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Patagonia Year stories

Our Patagonian Year courses PY-1-10/18/14 and PY-2-10/18/14 have recently finished their Wilderness First Responder classes on our campo. Plenty of time to talk to the students and ask them about their adventures!

While sitting down with Sophia, Haley and Meghan, we got to talking about all of their highlights and most favorite memories. But also about ‘the other side’ of their stories, which told me about new challenges they encountered and how it shaped them in their expedition behavior.  

Sophia “Being out in the wilderness pushes us. It pushes us so hard and we are so challenged! Like, waking up at 4 am to cook for your group on a cold, snowy day. You want to be the kind of person who can just wake up really early and make the most awesome pancakes! Realizing that you do not really enjoy that is hard.. The disappointments and hardships you face, but also the successes, are so much stronger in the wilderness. Because they are all tangible. For example, whether we have that warm breakfast on an early cold morning, or whether we make it to the top.. But we have the opportunity to change and develop through those moments. So we push ourselves. You push yourself to be good, helpful and a great team member.”

Haley “The reason why I get up in the morning, why I maintain a positive attitude when it is pouring rain, I am freezing cold and my rain gear has allowed all of the Patagonia rain to come in - is because of the people I am with. Because that is the essence of the trip, you have to work together, rely on and care about one another. And you want to! So you get up in the morning to make pancakes, because you want to show your family that you care about them and that you are there going through the same hardships are they are. And you want to push yourself for that.”

Meghan “Even on hard days though, I would still think of it as the best day ever. It was not like that all the time, but some days when we were hiking.. We would stop, look around and be in the most beautiful place of our life. And everyone was in awe of what we are seeing and experiencing. So even with the moments of hardship there are times of realization.. This is why I am here. This is exactly what I wanted it to be.”

It was obvious to me that these girls had just experienced an incredibly valuable and rich life lesson, and are very excited about all the adventures that still lay ahead of them!

Entry 04 - DSC0128
Sophia, Haley and Meghan relaxing on the campo

Posted by Inge • NOLS Patagonia intern

Permalink | Posted by Kamil Sade on Dec 19, 2014 in the following categories: Patagonia

NOLS, REI proud to sponsor Latino Outdoors WFA

On November 8-9, NOLS and REI collaborated to offer a two-day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course to the leaders of Latino Outdoors.

José González for scenarioJosé González founded Latino Outdoors with this simple idea: Where are the Latino-led organizations with conservation and the environment as a primary focus?

His connection to nature began when he was a kid growing up in México growing crops on a farm. Later on, in the United States, González had a different experience when he saw Sequoias for the first time—much different than the one he had as a kid running around the hills by his backyard.

“This place was a protected space and it seemed so magical to me,” he reflected.

While in college, González saw himself in the migrant students he was teaching about the outdoors. He found himself wondering why he didn’t see more Latinos in national parks and outdoors.

So he created Latino Outdoors, a place to give a home to his love of the outdoors and his strong commitment to share this love and training with Latino communities. The organization is a community and network of outdoor professionals. It is a starting and continuing point for Latino outdoor and conservation professionals who engage and learn with Latino communities and a starting and continuing point for Latinos to engage and learn about the outdoors and conservation organizations.

“We use Spanish as a cultural asset, English as a professional tool, and being bilingual as an affirmative identity,” González said. “We seek to provide opportunities to network and build professional connections, to be a training ground for current and future professionals, and we are cooperative and collaborative by nature.”

In early November, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and REI collaborated in support of this important organization. NOLS and REI were pleased to be able to provide the two-day course to Latino Outdoors leaders on scholarship.

WFA course Latino Outdoors

“This kind of technical assistance is crucial in the community-building work we do and in amplifying the work that gets more of our communities into a diverse range of outdoors experiences,” Latino Outdoors Facebook stated shortly after the course.

Additional WFA opportunities can be found here.

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Dec 18, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Join Us at the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show

For over 11 years and 54 shows, travel enthusiasts from around the country have been dreaming, planning and finding their next vacation at the Travel & Adventure Show. NOLS will be present at the upcoming event in Chicago, as well as shows this spring, and you can get a free ticket to join us by using the code EXHNOLS.

From African safaris to Caribbean getaways, rainforest adventures, and domestic experiences, you’ll meet hundreds of the top travel brands from around the globe, including NOLS. If you’re interested in talking to NOLS about an adventure of a lifetime for yourself or for a young family member, stop by in Chicago Jan. 17-18 this year. Hear from NOLS representatives, watch fun demos, and enter to win a free NOLS course*!

T&AS.Black (1)

While at the Travel & Adventure Show, explore the cultural stages: the Global Beats Stage invites you to get on your feet and dance to the music of far away lands while the Taste of Travel Theater will fill your nose with the aroma of some of the world’s most unique cuisines.

Or head to a session at the Destination Stage where the top travel destinations show you how to experience the best that they have to offer. At the Travel Channel Theater, find inspiration and how to travel like a local from our celebrity speakers including Samantha Brown, Rick Steves, Pauline and Arthur Frommer, Patricia Schultz, Roger Staubach, Travel Channel personalities and more. 

Located in seven markets across the United States, the Travel & Adventure Show is like walking through a guidebook contained under one roof. Join us this year at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont on Jan. 17–18 to dream it, plan it, and enter to win that NOLS course. 

For more information on attending the Travel & Adventure Show, please visit their new website at!

* Win a Free NOLS Course! Entry at the NOLS booth is required for eligibility. One winner will be selected from total entries at all 2015 Travel and Adventure Shows. The winner will be notified by April 17, 2015.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Dec 17, 2014

NZ Season Sunset

New Zealand's final two fall semester courses return from the wilderness last week marked the end of our field season, with just a week to go before we break for the Christmas/New Year holidays.

NZSF4 brought back some amazing stories from their final section Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds, including sightings of whales, sharks, penguins and, of course, wekas. The group developed some solid sea kayak skills, featuring a full range of rescue techniques, rolls and rough water paddling practice. Highlight of the course was being able to do some long silent paddle stretches and really appreciating being out on the water.

Congratulations to all this year's NOLS NZ graduates and we hope to hear stories of the adventures to come!

PC060535A silent paddle in glassy waters was a highlight for NZSF4


Graduating in style - NZSF4 celebrate the end of their semester with a
Sea Kayak salute


A Marlborough Sounds sunset that students will hopefully remember
many years from now!

(Photos: Michelle Watson)


Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Dec 12, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

Educator Expedition: Advanced Rock Guiding Course

By Andrew Megas-Russell, NOLS Instructor

This fall, I successfully completed the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Advanced Rock Guide Course and Aspirant exam in Red Rocks, Nevada. I decided to to seek outside training and evaluation from the AMGA to broaden my proficiency as an instructor, enhance student outcomes, improve course quality, and provide and enriched level of instructor coaching and mentorship as a NOLS course leader. Since taking my NOLS Instructor Course in 2009, I have received invaluable coaching and mentorship from the many talented NOLS climbing instructors with whom I have had the pleasure of working. It was gratifying to pass the aspirant exam and see that the competence I have developed through years of working at NOLS has been on par with the industry standard.

The 10-day Advanced Rock Guide Course and Aspirant Exam is the second course in a three-course progression toward becoming a nationally certified rock guide.  Days were long and rigorous.  I was tested on my climbing technique and climbed over 80 pitches reaching 5.10+ in difficulty. At the start of the course, I was required to execute a series of timed vertical rescue scenarios that challenged my improvisation and proficiency with technical skills as well as my ability to work under pressure.  The instructors on the course, all internationally certified mountain guides with decades of experience, helped me focus and refine my multi-pitch belay and rappel transition techniques, free rope end theory, and short rope and short pitch techniques to ensure student safety on exposed terrain. The instructors gave me on-the-spot feedback and advice, and they also hosted formal debriefs at the end of each day.


Assessment areas throughout the aspirant exam section of the course included risk management, client care, professionalism, terrain assessment, mountain sense, and pedagogy. In addition to learning all these new techniques and technical skills, the most valuable lesson was the importance of applying the right technique at the right time.  This is a fundamental NOLS leadership skill I teach my own students:  judgment and decision-making.

Passing the AMGA Aspirant exam leaves me feeling  more confident in my skills and knowledge and prepared as an instructor. I look forward to applying for the final rock guide exam next fall and becoming a nationally certified rock guide.


Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Dec 11, 2014 in the following categories: Instructor News

NZSF-5 Returns From Canoeing

New Zealand Semester Five has returned from the Clarence River after Canoeing from the high alpine environment near the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean.
2014-12-08 18.38.39Six students from NZSF-5 made it to the Pacific Ocaen 

2014-11-01 08.51.40Clarence River flowing North from Dillon Cone  

2014-11-25 09.11.49Instructor Kurt Hotchkiss teaching geology in the hills


The group stayed at Muzzle Station and helped Colin Nimmo clear a tree that had fallen over in high winds.
They then enjoyed a tour of the
Clarence Valley Apiaries (which produces Organic Blue Borage Honey), a
sheep dog trial demonstration, and a tour of the beautiful remote high country farm. 


The group is now graduating and enjoying a Kiwi Spring Barbeque in the rain.
They will soon be off on their next adventure. 


Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Dec 9, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

Educator Expedition: San Juan and Gulf Island Keelboat Sailing

By Bradley Martin, NOLS Instructor

I recently sailed from Anacortes, Washington, through the San Juan Islands of Washington and Gulf Islands, Canada. I made this voyage on a personal expedition outside of my role as NOLS instructor with support from the NOLS Instructor Development Fund (IDF). October really is an ideal time of year to cruise the Pacific Northwest Islands. Due to the colder and rainier weather, there is very little boat traffic. In many anchorages, I was the only occupant. Notable anchorages were Reid Harbor on Stewart Island and Watmough Bay on Lopez Island. Both offered good wind protection from most directions and were stunning in beauty.

I chartered a Catalina 30—Tofte—which was very similar to NOLS’ Luna Quest, a Catalina 36. This boat made me appreciate how our NOLS fleet is “tricked out” with details to make them expeditionary yachts (e.g. batteries that will hold a charge on little motor use, trimmed down cushions and things that take up space, long anchor rode, etc.). Before leaving Anacortes, I removed unnecessary items like extraneous kitchenware and inadequate life jackets and cushions. I added jack lines, extra anchor rode, and backup webbing for reefed tack and clew.

San Juan Islands 001

I experienced a variety of conditions on this expedition. In the beginning of the expedition, calm seas and sunny weather were common. I sailed some light wind days and later twice had to reef in 20 knots of wind. This allowed me to cover some good distance in a short amount of time. Conditions required very little motoring and therefore I spent very little on diesel fuel.

I encountered more challenging conditions later in the expedition (low pressure systems and up to force 4-5 winds from the south). This contributed to not traveling through as much of Canada as I had hoped.  However, I sailed through waters and anchorages and islands in the San Juans that were new to me. I covered a total distance of 195 nautical miles on this personal adventure. I really appreciate the IDF helping me make this expedition happen.

San Juan Islands 093

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Dec 9, 2014 in the following categories: Instructor News, Pacific Northwest

Creating a Climate of Thanks

In the world of environmental sustainability, too often the amount of work to do overshadows a great many accomplishments that should be celebrated. This Thanksgiving, NOLS was happy to take a moment and offer #climatethanks. In case you missed us on twitter, here are three pieces of gratitude we’d like to offer up for those who work to preserve our wilderness classrooms: 

1)    NOLS Grads Above all else, NOLS’ greatest contribution to the environment is our graduates. They are skilled leaders who understand the beauty and fragility of our planet. Thank you to the countless NOLS alumni who have gone out and changed the world!

NOLS Leaders on Sustainability and Conservation from NOLS on Vimeo.

2)    NOLS Faculty and Staff support the education and experiences that inspire students to become environmental leaders. Thank you to all NOLS employees who work incredibly hard to further a mission they believe in and are agents for positive change in the world.   

3)    Generous funding for our alternative energy programs Rocky Mountain Power, The North Face, and many other organizations and individuals support our sustainability initiatives. Thank you for making it possible for our students to benefit and learn from the clean energy generated onsite at nine NOLS campuses around the world.

Obviously this is just a small snapshot of what we are thankful for, but it’s a start. Many thanks to everyone for supporting NOLS, we couldn’t do it without you!


Permalink | Posted by Karly Copeland on Dec 3, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

NOLS Southwest Celebrates Wilderness

What better way to celebrate the Wilderness Act than to get out and enjoy a piece of public lands?

NOLS Southwest teamed up with Arizona to do just that in November. Dozens of organizations welcomed thousands of individuals to the Wild for Wilderness Festival at the Sabino Canyon Recreational Area. NOLS Southwest hosted one of the activity stations placed along a two-mile trail to educate. NOLS staff taught kids how to read and draw topographic maps from play dough models. Adults learned about map and compass and GPS navigation.


Photo by Jehan Osanyin

Gila District Manager Tim Shannon thanked NOLS for its role in protecting and enhancing Wilderness recourses: “The future is bright … the future is our next generation of wilderness supporters," he said. "Most importantly, it is the children … and the grandchildren that are learning about wilderness from you."

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Dec 2, 2014 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Southwest

NZSF-3 Return from the Elements

NOLS New Zealand Fall Semester Three returns from the mountaineering section of their semester.
The Third and final section had students battling with the full force of the New Zealand spring weather. The group came back with many stories of sleepless nights holding down the tents.
One storm dropped almost three feet of snow in 48 hours and a separate wind storm left no tent standing.

Despite battling the elements they all came back happy and healthy.

P1030592Despite sleepless nights they still made it up some peaks

The final walk out down the Tapio River


The group has now graduated and are off on their next adventure. 

Everyone at NOLS NZ wishes them safe travels. 






Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Dec 2, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

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