The Leader - Fall 2016

Page 1


Expedition, Kindergarten Style


Citizen Science Takes Flight in the Winds 12 NOLS USNA Alumni Summit Denali 14

The History Behind the History 16

THE LEADER November 2016 • Volume 32 • No.1 Published three times a year in April, August, and November.



Kristen Lovelace Liz Schultz Anna Boyle Nikole Wohlmacher Sarah O’Leary ALUMNI RELATIONS DIRECTOR


hat a year it’s been! We kicked off 50th anniversary celebrations last year and continued the year-long celebration of NOLS, including our global school operations, our students (we educated 26,025 students in fiscal year 2016, which was a new record) and our top-notch instructors. A major project at the school this year was the completion of our history book, titled A Worthy Expedition: The History of NOLS by Kate Dernocoeur. This is a coffee table-style book that makes a wonderful holiday gift! It will appeal to graduates, their parents and children as well as anyone who has the wild in their spirit. What a wonderful project to be a part of. This book has documented the history of the school so folks can read the story of NOLS for years to come. While time was spent looking back and reflecting, we are now more excited than ever to introduce NOLS to the next generation of students. Since the beginning, NOLS has given our students the tools to navigate chaos in their own lives and step forward as leaders. At the school we’ve always focused on developing leadership in uncertainty; therefore, developing grit is a key outcome of courses. Starting with this issue of The Leader, we’d like to introduce you to the updated NOLS brand. Don’t worry, this is still the global wilderness school you’ve come to know and love with top-notch expedition, wilderness medicine, custom education and risk services offerings. However, we’ve refreshed our look to more clearly communicate our brand and differentiate ourselves within the outdoor industry. As we move into the future, NOLS will continue to stand, as it always has, for leadership, expertise, and the power of the wilderness. Thank you for your continued support of our school and sharing your NOLS experience with those in your life. For all who’ve experienced NOLS, the wilderness runs in our blood and nourishes our soul even long after our course ends. Best,

John Gans NOLS Executive Director





Bruce Palmer Anne McGowan Pip Coe Molly Herber

Postmaster: Send address changes to NOLS 284 Lincoln St. Lander, WY 82520 The Leader is a magazine for NOLS alumni which is a nonprofit global school focusing on wilderness skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. It is mailed to approximately 71,000 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 1-307-332-8800. Alumni can direct address changes to alumni@nols. edu or 1-800-332-4280. For the most up-to-date information on NOLS, visit or email admissions@ The Leader is printed with soy-based inks in Portland, Ore., on paper using 10 percent post-consumer-recycled content. The Leader is available online at


Cover photo: Ben Fox



Feedback | Reminiscing on Teton Climbs


Field Notes | 10 Months, 45 National Parks, My Own Rules


Issue Room | Theodore Roosevelt Is Turning in His Grave


Wild Side of Medicine | Shoulder Dislocation Response


Alumni Profile | Enjoying the Tiny Life


Alumni Profile | Leading in the Avalanche Industry

20 Alumni Trips | Reconnect with the School


Expedition, Kindergarten Style | Lindie Keaton shares her experience teaching forest kindergarten at the Antioch School.


Citizen Science Takes Flight in the Winds | Students on Rocky Mountain courses help research Clark’s nutcracker.


NOLS USNA Alumni Summit Denali | Students from the U.S. Naval Academy summit Denali with their instructors.


The History Behind the History | Learn the story behind the writing of A Worthy Expedition: The History of NOLS.

21 Reviews | We Are the Arctic and Into the Carpathians 22 Gear Room | ROAMr Ski 24 Recipe Box | Cocoa Deluxe 25 Jabberwocky | Learn what your classmates are up to 26 School Notes | Updates from various locations worldwide 27 Sustainability | Carbon Footprint 28 Belay Off | Building a Tolerance for Failure 30 Instructor profile | Meet the Team Captain of NOLS Southwest 31 Traverses | It’s Winter. Get Out There!






Cronon began his relationship with NOLS on a 2006 Adventure course in the Winds. This past May, he completed his instructor course. Living in his Honda Element, he is always hunting for empty roads and epic horizons.

Pontrelli is the sales manager for NOLS Custom Education and came to Lander from Chicago in 2015. In her free time, she loves to run, bike, explore the mountains, and bond with friends over homemade deep dish pizza.

Wilson is the new curriculum publications managing editor at NOLS. She has over 14 years of writing and editing experience. Wilson is a sea kayaking instructor and a registered yoga teacher. Her passions also include hiking and sitting in hot springs.

Originally from the midAtlantic, Niewoehner is now a SoCal alumnus who comes from a family of NOLS alumni who are always trying to outdo one another. When he’s not skiing, he can be found hiking with his wife and trusty canine companion.

Field Notes, pg 5

Feature, pg 14

Feature, pg 16

Belay Off, pg 28


What do you think? Join the conversation. Send your feedback to, post on Facebook, tweet it, share on Instagram (@NOLSedu), or give us at call at 1-800-710-6657 ext. 2254. Find past issues online at


Hi Mick,

Sifting through my father’s belongings in March after he passed away I found a couple of clips he kept about the 1977 New Year’s Climb. I’m Mick Elmore cooking on page 56.

Thanks for sharing your note and magazine clips about the 1977 New Year’s Climb. We have placed the pages you sent in the NOLS alumni archive. Happy adventuring!

I was thinking if you have a library with articles about NOLS this might be useful.

Kim Freitas Editor, The Leader

Best Regards, Mick Elmore In this FORTUNE magazine article William Marling wrote, “I was skeptical of the sport when Paul Petzoldt, the leader of the climb invited me to go along. ‘It’s very real,’ he said unconvincingly, ‘something you do with your whole body. It appeals to people who have dealt most of their lives with subjective things and theories. Many scientists, doctors and lawyers climb.’ If the people I encountered are representative, the typical winter mountaineer is neither a serious athlete nor the sort of daredevil one might expect. When I scratched the surface, I found people of an independent mind—perfectionists and closet romantics.” This feature article, “High on Icy Rime and Powdered Sugar” ran in the January 1977 issue of FORTUNE magazine.


10 MONTHS, 45 NATIONAL PARKS, MY OWN RULES By Jeremy Cronon Instructor

Pausing to take in the wonder of our country’s national parks. Courtesy of Jeremy Cronon


hen I was 12, my family piled into our car and headed west for a summer exploring the national parks. That trip changed my life. I tasted the freedom of the open road and experienced the wonders of America’s wild places. I was hooked. In August 2015, I set out on an expanded version of that adventure, seeking to spend 10 months visiting all the national parks in the contiguous United States. I hoped the trip would teach me more about the wilderness, our country, and myself. I knew I would learn from every moment and mile, but only if I paid attention to what was happening around me. I adopted a series of daily practices, I called them my roadtripology rules, to ensure I was deliberate about the trip. Here are two examples: Learn Where You Are The parks are full of stories. To find these stories, I tailored my audiobook and podcast selections to focus on the

place or region through which I was traveling. In Arches, that meant listening to Edward Abbey’s tales in Desert Solitaire about his seasons working in the park. I also never missed an opportunity to explore park visitor centers, talk with rangers and watch introductory films. My ranger-led tour made the labyrinthine passages of Wind Cave in South Dakota tell stories I never would have heard on my own. In the Great Smoky Mountains, a little extra time in the visitor center led me to spectacular waterfalls far from the beaten path. Taking 45 minutes to do this at each park gave me a historical, cultural and ecological foundation unique to that area. Go Where the Tourists Go. And Where They Don’t Every park has its famous highlights: Mather Overlook in Grand Canyon, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. Tourists flock to such places, and are right to do so. They

are undeniably glorious. I wanted also to explore places that don’t make it into many guidebooks. These were often where I found myself confronting what felt like the deeper realities of a park. I spent a night shivering all alone at the bottom of Black Canyon, humbled by the raw power of the Gunnison River beside me. In Grand Teton, I sat silent in the Chapel of the Transfiguration, meditating on its picture-window marriage of natural beauty and spirituality. In these moments I felt personally connected with a place. Sharing views from the rim of the Grand Canyon with thousands of other travelers leaves a powerful impression, but I will never forget my 28-mile solo hike along the Tonto Platform. As the shadow of the setting sun spread across the parched sea of blackbrush before me, my footsteps and breath fell into pace with the warm canyon winds. For those nine hours, I knew there was nowhere else in the universe that I should be.


THEODORE ROOSEVELT IS TURNING IN HIS GRAVE By Evan Reimondo Environmental Stewardship Coordinator


he push to wrest public lands from public hands, led by a subset of conservative lawmakers in the West, refuses to go away. This issue gained additional prominence this summer when it was adopted as an official policy stance in the 2016 Republican Party platform. The platform states, Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states. This is not the first time this ideology has been expressed in the platform but it is the strongest language yet. Much of the sentiment associated with this land transfer push is that state and local governments know how to

What will happen to our public lands? Courtesy of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Fishing is a common recreational activity on public lands. Kirk Rasmussen

better manage the lands and resources because they reside near them and know them better, often criticizing federal land managers as aloof “absentee landowners� in Washington, D.C. While the overarching policy directives come from the national offices in Washington, D.C., on-the-ground managers for federal lands live near, work and play on, said public lands. These are the people that are involved in drafting and soliciting regional public input for land and resource management plans. Locals can influence public land management by participating in planning processes, where state employees and locally elected officials already have an influential role. Many land transfer proponents have a specific interest when they propose state land management: economic gain. While not inherently bad, unfettered exploita-

tion and development compromises other values and uses of public lands. States lack the regulatory systems to manage these lands for the multiple uses and values presently maintained for the benefit of all Americans. Furthermore, state lands are managed differently than federal lands, and are usually required by state constitutions to maximize revenue with limited review of the environmental and collateral consequences. The entity that can produce the most tax dollars for the state, therefore, typically gets the lease. There is a vocal contingent of senators and members of Congress fervently promoting the idea of state takeovers. The best way to counter the land transfer push is to tell your representatives that you do not support this land grab and that federal multiple use and public input mandates best preserve our resources and our access.

Wilderness Quiz QUESTION | Yellowstone is the first National Park, established in 1872. What is the most recent National Park Service (NPS) designation? Answer on page 25. 6 | THE LEADER

SHOULDER DISLOCATION RESPONSE By Dhiren Talpade Wilderness First Responder ‘14


ate in the afternoon one day last summer, the brightly colored First Aid Center at the Karnala Bird Sanctuary in Karnala, Maharashtra, India grabbed my attention. I had just come down from the Karnala Fort after a two hour hike with the Wilson College Nature Club. I was leading part of the group and the rest of our group would reach this area within the next hour. A forest officer walked up to me and let me know the rest of our group was delayed and should have arrived by 5:30 p.m. that day. I explained that the route was very slippery and was creating bottlenecks at certain places and assured him that everyone would be down shortly. He walked towards the first aid

center and caught my attention. I walked towards the dimly lit center and could make out the outlines of some people inside. As I entered, I saw a forest guide with a first aid box, and another man with half his shirt off sitting on an inspection table and his friend applying some balm on his right shoulder. It was a shoulder dislocation. The patient, Ganesh, was visibly in pain. However, neither the patient, his friend nor the forest guide had any idea about what was wrong. I told them that I am a Wilderness First Responder and asked if I could help. The patient said yes. The patient examination revealed Ganesh and his friends were a small group from Thane. When they were on

Be prepared and always travel with your friends. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

top of the fort, Ganesh slipped and fell forwards. He used his hands to break his fall, but another person walking behind him fell on top of him, which caused the injury. They could not figure out what to do, and they had made Ganesh walk down from the slippery mountain for three hours when he was in excruciating pain. As I attempted to reduce the dislocation using the active tractionin-line method, Ganesh could hardly control his screams. He begged for pain medicine, but we did not have any. After a few failed tries, I decided to change the treatment and used the passive hanging traction method. In just 5 to 10 minutes, I had managed to relax his tensed shoulder muscles and with a bit of active encouragement from me I felt the distinctive click of his dislocation getting reduced. The pain subsided almost instantly and the range of motion was improved by an easy 80 percent. But the real change was Ganesh’s expression. He was smiling. Later as I was finishing up the sling and swathe on his arm for his rickety bus ride home, Ganesh asked me if he owed me any medical fees. I told him that he could pay me by learning first aid and helping someone else in the future. We exchanged phone numbers and parted ways. Sometimes all one needs to help another person is the will to do so. However, you have to empower your will by being prepared with skills. You never know where you will be called upon.

Wilderness Medicine Quiz QUESTION | What are the five signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness? Answer on page 27.


ENJOYING THE TINY LIFE By Molly Herber Writer and Blog Editor


welve years ago, Dee Williams decided to radically downsize. With excessive work hours, a hefty home loan, and a period of poor health, she found herself unable to pursue her real joys. She said, “I wanted to have time and energy and resources to offer to other folks and other issues that were important to me.” Inspired by an article she read about a tiny house, Dee decided to build her own, an 84-square-foot home on wheels. Tiny houses, the latest social movement sweeping the nation and the Home and Garden channel, are simply homes built on a small scale—typically between 100 and 400 square feet. “Tiny living” is the accompanying social movement, one that claims the values of living simply, traveling more, and spending less. Though not all participants in the movement stick to these values, Dee Williams has become a leader and author in the tiny house movement—without all the hoopla. Now, she is looking to “retire” into an even tinier house and pass on her current home to her nephew Jonathan, who is a newlycertified NOLS river instructor. For Jonathan, living in a tiny house creates the perfect balance between putting down roots and pursuing adventure while living on an instructor’s budget: “I couldn’t imagine a more wholesome or cool way of living, and inheriting it from someone I love a ton … lined up really well.” When asked if he saw a connection between teaching students and the tiny house lifestyle, Jonathan said “For sure. Just the simplicity aspect of it.” Dee added that she appreciates the closer connection to nature a tiny house offers: “I’ve never been so close to nature as living in a tiny house with a skylight right over my bed … it’s given me a perspective of


how magnificent and funny and wacky and mysterious nature is.” While Dee has never taken a NOLS course, she remembers the NOLS folks who introduced her to the outdoor world as some of her favorite people: “The NOLS instructors I knew in the ‘90s were some of the funniest, most irreverent, and knowledgeable people in my life.” Critics of the movement often rightly bring up the fact that those with little money or resources have lived in “tiny homes” for centuries—in the form of mobile homes, shacks, and temporary

housing—without being praised for the simplicity of their lifestyle or celebrated by the media. But for Dee and Jonathan, tiny house living isn’t about getting praise for their lifestyle—it’s about community and the awareness that “having any kind of a home is a privilege,” Dee stated. With a simpler home, whether it’s on wheels or planted firmly in one place, folks can put their time and energy into the things that really matter: our communities and the big, wild world that surrounds us.

Dee enjoys a quiet moment on the deck of her tiny house. Tammy Strobel

LEADING IN THE AVALANCHE INDUSTRY By Kim Freitas Writer and PR Specialist

Musnicki in her main element—winter in the mountains. Paul Rachele


hen Jaime Musnicki was first introduced to skiing at age two, it led to a lifelong love of winter sports, and a new career path. Musnicki first discovered NOLS in January 2000, when she took a Patagonia Mountaineering course. That positive experience inspired her to take a Rocky Mountain Instructor Course (IC) in May 2002. Initially, she intended to work for NOLS for a little while. “It seemed really appealing to work in the mountains and teach people in the mountains, and it was a natural next step that I wanted to pursue.” That led to 10 years of teaching courses for the school. In the spring of 2013 she tore her ACL in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park and found herself at a crossroads. “In being injured and then recovering from the injury I was quite determined not to get too down about what I was missing out on.” Musnicki instead tried to see

new doors of opportunity. When she came across a posting for the executive director of the American Avalanche Association (AAA), she thought it would be a good experience to apply for a job outside of NOLS. The AAA is an important part of the avalanche industry. “We seek to try and connect, unify, and help share information and ideas between different folks in all these different industries in a way that hopefully leads to better outcomes, better practices for everyone.” Today, Musnicki has been the executive director for three years, and is working on putting her long-term vision for the organization into action. Her plans include, “spending sufficient time to feel like I’m actually helping the organization evolve in a productive way and getting to maybe a new level of existence.” At work, she brings leadership skills she learned on her NOLS courses. She is

most frequently in the driver role. “I am the person who makes things happen at the organization. If I am not driving processes forward, driving different programs and initiatives forward, they very easily can fall off the radar.” “I can’t be stuck in ‘driver’ all the time and lose sight of making time for big picture thinking and envisioning. So making sure I step back into that analyst-architect role semi-regularly, reassess things and think about the details and information.” Her position is also very relationship driven: “as a connector and unifier within the avalanche industry, we need to maintain connections with all the different people who we represent and all the different segments of the industry we represent.” By using different leadership styles, Musnicki plans to continue leading the charge to develop and share knowledge with winter outdoor enthusiasts.


EXPEDITION, KINDERGARTEN STYLE By Lindie Keaton Pacific Northwest Trip Leader ‘10 and Prince William Sound Sea Kayaking ‘13



few years after my NOLS courses, I found myself utilizing my expedition skills at a whole new level. After observing my upcoming kindergartners making extensive use of our outdoor spaces in all kinds of weather, I decided to introduce forest kindergarten for fall 2015. Forest kindergarten began in Scandinavia in the 1950s as a solution for educating young children when there was a lack of building space. The classes used a natural area and met outdoors, rain or shine. This approach has spread to countries including Germany and Japan as a developCHILDREN BEGIN TO mentally appropriate way to educate children that FORGE THEIR OWN RELA- encourages a connection nature. TIONSHIP WITH NATURE withIn the United States, AND WITH EACH OTHER. the approach has spread less quickly, since it is not compatible with current educational trends, like standardized testing. In the United States forest kindergarten programs are varied and some are in settings where there is a school building, such as my setting. At the Antioch School where I teach, children have the freedom to use outdoor spaces as often as the indoors. The building itself, designed in the 1950s by Max Mercer, who was a student of Eero Saarinen, is meant to bring the outdoors in with walls of windows throughout. In ten years here, I have been outside with kindergarteners every single day. The school is across the street from a 1,000-acre nature preserve, Glen Helen, and kindergarten has been taking weekly hikes in the Glen for years. The addition of forest kindergarten was a natural expansion. We began by starting each Monday morning through lunchtime outdoors. We met in our forest classroom—a small group of trees near the school grounds. From there the children planned their initial expeditions with my guidance. As we progressed through the year, the children took over the planning, as is typical of Antioch School and NOLS. The kindergarteners wanted to whittle, build fires, cook outdoors, find beaver habitat and edible plants, and spend more than one morning a week in our forest classroom. They did all that and more. They explored caves, harvested and fired clay in our fire, made many creek crossings, learned to identify local plants and animals, and spent hours in imaginative play outdoors, while forging very real friendships and group bonds. They acquired most of their new skills incrementally, testing themselves independently. Sometimes we debriefed as a group. After our first rainy forest kindergarten day, this is what the children said they learned about staying comfortable in the rain:

• I like walking. • Remember to bring your lunch back to school. • Don’t jump in puddles hard. • If you find a toad or a frog, don’t stamp on it. I still recall my own feelings of pride in myself and wonder at the beauty in the world, when I stood on a mountain peak or paddled successfully through an icebergy fjord on my NOLS courses. Through forest kindergarten, children begin to forge their own relationship with nature and with each other. I see those same feelings of pride and wonder on the faces of the children and hear it in their words: bread cooked over the fire is “the best thing I ever ate!”; a child surveying his mostly dry shoes after a creek crossing shares, “I’m pretty impressed with myself.”; from the top of a boulder another shouts, “I can’t believe I finally made it to the top of Meatball Rock!”; and the quiet declaration of one young hiker to himself, “I know my way around the forest.”

• Have fun! • Have a hood. • Don’t leave your coat in the forest classroom. • Make sure you bring your umbrella. • Don’t leave your backpack.

Children spend time in nature and bond with the natural world. Lindie Keaton

Left: Students exploring the forest kindergarten classroom. Lindie Keaton


CITIZEN SCIENCE TAKES FLIGHT IN THE WINDS By Anya Tyson Researcher This summer, 25 courses at NOLS Rocky Mountain participated in a citizen science project focused on the Clark’s nutcracker. Citizen science is a growing field in which people who are not professional scientists use their eyes, ears, cameras, and GPS units to contribute to research.


hen you climb above treeline in Wyoming’s Wind River mountain range, the towering granite ridgelines command your immediate attention. Then, they linger in your thoughts for years to


come. These dramatic skylines give rock-solid continuity between generations of NOLS alumni. Nevertheless, these mountains are changing. Below the sheer cliffs and snow-studded talus, there is a forest that nourishes both grouse and grizzly bears. The whitebark pine, Pinus albicaulis, defines this high-elevation forest. Its dense seeds are similar in size and caloric content to chocolate chips, providing an important food source for over 30 species. Whitebark pines shelter less-hardy plants and shade precious snowpack into the summer months, but these trees are in serious trouble. Whitebark pine populations have undergone a continent-wide decline in the last few decades due to the combined effects of an

Top: Students backpacking through the Winds helped with research. Anya Tyson, Bottom: The stunning granite ridgelines in the Winds. Sean Beckett

invasive fungus and a native bark beetle. The fungus, white pine blister rust, arrived as a stowaway in the East in the early 1900s and has hitchhiked steadily westwards. The mountain pine beetle has advanced upon whitebark from below, climbing higher than ever before as our winters become incrementally warmer. A small army of NOLS students stepped up to address this environmental issue by studying the Clark’s nutcracker, Nucifraga columbiana, a species of bird that is the sole disperser of whitebark pine seeds. At over 50 locations spanning the length of the Winds, teams of students and instructors documented their surroundings and conducted a 10-minute survey to detect nutcrackers. Dr. Taza Schaming of Cornell University will use their data to unravel the habitat preferences of Clark’s nutcrackers. Her recommendations will help land managers replant whitebark wisely, in areas where healthy nutcracker populations can amplify restoration efforts. In the meantime, the Clark’s nutcracker may be planting another type of seed at NOLS. As students gain awareness of nutcrackers and whitebark pine, their learning doesn’t stop at basic identification skills. Instead, the Clark’s nutcracker’s loud squawking speaks to the interconnectedness of mountain ecosystems. Meanwhile, dying stands of whitebark pine remind us how our collective

actions below the mountains can affect our wilderness classrooms. Citizen science provides an opportunity to transform these lessons into action. Rather than merely treading lightly or learning for learning’s sake, over 180 students accepted a mission with real-world context as part of the Clark’s Nutcracker Citizen Science Project. In many cases, this sense of purpose nourished their sense of place. Students and instructors alike made new connections to their environment through hands-on experience. Many learned for the first time how to identify a bird by its sound. Others sampled the hefty seeds of the whitebark pine, while one student group went as far as OVER 180 STUDENTS to commemorate every nutcracker sighting with a ACCEPTED A MISSION WITH specific dance move. REAL-WORLD CONTEXT Though NOLS’ commitment to stewardship AS PART OF THE CLARK’S is as enduring as any granite tower, our approach to NUTCRACKER CITIZEN environmental studies SCIENCE PROJECT. in the field ought to be as dynamic as the natural systems we are trying to bring to life for our students. The wilderness invites us to step forward to take a closer look at nature. Citizen science asks us to invest our observations in the longevity of the wild places we love.

Research lets students learn more about their natural surroundings. Anya Tyson

Left: The Clark’s nutcracker was the subject of a citizen science research project. Sean Beckett





tanding on the roof of North America, their lungs labored in the thin air and their hearts and minds swelled with pride. It was June 16, 2016, and four Navy midshipmen stood with two NOLS instructors atop the 20,310-foot summit of Denali. This very moment was the culmination of 21 hard days on the mountain. Days filled with technical instruction, lessons in communication, teamwork, and group development. Days fraught with frigid temperatures, unpredictable weather, and steep terrain. Days that tested each member of the expedition individually, but ultimately brought the group together for one incredible achievement. This was the Naval Academy Alumni Denali Expedition, a custom course organized by NOLS Custom Education and the United States Naval Academy (USNA). For over 170 years, USNA has molded future officers. Attendees enter the four-year academy as plebes, become midshipmen, and eventually graduate as capable and enduring leaders in the Navy and Marine Corps. Throughout their education, midshipmen take on greater leadership responsibilities, both at the Academy and on summer trainings. Each summer, NOLS offers courses that complement Academy training by providing opportunities to explore how they lead best, putting into practice what they learn in the classroom in an environment rich in the consequential decisions they’ll encounter in the fleet. In the summer of 2016, the Denali expedition was offered for the second time to NOLS USNA alumni as an opportunity to apply those leadership learnings on one of the most unpredictable peaks in the world. On May 31, the mids and their three instructors set out to climb the mountain. Like most NOLS expeditions, the first few days consisted of technical instruction and role modeling leadership behavior from the instructors. For some of the mids, this was a return engagement to the NOLS curriculum, and a chance to test the complementary learnings from NOLS and the Academy in a setting with real risk and real reward. The ultimate goal of the summit mirrored the goal-oriented nature of USNA leadership training REACHING THE SUMMIT and the mids eagerly adapted their prior learnings to reach WAS AWESOME, BUT that literal and figurative in their training. WORKING FOR 21 summit After three days spent DAYS TO ACHIEVE at base camp learning the basics of glacier travel, the SOMETHING TOGETHER mids and their instructors their ascent up the IS REALLY WHAT [THE started mountain. Each day brought COURSE WAS ABOUT]. new challenges with highly technical terrain to cross and mercurial weather patterns, but everyone relied on a strong team dynamic to meet every new challenge. “Mountaineering is a paradox because you’re walking by yourself, but you’re part of a team and roped up. More than my last course it really

felt like a team sport. It was a team. We all relied on and needed each other to perform and succeed,” said Nate Bermel, one of the midshipmen on the expedition. Throughout the course good communication was crucial to success. The mids not only had to relay important information to their team members, but they had to listen to their own bodies and respond accordingly. On summit day, one midshipman, accompanied by an instructor, was held back at base camp by illness. As the others forged on, this act of self-awareness and sacrifice was not overlooked. “Reaching the summit was awesome, but working for 21 days to achieve something together is really what [the course was about]. For everything else I’m doing it’s not just one moment, it’s a buildup of days and hours and work to get there. It’s the process that went into it and reaching a high level of performance,” said Bermel. “In the military you can’t be one-dimensional, you have to show passion, humility, selflessness. Having this experience and the example of the instructors will help us when we are leading in the future.”

Mids proudly displaying a flag on the summit of Denali. Aaron Wickard

Left: Pausing to take in the view while climbing Denali. Aaron Wickard


THE HISTORY BEHIND THE HISTORY By Helen Wilson Curriculum Publications Managing Editor


ing amount of time and energy into the book, both Dernocoeur and Lester credit many people for the support that they received, and are clearly grateful. “A whole bunch of people put work into it. How do we appropriately honor and celebrate everybody’s contribution?” questioned Lester. A quick glance at the book’s acknowledgement pages further demonstrates this support system, which can be seen in the following quote from instructor, Bill Murdock:

Dernocoeur turning research into words. Kate Dernocoeur

The success of NOLS is a complicated story to tell. Effectively educating a quarter of a million students has required a series of timely and inspiring ideas, contributions from many individuals, and more than a bit of luck at important inflection points. Kate Dernocoeur captures so well many of these seminal moments in this book.

There’s a transcendence of the greater good over personality at NOLS, and I think that that’s remarkable. That’s what NOLS is: It is the tribe. It’s not the individuals, it’s the tribe that counts. And that’s a baseline ethic that comes all the way back from Paul Petzoldt. You don’t get to the summit; we get to the summit. Those who came first believed they were building a new world order. While having a lot of fun, they were also dead serious about it, as were those who came later. During one of her research trips to Lander, Dernocoeur discovered some old documents in an archive closet, which included instructor newsletters, meeting notes from the Board of Directors and a

– John Gans, NOLS Executive Director


n February 2015, journalist, non-fiction writer, and three-time NOLS alumna Kate Dernocoeur began the daunting year-long process of capturing the school’s history and spirit in the pages of a book. Ben Lester, curriculum publications managing editor at the time, was involved in the process of hiring an author. “Kate had a great depth of experience as an author. She’s detail oriented, which for this book was fantastic. She also perseveres the difficult things, and she is confident in her writing,” Lester said. With a school that has so many characters, stories, and perspectives, selecting the right author was essential, and Dernocoeur has captured the school’s 51-year history, along with its personality. The book A Worthy Expedition: The History of NOLS emboldens readers to explore the history that made NOLS the outdoor leadership school that it is today. Dernocoeur traveled from her home in Lowell, Michigan to NOLS headquarters in Lander, Wyoming three times throughout the process of writing the book. It was there that she met with Lester, who served as the book’s editor and project manager, as well as head of the editorial committee. Despite dedicating an astound-

Lester was a mentor to Dernocoeur during her writing process. Kirk Rasmussen

Left: The history book arrived in time for the annual NOLS Board meetings in October. Kirk Rasmussen


6,854 ft is the elevation of Sinks Canyon, NOLS’ first headquarters

110 interviews conducted

382 pages long

10 mo is the age of the youngest NOLS grad

47+ people in the book who still work at NOLS

3 research trips to Lander, WY

250+ photos used

3/15/2016 is the day the book was completed

Fun facts about the NOLS histoy book. Design by Sarah O’Leary

complete archive of The Leader, which she read through page by page. Nothing was digital in the early years of the school, and Dernocoeur did a lot of file diving. Amongst her findings was this Personal Clothing and Equipment List: Students in 1970 were sent an eight-page Personal Clothing and Equipment List. The cover page includes the following advice: “The technique for dressing for comfort and safety is one of the important teachings of NOLS. A large percentage of outdoor tragedies can be traced directly or indirectly to ignorance in this technique.” There follows a list of 51 items covering clothing, camping, personal gear such as toiletries, rock climbing (including six rock pitons and one ice screw), cooking, and fishing. Item 40 reads: “Shorts, Cotton: 2 pairs Boxer Type Necessary: Jockey type prohibited. NOLS can supply. Bring your own if you wish. Have plenty of room in the crotch (Girls, nylon underwear that will wash easily and dry quickly may be worn under cotton boxer shorts. NOLS does not provide nylon underwear.)” Item 44C, under optional field equipment, reads, “radio, small, light, transistor encouraged.” In addition to searching the NOLS archives, Dernocoeur conducted 110 interviews, many during the


school’s 50-year anniversary celebration. “I didn’t have anybody not willing to talk to me,” she said, and she attributes this to the expedition behavior that NOLS teaches. “With NOLS, the expedition behavior thing is real. Everybody sort of jumped onboard this project. It was remarkable. When I walk into NOLS headquarters there’s a certain code of getting along that makes whatever the expedition is move forward in a positive way.” NOLS expedition behavior came into play during her writing as well, and while working on part of the book she claims to have experienced a bit of a meltdown. “Two or three times I watched Ben Lester use his instructor-level skills to rein me in when I was overwhelmed.” A Worthy Expedition begins with the story of Paul Petzoldt, from his early years growing up with his farming family in Creston, Iowa, to his founding of NOLS in a small log cabin in 1965 in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming at the age of 57, and finally, to his death in EVERYONE SORT OF 1999, at the age of 91. The reader learns about Pet- JUMPED ONBOARD zoldt’s “Pay Back When THIS PROJECT. IT WAS Able” (PBWA) scholarship system, which was REMARKABLE. recorded on informal handwritten notes. In addition to getting to know Petzoldt, the reader also enters the lives of a myriad of passionate and talented people who have come through NOLS over the years as both students and staff. This narrative has 382 pages and more than 250 photographs and is enriched by sidebars featuring iconic outdoor classrooms.

Instructor Jared Spaulding captures the spirit that many relate to from their own experiences in the backcountry with NOLS: I am the lucky one. In the last 10 years of my life I have slept outside more often than not. I have seen the sun rise and the sun set, oftentimes before I am home. I have climbed some amazing peaks. I have seen Orion hanging upside down in the southern sky and eaten pork chops deep in the heart of the northern Wind Rivers. There were times when things were exquisitely clear to me; there were times when I didn’t have the foggiest idea what to do. I have spent countless days in the mountains and in the desert. I have seen the moon reflecting off of a frozen draw draped in tamarisk while walking back to camp amid big sagebrush and sandstone. I have eaten beans and rice for dinner every night for 26 nights. And I would do it again. I have taught, learned, and grown. I have cried, grieved, and lost. I have made mistakes and I have failed. I have lived, laughed, and loved . . . In this book the reader travels to the current NOLS Headquarters building in the downtown area of Lander, Wyoming, where global and program expansion are still happening today. Just a block away, in an inconspicuous building overlooking Main Street, is the historic Noble Hotel, where “The caving instructors discovered the fun of exploring the air ducts, sometimes emerging in the staffing office, where it wasn’t unheard of to alter course assignments.” These and other “Noble Hotel Wars,” sometimes involving plastic flamingos, will surely make a past or current NOLS instructor or two chuckle. Today the NOLS experience has grown far beyond Lander, and far beyond the 30-day expeditions that were the school’s first offerings. NOLS now has many locations and partnerships throughout the world, all of which support the NOLS global audience by engaging,

Horsepacking is an essential part of rerationing students. NOLS Archives

educating, and exposing it to the wild. The current-day school includes NOLS Wilderness Medicine, which was purchased in 1999, and NOLS Custom Education, which was also developed and added to the school in 1999. Both of these departments have brought an expanded set of expertise in wilderness leadership skills to new audiences, while keeping intact the values that create the NOLS experience. “I know that side of WRITING SOMETIMES the NOLS world very FEELS LIKE YOU’RE THE GUY well, from a paramedic point of view,” AT THE CARNIVAL WITH Dernocoeur said. “It was necessary to find SPINNING PLATES. balance with the older history of NOLS and the more recent history of NOLS. Financially, those two entities coming into the school when they did were essential to the school’s survival.” Things such as twiggy fires, night rescue scenarios, astronauts, dramatic fire escape rescues, and bear fences make an appearance in the book, as does the origin of modern-day methods, gear, and clothing. “Writing sometimes feels like you’re the guy at the carnival with the spinning plates. I had hundreds of spinning plates in the air. It was so much fun, actually, but it was also incredibly hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done trying to keep those plates spinning, and at the same time stay focused on what I was working on at the time,” said Dernocoeur. The history of NOLS hasn’t been all fun and games. The organization has weathered local and global turbulence, tragedy, and internal discord. The author writes about these challenges beautifully and with thoughtful nuance. “As any organization evolves there are hard times and sad times. I made a really conscious effort to stay balanced, but not to shy away from the harder stuff,” said Dernocoeur. In reflecting back on her personal experience writing this book, which was completed on March 15, 2016, Dernocoeur said, “I basically stopped everything else in my life. It was 100 percent, every day all day, no vacations, no days off. I feel free now that the book is finished, but I want to write more books as a result of going through this. I loved it. I feel that I did an honorable job. I’m really excited about this book. It’s beautiful.” This coffee table-style book will make a great holiday gift for NOLS grads, the parents of NOLS grads, the children of NOLS grads, and anyone with wild in their spirit. To purchase A Worthy Expedition: The History of NOLS, please visit the NOLS store at


Lindsay Nohl

Rich Brame

ALUMNI TRIPS Interested in joining NOLS in the backcountry, but can’t take weeks off work? Do you want to share adventure with your non-grad friends and family? Do you want to explore 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 2017. NOLS offers backcountry trips for our alumni and guests. These trips

have top-quality instructors and cater to the interests and maturity levels of our participants. Customized trips are also available. Call us to design your dream adventure. For more information or to sign up, call 1-800-332-4280 or visit

NOLS Alumni Reunions

Rock Climbing at Joshua Tree

NOLS is coming to your community! Watch our website for details on upcoming alumni reunions in:

DATE | February 12-18, 2017 (7 days) COST | $1,750 (includes pre- and post-trip lodging)

• Austin, Texas • Bend, Oregon • Boston, Massachusetts • Denver, Colorado • Jackson, Wyoming • Portland, Oregon • Seattle, Washington Reunions are a great way to meet NOLS grads in your area, build your network, and enjoy an evening of camaraderie, food and outdoor-oriented fun.

Learn new rock skills or hone your existing techniques with a convivial squad of NOLS grads and guests on Joshua Tree’s incredible granite. Work hard under the warm desert sun during this trip, and play hard as well. No matter your climbing background, your instructors will help you improve. Moderate


Base camping can feel luxurious but daily climbing means challenging days and sore muscles.

Hiking in Scotland DATE | May 15-22, 2017 (8 days) COST | $2,200 (includes pre- and post-trip lodging) Explore the Scotland’s iconic trails from the craggy peaks to the sea. This new, challenging trip starts in Aviemore on the edge of Cairngorms National Park and connects a series of inns by trail along a roughly 65-mile route. Packs are light, the landscape is stunning, and the cultural connections immersive. Moderate


Enjoy light packs, challenging hikes, and inn living.




Explore the sacred coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge in northeastern Alaska, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, through a range of voices and stunning photography. The debate has been going on for years: will the Arctic Refuge be kept natural and untouched, or spent for what is estimated to be six months of American oil consumption? The Arctic Refuge is the biggest one in the country at 19 million acres, and the 1.2 million-acre coastal plain is home to one of the world’s last herds of caribou as well as grizzlies, wolves, birds, and musk oxen. Discover why the Arctic Refuge is important to each person, and you will understand why they have gone great lengths to protect this area. Hearing from different perspectives paints a clear picture of the remarkable wilderness the Arctic Refuge provides and the problem they face with drilling in such a pristine environment. Reading We Are the Arctic makes it clear locals and people around the world who share a love for our planet will continue to take action until this political battle is over. “It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extraordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations,” said Jimmy Carter, thirty-ninth president of the United States. Take action and tell your friends, community, and President Obama you care. Reviewed by Sam Cook, Alumni Intern. © By the contributors

Alan E. Sparks, NOLS Mountain Ski Touring ‘85 alumnus and author of Into the Carpathians, takes his reader on a 1,700 mile journey, from Romania to Poland, and tells the tale of how the Carpathian Mountains have shaped the natural and cultural history of Europe. In the first installment of this series, the reader travels through the Eastern Mountains of Romania and Ukraine where Sparks chronicles a four-month long hiking and research expedition spanning the length of the Carpathian Mountains. Sparks offers a mixture of personal narratives and historical anecdotes to explain the compelling past of the region. Highlights of the narrative include a history of werewolves in the region and the roots of the complicated relationship between Russia and Ukraine that still exists today. Any NOLS alum will recognize Sparks’ descriptions of an extended expedition: wet clothes, repetitious foods, navigation errors, and shifting group dynamics. Adventure lovers and readers who like to travel to infrequently visited places should give this book a read. Reviewed by Shelby Cranshaw, PR and Marketing Intern. © 2015 Alan E. Sparks

By Alan E. Sparks Mountain Ski Touring ‘85

By Various Contributors

Who Is This? Do you recognize this person? The first 10 people to contact us with the correct answer will receive a free NOLS t-shirt. The answer to last issue’s “Who Is This?” is longtime instructor and Wilderness Medicine Program Coordinator Marcio Paes-Barreto. Originally from Brazil, he’s worked NOLS custom, medicine, and expedition courses from Alaska to Baja and beyond. He also loves to fish!


1.800.332.4280 | ALUMNI@NOLS.EDU NOLS.EDU | 21

ROAMR SKI By Cheyenne Brown Instructor

Left: The new ROAMr ski. Courtsey of G3, Right: Enjoying the hard-earned serenity of winter views in the mountains. Adam Swisher


owder. Icy, skied out groomers. Uphill. Downhill. Everything in between. Students coming to NOLS Teton Valley for a winter course will likely see it all and ski it all when it comes to terrain, weather, and snow conditions. Most of us who live in the Tetons are lucky enough to have a variety of skis, called a quiver, we choose from on any given day, depending on the conditions. Our students, and anyone who ventures out on longer ski trips, don’t have this luxury. We need to offer our students one ski that can do it all well, at a reasonable price. The best value one ski quiver we’ve found is the G3 Boundary, which starting with the 2016-2017 release was renamed the ROAMr. The ROAMr isn’t the best ski in any one category. You can certainly find a wider ski with more rocker or “reverse camber” that floats better on deep powder days, a stiffer and heavier ski that can plow through crud at the resort, and a lighter ski that tours more efficiently. The ROAMr is one of very few skis that does all of this really well, which is the most important thing to us. The students spend their first few days at a resort before heading out into the backcountry to ski and primarily


tour in variable terrain and snow conditions. Without geeking out too much, I will give you the rundown on some of the things that help make it a great all mountain touring and riding ski. At 100mm underfoot it is a decently wide ski for a touring ski and can hold its own on most powder days, especially when combined with rocker in the tip and tail. They’re cambered underfoot, think upside down “u,” which helps them carve and edge well. They’re light enough (under 3.5 kg/7.7 pounds) that they tour/move uphill efficiently but have enough weight, combined with materials that add stiffness and some dampening, that they can handle some crud. The ROAMr excels on light powder/packed powder days, the uphill and on the groomers. I think that compared to other skis in the lightweight/ touring all mountain ski category the ROAMr comes in at a better price point and is also much more user friendly and forgiving for anyone who is not an advanced skier. If you’re only skiing “inbounds” at the resort I would recommend going with a heavier ski. Conversely, if you’re looking at skimo/randonnée or “rando” races where you’re not doing much downhill then I would recommend a lighter, narrower ski. If, however, you are looking to begin your backcountry ski journey, or only want/need/can afford one backcountry ski, then I would definitely recommend the ROAMr as a ski to consider.


382 pages and 250+ photos profiling the locations, ethos, people, and icons of NOLS



Mauricio Clauzet


HOLIDAY SALE Gear up for winter adventures at the NOLS store! Use code:

Crank up your wilderness medicine capabilities with this 48-hour course! WILDERNESS UPGRADE FOR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS (WUMP)

WINTERLEADER16 for free shipping!


COCOA DELUXE By Shelby Cranshaw PR and Marketing Intern


fter a long day of chilly backcountry travel, nothing feels better than sipping on a warm beverage. Cocoa Deluxe is a longtime NOLS favorite, found

Ingredients (serves 1) • 1½ cups hot water • 2 tbsp. cocoa mix • 1 to 2 tbsp. powdered milk • ½ tbsp. vanilla • Dash of cinnamon Hint | To make your cocoa supply last longer, mix one part cocoa with one part powdered milk and store in a plastic bag ready for use.

Recipe 1. Boil water. 2. Mix cocoa mix and milk into hot water. 3. Add vanilla and cinnamon. 4. Stir and enjoy! Variations • Mocha: Make recipe above, substituting 1½ cups coffee for hot water and adding brown sugar or honey to taste. • Cocoa Grand Deluxe: Add 1 tbsp. brown sugar and 1 tbsp. butter or butter substitute for a great winter warmer. • Super Cocoa: Combine 4 tbsp. cocoa, 2 tbsp. powdered milk, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, and 2 tbsp. peanut butter. If you are really daring or just plain cold, add 1 oz. cheese for an extra kick.

Warming up in camp with a mug of cocoa. Matthew Baugh


in the 6th edition of the NOLS Cookery. Consider adding a candy cane or a caramel for something a little more festive!

2016 ALUMNI AWARDS Contact the Alumni Office at 1-800-332-4280 or to find contact information for any of your coursemates. Grads from the ‘90s Deb Dunn, Outdoor Educators Course ‘96 Deb recently completed hiking all forty-eight 4,000 footers in NH with her husband and 12-year-old son. She works as the Literacy Coordinator for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and uses a lot of the principles she learned at NOLS in her teaching and leading kids in the outdoors. Paul Goldberg, 25 and Over Wyoming Wilderness Course ‘97 Goldberg plans to hike more in the Adirondacks with his son Matthew, who just completed his own Wind River WildernessPrime course. Kate Boyle Ramsdell, Wind River Wilderness ‘92 Ramsdell has two boys, ages two and four, and lives with her husband Jamie in Dedham, MA. She has been teaching and doing college counseling at Noble and Greenough School since 1998. Grads from the ‘10s Isabelle Tietbohl,

Pacific Northwest Backpacking ‘12 Tietbohl hopes to become a NOLS instructor in the future. She will get her WFR certification this winter and hopes to work as a hiking leader at an outdoor adventure camp.

Course ‘04 and Daren Opeka, Rocky Mountain Instructor Course ‘06 The Opekas welcomed their baby daughter Gwendolyn Avery into the world on September 15, 2016. Everyone is happy, healthy and busy!

Dyllon Wright, Idaho Backpacking Adventure ‘16 Wright is preparing to take a Wilderness First Responder course!

Anthony Stevens, Summer Instructor Course ‘10 and Erika Stevens, Wind River Wilderness ‘07 The Stevenses welcomed twin daughters Emily and Annalise to the world on September 11, 2016. Sleep depravation, diapers and tremendous joy dominate their household.

Marriages, Engagements & Anniversaries Ames Brown, Baja Sailing ‘12 and Allison Palm, Baja Sailing ‘12 Brown and Palm met at NOLS in Baja and wed in New York City in August 2016. After the ceremony they donned hiking gear and prepared for a month-long honeymoon in Nepal. Ames survived a 2011 stint on The Bachelorette, a reality TV show, before succeeding in love with Allison. The New York Times even profiled their romance! Kathleen Opeka, Pacific Northwest Sea Kayaking Instructor

In Remembrance Robert Henry Kinzel III, Summer Instructor Course ‘10 Kinzel III died in an automobile accident in August. An instructor since 2010, Rob worked 60 weeks in the field and was a NOLS program supervisor in the Adirondacks. Rob was a caring friend and an inspiring educator. He was filled with charisma, goofy humor and possessed a kind heart. We will continue to have impromptu whiffle ball games in his honor for years to come.

Scott J. Kelly Alumni Achievement Award The Alumni Achievement Award is given to an alumnus who has become notably successful in the outdoor recreation, education or conservation industry.

Former International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly (NASA Wind River ‘03, NASA Winter Leadership ‘05) is recognized for his recordsetting 340 days in space—far from family, fresh food and cold beer. Space travel is mankind’s most remote and “expedition behavior” intensive endeavors.

Eric N. Gilbert Alumni Service Award The Alumni Service Award is given to a devoted alumnus who has served the school in exemplary ways.

The award recognizes Eric Gilbert (Fall Semester in the Rockies ‘96) for his incredible volunteer work orchestrating school and community outreach in the St. Louis area. Eric’s efforts allowed over 1,700 urban youth to reimagine their place in the outdoors by hearing the Expedition Denali story.

Jay Pence NOLS Stewardship Award

Wilderness Quiz ANSWER | President Obama named Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument as the newest national park site on August 24, 2016, in recognition of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

The NOLS Stewardship Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional stewardship of public lands and the environment.

We’ve honored Jay Pence, Teton Basin District Ranger, for his dedicated public service and forward-thinking volunteer engagement. His work with NOLS on trail and watershed restoration in Idaho and Wyoming is an inspiring example of leveraging partnerships and education to conserve and protect public lands.


Remember the moment you first set foot in a NOLS building, wherever in the world it was? All novel and unfamiliar during the first days, it was comfortable and familiar by the time you were deissuing and celebrating your course. It’s business as usual at NOLS locations around the world. Stay up to date on the activities here or on the NOLS location Facebook pages. NOLS Alaska

We had another successful summer of gardening in Alaska! Ashley Wise

• Our summer garden served over 612 students, 144 instructors and 40 in-town staff. We grew over 18,000 pounds of food and managed to even send fresh greens in on some of our bush pilot rerations. • Our new classroom and student computer lab is popular, versatile and provides an excellent space for our community speaker series. • At one point in August, we had two expeditions operating 1,200 miles apart­—talk about logistics! We had students on Kotzebue Sound in the Arctic and simultaneously on southeast Alaska’s LeConte tidewater glacier. NOLS India • The fall season in India included two semester courses, one backpacking course, one mountaineering course, and four wilderness medicine courses with a total of 59 new graduates. • Wrapping up our 25th year of operations in India, we were fortunate to host a plethora of nationalities on courses this fall including Indian, Canadian, American, Chilean, Nepalese, Dutch, and British. • Our new program assistant, Soumya Mitra, is exploring new ways to further NOLS India’s


sustainability practices. In particular, he is researching ways to minimize the amount of waste generated in town and in the field. He is also exploring avenues for recycling. NOLS Northeast • In the summer of 2016, we ran twenty courses for over 150 students from nine different countries. • We offered our 21-day Adirondack Backpacking and Canoeing Combo course to 16 and 17 year olds, in addition to our 14 and 15-year-old Adventure version of this course. Students explored new routes with multiple portages linking together waterways. • Our Alumni Service Trip rebuilt a complex suspension bridge over Moose Creek in the Western High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Between this project and other work by our students, we totaled over 500 hours of volunteer service in the Adirondacks. • Last spring we moved into a new building; we’re still renting from Paul Smith’s College but now thriving in a space of our own where our instructors and students can camp on site. Our close proximity to trailheads provides operational efficiencies and easy access to our wilderness classrooms. NOLS Patagonia • Every fall season begins with Chilean Independence Day celebrations on September 18th and this year we further honored Chile with a new flag pole at the entrance to our campus. • With the opening of a new business in Coyhaique, we are finally able to recycle items like tin cans and yogurt containers, which were previously not accepted. We are also continuing the making of EcoBricks (clean plastic waste stuffed in plastic bottles and then used for construction) and are giving a large number to instructor Felipe Voullime for

Proudly displaying the Chilean flag on the location’s new flagpole. Drew Seitz

use in constructing his house in Magallanes. • We are expanding our course offerings this year with the Patagonia Coastal Expedition, which combines kayaking and hiking in a month-long adventure in the fiordos of southern Chile. • A new ferry service, the Austral Broom, has started between Tortel and Puerto Natales, which we hope to utilize for kayak courses. This will allow us to access more remote locations to limit overuse of closer areas and maintain the exploration and wilderness feel so central to our courses. NOLS Scandinavia

It was another great season at NOLS Scandinavia! Maija Pukkila

• This summer we had 77 students of six nationalities on nine different expeditions. Our rotating band of eight in-town staff hailed from four different countries and our 24 field instructors represented ten different nationalities. • We closed operations on August 10th and the first snow was already falling. By now, there are at least 20 inches of snow covering our wild land operating areas. NOLS Teton Valley • This summer we had a record number of summer staff and students in the Tetons! Nearly 400 students joined us for paddling, hiking, skiing and riding on 36 separate wilderness expeditions on our public lands in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. • As the home of some of best snow in the country, we’re excited to pilot a new winter trip for NOLS grads with solid skiing skills: Teton Valley Backcountry Avalanche Training. If you want learn more about terrain management and determining great routes and runs in the backcountry, check out this expedition that focuses

on backcountry avalanche assessment, safety and rescue and includes a Recreational Level I Certification. • We are planning fun routes and buying new boats for adventures next summer. If you are a two-week hiking grad, have you ever thought about a 28-day combo with a river section? NOLS Wilderness Medicine As we wrap up the year we wanted to share a few fun facts for NOLS Wilderness Medicine: • In FY16, NOLS Wilderness Medicine educated: - 20,859 students on - 911 courses in - 40 U.S. states and - 23 countries - 6 languages: Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, ASL, and English - 5,460 students came to us through our partnership with REI • For FY 2016 we certified:

CARBON FOOTPRINT By Kara Colovich Sustainability Coordinator


s part of being good stewards of the land and being a responsible organization, NOLS tracks and manages the carbon footprint of our operations. While NOLS courses themselves have a small footprint, the support services that go into making those courses possible have a greater impact. It takes electricity to power our campus facilities, fuel to run the vehicles that transport our students, and white gas to run Whisperlite stoves in the backcountry. Knowing your carbon footprint can help you to understand how your way of life, or in the case of NOLS, our way of operating, uses certain carbon resources. With our year 2020 carbon reduction goal in sight (30 percent reduction by 2020 from a 2006 base year) we are focusing our energy on reducing the largest parts of our footprint­—NOLS vehicle travel and electricity. If you are interested in seeing what your carbon footprint make-up is, try these suggested carbon footprint calculators: • Global Footprint Network • U.S. EPA • The Nature Conservancy From there, it’s all about lifestyle choices. Can you take a vacation that does not require flying this year? How about putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat? These small changes all add up and together, with individuals, businesses, and governments, we can make a world of difference.

- 11,327 WFAs

- 3,967 WFRs ALL CARBON FOOTPRINT SCAL YEAR-2015 4,095 WFR Recertifications - 403 WEMTs All of this was made possible by 26 in-town staff at NOLS Headquarters and 264 active wilderness medicine instructors. STAFF TRAVEL

















ELECTRICITY The NOLS Wilderness Medicine annual staff meeting


was held in September 2016. Kirk Rasmussen 30%



Wilderness Medicine Quiz ANSWER | Headache, malaise, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, disturbed sleep.


Graph by Nikole Wohlmacher




BUILDING A TOLERANCE FOR FAILURE By RJ Niewoehner Yukon Outdoor Educator ‘14

Courses in the wilderness give students time for moments of personal reflection. RJ Niewoehner


fter four weeks, my course was coming to a close almost perfectly on the Pelly River in the Yukon, Canada. We spent the first ten days canoeing in, schlepping canoes and gear over fallen trees. Did you know that when you carry 28 days of food with you from the start, you end up with eight very heavy canoes? Then we ditched our canoes and spent ten beautiful, though somewhat rainy, days hiking in the mountains. Finally, our course concluded with eight days of running rapids, swamping canoes, and enjoying beautiful scenery along the way. The last day of the course was beautiful, with bright sunshine and warm temperatures, and everyone on my course was in a wonderful mood. This was not my first NOLS course so I knew what the final day would include: returning to the NOLS Yukon location, unpacking, and completing post-course paperwork. “Just great,” I thought to myself, “an opportunity to share more feedback.” My NOLS course was filled with opportunities to give feedback. This course even had a class on giving feedback a couple of days in where I honestly didn’t pay as much attention as I could’ve. These opportunities included switching cook groups mid-expedition.


Our group had a unique atmosphere and culture which encouraged constructive feedback in ways that made our teams stronger. All expeditions at NOLS end with completing paperwork about the course outcomes. I know it’s helpful, but I didn’t have to enjoy it. I believe if someone is asking for your feedback, it is because they want to know what you think and how to improve and so I tried to approach these evaluations with that mindset. After some thought, I compiled what I thought were a few helpful suggestions. I told one instructor that I thought they gave too much negative feedback. Another got a tidbit that I thought you should never, ever tell another student to leave behind liner gloves to save weight; they weigh only two ounces, okay? Just bring them. For the instructor team as a whole, I had thought that at the beginning of the course they really didn’t seem terribly excited about teaching in the Yukon. My suggestion: “Enthusiasm goes a long way with students.” To be honest, what I really wanted right then was a shower and some sleep. But I had waited four weeks for a shower; I knew it could wait another 30 minutes, even if it was after 10:00 p.m. The next morning, I woke well-rested and ready for a relaxing day that included cleaning gear, repacking, and eating good food. I just could not seem to ingest enough calories! When I sat down with my instructors for our final debrief, I was shocked at how upset they were. As we started reviewing my feedback, my heart instantly sank; I felt

terrible, and actually thought I was going to throw up. Instead of the constructive feedback I thought I had written the night before, there were bitter words for the instructors, including hurtful language. For example, instead of what I thought I wrote above, I wrote to the effect of: “Telling a student to leave liner gloves behind to save weight is downright idiotic” and “Next time, try to pretend that you’re not bored at the start of a course, okay? Pretending to have enthusiasm is better than not having any at all.” This was not exactly the constructive criticism I had thought it was. My instructors asked, “Is this really how you feel?” I wanted to scream, “No!” I had a great time on the trip! Why did I feel the need to be viciously nitpicky with my feedback? I still to this day don’t understand why I mentioned that comment about the instructor team. Truthfully, since this wasn’t my first course, I had expectations for what the instructor team would look like, and at first, they didn’t quite fit my mold. By the end of my course, I got over my own silly expectations and loved our I-team. For some reason, this grain of negativity had lodged itself in my brain and wanted to break free during my evaluation. Following this debrief, my planned day of relaxation was ruined. I felt terrible and could not apologize enough to feel better. I talked to the instructors, to the staff, to everyone who I offended that would let me apologize. I felt I had violated the team trust, displaying the worst kind of expedition behavior, and in the process had almost ruined a month’s worth of wonderful, priceless memories. As I pondered this experience on the plane home, I considered other situations where I’d given stern feedback thinking it was helpful. Deep down, I knew this was probably not the first time I had done this, though it was definitely the first time that I had to accept responsibility for the things I wrote. I tried to think, “How many others have received feedback like that from me?” That day, I learned several lessons about providing feedback in any setting. I learned

The remote course was rerationed by airplane. RJ Niewoehner

Bonding with coursemates in the Yukon. RJ Niewoehner

the need for sensitivity, empathy, and generosity; just because I like direct feedback does not mean that is how I should approach sharing thoughts with others. I learned not to exaggerate or overstate; stick to the facts and do not over-extend suggestions for improvement. I also learned the importance of mental clarity and pushing the wakeful integrity of my own body; surely this paperwork could have waited, and I am still not sure why I did not push it off to the next day. Finally, I learned that helpful or even essential feedback may be ignored if it is not presented in a winsome manner. Now, I will always think twice before providing feedback, and check my motives and mental clarity. On that plane ride home, I wanted to think about the wonderful sights we had seen and the laughs we had shared, like when our course leader was trying to check the depth of a lake and stepped into mud up to his chest! Instead, I couldn’t shake the shame of the nasty words I wrote. In the end, the most important lesson I learned on my course was not how to poop in the wilderness or how to bake bread with a stove and a twiggy fire, but rather how to better care for the people around me. To my instructors out there: I hope I get the chance to adventure again with you. Until that time, may your canoes be filled with corny jokes, your kayaks fast, and your crampons sharp, even if you do leave your liner gloves behind.


MEET THE TEAM CAPTAIN OF NOLS SOUTHWEST Alyssa Rainbolt Alumni Relations Coordinator


hen a knee injury ended the road to her professional soccer career in 2002, Lindsay Nohl came to a crossroads. “I thought about going back to graduate school for forensic science,” the now director of NOLS Southwest said. “But then I thought, maybe I’ll just try this NOLS thing.” That was when she decided to enroll on her student course, a Fall Semester in the Rockies. “It was a crossroads for sure,” Nohl said. “I would have gone a completely different way in life.” A biology major at the College of William and Mary, Nohl likely would have gone on to study molecular genetics. But within the first week of her semester, Nohl knew her future was with NOLS. She was on a river section in Desolation Canyon, and she never wanted to leave. Nohl took an internship in the Alumni and Development department following her course, the first of a potpourri of jobs she’s held at the school. Before becoming director of NOLS Southwest in 2010, Nohl spent time working in the issue room, the rations room, and at headquarters in NOLS Custom Education. All the while, Nohl was building her field weeks after taking an instructor course in 2004. The weeks she gets in the field are the best weeks of her year. “I always go out there trying to teach some new class, cook a new meal,” she said. “It’s fun to go out there and stretch yourself.” But there is a reason Nohl spends most of her year holding down the fort at NOLS Southwest. Her background as a soccer team captain informs her position as the leader of her staff at the Tucson location. To her, that team of 8 to 11 people is a family, and she is honored to be tasked with inspiring the team, maintaining good spirits, and creating a fun atmosphere at work. A native of New England, she has also developed a strong connection to the desert since moving west. “The desert is something I get really nostalgic about,” she said. “The ecosystem, the animals, the weather patterns. And the lack of water.” To Nohl, water is a theme in NOLS Southwest course areas that makes it a unique offering for students. Whether you’re searching for it and there is a


lack of it, or you’re in a downpour and can’t avoid it, Nohl says water is a constant consideration and provides a different kind of challenge in places like the Gila Wilderness and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. She isn’t just sending students into those places. Nohl has found a playground in the Southwest for mountain biking, a skill she has taken to a new level. Last year, Nohl and partner Ryan Williams combined bikepacking with packrafting on a five-day loop in Big Bend National Park. “We’ve been trying to use our skills from NOLS in the mountain biking world,” she said. While mountain biking has taken the place of soccer in her life (it’s easier on the knees, she says), she still draws parallels between a tough loss on the field and a hard day in the backcountry. “Those are some of the experiences you remember the most and teach you the most,” she said. “Tolerance for adversity is one of those things our students get so much out of coming to NOLS. I think about trying to help people through those experiences and teach them, if you can do this, you can do anything.”

The warm southwestern temperatures are great for mountain biking. Courtsey of Lindsay Nohl

IT’S WINTER. GET OUT THERE! By Zach Snavely Instructor and Operations Coordinator

Zach started working for NOLS on a whim in 2010 as the NOLS Wilderness Medicine retail assistant, and took his instructor course in 2012. He started taking a camera on field courses as a way to explain his job to family members. It turned out that people were genuinely interested in seeing the beautiful places that NOLS has taken him! VISIT ZACH’S WEBSITE OR INSTAGRAM PAGE!







THANK YOU It’s not all cold weather, short days and sugary holiday treats, it’s also the season to say thanks. Thank you for supporting the NOLS Fund. Together, we provided over 900 scholarships this year. Your support this holiday season



Fredrik Norrsell

expands our scholarship programs tomorrow.

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