Page 1





For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School Spring 2015 • Vol. 30 No. 2


IN THE SPRING OF 1979, NOLS GOT ITS GRIP ON ME. IN THE K ENYAN LANDSCAPE, I discovered a great many things—about the world, education, myself, and my calling. NOLS does that. In the past 50 years, we’ve heard countless stories of grads returning to the place they found something—be it confidence, skills, friends, or a passion, and often all of the above. We hear stories like the one Brittany tells on page 16 of going back to where it all began. Stories of physically or metaphorically circling back to where something momentous started. My Semester in Kenya was as powerful to me as Brittany and her coursemate Simon found theirs to be. I carry insights gained that spring to my work every day. That course was where I realized NOLS was the kind of place I needed to build a career. I’ve been sitting at this desk for 20 years now. Many stories in this issue speak to this truth: NOLS is for life. I find it incredible the myriad ways in which the NOLS experience embeds itself into a person for a lifetime. It is the NOLS experience that sticks with grads like Brittany and myself that has allowed NOLS to thrive in its first 50 years. I look ahead with optimism to the next 50 years of providing experiences that stay with a person for a lifetime. This year is our 50th. We have much to celebrate. Those celebrations are rooted in the type of stories found in every issue of The Leader: what our grads are doing with the NOLS experience they carry, and what we’re doing to ensure that experience is the best it can be for the next generation of students. I invite you to celebrate with us. After all, your story is our story. Visit to learn more about the celebration in Lander in October, as well as reunion celebrations across the U.S. throughout the year.

John Gans, NOLS Executive Director

Leader Editor Casey Adams Designer Eryn Pierce 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

March 2015 • Volume 30 • No.2 Published three times a year in April, July, and November.

Postmaster: Send address changes to National Outdoor Leadership School 284 Lincoln St. Lander, WY 82520 The Leader is a magazine for alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit school focusing on wilderness skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. It is mailed to approximately 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 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



Cover Photo: NOLS Archive




5 FIELD NOTES: Showing Dad my playground


6 ISSUE ROOM: Stewardhip award, BLM plan

GIVING WITH A ‘TWIST’ Meet the people behind NOLS' oldest scholarship fund, and find fun ways you can make a difference.

7 WILD SIDE OF MEDICINE: Right place, right time 8 ALUMNI PROFILE: A second life 9 ALUMNI PROFILE: Yahoooooooooooooo!


20 ALUMNI TRIPS: Return to the backcountry, and bring

WHO IS THIS? 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

50 YEARS OF CHANGING LIVES Take a trip down memory lane or get a NOLS history lesson with this timeline of NOLS' historic moments.

a friend 21 REVIEWS: Lightning lessons, ANWR pleas 22 GEAR ROOM: Ideal backpack


24 RECIPE BOX: Spicy lentils with cornbread 25 JABBERWOCKY: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives 26 SUSTAINABILITY: Keep on truckin'

A KENYAN REUNION Brittany Retherford visits a fellow NOLS Kenya alumnus at Mount Kenya National Park to reminisce, catch up, and discover the challenges facing the region today.

27 SCHOOL NOTES: Miss your home base? Catch up! 28 INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: Jake Schepps 29 BELAY OFF: The kids 31 TRAVERSES: In the clouds


ANSWER TO LAST ISSUE The answer to last issue’s “Who Is This” is former Instructor Cyndy Hicks Simer.

BRITTANY RETHERFORD Cover Feature, pg 16



LIZZIE HEBEL Recipe Box, pg 24

Retherford is an Alaska-based freelance writer and a two-time NOLS graduate. When she’s not living in her log cabin without running water in Fairbanks, she’s on the road researching Alaska’s deadliest cold case. Follow her at www. to learn more about her adventures.

Stonehouse, Ph.D. is an associate professor of outdoor leadership at Simpson University. He teaches a mixture of classroom and field-based courses, including expeditions on the Lost Coast Trail and an Immersion Semester. His interests lie in moral philosophy, theology, and wilderness travel by foot, ski, and canoe.

Altepeter was introduced to backcountry pursuits by his father at an early age and his wilderness experiences have played an important role in shaping who he is today. He has been a NOLS field instructor since 2009 after completing the Southwest Instructor Course.

Hebel took a Fall Semester in Patagonia in 2014. She responded to our Facebook request for favorite backcountry recipes with her spicy lentils and cornbread. It was a real treat for us to test and sample.

Spring 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



I believe the fall issue was great it has stories of people's struggles and journey through the outdoors. I enjoy The Leader a lot and think that it is a great and effective tool to keep the greater NOLS community linked and engaged in our mission. My second piece of feedback is about a photo which appears on the cover and on pg 19 of the fall 2014 issue. The feedback I have on this photo is that Max Fisher, the man in the photo, is not wearing a PFD in what appears to be class III whitewater. I feel that publishing this photo is a significant breach of the risk management that NOLS teaches, a breach of the basic risk management technique and equipment accepted by the whitewater industry, and should not have been put into this publication. I feel that the article is excellent and speaks about all the trials, tribulations, and accomplishment that comes from an expedition like this. I feel that with safety as one of the fundamental values of NOLS and the school's continual striving to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership, a photo with such a significant breach in basic whitewater risk management should never have made it into The Leader. To boil it down, I urge The Leader to correct this mistake by publishing a statement in the next issue talking about the importance of a PFD in whitewater, even on a lightweight packrafting expedition, and to take precautions around the pictures that it publishes in the future, so that The Leader can continue to support the values and mission of NOLS through the articles and photographs it publishes. Thank you so much for the work you do and for taking the time to consider my feedback.

Nice catch. The cover photo on the fall 2014 Leader does indeed show a personal expedition paddler with questionable PFD use. We discussed this photo with experienced river staff and NOLS risk management folks before publication and ultimately ran the images because they’re compelling shots that don’t directly purport to represent the school’s programs or river travel instruction. As storytellers, the shots make sense. As educators, they run counter to established safety protocols. In hindsight, we should not have run the images in question. Proper PFD use is important in all water sports and should be considered in backcountry and other environments. This is what NOLS expeditions do and what our staff teach. Hopefully, our alumni also consistently integrate PFD use into their ongoing water adventures. We know that high standard risk management practices should be easily identifiable to our readers. Thank you, Forrest (and the other readers we heard from) for paying attention and caring about education and NOLS’ role in the outdoors.



Forrest Young-Taft, Reader


Respectfully, Rich Brame, NOLS Alumni Relations Director


Brette Brickel found herself in an unexpected leadership position and rose to the challenge. Rich Brame

I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED BEING OUTSIDE, being in the mountains; however, my road since college had taken me from that lifestyle. In the past few years I made it a priority to bring it back to the forefront, which is why I was so excited to show my dad my New Hampshire playground. He turned 70 this year, had never really hiked on a trail, and 10 years ago learned how to walk again after a stroke. He has come a long way—he’s worked up to running every day—so I decided we should do a hike so I could show him why I am where I am. I picked the hike to Tuckerman’s Ravine because the trail is well maintained and one of the more popular hikes on Mount Washington. We had plenty of time and were in no rush. I handed over my trekking poles. He’s used ski poles, he’s athletic and smart—no tutorial necessary. Soon after we started, I noticed my dad struggling a bit on the uneven ground and rocks. Oh my gosh, I didn't think through this enough. He runs, but that’s on pavement. This is so not. I’m an idiot, I should have picked something flat and easy ... or paved. I switched to the leadership side of my brain—thanks NOLS—and re-strategized the day. I can guide him, he can follow my steps, we will both focus on finding the flat-ish

rocks. I will point out potential hazards and provide verbal direction: what could be slippery, which rocks may be loose, be sure you are stable before moving on to the next step. At another break, my dad casually mentioned his concern that going downhill may take him a long time. I could hear the worry in his voice. I absorbed that worry and responded in an encouraging but casual manner that going down looks different. He gave me a puzzled look. OK clearly I need to say more … I added, “You will look for places to step, look for the flatter rocks and surfaces, and that will form your path, and of course hiking with trekking poles is like four-wheel drive.” At this same break I also decided that instead of hiking to the base of the ravine, we would pick a time to turn around. I’m not sure if he believed me, but I’d convinced myself he would get it. I’m confident it will be easier than he thinks. The time came to turn around. We were really, really close. It’s OK, it’s been a great day. I gave a quick tutorial with the trekking poles for downhill hiking. My dad wasn’t convinced, but after a few steps he was smitten. I could almost feel his worry and tension lifting.

Don’t stop thinking, stay focused, we still need to get there. As I watched my dad execute my instructions, I couldn’t help but reflect. Ten years ago there was so much unknown. We didn’t know there would be weeks of in-patient rehab before he would even try to get in and out of a car. We didn’t know months of out-patient rehab would follow. We didn’t know how determined my father would prove to be. My father was an athlete; he taught me to ski and swing a golf club. Now I am teaching him how to hike down a mountain. When we arrived back in the parking lot all smiles, I could finally exhale. I never let go of my confidence—I was prepared mentally and physically, I knew what I was doing, this was my backyard. Of course I was worried—I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t. But I was more confident in my skills and training. I altered my communication style as needed, assessed risk, checked our pace, and made the call about turning around. I know that NOLS helped me help my dad, not just this day on the trail, but also 10 years ago and just about every day since. I thought I was just showing my dad my new playground. It turned out to be so much more.

Spring 2015



EACH YEAR NOLS PRESENTS OUR ENVIronmental stewardship award to an exceptional steward of public land and the environment. The 2014 award went to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Lander, Wyoming. A highlight in their nomination was their Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the 2.5 million acres of public land they oversee in the Lander area. This includes NOLS classrooms in the Sweetwater Rocks, Sinks Canyon, and Red Desert. An RMP is a long-term guiding

The Red Canyon near Lander, Wyoming, is an iconic portion of the Lander BLM's recent Resource Management Plan. Kyle Duba

document federal agencies develop periodically to manage public land and provide an avenue for public involvement in land use planning. There are many uses of public land, and they don’t always align. For example, it would be challenging for NOLS to teach wilderness skills surrounded by oil and gas development. How do managers decide what should be done with a tract of public land? Ideally, they hear from the people who use the land. The Lander BLM plan stands as an example for embracing multiple-use at a landscape scale that accommodates people, industry, and the environment. It is the first plan in the country to provide specific protections for core-habitat of the greater sage-grouse, a species of growing conservation concern. It provides large areas for primitive recreation, areas for multi-use recreation trails, and areas for regulated energy development. It also extends protection to the viewshed of national trail corridors. “Multiple-use works well when there is broad acceptance of the plan, across communities and economic interests,” said Jared Oakleaf, outdoor recreation planner at the Lander BLM office. “That’s when you know that you’ve created something that puts the pieces of the multiple-use puzzle into place.” During the planning process, Oakleaf met with NOLS courses in the field to learn what they value in the area. These meetings, and the numerous written comments he received from NOLS students, helped build aware-




QUESTION The recently passed (December 2014) Omibus Public Lands Bill was a major bipartisan breakthrough. What does the bill approve? Answer on page 25.


ness and justification for leaving the Sweetwater Rocks area undeveloped for primitive recreation. As it happens, contributing to the land management process is an opportunity for NOLS students to put their leadership skills to use. A good comment has the same elements as good feedback. Be timely; submit comments during public comment periods, before a decision has been finalized. Be specific; RMPs are complex, so direct your comments to specific areas that interest you. Be solution oriented; instead of saying, "No mining, not here, ever," suggest your desired alternatives. Use ‘I’ statements; express your connection to the place you are commenting about. You don’t have to have caught Grayling out of a pristine stream in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to provide comments encouraging its conservation, but if you did, your comment has added value. Participating in the government process is good citizenship. It is people expressing their values and principles to a responsive government. We all benefit from the conservation of natural landscapes and we all have a say in what happens to them. Check out what we’re doing in the NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability department by signing up to Stewardship News or dropping us an email. We’d love to learn about how you are participating in conservation efforts. And most importantly, get outside and enjoy YOUR public land!


THE GRAND CANYON’S L AVA FALLS ARE A two-part rapid about a half mile long. When our fifth raft entered the rapid, the majority of the expedition was downstream setting safety and cheering. The boat was slightly off line, and at impact with the first wave, it rocked, dumping the bow passenger into the river. The oarsman stopped rowing to avoid hitting the swimmer with the oar, and in the process also tumbled out of the raft. The team went to work. One swimmer was quickly rescued. This is the story of the other. Jeff is a 71-year-old male. He entered the water at the top of the rapid and was quickly taken underwater by the current. Prior to contacting the kayak, he spent 15–30 seconds underwater. When the kayak contacted him, Jeff grabbed on but was unable to swim and assist, and then was pulled away by the current and went down for a second time. A few moments later, he resurfaced next to the now-manned raft, only to be pushed back under and sandwiched as our upstream raft collided with it. Jeff went down for a third time, for a long time. When he finally resurfaced at the bow of my raft, my passenger and I heaved Jeff into our raft. We caught a river right eddy at Tequila Beach, a common celebratory stop following successful runs of the rapid. Jeff was alert and oriented to person, place, time, and situation (A+Ox4), cold, wet, exhausted, and struggling to walk from the raft to the beach. He sat while team members searched his bag for warm, dry clothes.

Justin Kleberg found himself applying essential wilderness medicine skills on the shore. Brad Christensen

Within five minutes, Jeff turned purple and slumped back into the sandbank. His eyes were blood red and bulging. He was unresponsive, with agonal gasps and random episodes of snoring. He was not breathing and had no pulse—carotid, brachial, or radial. All signs pointed to cardiac arrest and the need for CPR. One of the team members located the pocket mask from our first aid kit while I began compressions and the satellite phone call went to the National Park Service. Jeff’s sternum and ribs cracked with the first compression as I set pace and rhythm in my head. After 30 compressions, we got two successful breaths into Jeff’s lungs. Still no pulse and no breathing, so I continued compressions. After the seventh compression in the second set, Jeff regained a pulse. We delivered two more rescue breaths and Jeff raged back to life with fury and fire. No more than five minutes had passed.

Jeff was A+Ox3 and confused about why we were keeping him on the ground. He remembered all but the time he was unresponsive. After calming him, he seemed fine. Jeff reported no history of cardiac, respiratory, or neurological problems. He was on medication for high blood pressure. Jeff’s chief complaint was sore ribs following compressions. We wrote some notes and prepared to transfer care while continuing to treat for hypothermia. Jeff told stories of swimming with sharks off the coast of Africa while we waited for the helicopter. He did not believe he had gone unresponsive, did not believe he needed a helicopter flight, and wanted to get up and walk around. Nonetheless, the helicopter flew Jeff to the hospital where he spent five days in the ICU before returning home. Thanks for the training, WMI! Right place, right time, I reckon.

WILDERNESS MEDICINE QUIZ IF A PATIENT IS HYPOTHERMIC AND IN CARDIAC ARREST A. start standard CPR. C. don't start CPR until the patient is warmed. B. perform CPR at a rate of 50 compression per minute. D. rescue breathe only. Answer on page 26.

Spring 2015






A BDUL SAMAD K HAN CAME TO NOLS AT a critical stage of his life. Only three months before attending his Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator course, the 30-year-old learned he had beaten cancer. NOLS had been Khan’s dream for three years. The first, and so far only, Pakistani to attend NOLS became such in 2007, traveling from Pakistan to Wyoming with the help of a NOLS scholarship. Since he had just recovered from cancer, Khan was concerned with his ability to face the physical challenges of his course. He soon found that he could push past his perceived physical limitations, but struggled, and grew, the most during the psychological challenges. With the help of his peers and instructors, Khan developed good self-awareness, which helped him make better and conscious decisions as the course progressed. “Improving on self-belief and learning more about myself was the essence of the entire course for me,” he explained. “I came to NOLS with a clear objective of leading my life back to normal and finding an answer about how can I live a better and meaningful second life.” This desire was well rewarded at NOLS. Khan started visualizing himself providing this type of transformational program for the youth of Pakistan. After his course, Khan started working on the idea. He gained further experience by holding leadership trainings for corporate clients and working for outdoor education programs in Australia, Malaysia, and the U.K. Through feedback, trust, and communication, NOLS gave Khan a chance to learn, test, and apply new concepts and helped him revisit his behavioral patterns. He saw how this style of experiential learning engages all the faculties (physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental), helping to ingrain the lessons. To Khan,


Samad celebrates a summit day on his NOLS course. Photo courtesy of Abdul Samad Khan

it is this “stickiness” that makes outdoor education programs so effective, and he has incorporated these techniques into his work in Pakistan. In 2011, Khan founded Youth Impact as a social enterprise that focuses on developing ethical and responsible young leaders in Pakistan. To carry on that mission, the organization introduced a series of youth leadership development programs both indoors, as well as in Pakistan’s diverse outdoor settings: mountains, desert, ocean, and forests. The pinnacle of their programming is Markhor, an annual outdoor conference for Pakistani youth. Staged at an altitude of 9,240 feet above sea level, Markhor has evolved as a platform that brings the diverse youth of Pakistan together—representing the gender, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, geographic, and cultural differences of the country. With the guidance of Khan and his organization, they learn to work together for the common objective of making Pakistan a peaceful, harmonious, and progressive country. “We have used the term Markhor, which is the national animal of Pakistan.

To us it symbolizes the youth of Pakistan, who have an endangered identity,” Khan said. “[They are] facing an unending wave of uncertainty and need to be adaptable in order to learn to survive within limited resources.” Carrying on the lessons from his NOLS course, Khan has designed the youth leadership program in Pakistan to have challenge as an essential element. These programs put young learners in real-time scenarios with real-time consequences. At Youth Impact, he creates these challenges to develop future leaders who are strong, resilient, ethical, responsible, and optimistic team players. “NOLS was a back-to-life experience for me,” Khan stated. “By setting a goal to attend NOLS during my lowest moments of the life, I learnt that setting and achieving an extraordinarily challenging goal makes your life itself extraordinary.” From cancer survivor to today, Khan has let his extraordinary example ripple throughout Pakistan. Youth Impact is the manifestation of his dream that has touched, trained, and transformed thousands of youth across the country.


PHILANTHROPY CAN BE INTIMIDATING, BUT, TRULY, NO GIFT OR FUNDraising effort is too small. One of NOLS’ youngest donors is Annie Hockin, age 11, whose late uncle, Charley Brooks, took a Wind River Mountaineering course in July 1990. Hockin’s family established an endowed scholarship in memory of Charley and his enjoyment of his NOLS experience. Last year, Hockin raised money for the Charles W. Brooks II Memorial Scholarship by operating a lemonade stand in her front yard. “Selling homemade lemonade is a fun way to raise money,” said Hockin, of San Francisco, California. “I also got to connect with people and tell them about my uncle. I did the lemonade stand on September 28, 2014, what we call ‘Charley’s Clean-up Day.’” “It’s the day he died in 1990 and we honor him by picking up trash and thinking about him. This year I decided I wanted to contribute to his scholarship [fund at NOLS]. I had about 30 people stop by for lemonade and homemade cookies.” NOLS encourages grads each year to participate in Charley’s Clean-up Day as a way to give back to our communities and honor our loved ones who have passed. When Annie’s great aunt, Diane “Dede” Brooks, heard about her fundraising venture, she offered to match the lemonade money—doubling the donation amount to the Charley Brooks Scholarship. This scholarship is the longest standing fund at NOLS, having been established 25 years ago. Scholarships for under-resourced students are funded in a variety of ways at NOLS. Former NOLS Instructor Richard Rosenfeld donates one percent of his Two Leaves Tea Company’s Alpine Berry Tea Sachet sales to NOLS scholarships. “One of the most impactful experiences I had as a NOLS instructor was working with a scholarship student who was from inner city of Chicago,” recalled Rosenfeld, of Basalt, Colorado. “This woman was so out of her comfort zone, but as the weeks went by, she started to change in such a remarkable way. She experienced success in a way none of us imagined. If our [Two Leaves] donation helps NOLS change the lives of more students like this, then it’s the best expense our company can have.” Beyond direct donations, another way for businesses to donate to NOLS is through One Percent for the Planet, an alliance of businesses and nonprofits committed to environmental stewardship. Joyce Popendorf, owner of Heliosphere Designs, creates solar timepieces, and gives to NOLS through One Percent. “NOLS’ most important work is the unique experience of deeply engaging participants with the natural world,” said Popendorf, of Logan, Utah. “This work is very similar to the goals of Heliosphere: to connect individuals with a sense of place, to foster stewardship, and to encourage further exploration of our natural world.

“As an architect, one of my favorite quotes is by the architects Moore, Yudell, and Ruble: ‘We cannot hope to be stewards of the earth, if we are not intimately engaged in its cycles.’” Popendorf donates a percentage of her business’ profit to NOLS, as Heliosphere and NOLS share the goal to educate people in our natural world, whether in their front yard or remote mountain ranges. That is what philanthropy is about: giving time and resources to support organizations and people engaged in causes we care about.

PARTICIPATE IN PHILANTHROPY THROUGH ACTIONS YOU ALREADY ENGAGE IN... • AMAZONSMILE You shop, Amazon gives. Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the nonprofit organization of your choice, and NOLS is eligible for selection. AmazonSmile is the same as Amazon with the same products, prices, and service at

IMAGE OUTFITTERS Image Outfitters provides promotional products with hands-on support and is dedicated to meeting or beating the prices you’re already paying. They help companies be more effective with their marketing dollars with promotional products. Through their iShare Charitable Donations Program, they give back 10 percent of sales to the customer’s nonprofit of

choice. If your company uses Image Outfitter’s businesses services, you can designate NOLS as your iShare beneficiary. • GOODSEARCH Use Goodsearch for your Internet search engine and online shopping. The site donates to your selected nonprofit, such as NOLS, each time you search or purchase an item through the Goodshop. Plus, when you shop, save money with over 100,000 coupons and deals. • EMPLOYEE

MATCHING GIFTS Many businesses have programs to match the gifts their employees donate to nonprofits. These programs allow employees to have a say in where the company allocates its corporate giving dollars.

Left: Annie Hockin hosted a lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money for the Charles W. Brooks II Memorial Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Annie Hockin

Spring 2015




NOLS is founded


1st issue of Alumnus published. Later became The Leader


NOLS gets its 1st computers at Headquarters

1965 1st course



1st female students

NOLS Tennessee est. NOLS Washington est. and later became NOLS Pacific Northwest



“ NOLS Soft Paths” published

Outdoor Leadership Supply est. Later became Paul Petzoldt Wilderness Equipment


NOLS Three Peaks Ranch est.


NOLS Patagonia est.



Fremont Lumberyard purchased for outfitting. Later became NOLS Rocky Mountain

1973 Noble Hotel purchased




NOLS Alaska est.

NOLS East est.

NOLS Mexico est.

1974 NOLS East Africa est.


NOLS Southwest est. 1st India course. 1st LNT course

1974 1st edition of “The NOLS Cookery” published


NOLS Utah est.


1st Wilderness First Responder course offered


NOLS Idaho purchased. Later became NOLS Teton Valley



NOLS Western Canada est. Later became NOLS Yukon

NOLS internal frame backpack developed



NOLS New Zealand est.

NOLS International Headquarters building constructed


NOLS Scandinavia est.


NOLS Northeast est. NOLS East Africa re-opens


Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus constructed




PETER SIMER 1975-1983

JIM RATZ 1984-1995



NOLS Professional Training holds 1st course for NASA astronauts

WMI became a part of NOLS. NOLS Professional Training est.

NOLS Bus goes on national tour



NOLS Australia est.


NOLS Amazon est.

2015 NOLS 50th anniversary celebration




The weekend includes a silent auction benefitting NOLS scholarships. If you have something to donate (historic NOLS gear, artwork, products, books, home sharing, etc.), please let us know via SEND OLD PHOTOS Do you have great photos from way back when? We’re looking for classic shots from NOLS courses. Send us your best at CONTRIBUTE TO THE NOLS HISTORY BOOK Help us paint a comprehensive NOLS picture in the upcoming NOLS history book. Visit to answer a few open-ended questions. SPORT EXCLUSIVE 50TH ANNIVERSARY GEAR Get geared up with the limited-edition 50th anniversary merchandise available on the NOLS Online Store.

Learn more about the schedule and swag at Spring 2015


a Kenyan Reunion





“SIMON,” I WHISPERED, “SIMON !” I had just left the comfort of my sleeping bag to go to the bathroom, unzipped the fly of the tent, and just like I’d been taught, scanned the horizon with my headlamp looking for animals. I froze. “Simon,” I said in a low voice, “I see eyes.” We’d been on Mount Kenya for a month, circumnavigating the massive 17,057-foot-high volcanic mountain, eventually summiting the third highest peak, Point Lenana (16,355 feet). We were now on our small group expedition and were slowly making our way down through the deep valleys and back to the NOLS campus in Naro Moru. We pitched our Mountain Hardware tent under a pretty stand of trees, not far from a small farm. Earlier in the evening, we’d heard drumming and singing, but now the jungle that surrounded us was still and dark. I was crouched in the vestibule, the tent fly flapping gently at my side. Thirty or 40 feet away toward our cook site, I saw eyes of an unknown animal, glowing yellow in the darkness. By now Simon was awake and though he could read the urgency in my voice, his reply was, as always, steady. “Are they moving?” he asked. “No,” I said. “What do you think it is?” I’d kept my headlamp steady; whatever this animal was, we were now having a staring contest. When my light flickered a brief moment, the animal used it as a chance to escape. “Oh wait—I see its body!” “What shape is it?” “Boxy.” “It’s a panther,” Simon said without hesitation. “But I have to pee! I can’t go out there.” “Pee in the vestibule,” he said. And so I did, feeling both awkward and liberated, and cautiously aware of what I’d seen not far from where we were sleeping. The panther never bothered us that night, but the memory of my midnight bathroom encounter with the stealthy cat became a popular topic of conversaOur bond was strong, tion (and source of much formed by days of laughter), for Simon and me for years to come. The tale sharing warm drinks was most recently retold in over a Whisperlite April 2014, when I returned camp stove, hiking to Kenya for the first time through rain storms since that semester course in the spring of 1999. that made our bones Simon Gitau, who is shiver, and Kikuyu (one of the largest appreciating the ethnic groups in Kenya), rewards of generous was also a student on the course. He’d been the recipivistas and wildlife ent of a NOLS scholarship, sightings. awarded each semester to a Kenyan who had an interest in learning about outdoor education. Often, like this night, we shared a tent, quickly becoming close friends. Like many friendships that are rooted in NOLS expeditions, our bond was strong, formed by

Simon Gitau (second from right) poses with Kenya Wildlife Service rangers at the Chogoria Ranger Station on Mount Kenya. Simon regularly visits stations on the mountain to check on the welfare of the staff and receive updates about patrolling. Brittany Retherford

days of sharing warm drinks over a Whisperlite camp stove, hiking through rain storms that made our bones shiver, and appreciating the rewards of generous vistas and wildlife sightings. Simon is outgoing and engaging—and he has a deep, contagious laugh. In turn, he nicknamed me “Makena,” which means “happy” in Swahili. After our NOLS course ended, Simon, a consummate entrepreneur, worked on various business endeavors, such as farming potatoes and operating a tiny (as in, one table) pool hall. Some of these failed, but Simon’s true passion, exploring and protecting Kenya’s vast wilderness, eventually led him to a job as a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) mountain rescue officer at Mount Kenya National Park. Fifteen years after our NOLS semester, Simon had recently been promoted to senior warden of Mount Kenya National Park. He invited me to return to Mount Kenya for a visit, and I accepted. In April 2014, I arrived at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. When I saw him, we immediately started rehashing stories of our NOLS days 15 years before. “Remember that time you saw a panther?” Simon asked, laughing. “And you peed in the vestibule?” My itinerary was flexible: visit Simon, meet his family, spend some time on the Kenyan coast, and explore some of Kenya’s stunning national parks. As per usual, Simon had plenty of exploration plans up his

Left: An aerial view of Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters at Mount Kenya National Park. Brittany Retherford

Spring 2015


Tea plantations are common on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya. Brittany Retherford



sleeve and was planning to take some time off during my visit. But then the person who was scheduled to fill in for him had a family emergency. Not only that, there were some troubles in the park. Simon asked if I’d like to accompany him while he worked. “Sure,” I said, “why not?” Within days of our reunion, Simon and I had already discovered the similarities in our career paths. After our course in 1999, I returned to the U.S. and graduated with a degree in African history (penning a thesis about the history of mountaineering on Mount Kenya) from Barnard College. I later became a newspaper reporter, a job that brought me to Alaska to cover natural resources issues. After learning about the complex conservation and development issues in the 49th state, I’d worked for several years doing anthropological research for the state’s Fish and Game Department, studying the role of wild foods in the lives of Alaskans. Simon and I found ourselves swapping notes about wildlife management issues in two very different parts of the world, each eager to learn about the other’s home. One of the most striking differences was the view of hunting. In Alaska, hunting, especially to provide food for families, is a well-protected cultural practice and plays a role in wildlife management regimes. In Kenya, however, hunting is banned. For the next month, I kept Simon company while he made his daily rounds of the park. We spent many hours of each day in Simon’s KWS vehicle, visiting ranger stations and attending meetings with members of other nonprofit organizations, such as Mount Kenya Trust and Rhino Ark, both of which do important conservation work in, and around, Mount Kenya National Park. The key to managing the mountain well is forming good partnerships, Simon said. I documented our interactions with my camera and voice recorder.


One of our first stops was the local flying company Tropic Air. Simon had known the owner for years and, occasionally, he would take Simon up to patrol the mountain by helicopter. From the air, Mount Kenya is a formidable mountain. Like Mount Kilimanjaro, it is an extinct volcano, with wide slopes that support a diversity of flora and fauna, from low-lying moorlands to bamboo forests and high alpine. The mountain even hosts it own weather patterns: the east side is commonly rainy while the west is often hot and dry. NOLS East Africa was located on the western side of the mountain, along the same road as the present-day headquarters of Mount Kenya National Park. This NOLS campus, which was founded in 1974, was shuttered in 2003. The conservation landscape in Kenya has changed dramatically since 1999. Poaching has been a problem for decades throughout Africa, but in recent years, the number of incidences has soared. A 2014 study estimated that more than 30,000 elephants are now killed an-

An aerial view of Batian (17,057 feet) and Nelion (17,021 feet), the two highest peaks on Mount Kenya. Brittany Retherford

nually in Africa. The black market for ivory is continuing to expand, especially in China’s growing middle class that considers ivory to be a status symbol. Simon told me that the opportunities presented by this lucrative market, combined with extreme poverty in many of the communities around Mount Kenya, produce a deadly result for the wildlife that inhabit the slopes of the mountain. Rangers and other wildlife guards are the first line of defense. The intensity of security was surprising at times. One day, Simon and I went to Ol Jogi Conservatory, a rhino sanctuary. As we drove up to the guarded entrance, I noticed 12-foot-high barbed wire fences, with three feet of sandbags at the base. It resembled a military base. I pulled out my camera to take photos, but Simon said to me, “No Brittany, you can’t take pictures here.” He was concerned the guards would misunderstand my intention and get spooked. “Wait until we are inside.” It was a beautiful sanctuary, a home to more than just rhinos, and I cheerfully snapped photos of cheetahs, elephants, monkeys, and a whole variety of birds. Just three months later, two armed gangs of poachers targeting rhinos invaded the property and shot and killed one of the rangers. Simon assured me tourists are not in danger in these places; these gangs are after the wildlife. While Simon and I made our rounds, I saw the ranger stations on Mount Kenya varied significantly, but all had spartan living conditions and operated as a community. “We cook for each other,” said KWS Ranger Dixon Otembo. “If you don’t know how to cook ugali (a traditional food in Kenya made from maize flour), your colleague will help you.” While a few stations had electricity, most did not, and rangers had to rely on one or two small solar panels to charge radios used to communicate with other stations or to play music. Many stations had a dart board, but It is a difficult life, but there was little else to do to many rangers said decompress after a stressful day on patrol. It is a diffithey felt the job was a cult life, but many rangers calling, even if it said they felt the job was a came with risk. calling, even if it came with risk. In recent years, poachers have killed two rangers on Mount Kenya, including one in an ambush while he was preparing dinner in a station cook shack. Eager to better understand the difficulties rangers faced in their jobs, I asked Simon if I could spend a few days at a station. He agreed that would be a good idea and dropped me off in the care of Edwin Kinyanjui, who works for Mount Kenya Trust as the senior wildlife community officer. Edwin, who grew up on the slopes of Mount Kenya, began his conservation career as a young boy. “I was good at scaring elephants away from our farm,” he said. Edwin later conducted research on the elephant population of Mount Kenya—including four years as a volunteer because there was no one to pay him for his work. That effort was recognized in 2013 when Edwin was shortlisted for the Tusk Conservation Award, given each year to emerging African conservationists.

Brittany Retherford and Simon Gitau pose for a photo in May 2014. The former NOLS students first met on a NOLS semester course in the spring of 1999. Courtesy of Brittany Retherford

The team Edwin led was different than other ranger battalions, consisting of guards from a Kenyan conservation group, Kenyan Forest Service, and Kenya Wildlife Service. In addition to patrolling the mountain, the team also educates local communities about the poaching threat. I joined this team on patrol for two days, hiking along game trails in the forest. Each day, we encountered signs of poaching activity—including animal traps and illegally cut timber. We didn’t encounter any poachers, however, though it was clear one had escaped just before we arrived. After the second day, we headed back to the station. I heard Edwin speaking in Swahili over the radio, and his facial expression suddenly turned somber. I asked him, “did something happen?” “An elephant named Mountain Bull is dead,” he said. Mountain Bull, who was almost 50 years old, was the iconic elephant of Mount Kenya. A few years before, conservationists had shortened his tusks, hoping it would deter poachers, but he was killed anyway. Poachers had hacked the remainder of his tusks from his skull. The drive to meet Simon was solemn, the death of Mountain Bull was a major blow to conservation efforts. Simon took the killing personally and that night, as rangers searched for those responsible, he barely slept. I heard him pacing in the living room, distraught over the loss. This time, there was nothing I could say.

Spring 2015



CHRIS PAGE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT A LOT OF things, but when we started talking about her time as a student at NOLS Mexico, the delight in her voice was apparent. “Baja is just such a spectacular place,” she stated. “The whale watching, a solo in Magdalena Bay, hiking around the Lagunas ...” Page was a NOLS student in 1987 when she took a gap year between high school and college. She now works as the global director for energy and sustainability strategy for Yahoo!, Inc. As the sustainability coordinator for NOLS, I naturally was interested in Page’s career path from NOLS grad to environmental advocate. NOLS strongly believes our graduates are our greatest contribution to the environment, and who could be a better example than Page? Giving me broad strokes of her interest in the outdoors, she told me she climbed her first mountain with her dad at age 4 and never really stopped. After earning her college degree in environmental studies,

Page took her NOLS Instructor Course in 1995, never expecting to become a longterm instructor. “I figured I would work summers for a few years. Then I walked into the staffing office and they offered me a year in Kenya,” she recalled. “They do a great job of recognizing the psychology of their instructors!” Page’s NOLS career took her to all corners of the world. “Baja was the starting point, and what NOLS did was give me a bunch of other places in the world to care about on a very specific, personal, and emotional level.... It amplified the idea that places are worth protecting and gave me a greater sense of urgency. “Especially at the end of courses when you teach classes about land use and threats specific to that area. After encouraging students to get involved, I felt moved to get involved myself. One of the ways you protect those areas is to make better use of resources. That is a lot

Chris Page took her experience on her course in Mexico in 1987 to a career with Yahoo!. Photo courtesy of Chris Page

of what led me to Yahoo!, and a lot of what I do at Yahoo!.” It turns out Page does a lot at Yahoo!, including leading the company to carbon neutrality in 2007. Utilizing carbon offsets, alternative energy, and innovative efficiency measures, she has turned Yahoo! into a leader in sustainable operations. In a portfolio of extraordinary projects, a recent power purchase partnership with OwnEnergy to develop a wind farm in Kansas stands out. Generating over 100,000 megawatt-hours of energy, the wind farm is designed to offset much of Yahoo!’s energy use in the Great Plains. Page cited this type of project as an example of how NOLS skills transfer to her work. “It’s such a team project ... needing to get data center guys, accounting teams, so many people involved in making it happen. I’m definitely pulling out communication tools and teamwork skills.” I asked Page for words of encouragement for those of us struggling to feel like what we do makes a difference for the planet. “It all starts with small stuff," Page said. "One of my co-instructors said ‘an action becomes habit, habit becomes character, character becomes destiny.’ Small acts, 30-day courses full of tiny little acts such as fluffing the grass under your tent, picking up microtrash—LNT is full of micro acts. "That mindfulness … builds an attitude and character that leads you forward to destiny. It’s very easy to get discouraged but these acts only don’t matter if you think you’re done once you’ve recycled. Micro-actions build upon themselves and build the person you are. If everyone recycles, that’s insufficient, but if you don’t recycle you’re not going to change into the person that makes a difference.”

Spring 2015


Kelsey Wicks

Lindsay Yost

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

NOLS ALUMNI REUNIONS We’re celebrating NOLS’ 50th birthday with reunions and events around the world. If you’re keen to host, contact us ( See alumni/reunions for event details. • April 23rd | Boulder, Colorado

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: August 16–22, 2015 | Cost: $595 (Subsidized by NOLS) NOLS grads and families venture into New England’s backcountry for a week of camping, camaraderie, and service. Projects include trail construction, bridge maintenance, or campsite rehab. Service work is demanding—we’ll use shovels, hammers, pry-bars, and team muscle—but there is also time for photography, socializing, and possibly summiting a peak.


Dates: August 9–15, 2015 | Cost: $1,800

• April 30th | Washington, D.C.

Explore the Wind River Mountains on horseback! We’ll take you from the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch into the wilderness and immerse you in the basics of Western horse packing skills—care and feeding, horse behavior and herd dynamics, tack, saddling, and riding—and other unique experiences of packing and traveling with horses. Enjoy the mountains from a new perspective and with additional companionship!

• May 1st | Baltimore, Maryland


• April 24th | Boston, Massachusetts • April 29th | Cincinnati, Ohio

• May 12th | Charlotte, North Carolina • May 13th | Menlo Park/Palo Alto, California • May 14th | Tiburon, California

Date: August 8–14, 2015 | Cost: $2,350 (Includes pre/post trip lodging) Explore the trails and tracks of western Ireland’s incredible coast from Ennis north to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, Killary Fjord and the Connemara region with a group of stalwart NOLS grads, friends, and family members. Lodging is in small hotels and B&Bs so the packs are light, the music is traditional, and the food is incredible.


• Oct. 8-10 | NOLS’ 50th, Lander, Wyoming

Hiking hut-to-hut on this “classic” mountain route means light packs, outstanding scenery, alpine trails, fantastic meals, and the best of Tyrolean culture. The trip starts/ends in the ancient cobble-stoned town of Bolzano, Italy.



• June 18th | Portland, Maine


Dates: September 2–9 or 11–18, 2015 | Cost: $2,575 (Includes pre/post trip lodging)

NOLS Lightning

The Sacred Place Where Life Begins

There I sat on a quarter-inch mat, exposed in Yosemite’s high country. My students dispersed around me and we watched in awe as the worst (best?) thunderstorm I have ever encountered pinned us down with lightning crashing less than a mile away for four solid hours. What a comfort it was to have recently read and presented on Gookin and Morris’ new book, “NOLS Lightning.” The book purposely complements and expands upon the NOLS Backcountry Lightning Risk Management brochure (, and at just over 100 pages and 8 ounces, it makes a fine addition to a field-based library. Instructors will appreciate a more detailed treatment of the weather associated with lightning, physics of lightning, and the four strategies to reduce the risk of lightning-related trauma. For example, the authors provide a helpful question progression to guide research into local weather patterns. Similarly, advice on setting up lightningspecific program protocols is included, and wilderness medicine considerations specific to lightning-based injuries are also reviewed. Beyond such helpful content, however, the authors emphasize leadership’s role during thunderstorms. For instance, the book examines implications unique to lightning scenarios regarding the effect of a group’s developmental stage on judgment and decision-making. Additionally, 12 varying case studies accompanied by analysis provide the reader with a chance to apply what has been learned. In sum, this book clearly communicates lightning-oriented best practices, thereby giving outdoor leaders a sense of calm as they accept the adversity and uncertainty that inevitably accompanies—and makes worthwhile— expeditionary travel. Reviewed by Paul Stonehouse, PhD, Associate Professor of Outdoor Leadership at Simpson University; Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educator – Mountaineering, ‘02

“This is our home,” chant the women and children of the Gwich’n Tribe. Home is a place where people feel protected, comfortable, loved, and ultimately themselves. The Gwich’n Tribe that resides in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) doesn’t experience these feelings. Instead, they are in a fight with the U.S. government every day. Miho Aida, former NOLS instructor, produced a film documenting the women of the Gwich’n tribe and how they struggle with high demands for oil drilling in the ANWR. She believes the women must have their voices heard so they can share their perspectives and make more people aware of the issue. “Drilling into this area is drilling into our hearts,” Sarah James says on camera. As the film is titled, the ANWR is “The Sacred Place where Life Begins” to the Gwich’n Tribe and is home to one of their main resources, the caribou. This film captures the connection between the two and how they provide for each other. Imagine one of your main animal resources being forced out of your home and not being able to have a say in it. This threat on the Gwich’n Tribe is taking away from their food, tools, shelter, and clothing. This film examines what will happen if the U.S. Congress allows drilling in this area. For example, drilling would challenge the survival of caribou. “As the caribou go, so will the Gwich’n,” says Kay Wallis in the film. Aida portrays her vision to help conserve these areas and how we can help make a difference. The tribe wants one little area in Northeast Alaska where the caribou live to be protected. To protect it for everyone, the tribe continues to work together for the same purpose, being the voice for the caribou. As we see the fight begin, the children express, “We are the future.” Reviewed by Mike Betz, PR and Marketing Intern. © 2013 Miho Aida

By John Gookin, PhD, with Scott Morris

By Miho Aida

Spring 2015



Andy is stoked about the simplicity and versatility of the HMG 4400 Ice Pack. Photo courtesy of Andy Altepeter



IT IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR TO SEE THE WAVE OF NEW BACKPACK designs that emphasize simplicity rather than complexity. The result has been backpacks that are lightweight, as well as comfortable and functional. Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) has been evolving their line of packs, shelters, and accessories since 2008, and in my mind have been front-runners in the lightweight movement. Their packs are well constructed in Biddeford, Maine, in a recently expanded production facility. All HMG products are constructed from Cuben fiber: a nonwoven composite laminate. It was originally produced as racing sail cloth valued for its impermeability and high strength-to-weight ratio. Their packs are based on a simple, rucksack, roll-top design. For increased durability, the Cuben fiber is reinforced with polyester. They offer four series of packs based on volume (1800, 2400, 3400, and 4400 cu. in.) with different models to suit your needs. The 4400 Porter Pack—the most stripped down model—has


been my go-to pack for the last few years and has worked great for NOLS backpacking and frontcountry climbing courses, as well as personal trips. I was skeptical at first about the lack of traditional load lifters and minimalist back panel with removable aluminum stays. However, the roll-top design, combined with compression straps and back hugging dimensions, provide a very comfortable carry. After honing systems and getting used to what the Porter pack could handle, I challenged myself to use the climbing-specific 4400 Ice Pack on a NOLS mountaineering course in the Wind River Mountains this past summer. Because of the extra gear required for this course type, I added some extra capacity with a side pouch. The crampon and ice axe attachments were secure and easy to use. HMG prescribes a maximum carrying load of 60 pounds for the 4400 series packs. I found that the Ice Pack, itself weighing a scant 2.55 pounds, admirably carried loads up to and exceeding this threshold. The versatility of the pack is impressive. The daisy chains sewn into either side of the pack and bordering the crampon attachment patch allow for creative lashing. With the hip belt removed, the pack was a nimble and compact option for summit days. Since I specified dual pockets on my hip belt (you can also opt for gear loops) it served as an excellent tactical hip pack for flyfishing near camp. Other pack models from HMG include their flagship Windrider which sports external mesh pockets, and the more durably pocketed Southwest. Now, there is a canyon-specific model on the horizon. While the price tag for an HMG 4400 series pack is steep at $345, it is a wise purchase.

The 4400 Ice Pack withstood the test of a NOLS mountaineering course. Photo courtesy of Andy Altepeter

Vacation Condo - Sleeps 9 Frisco, Colorado For Friends and Families of NOLS Summer $89/night + tax Winter $139/night + tax


BIKE SKI BOARD 720-301-9818


DONATE TO OUR AUCTION The NOLS 50th Celebration on October 8-10th includes a silent auction benefitting NOLS scholarships. If you would like to donate (historic NOLS gear, artwork, products, books, home sharing, etc.) please let us know via


Ingredients Cornbread 2 cups flour 1 cup cornmeal 1/2 cup powdered milk 1 teaspoon baking powder (more if you want it fluffier) 1/2 cup sugar (more if you want it sweeter) Dash of salt 2-3 tablespoons oil Powdered eggs are optional if you are trying to get more protein



Brad Christensen

Lentils 1 1/2 cups lentils Enough water to cover Cayenne pepper, salt, garlic powder to taste Dried veggies (optional)


“ Lentils are a great basis for backcountry cooking. I’ve also added tomato sauce or powdered tomato soup mix to them. It’s all up to your interpretation once you have a solid foundation,” Hebel writes. We like the sound of this foundation: Cornbread 1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and add water in small amounts at a time until you have a mixture about the consistency of cake batter, free of large lumps. 2. Grease bottom of frybake with butter and pour mixture inside. Get the top of the frybake lid as sealed as possible. 3. Cook over low heat, occasionally turning, for about 20 minutes or until bread is cooked through. Bonus points if you build a twiggy fire on top. Lentils 1. Combine water and lentils in a pot and simmer (red lentils cook faster). Add any type of veggie you happen to have—mushrooms are a tasty option. 2. Spice with plenty of cayenne pepper, salt, garlic powder. Always be careful when adding spices and allow your cook group to add their desired extra amount to their own bowl. Cook the bread first; it still tastes good cold. When lentils are cooked, enjoy with cornbread mixed in or as a side topped with butter and honey. Leftover bread is a great breakfast or snack but tends to be crumbly when cold.

Contact the Alumni Office at (800)-332-4280 or to update your coursemates on your latest adventure.

GRADS FROM THE ‘60S Andy and Nancy (Wise) Carson, former instructors Andy and Nancy decided to leave the cold of Jackson, Wyoming for the warmth of Costa Rica for a month. GRADS FROM THE ‘70S Bruce Randall, Wind River Wilderness ‘70 Bruce remembers getting Paul Petzoldt’s approval to replace a wooden handled ice axe that broke while crossing a boulder field. He is still involved in outdoor activities, emphasizing wilderness and cave rescue. He lives in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands near Smoke Hole Canyon, Dolly Sods Wilderness, and Seneca Rocks. David Rothberg, San Juan Wilderness ‘71, and Steven Fox, Spring Semester in Mexico ‘84 David and Steven completed a nine-day trek in December, cross-country skiing and pulling sleds to the South Pole. The trip was challenging but rewarding.

Paul Wervin, Adventure Course ‘73 Paul recently taught an intro to backpacking class for a public group in Virginia Beach. He says it feels weird to say he started backpacking over 40 years ago with NOLS. Ricky Miller, Basic Mountaineering ‘75, Winter Mountaineering ‘76, McKinley ‘77 Ricky has been teaching rock climbing for 37 years; he founded the Epicmasters climbing group, now over 200 strong. Ricky recently married at age 55 and still teaches climbing. GRADS FROM THE ‘80S Diane Taliaferro, former instructor Diane recently became District Ranger on the Silver City District of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Congratulations! GRADS FROM THE ‘00S Matt Roege, Baja Sea Kayaking ‘01 Matt and his wife get outside as much as possible. He is a program coordinator for a job training program for at-risk youth in the Minneapolis area. They do landscape construction, property maintenance, and

urban conservation. He is also a certified arborist and OSHA instructor. He and his wife are new parents. Sarah Hinman, Baja Sea Kayaking ‘06 Sarah works at Carrabassett Valley Academy (head of school is fellow NOLS alumna Kate Webber Punderson) as the assistant director of development and alumni connections. It’s a great school filled with kids and people who live for the outdoors. David Lathrop, New Zealand Semester ‘06 David’s last big expedition was canoeing the entire Mississippi River, from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, all the way to the gulf. He is engaged to Tiffany Foss. Scott Shepherd, Sea Kayaking and Sailing ‘09 Scott works at Outdoor Outreach, a San Diego-based nonprofit that uses the outdoors to inspire students about the possibilities of their lives. He would love to find better way to collaborate with NOLS graduates who are working with similar populations and find ways to make programs more effective/impactful.

WILDERNESS QUIZ Answer: The measure designates nearly 250,000 acres of Wilderness in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington State and Montana; withdraws hundreds of thousands of acres from mineral development; establishes or expands more than a dozen National Park units; and protects about 140 miles of rivers. It also allows the Bureau of Land Management to expedite oil and gas and grazing permits, promote a copper mine in Arizona on land some tribes consider sacred, and conveys federal timberlands to an Alaskan Native-owned corporation in the Tongass National Forest.

Top: Ashley Wise and Melissa Watkins tied the knot in September. Photo courtesy of Ashley Wise. Bottom: David Rothberg and Steven Fox skied to the South Pole. Photo courtesy of Steve Fox

Aidan Shafland, Brooks Range Backpacking and River ‘09 Aidan grew up in New York City but has many memories of camp and time spent in the mountains. Aidan’s NOLS Alaska course put him on the path to becoming an outdoor educator. At university, Aidan studied environmental sciences and outdoor education. Since school Aidan has worked on trail crews in Maine and Colorado, and became a Wilderness EMT at NOLS. Annika Zwirn, Alaska Backpacking & Sea Kayaking ‘13 Annika works at Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh-area nonprofit founded in 2001 by fellow NOLS grad Michael

Schiller. They offer hundreds of programs a year, working to make it easy for everyone to get outside. MARRIAGES, ENGAGEMENTS, AND ANNIVERSARIES Ashley Wise and Melisse Watkins, current instructors Ashley and Melisse were married Sept. 6, 2014 in Alaska, where they are both working for NOLS. Ashley said their son, Porter Wise, was jubilant! NEW ADDITIONS Kelly Paul, former instructor Kelly gave birth to a baby boy, Noah Daniel, on Jan. 10, Spring 2015 25

Yoshie Kumagae, Canada Canoe ‘86 Yoshie and her husband had twins, Takuto (a boy) and Sola (a girl), on Jan. 12, 2015. They are learning lots together each precious day. Erin Newbury Hogan, Wind River Wilderness ‘03 Erin and her husband Mike are the proud parents of a baby girl. Emma Rose Hogan was born Jan. 7. She weighed 6 pounds and was 19 inches long. IN REMEMBRANCE Frans E. Bogardus, Semester in the Rockies ‘90 Frans died Dec. 11, 2014. After his NOLS semester, Frans went to college at Lewis and Clark and graduated with a degree in biology and international affairs in 1995. While in college he volunteered on the Portland Mountain Rescue Team. Later he joined the Peace Corps in Morocco and headquarters in D.C. Brent (Chase) Cuthbertson, former instructor Dr. Brent Cuthbertson passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 in his 54th year in the presence of loved ones. Brent was a professor in the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, Lakehead University. He was internationally recognized for his expertise in outdoor leadership and

Jacqueline Munro, Absaroka Wilderness ‘97 and former instructor Jacqueline passed away Nov. 11, 2014 following a brief illness. Jacqueline was a lover and protector of the outdoors and all of the creatures that made it home. She had an adventurous spirit and was caring, generous, and kind to all.

Tyler Adams, Semester in Patagonia ‘03 When Tyler was 17, he went on a semester-long NOLS Patagonia course where he fell in love with the Chilean people and countryside. He twice returned to work and play with his band of Chilean brothers. The son of Ginny and Paul Adams, Tyler died Oct. 12, 2014 in a flying accident near Yerington, Nevada.


its early years. Tap instructed by example and soft-spoken instruction for NOLS for three decades, in addition to founding NOLS Mexico in 1970. His legacy at NOLS will not be forgotten. Tap passed away March 2 in New Mexico. He was 91 years old.


GETTING SOMEWHERE: CNG TRUCK AT NOLS Christopher Thomas, Outdoor Educator Semester ‘13 Christopher died in an avalanche in early January. Christopher was a soldier and experienced outdoorsman who knew the risks and dangers of life and chose to take them anyway. Chris was well prepared for this trip, all in his party had training and were wearing beacons and they located him quickly, but it was still too late.

A: In a hypothermic patient, we need to carefully check for a pulse or any signs of life, but if they are not present, start compressions.


Ernest “Tap” Tapley, former instructor Tap was one of the first NOLS instructors and certainly one of the most legendary. Tap met Paul Petzoldt while serving in the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army. and later joined Paul to instruct for NOLS in

Mary Hosie Miller, NOLS mom Mary passed away Jan. 7, 2015 in Petosky, Michigan at the age of 101. Though not a NOLS grad herself, she requested that donations be made to NOLS in lieu of flowers.



NOLS Archive

as a brilliant instructor revered by students.

Becca Sage

2014. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and dog and misses the mountains and working for NOLS terribly!


Transportation is a necessity at NOLS. How else would students and instructors arrive at some of the most isolated and spectacular places on our planet? Although transportation is key to NOLS operations worldwide, it also accounts for 40 percent of the school’s carbon emissions, making it a significant sustainability concern. Last September, NOLS purchased a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle with funding support from Encana Oil and Gas. CNG is a well established alternative to gasoline, boasting low cost, widespread distribution, and, most importantly, clean-burning qualities. Due to the proximity of CNG providers in the area, the Ford truck will spend most of its days at the NOLS location in Vernal, Utah. After a short debut, it has proved to be a valuable asset to the NOLS fleet of vehicles. There is a possibility for more CNG use at NOLS, as a CNG vehicle is being considered for the Three Peaks Ranch due to the infrastructure in Pinedale, Wyoming. We are excited to explore the use of CNG, as well as more opportunities for environmentally friendly transportation. Sustainability Tip: By maintaining a clean air filter, getting a regular tune-up, and getting your vehicle re-aligned, you can improve your gas mileage. Also, remove excess weight from your vehicle to increase fuel efficiency.

Expeditioners should build stamina and durability to arrive in camp with a good attitude, good EB, and the energy to be what Paul Petzoldt called a “good keeper.” Stamina and durability require overall strength in all major muscle groups with a focus on the “mountain chassis” of the legs and core. Strength exercises in training for stamina and durability engage groups of muscles. Here are a few home-based exercises:

1 2

The hip bridge is a basic movement to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. It is easily scalable by using only one leg at a time or by placing the heels on a chair or bench. RDL stands for Romanian deadlift. Don’t be put off by the name. Performed properly it is an excellent training move for the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Always maintain a flat back. Use water bottles as you learn the move and then add weight.


Step ups are a good choice for the quads. Practice the mountain rest step with each stride. Add a daypack and fill it as you grow stronger. Do step ups when you cannot get to a trail or have just 20 minutes.


Start core work with the plank and variations. Engage the obliques with standing moves such as resist the twist, “haloes,” and choppers. The absolute best core exercise is to get up and down from the floor repeatedly with a little weight in a daypack. Try it for 10 minutes.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN • Last summer we were proud to host more than 90 students from our Gateway Partner organizations representing a dozen cities. • Our transportation department, the tireless “Brotherhood of the Wrench,” safely dropped off and picked up hundreds of student groups, logging 220,000 miles in summer and fall. • We’re looking ahead to NOLS’ 50th anniversary celebration. On Friday, October 9, we will host a barbecue lunch, followed by tours of NOLS Rocky Mountain and the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. SOUTHWEST • The 2014 fall Semester in the Southwest marked the return of the caving section. Due to the outbreak of White Nose Syndrome in bat populations, NOLS had stopped the Southwest caving program four years ago. • Staff recently took part in a Wilderness 50th anniversary celebration called “Wild for Wilderness” in Sabino Canyon. NOLS YUKON • We had a great summer operating out of our new facility outside of Whitehorse at Takhinni Hot Springs. • We open our facility to local fundraising, educational, and adventure activities—from dogsled teams to snowshoe race fundrasers—in the off-season. • We are super excited about our new, 35-day, combo course of mountaineering and whitewater canoeing!

With a little preparation, you’ll enjoy a seamless transition back to spring adventuring ( Students eat as well as ever in the Rockies.

Mark Jordan

By Neil Short, former instructor and CSCS

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

Kevin Redmon

Expedition Prep

Mountain waterfall in New Zealand backcountry.

NOLS NEW ZEALAND • Our Mãori neighbor has found more than 400 kilograms of Pounamu in the Roding River that runs through the NOLS New Zealand base. Pounamu (a green, durable stone) plays a very important role in Mãori culture. • The number of days staff have NOT had a swim in the Roding River this year is zero. The number of trout caught in the same river is also zero! NOLS AUSTRALIA • Sharon Ferguson, NOLS Australia program manager, belongs to a roller derby league in Broome. • The Kimberley region, where NOLS Australia operates our hiking courses, has been home to Indigenous people for at least 30,000 years prior to the arrival of Europeans. NOLS ALASKA • We will mark NOLS’ 50th with an Alaskan birthday party Aug. 8. Everyone is invited! • Last fall we broke ground on our new classroom and staging area building, which will house a state-of-the-art classroom, course staging area, library and computer lab, and commercial laundry facility. • We are excited to offer an alumni canoeing trip on the Noatak River in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, one of the wildest rivers in North America.

Spring 2015 27


JAKE SCHEPPS DIDN’T EXPECT TO BECOME A BAND LEADER. “I realized in my mid-20s I was more excited to be carrying a backpack in the Wind Rivers and I could be a musician later in life,” said Schepps. After taking a Spring Semester in the Rockies in 1990, he returned to college. That’s where he realized he wanted to become a NOLS instructor. In 1993 he took his Rocky Mountain Instructor Course. It was challenging to keep up his musical skills while teaching 30day wilderness courses. “The banjo is remarkably heavy and not something I wanted to pile on top of my already excessively heavy pack,” he explained. In 2001 he took a WMI Instructor Course and transitioned to teaching classroom courses to devote more time to music. At first glance, teaching wilderness medicine and being a musician may seem disparate, but Schepps sees incredible similarities. He never expected to want to teach WMI courses, which have a firm curriculum and progression. “To make this set curriculum dynamic, engaging, and a fun experience for students is really challenging,” Schepps reflected. Teaching WMI courses taught him to improvise within a strict structure, like his musical pursuits. “There’s a reason why people record Beethoven’s string quartet over and over again,” he said. “The difference is not the notes … what’s different is this interpretation.” On WMI courses, the difference is not the curriculum, but in the circumstances and students. Flexible teaching techniques create unique learning opportunities for his students. Experiential education is something that also carries over to his music; he is self-taught and learned to play by ear.

“I spent time in campgrounds learning tunes and that’s been my conservatory.” Schepps fell into the role of band leader, and it fits his style, though different from instructing. He reflects on his own leadership style from being a NOLS student, NOLS instructor, and then band leader. “My own competence is not inherently greater than the rest of the band. I like to work with my musical heroes.” Schepps’ NOLS experience has helped shape his personal development as a band leader. Being prepared, having a vision, and using clear communication are important for the band’s success. Corralling five musicians to be in the same place is a constant challenge. But it is well worth difficult logistics to do what he loves. In January, he released his fourth album, “Entwined.” Bela Bartok, an early 20th century composer, inspired it. After arranging Bartok’s music for the string band, he wondered what modern composers could bring to the string band. Each piece on this record is a commission. “There are so many great, moving composers actively writing and I was really curious what they could bring to the string band.” Schepps contacted classical composers to write these pieces for the bluegrass string band. This record is a very different musical statement than his previous works. “My hope is to create music that sounds really different and adds to the conversation,” he said.



Jake Schepps (banjo) practices with the Quintet; members include Matt Finner (mandolin), Ross Martin (guitar), Ryan Drickey (violin), and Eric Thorin (bass). Michael Pierce



This example of Joe McGowan’s art hangs in his father’s office at NOLS Rocky Mountain in his hometown of Lander, Wyoming. Brad Christensen

L AST MINUTE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT NOLS’ ISSUE ROOM IN L ANDER. There’s Kevin McGowan, in his office by the entry. Fireplug of a man with a white thatch. Seems like he’s been there as long as I’ve been in Lander, which is three decades now. Browsing the racks: how about a green shirt of mysterious outdoor fabric, to remind my wandering son to get his butt back here to finish our climb up Fremont Peak, and, while you’re here, help me build a yurt platform out in Red Canyon? It’s hard to bring them back, but you keep trying. My spouse and I are not Wyoming natives, which means the only relatives populating our little town are the ones we spawn. With all three of our “kids” now adults working far from Wyoming, we currently have no relatives nearby. Our son is half a world away in Istanbul. Sons can be difficult. They take risks. (Daughters do too.) They do it on a bike when they’re three, with our encouragement. They do it with their lives when they get a little older, deaf to our discouragements. Whitewater, drugs, mountain blizzards, war zones, skateboards, bad friends, bad luck—there are lots of ways. Often they don’t hear our warnings because they tuned us out during The Wretched Years. Remember? When the silky cooing child became the zitty, snide teenager? The timing is usually terrible—teen madness strikes right when the parent’s job starts to suck, the spouse is getting bored, and you’re marooned in a little town with no nearby wise aunt or grandparent to perform an intervention. The kid will say, “My math teacher sucks” and I’ll say, “Don’t say sucks—and maybe if you studied” and he’ll say, “He’s the sucking soccer coach, dad, I NEVER get in,” and I’ll say, “Maybe if you practiced” and he’ll say, “Shut up!” and kick a hole in the door while slamming it. Really, he could score some goals. Unable to find an exorcist, I took his ungrateful, ungraceful 13-year-old carcass to NOLS to get some gear for a dreaded father-son fishing trip. He slunked to the back of the issue room and looked at knives. He had a terrible frown. He didn’t smell good. Kevin McGowan came out of his office. A solid guy with an ear-

ring, leaning into his walk with arms hanging, his head down and bobbing a little. Grumpy looking face. We’re friends. But he went right by me. To Nick, my son. “Hey, how are you? You playing any music?” Soon they were deep in conversation. I stayed on the other side of the room, watching them in the mirror on a bicycle helmet, pretending to be interested in mysterious outdoor fabric. I saw Nick shrug and smile. I saw Kevin’s serious, inquiring face, tilted to look at him. It went on for a good while. I felt anxious at first—would my awkward son say something stupid, or pretentious, or profane? No. That wasn’t what was bottled up in him—that was all in me. Then I felt a little jealous. I like talking to Kevin. He was finding Nick more interesting than me. He seemed to know how to reach him. Finally, after buying socks, and a camp stove, and some mysterious outdoor fabric, we started out the door, and Kevin briefly put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. And I thought: That’s how I want to treat my son. Last November, at the new Lander Community Center, they played a video of Joe McGowan, Kevin and Anne’s son, skateboarding out in the meadows and aspen groves in the mountains above Lander. He and his friends carried around boards and plywood sheets to these unlikely settings—it’s amazing how hard young people work to have fun (and, sometimes, take risks). There was a long line in community center parking lot, that sunny November afternoon, and I noted how the people assembling represented the different decades I’ve lived in Lander. Some were from pioneer ranch families. Some had come in the 1980s to take a NOLS course. Some came with the recent migration of

Spring 2015 29

Henry Austin



rock-climbing nomads. Many were kids—young adults, really—who had spent their entire young lives in Lander. We who moved here from crowded parts of the country know that this is a genuinely small town of about 8,000, which perhaps doesn’t need such a big, high-ceilinged community center as this new one. But on that day, it wasn’t big enough. When we finally got inside the building, and the video of Joe and his friends started to play, people were standing up against the wall and out in the foyer—there were no chairs left, no empty space. And few dry eyes. Joe, son of Kevin and Anne McGowan, age 21, a student at college, was struck by a stranger, unprovoked, in front of a friend’s house in Laramie. He fell and struck his head. He died. Addressing such a big crowd would give most of us stage fright, but it was not hard for Joe’s relatives and friends to think of laughs and stories about the smiling kid with the skateboard. Even Anne and Kevin spoke, generous words from their unknowable underworld of grief, for a crowd of people who sat on the perimeter of


that darkness, wanting to help, and needing help. Weeks go by. It’s December. Kevin McGowan is back in his office at NOLS, on the wall above him a colorful reminder of his son’s talent as an artist. I’m back at the sale rack looking for another green shirt of mysterious outdoor fabric. We talk a little bit. I want to recall to him that moment in the Issue Room where he showed me how to be a father. But where does that lead? We shake our heads in wonderment about all those people who gathered in the big room on the hill after Joe’s death. That was the moment the building was baptized a community center. It doesn’t fix what was broken in the McGowan family and among his close friends. But it makes our choice—to live in a little mountain town, and grow families here—graspable. Our sons were born here. This is their hometown. It’s hard to bring them back. Impossible to bring Joe McGowan back. But we keep trying. An account has been established for the “McGowan Family” at Lander’s Central Bank & Trust for anyone wishing to help offset the family’s expenses. A video of Joe McGowan and pals skateboarding through the mountains is available at The original version of this article first appeared on on December 30, 2014. Used by permission.


and I wonder for the upteenth time at the profound effect of light and weather on my state of mind. Suddenly, a shift in perception and I see that what I had been observing as a cloud is really a snowcapped peak swirling in mist. Ah, Alaska! The play of color and shape around it—now highlighting, now obscuring—is the enthralling dance of light I never tire of watching. Across decades and continents, the play of light never fails to be supremely captivating and deeply relaxing. Hoping to approach Blackstone Glacier before the tide comes in, I continue. I pick and leap my way across silty strands of tinkling water until one winds its way over my shoe, crushing my heart as it inundates my laboriously dried sock. Nonetheless, when I return to camp some time later, I am at peace: even in the midst of a week-long weather system, one wet sock feels a small price to pay to catch a glimpse—in that incomparable arctic twilight—of a mountain that was almost a cloud.

Nacho Grez

A FTER THREE DAYS OF SOLID DRIZZLE, DOWNPOUR, AND SKIES SO THICK that the view may as well have been Wisconsin for all I knew, we reach Blackstone Bay. As the light begins to slowly fade, changes made incremental in the haze, I’ve succeeded in drying myself out enough to be fit for my sleeping bag. It’s 10 p.m., 40 minutes before low tide. Turning for a farewell glimpse of Blackstone Glacier at the far end of the bay, I see a ridgeline! From behind that first range of mountains, a contrasting golden light reaches delicately upward before disappearing into the slate fog. After a moment’s hesitation, I change course to head toward the light—eager to enjoy some splash of color. Hand-sized birds speckled in brown and white hop ceaselessly between my feet as I squelch along the shoreline. Together, we delight in the freshly exposed intertidal zone, albeit for different reasons (food versus an escape from snow). Down the shore, I cross an outlet of braided snowmelt covered with hundreds of seagulls, all jawing incessantly in what strikes me as a very enthusiastic marching band composed entirely of oboes and utterly lacking any sense of rhythm. As kelp squishes and shells crunch beneath my feet, the light across the bay begins to expand to include a mesmerizing rosy hue,

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.

Spring 2015


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

Donate. “My experiences on my NOLS course sharpened my leadership skills, and I am now able to operate at my full potential. I was inspired to achieve things that at first seemed nearly impossible. As I think back, I realize my journey didn’t start when I first put on my boots, when I crossed my first river, when I read my first topographical map, or when I led my group on independent expedition. It started with the donors that made my scholarship possible. NOLS taught me to have faith in my decisions and to continue to challenge myself past what I thought attainable. It made a significant impact in my life. Now I am a leader in my community.” Abraham Vicuna

Ben Fox

Scholarship recipient, Wind River Wilderness ‘14


The Leader - Spring 2015  

The Leader - Spring 2015

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you