS courses.

Water is an excellent means of exploring the Northeast. Lindsay Yost

Remember the moment you first set foot in a NOLS building, wherever in the world it was? All novel and unfamiliar in the first days, it was comfortable and familiar by the time you were de-issuing and celebrating your course. Well, it’s business as usual at NOLS locations around the world; stay up to date on the activities here or on the NOLS Blog at NOLS NORTHEAST • This is the 5th summer of NOLS Northeast operating in the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York. During our first season in 2011 we ran three courses, and this year we will run 15 courses for over 100 students!

Courses in the Northeast dive into the fall colors. Lindsay Yost

• Our summer courses include offerings for NOLS Professional Training, Alumni, and Summer Search. Courses will include canoeing, backpacking, and, new this year, a rock climbing component for Clarkson University students on a NOLS Professional Training course. • Our alumni service trip will work on lean-to roof restoration and bridge repairs in the Western High Peaks. Thanks to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), these participants will be dropped off by boat to start their course. • In September, we will run our Prime courses for adults 23 years and over. These courses travel through the Eastern High Peaks, summiting New York’s highest peak, Mount Marcy, and enjoying the world-famous fall foliage of the Adirondacks. ROCKY MOUNTAIN • This summer, in collaboration with NOLS Professional Training and C5—a network of nonprofits dedicated to serving inner-city youth—we’ll host four groups of students from the Northeast and Texas. In late July, C5 students and instructors will pioneer a route in Utah’s southern Uinta Range, a course area that NOLS is returning to after more than two decades. • Take 87 seventh-grade girls and eight classroom teachers from Los Angeles, 21 female

instructors, and five nights in the canyons, and what do you get? The 2015 Archer Middle School Wilderness Expedition! The Archer School for Girls sent a record-setting eight courses into Utah’s red-rock country with NOLS in April. The girls will venture to the Southwest and Pacific Northwest in 9th and 11th grade to continue their progression of backcountry leadership training. • Three of the branch’s recent seasonal interns returned to Lander in May to take field Instructor Courses and join the school’s faculty. Meanwhile, thanks to the tireless work of spring interns Dimitri and Anna, NOLS Rocky Mountain now has a redesigned map wall and several new chapters in the Canyon Instructor Notebook. • The facilities department, assisted by a small army of volunteers, recently completed a major renovation of the Rocky Mountain River Base in Vernal, Utah. Look for a new kitchen, improved instructor quarters, and redesigned student lounge—all with fresh coats of paint! • Rations manager Claudia Pearson and her staff spent the last few months tinkering with NOLS’ “Gulch Bite” recipe in the branch kitchen, which program staff were all too happy to help taste-test. The secret to the new recipe? Shaved coconut and fresh banana!

Claudia Pearson is the heroine behind Gulch Bites. Courtesy of Claudia Pearson

• The NOLS Three Peaks Ranch herd wintered well and by early May had grown to 76 horses. We continue to adopt mustangs from the Wyoming Department of Corrections’ Honor Farm, where wild horses captured by the Bureau of Land Management are trained by inmates before being adopted.

Summer 2015 29


NOLS’ MOST SENIOR INSTRUCTOR, JAMES “KG” K AGAMBI, HAS SPENT 715 weeks in the field for NOLS. That is equal to 13.75 years. For reference, the average time to earn a Ph.D. is only eight years; it takes a mere 11 years to become a neurosurgeon after finishing an undergraduate degree; and NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft passed the planet Neptune just 12 years after being launched. Extended time in the wilderness gives KG the opportunity to teach, which is “what keeps me at NOLS—the interest of people to learn, and me teaching.” KG, a Kenya native, also owns a guiding company in Kenya, KG Mountain Expeditions. Even on his guided trips, he prefers to seek out clients who are there to learn, rather than just have an experience. Teaching, naturally, was KG’s first occupation. It was by happenstance that on his daily walk to work, he saw a NOLS bus. “I would always see this bus, and I thought, ‘What school is this?’” His brother mentioned NOLS was running a rock-climbing course for guides and they had extra spots. KG, 24 at the time and knowing little about rock climbing, took the opportunity and “loved it.” KG described early signs of a passion for the outdoors growing up in Kenya. “As a boy, I loved sliding in the mud. My mother would always be angry with me and make me wash my clothes,” he recalled. Physical fitness and self-reliance in the mountains were ingrained in him early. His two-hour hike to school took him through a semi-



KG enjoys a cup of yerba mate in the frontcountry. Courtesy of James Kagambi


arid ecosystem with a mountainous backdrop, where he would occasionally see buffalo. “I just loved being out there,” he recalled. At lunch, he caught fish. “Otherwise, there would be no lunch,” he added, though it was unclear if this known joker was jesting or not. KG eventually took an instructor course in 1989. His first course was an aid position on Denali. He became the first native African to summit Denali. He has since worked at many branches of the school. Equally as broad as his travels with NOLS has been KG’s influence on co-instructors and students. Galen Dossin, who has worked with KG for about 44 weeks, said, “[I admire] his ability to make friends in almost any place in the world. I’ve seen him in cities, rural areas, places where he speaks the language and places he doesn’t, he always has friends.” Will Wamaru, who has also worked with KG several times, noted that his influence extends beyond NOLS. “Whenever I meet guides and porters [in East Africa], they always talk about him and how inspired they are by him. He is a big name in East Africa for all the work he has done to improve skills and standards of mountaineering. He constantly finds time to train folks here,” Wamaru said. Among instructors and students, KG is famous for two unique traditions: baking a birthday cake in the field every Tuesday, and eating meat every day. Both traditions reflect a theme he emphasizes on courses: sharing. “I come from a culture where we share our food. Students come from communities where people are [isolated],” he explained. “How many times do you have a lot of food, but the kid next to you has no food?” Underlying his people-oriented approach to NOLS courses is a one-word philosophy: “Fun.” At the 2015 NOLS Faculty Summit, in contrast to workshops on scholarly topics like cognitive psychology and pedagogy, KG co-led a workshop on incorporating games into NOLS courses. “It’s a way of capturing people,” he said. “When you do the silly things and people start laughing, they open up to one another. If a course comes back smiling and having fun, there is a lot they have learned.” Larkin Flora contributed to this article.


IT WAS JUNE OF 1967, I HAD TURNED 13 YEARS OLD, AND I WAS ABOUT TO embark on one the greatest adventures of my life. I had been chosen to attend NOLS’ very first course for juniors, later renamed the Adventure Course. I was a rebellious young boy in a time when there were few options for dealing with juvenile problems. Because of behavior issues, rather than criminal activity, I had been expelled from school and my parents, who were ending their marriage, admitted me to the juvenile program at the Wyoming State Hospital. During this time, the hospital and NOLS had an agreement to allow select youths to attend courses in Lander. I do not know the details of the agreement, but I believe it had much to do with Paul Petzoldt and the NOLS Board of Directors’ empathy and compassion for tutoring young people in choosing the right direction. I believe that my hall supervisor at the hospital was the driving force behind my being given the opportunity to attend. To this day, I do not I know who my benefactor was. The trip from Evanston, Wyoming, to Lander was an adventure of its own, as we were all on our own and traveled by Greyhound bus. We were welcomed to the school headquarters by the biggest man I had ever seen: Paul Petzoldt was huge, both in stature and personality. He was friendly and kind, physically imposing in his sweater and knickerstyle trousers with socks and boots and a wool watch cap. Standing in the early morning sunlight on the step of the front porch, arms akimbo, speaking in a strong but gentle voice, he epitomized the outdoorsman that he truly was. Petzoldt took the time to inform me and one other boy selected from the hospital that we would not be singled out or treated differently than any other young man in the group. I am quite sure that it was never mentioned that we were “patients” of the hospital. When we were “ready” to move up the canyon and onto the trail, we once again boarded the stock trucks. We were told that the next time we would get to ride would be at the end of the course. The group started out on foot a short way and encountered the river. It was swift and deep, a pole-and-rope bridge the only way across. As a kid who was afraid of heights, had zero self confidence, and was skinny with little upper body strength, little did I know this was the first of many tests and the first step on a life-changing journey. The roar of the river was deafening, and taking that first step out on to that pole carrying a pack that was half my body weight made my heart race and my stomach churn. The noise, the movement of the water beneath me, and the swaying of the bridge made me want so very badly to turn around and get back on that truck! I looked back at the parking area and realized the truck was gone! I now had no choice but to put one foot in front of the other and get across that bridge. We camped that first night on the far side of the river. We had been separated into two-man teams who were tent mates, climbing

Every direction we turned seemed to be uphill, Gene writes of his course. NOLS Archives

buddies, and cooking partners. The team concept applied to pretty much everything we learned or did. Each of us was responsible for, and to, each other. If your partner was lazy, you had to work harder or work with him to step it up. I saw this same program put to practical use again later in life in the U.S. Marine Corps in my recruit training. We learned early on that if one person was strong in a certain area or skill, he could benefit the group by helping those who were lacking. The next few days were a series of tests, lessons, hardships, excitement, and rewards. We got our first blisters and learned how to take care of them and what to do to prevent more. For a collection of city kids and even us few westerners, the daily hike to the next stop was hard work. We started with short distances and worked our way up. Every direction we turned seemed to be uphill. We learned to balance those awkward pack frames and to cross streams deftly. Nearly every thing we did was a new experience, and there were many opportunities to receive instruction. As the days stretched into weeks we became stronger, more confident, self-reliant, and disciplined. Petzoldt visited each of the course groups. He would talk to us of his experiences as a world traveler and mountaineer. He told us of his love for the mountains

Summer 2015


The challenges of his course equipped Gene for success for the rest of his life. NOLS Archives



and wild country. He taught us by his example to care for the land and do what we could to preserve it for the future and use by others. During one climbing class, Petzoldt “encouraged” me to be lead climber on a short but difficult rock face. As we prepared to rope up for the climb, he handed me a sling of pitons and hammer and said he wanted to watch me lead. Although I never really overcame my fear of heights, I learned to put my fear aside and do the work necessary to reach a goal. I found that I could push beyond my comfort zone with confidence. Petzoldt was, I believe, a good judge of character and encouraged all of us to do our best and try again if we failed. What a gifted teacher he was. My experience during that summer shaped me in ways that I was completely unaware of at the time. Some of those subtle lessons didn’t come to light until many years later. Physical and mental endurance, logical thinking, calm and deliberate problem solving, and so much more have steered me in my adult life and through a career in the military and law enforcement. At the time, I saw the hardships of life on the trail as drudgery and couldn’t wait to make camp and rest. Climbing filled me with fear and apprehension. I was a good navigator, but initially lacked the self-confidence to step up and lead. I endured the daily hikes, the discomfort of the unpadded canvas pack straps cutting my skinny shoulders, sleeping on the ground, not realizing that I was growing, maturing, and learning life lessons that hardly anyone in the world would ever have the


opportunity to enjoy. This is not to say that I missed the awesome beauty of the world around me. The cold crisp air in the mornings and the flower-covered alpine slopes, ice-cold pure water flowing from snow fields or glaciers over granite on its way to the Green River and beyond to the valleys and desert of southern Wyoming. From standing on the summit of Lizard Head in the Cirque of the Towers and viewing the world from a place that even eagles rarely venture, to stepping across the Green River at its source, I knew that this was something special. I reflect back on that summer often. With age and maturity I appreciate the experience more, and sometimes regret that I never returned or kept in touch with Petzoldt. I would have liked to tell him what a life-altering experience I was privileged to have gotten and what an impact he personally made on me. We never really know what footprints we leave on another person’s soul, but Petzoldt surely left them on mine. The basic lessons and experiences at NOLS prepared me for the rigors of training as a Marine Corps recruit, as well as for the long hours, hard work, danger, and fear of flying missions as a helicopter crew chief in and out of combat. The ideals of teamwork and cooperation to accomplish goals that are part of the Marine Corps doctrine were not new to me. The knowledge that physical endurance is in large part due to the ability to mentally prepare and press on were already familiar after NOLS. When I returned to the state hospital, I was probably the only one who did not see how much I had changed. A few months later I was released and returned home to live with my father, work in the family business, graduate, and join the Marine Corps. I cannot say that my life would have been less rewarding had I not attended NOLS, but I certainly can say that it has been because I did.

Summer 2015 33







Registration–$50 tickets Silent Auction Start

State of the School




Keynote Speaker Cash bar

“Tell Your Story” NOLS Rocky Mountain BBQ Best Ball Golf tournament Wyss Campus tour Mini seminars: Fly casting Research overview Tower of Cards leadership activity

Register for events at EVENING EVENTS



Social hour Dinner Awards


5 mile run/walk

“Tell Your Story” BBQ at City Park Film Fest Wyss Campus tour Mini Seminars: Fly casting Lightning class Leadership Navigation Challenge Plant ID class with John Mionczynski

EVENING EVENTS Tailgate party Social hour Dinner 50th movie premiere Silent Auction wraps Dance band


MUSIC IS AN EXPERIENCE MUCH LIKE SMELL, IN THAT IT CAN TRANSPORT A person to a different time, location, and company. The whiff of pine may remind you of your first camping experience, just as the rhythm set by Bob Marley may give you flashbacks of sitting on a beach with best friends. As NOLS’ 50th year dawned, we asked the NOLS Alumni Facebook group, which we invite you to join, about the melodies that take them back to their NOLS experiences.

In response to the prompt “Can you suggest an iconic song (either around NOLS or the world) that ties to your NOLS experience?” 116 responses rolled in. We compiled as many of your suggestions as we could into this Spotify playlist. Log in, type spotify:user:nols1965, and be transported to an adventure passed but not forgotten.

Search spotify:user:nols1965 to access the playlist. Sailing instructor Cassandra Colman playing music on Isla Carmen in Mexico. Joe Roskowski

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

Summer 2015 35

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




NOLS Archives

As a school, NOLS’ first priority is our students. Over the past 50 years, we’ve taught over 250,000 people from every walk of life and every part of the world. These graduates take their newfound leadership, communication, group dynamic, and wilderness medicine skills with them back to their communities. The lessons are far reaching and strengthen communities of all sizes, from families to military units to whole countries. The NOLS Annual Fund supports mission-critical projects like scholarships, outreach programs, and local educator courses at NOLS’ international campuses. Make a gift today to help these lessons ripple around the world for another 50 years.

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The Leader - Summer 2015  

The Leader is a magazine for alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit school focusing on wilderness skills, lead...

The Leader - Summer 2015  

The Leader is a magazine for alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit school focusing on wilderness skills, lead...

Profile for