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NZB Backpacking Scenes

A few photos just in from our recently graduated NZ Backpacking courses. Both courses had great weather, with just one significant storm to contend with. NZB1 enjoyed the unique flora, fauna and cultural heritage of Kahurangi National Park, while NZB2 hit some high notes in the majestic Southern Alps between Arthur's and Lewis Pass. Students on both expeditions were able to crown their experience with a multi-day mini expedition independent of their instructors. We wish all NZB grads well and hope that they will use their freshly-honed wilderness skills to keep exploring into the future!


In the alpine - classic NZ Backpacking landscape


The cheeky kea - NZ's native alpine parrot


NZB1 in the Kahurangi classroom with instructor Ngaire


NZB2 in front of some classic Southern Alps scree

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 31, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS-2 Setting Sail

NOLS NZ Spring Semester NZS-2 1/22/15 emerged from the wilderness of Kahurangi National Park last week after enjoying a month of classic Kiwi 'tramping'. Highlights of their hike section included multiple peak ascents, surviving an intense storm at an alpine campsite, and going on a 5 night Independent Student Group Expedition. After a brief stopover at the branch, they have now moved back to the Marlborough Sounds, to close their semester with a 10 day Sail section. They will graduate their course on 8 April 2015.

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 27, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS-1 Branch-ing Out!

NZ Spring Semester NZS-1 1-22-15 returned to the NZ Branch for the first time since the start of their course earlier this week. With just enough time to wash clothes, have showers and hang up their PFDs after their sea kayaking expedition, they were quickly underway again for their final semester section: hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park. Starting at the Branch Stream a couple of hour's drive south of the base, the group will hike over some of the ranges marking the northern end of the Southern Alps to an end destination at Lewis Pass on the Main Divide. The group paddled over 110 nautical miles during sea kayaking and were able to round Cape Jackson in the notoriously challenging Cook Strait. With such accomplishments to spur them on, they should enjoy the challenge of traversing NZ's high country.

NZS1 en route to their final semester section

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 12, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS-3 Boots to Boats

Over the weekend NZS-3 returned from their hiking section and spent a day at the base organizing gear and washing clothes. Their hiking section culminated with a 5-day independent student group expedition.
Section highlights included an 11 hour hiking day, a 24 kilometer travel day, watching the moon rise as the sun set, travel and camping above bush line, hiking over Waiau pass and traveling in technical terrain. 

The group is now sea kayaking in the Marlborough sounds for 30 days before they go sailing. 


Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 8, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

Wyss Campus Acquires More LEED Certifications

To have a LEED certification is an honorable feat in the world of sustainability. A product of the U.S. Green Building Council, the multi-tiered LEED certification system has been a pioneer and leader in sustainable building initiatives around the world. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes responsible building designs and practices. In pursuit of sustainability, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) has jumped on the LEED train and is successfully taking the school toward a greener future.

On Jan. 22, 2015, the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus received one gold and five platinum LEED certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council for their caretaker house and student housing units, respectively. These high-end certifications echoed the standard that the Wyss Campus set when the educational facility became LEED Platinum certified in November of 2013. Over the course of about 18 months, the project team focused on a variety of details to achieve the six recent certifications, and the result is worthy of admiration.

Residences are Sustainable and Stylish

Certifying these residences is absolutely an accomplishment as far as the environment is concerned. Not only are the facilities designed to work with the elements that they are set in, but they also create a learning opportunity for the students who spend time in them.

“For many students, this is their first opportunity to live in a building that requires active engagement. After a month at the Wyss Campus, students are more likely to reach for the window than the thermostat to manage comfort,” noted WMI Assistant Director Shana Tarter.   

The environmentally friendly components of the student housing on the Wyss Campus encourage students to appreciate and pursue greener practices.

The positive impact of this achievement resonates beyond the NOLS community, as NOLS is now a leader in LEED Platinum certification within the state of Wyoming. With LEED Platinum being the highest of certifications, the Wyss Campus has set a wonderful example for other groups seeking to build green.

A Beautiful Addition to the Campus

Permalink | Posted by Becca Sage on Mar 4, 2015 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

The Original NOLS Instructor: Tap Tapley

With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to Tap (Ernest) Tapley, one of the first NOLS instructors and certainly one of the most legendary. Tap passed away Monday, March 2 in New Mexico. He was 91 years old.

S_v14alepl7ek1081Tap met NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt while serving in the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, which Paul was helping to train. He later recruited Paul to instruct for the Outward Bound branch in Colorado, and in turn joined Paul as an instructor when Paul founded NOLS.

“I haven’t considered it work,” he said of his role as one of the first NOLS instructors on NOLS’ 40th anniversary. “NOLS meant to me that we could start training people to take others into the wilderness and enjoy it.”

He did just that for nearly 30 years, leading and teaching largely by example and soft-spoken instruction.

“Tap was the one who had the greatest influence on me ... because of his humility and kindness just being himself and sharing his knowledge by example more than by words,” wrote one of his early students, Leslie van Barselaar, upon hearing of his passing. “He was so comfortable in the woods or by the ocean or horseback. He never told you what to do, but you watched very carefully how he did things to get it right. Because you knew he knew he was watching over you like a benevolent uncle. Because you also wanted to be that comfortable in the wild. Because you were proud to be a part of this lineage, and wanted to live into it.”

In addition to playing a key role in launching the NOLS legacy, Tap also helped make NOLS an international institution. After instructing in the Wind River Mountains, his favorite wilderness environment, for many years, Tap headed south. In 1971, he founded NOLS Mexico.

He remained a steady source of learning and leadership as NOLS continued to grow, having a profound impact on countless students and fellow instructors.

“Tap’s legacy grows each time a new NOLS student first sees the Milky Way, tops out on a Wind River peak, hears a coyote call, or feels the tug of a Brookie on the line. Those experiences, those adventures are the essence of Tap’s spirit and role as an educator,” said NOLS Executive Director John Gans. “We thank him and wish him peace.”

Services are pending, and details will be added to this post.


Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Mar 3, 2015 in the following categories: Instructor News, Mexico, Rocky Mountain

Supporting NOLS through Solar Time


The sun has been used to tell time for centuries. The earliest known sundials are the shadow clocks used in Egyptian and Babylonian astronomy in 1500 BC. Today the sun is rarely used to tell time, but doing so can be a way to connect with the rhythm of nature—especially when traveling in the wilderness.

The Utah-based company, Heliosphere Designs, creates sundials that display time by reflecting seasonal patterns of light onto the translucent dial face of the solar timepiece. Inventor and entrepreneur, Joyce Popendorf, creates solar timepieces for use in the home and the backcountry.

Joyce supports NOLS through donating a portion of her business profits to NOLS through One Percent for the Planet, an alliance of businesses and non-profits committed to environmental stewardship.

“NOLS’ most important work is the unique experience of deeply engaging participants with the natural world,” says Joyce, 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.

“The solar timepiece is a hands-on instrument that engages the individual to not only experience solar time but also gain a sense of familiarity with the patterns of light. 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.’”

With connections comes a sense of place.

With a sense of place comes a shift in perspective.

With a shift in perspective comes new ideas.

Using a sundial relies on a vast underlying science that is intricately linked to an exact location on Earth and the seasonal effects of our orbit around the sun. Experiencing the Heliosphere solar timepiece not only connects the user with their spot on the globe but also engages users with their own exploration of the invisible forces that shape our natural world.


Heliosphere Designs will be releasing an instructional interactive solar timepiece application for portable use to engage users with their field kit designed to take the 4-inch transparent spherical solar timepiece, carabineer O ring, and compass into the field to enhance their exploration of time and navigation.

“NOLS’ outdoor learning experiences not only connect participants with the natural environment but also encourage further explorations,” Joyce says. “This provides a vital, engaging connection to experience our natural world, as does the sundial field kit. To me, it is these connections and individual ah-ha moments that foster stewardship of our environment.”

Joyce chooses to donate a percentage of her business’ profit to NOLS through One Percent for the Planet, as Heliosphere and the school share the goal to engage individuals in learning about our natural world, whether in our front yard or remote mountain ranges.

By Melissa Hemken, Foundation Relations Coordinator

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Mar 3, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni

NZS-2 Passing Through!

NOLS NZ Spring Semester NZS-2 1/22/15 were back to the Aniseed Valley base briefly last week as they switched from Sea Kayaking to their Backpacking section. While the fickle winds had limited the number of actual travel days, the group was in fine spirits and they felt like they had learned a lot about leadership, group dynamics, the NZ coastal environment and the skills necessary to be excellent campers. They have now set out into Kahurangi National Park for a month of hiking, where they will explore some of NZ's most pristine river valleys and will attempt to traverse some of the alpine tops in the region. They will return to the NOLS NZ branch on 27 March in preparation for their third and final section: Sailing in the Marlborough Sounds.

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 2, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

'Do What You like. Like What You do.'

“We don’t take a trip. A trip takes us,” said John Steinbeck.

 NOLS gave me the opportunity to experience a trip that would take me. It all started in 2012. I couldn’t find a study abroad program that fit my needs. I could have traveled abroad with my university, but I still would have been sitting inside classrooms imagining what the great outdoors had in store.

 When I headed home for Christmas break I heard about NOLS for the first time. My Dad heard about NOLS from my cousin, a NOLS alumnus, and suggested it for me. After some research, I secured the last spot on a semester abroad that was right for me: a Semester in Australia.

 An outdoor education, especially one that involved being on water, was a dream come true. From early childhood, I remember being fascinated by any water source. Marine life always caught my attention, and Australia gave me the tools to encounter and understand a variety of species.

 My course was split into three sections: canoeing (39 days), backpacking (23 days), and cultural (7 days). I had little to no experience with any of these technical skills, but with three brilliant instructors and an outstanding group of coursemates, we were able to grow in all of the aspects of this trip. The Kimberly in Western Australia is so remote and accompanied with a wide range of species that I had never heard of. It was something I loved waking up to and studying everyday. How far out of the “real world” we were really hit me when we arrived at a waterfall and one of my instructors told me I could count on one hand the number of people who had seen it.


Photo Credit: Jackson Sinclair 

Right then, I knew I would forever use my NOLS experiences for future endeavors. After an amazing cultural section of fishing, storytelling, and group classes, our course came to an end and I didn’t know when I would be affiliated with NOLS again.

 I returned to my last year of school still trying to figure out what I would do once the year was over. Stumbling around the web one day looking for jobs, I found myself back on the NOLS website looking through courses. That’s when I came upon the PR & Marketing Internship.

Continue reading "'Do What You like. Like What You do.'"

Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Feb 26, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni

A Colorful Partnership: NOLS Grad Teams up with Harry's

Fred R. Barncard once said, “A picture is worth ten thousand words.”

 For Jimmy Chin, a former NOLS instructor, this quote became a reality. Today, Chin is known worldwide as one of the most recognized adventurers and outdoor photographers. He works with National Geographic to capture moments of pure bliss and eye-opening expeditions. Chin also started his filmmaking career in 2003 and since then he was built a production company with two partners.

 One of Chin’s greatest accomplishments came in October 2006 where he successfully climbed and completed a ski descent of Mount Everest. He became the first American to ski the South Pillar Route. Other expedition highlights include climbing Mt. Kinabalu and Meru-Sharks Fin, becoming the first person to accomplish an ascent and ski descent of Tai Yang Peak, and many more.

 The setting for one of Chin’s recent adventures was Grand Teton National Park, one of his favorite destinations. Even though Chin plays here often, as he lives nearby, this trip would be different. He partnered with the co-founder of Harry’s Razors to create limited line of razors based on his accomplishments. On this expedition, Chin and his expedition mates would find themselves not only taking pictures of the outdoors, but also photographing Chin’s new line of razors, a fun project.


Photo Credit: Brad Christensen 

Besides teaming up with Harry’s, Chin has been featured through numerous companies.

 Chin lives for adventure and has been featured in Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Magazine, and People Magazine. He currently resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he continues to focus on his upcoming expeditions and keeping a close shave.




Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Feb 23, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni

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