'An American Ascent' Screened Before a Sold-Out Audience
By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, NOLS Diversity and Inclusion Manager and Expedition Denali Coordinator
After a year long tour in which the Expedition Denali team inspired over 8,000 young people across the nation with their story, the film documenting their historic journey was screened before an audience of over 300 in Washington D.C. in late June. Titled “An American Ascent,” Distill Productions' hourlong film narrated by well-known Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson told the story of the team’s fears and expectations before the climb, their expedition on the mountain, and how they felt when they had to turn back with the summit in sight due to an unprecedented lightning storm. Mountaineering icon Conrad Anker and author John Krakauer make guest appearances.
Watch a trailer for the film:
Adventure films can be many things. They generally are entertaining, dramatic, adrenaline-inducing, and feature “sick” beats paired with action-packed scenes of the heroes dangling from dangerous precipices. This film stands out. It was many of the things that mountaineering films are. It was funny and it was inspiring. But it was also brutally honest. It was a true story of the team’s journey with no spin and no embellishments.
One mother of a young man who is deaf wrote in response to the film: “KiJuan ... has been told many times what he ‘can’t do’ and he has defied the odds every time. I knew this film would grab him and now he is very determined to do something similar.”
Another family brought two of their neighbors’ children who had previously not been exposed to camping.
“A team member made an interesting point that you can only choose ‘what I want to do when I grow up’ from the options that you know are available,” they wrote. “Now my two friends have a new option they didn’t know about before. If nothing else they now know they ‘have permission’ to use America’s parks just like everybody else. Thank you to NOLS for your courses and efforts, they are life-changing.”
Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Saal. (L to R) Expedition Denali members Scott Briscoe, Robby ReChord, Erica Wynn, Billy Long, Stephen DeBerry, Rosemary Saal, Stephen Shobe, and Ryan Mitchell at the film screening.
The film screening was a capstone event to two years of hard work by many people, but we cannot be complacent. Our expedition to change the face of the outdoors continues. Learn more about Expedition Denali here.
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Sustainable Roads
Forest Service roads provide outstanding access to a breadth of interests from recreation to research to commercial activities. Faced with limited resources to maintain the large network of roads in Western Washington, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Sustainable Roads Cadre united in 2013 to research how the public uses the roads in this National Forest. The groups hosted community meetings in the Puget Sound area that attracted 224 people to speak about the roads they value most. An additional 1800 people filled in the online questionnaire, providing the Mt. Baker Sustainable Roads team with plenty of data with which to make appropriate recreation and stewardship decisions for the future. The groups are hosting a further series of meetings to discuss the results of the research and are inviting interested members of the public to join them. Check out your local event listed below!
Capacity limits attendance to a first-come basis. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
JULY 10, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Bellingham Public Library
210 Central Ave
Bellingham, WA 98227
JULY 17, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Park Place Middle School Commons
1408 W Main St.
Monroe, WA 98272
JULY 24, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Issaquah Main Library
10 West Sunset Way
JULY 29, 2:00 -4:30 p.m.
7700 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
JULY 31, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Darrington Community Center
570 Sauk Avenue
Darrington, WA 98241
For more info check out the webiste at http://mbssustainableroads.com/
AUSTRALIA BACKPACKING COURSE GOES BUSH!
This week saw our Backpackers kick off their course with a successful start. The 10 students travelled from all over the United States, to congregate in the tiny town of Broome. Most of the students had already met at their accommodation and started to form as a group, with some playful friendships developing.
The group spent their entire first day preparing to embark on an amazing journey into the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. In the morning they worked efficiently to bag their entire ration of food for 35 days, before they even had morning tea!
After lunch, students focused on personal and group equipment that they would need to carry for the expedition. With the assistance of their two fantastic Instructors, Ben and Karin, each student sorted through their equipment to make sure they had all they may need for this rugged adventure. A class on how to pack their packs was followed by a delicious dinner, the course orientation and a discussion on how to create a positive learning environment, then it was off to the caravan park for the night.
An early morning pick up by Garry, our favourite spice girl, saw the group head north towards the King Leopold Range Conservation Park. The group will be out hiking for the next 4 weeks, as they make their way through thickets of tropical rainforest, around spectacular waterfalls and across the open savannah grasslands. The Kimberley region of Western Australia boasts some of the most rugged, yet stunning scenery of this whole continent. It also plays host to many native species of plants and animals, some found only in this specific region of the tropics!
A brief outline of the group’s schedule is provided below:
26June – 25 July
Students will be resupplied by vehicle during their course
NO access to any outside communication devices is available during this time unless an emergency
25 July – 28 July
Students will be in Broome, for the final night of the course on July 28th
Pay phone access may be available.
On July 29th, students will graduate, celebrate and then get dropped at their accommodation for the evening.
For those wishing to send mail, students will only be able to receive it at the end of their course. Please be mindful that Broome is a long way off the beaten path, therefore, if you would like something to arrive before these dates, be sure to allow at least 2 weeks for delivery!
PO Box 3472
Broome 6725 WA
You are welcome to share this link with your friends and family
Cheers from the NOLS Australia crew!
Australian backpacking and sea kayakers begin their outback experience
As the south of Australia shivers through winter, up here in the north our Australia Combo Course students have arrived to our tropical ‘dry’ season, complete with blue skies and daytime temperatures in the 80’s (°F). Our 8 intrepid explorers were all bright eyed and bushy tailed for an early morning pick up to get started on their NOLS adventure.
Day one was a busy start, with a welcome and introductions, then straight on to rations. After learning about what makes up a ration, it was then on to the task of weighing, bagging and packing their food for the entire 45 day adventure. A very efficient group, with help from their Instructors and NOLS Australia in-town staff, meant the rations were done by midday. After a lunch break, it was on to their equipment. The students were briefed on gear and then instructors went through each student’s gear individually to determine what extra issue gear was needed. An afternoon and evening of briefings on positive learning environments, some safety components and a course orientation and delicious dinner! Then it was on to a local campground to set up tents, get some rest and an early start the next day.
Our intrepid group drove out into the Kimberley early Friday morning for their hiking section in the King Leopold Range Conservation Park. Under the guidance of their excellent instructors Marcelo and Tom, the students will be learning about leadership, hiking, navigation, first aid, natural history, life skills, indigenous culture and a whole lot more as they explore remote areas in the Australian outback. Here’s a brief outline of their schedule…
Hiking section- King Leopold Range Conservation Park
20 June - 16 July
Students will be resupplied by road
No access to outside communication
Students will transfer through Broome between their hike and sea kayak section
Pay phone access may be available at the campground (evening only)
Mail can be delivered to students during the switch
Sea Kayak section- Dampier archipelago
17 July - 1 August
Students will be resupplied by vessel
No access to outside communication
End of course- Broome
Students will be in Broome, for the final night of the course on 1 August
Pay phone access may be available at the campground (evening only)
Any remaining mail will be given to the students
On August 2nd students will graduate, celebrate and then get dropped at their accommodation for the evening.
For those wishing to send mail, students will only be able to receive it at the switch on the 16th of July or at the end of the course on the 2nd of August. Please address any mail as follows:
PO Box 3472
Broome 6725 WA
Please be mindful that we are a long way from major cities in Australia, therefore, if you would like something to arrive before these dates, be sure to allow at least 2 weeks for delivery!
Remember to check this Blog site for updates and photos around those contact dates. You are also welcome to share this link with your friends and family!
Cheers from the NOLS Australia crew (and our little friend in the shed)
Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation!
Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) is an organization that provides opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to give back to conservation science. ASC pairs a network of outdoor volunteers with scientific agencies that are in need of data from hard to reach places. This is a fantastic opportunity for NOLS alumni to put their wilderness skills to use in aid of conservation science! For more info check out ASC’s web page here. A recent project in the Pacific Northwest placed volunteers on a 3-month long search for Pacific Marten in the Olympic National Forest. You can explore Olympic National Park, immediately to the west of the project area, on a Fall Semester in the Pacific Northwest, Pacific Northwest Backpacking Adventure, or Pacific Northwest Backpacking course. Check out the video of the search for the Pacific Marten below (credit to ASC).
Get to Know NOLS Southwest
NOLS Southwest Director Lindsay Nohl made her way back to the computer after a weekend of mountain biking just in time to share her favorite aspects of operating in the American Southwest. Read what she had to say about the region below.
Our NOLS Southwest staff is a group of caring, smart, and creative individuals who thrive on going above and beyond to create the best experience possible for our students.
How long have you been NOLS Southwest Branch Director?
Four and a half years as branch director. I also spent two years as assistant director (2006–2008) and two years working in three different positions operations assistant, rations manager, and outfitting manager (2003–2005).
How did it all begin for you?
“I knew I wanted to become a NOLS instructor from the first week in the field,” recalls Lindsay. “And, at the end of my course, I knew I wanted to give others a similar life-changing experience.”
In 2004, Lindsay’s dream became a reality. Read more from this previous interview with Lindsay here.
What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?
I think that the desert is a magical place and I love being able to send students out to discover the beauty in the places that we operate. It makes me smile to think of a student climbing up a huge granite dome at Cochise Stronghold or walking through patches of sunlight in a deep rocky canyon of the Gila Wilderness.
What unique or particularly appealing aspect of this branch do you think potential students should know about?
Students often tell me that coming back to the NOLS Southwest base "feels like coming back home" after they have been out in the backcountry. We have a beautiful 10-acre campus with an open-air ramada complete with an outdoor "living room" where our students hang out while they are in town. Our small in-town staff all live on-site and really get to know our students throughout their course experience. Our students are part of the NOLS Southwest community the minute they show up for their course.
What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?
The desert environment and the huge amount of plant and animal diversity they will experience as they travel through the desert "life zones" at different elevations. NOLS Southwest sits at 2,500 feet and is littered with huge Saguaro cactus, mesquite trees, and creosote bushes. Students see coyotes, javelina, and roadrunners on our school property. When they get up into some of the various mountain ranges like the Gila National Forest in New Mexico (7,000–10,000 feet), they will be hiking through spruce-fir, aspen, or ponderosa pine forests and may encounter deer, black bear, bighorn sheep, or wild turkeys. Elevation creates such a stark contrast in the desert.
Anything else you'd like me to include when we brag about your branch, staff, or part of the world?
I know I'm a tad biased, but the Southwest is home to the best sunsets on the planet.
Not Just a Building in Town
The Lander Cycling Club hosted the fifth annual Fremont Area Road Tour in NOLS’ hometown of Lander, Wyoming last weekend, and the NOLS presence coursing throughout the event was prevalent.
As a participant and NOLS employee, I found it exciting to see the people I work with and the organization I work for playing such an important role in an activity I enjoy in my personal time.
For months, I’ve been watching our own senior graphic designer Sam Pede coordinate the event, and when I thanked her, she was quick to pass credit to others at NOLS for lifting the tour to a professional level. Pede noted the efforts of PR and Partnerships Manager in organizing Wilderness First Responders to provide SAG support for the event. She said having those folks riding the various courses was essential. Among these skilled WMI grads was NOLS Social Media Coordinator Jared Steinman, who also took countless photos to capture the sense of community, enjoyment, and dedication out of the road (including all photos used in this blog post).
Also aiding riders out on the road, which included many NOLS staff and grads, was one item no cyclist will undervalue: food. The Gulch of NOLS Rocky Mountain donated heaps of food to be placed at aid stations around the county. It was a delightful day out there touring Fremont County, and it was even more special to see, once again, how important community events like these are to NOLS.
Indigenous Voices Speaking Out for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Miho Aida is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and former NOLS field instructor. Please join her on Monday June 30th for the Skagit Valley screening of “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak." The film provides a platform for Arctic indigenous Gwich’in women to speak out and inspire audiences around the country to protect their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska from oil drilling. The short documentary won the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Earth Port Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary Short at the 2013 American Indian Film Festival. Miho is currently doing a west coast tour on her bicycle to share her film!
Monday, June 30th at NOLS Pacific Northwest (in dining hall)
20950 Bulson Road, Mt. Vernon, 98274
Overcoming Uncertainty: On and off the Battlefield
This article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of The Leader
On June 14, 2012, while leading a Marine Special Operations Team on patrol in Afghanistan, Captain Derek Herrera was shot. The bullet lodged between two vertebrae in his spine, paralyzing him from the chest down.
Seven years, nearly to the day, before that fateful patrol, Herrera and 11 fellow midshipmen walked out of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains. The team had completed the third-ever Naval Academy Mountaineering Expedition designed and led by NOLS Professional Training. Beyond leadership and communication skills, the midshipmen encountered something unfamiliar: uncertainty.
Until that point in his military career, Herrera had been told what to wear, where to be, and what to do when he got there. At the beginning of his course, Herrera and his coursemates found it challenging to function without a concrete plan, familiarity with the environment, or pre-set culture and rules. When pressed, his instructors stated, “We are going to go here and then make a decision on what to do next.” The midshipmen, like all NOLS students, had to forge a plan together as they went. They had to adjust to this newfound self-reliance, but Herrera realized there are many times in life, and the military especially, where patience is essential to a situation.
“At a certain point you will realize that you have the information you need to make a decision, or that you have to make that decision with the information you have currently,” explained Herrera. “This simple understanding has helped me immensely throughout my career.”
While Herrera had been afforded the opportunity to lead before, it was never with such purpose. The NOLS environment allowed him to lead a team to accomplish very challenging tasks.
“I’ve been able to draw on the things I learned during my expedition to perform better as a person and as a leader of Marines,” he stated. “I leverage these lessons often. Everything from creating culture and shared vision within teams to managing expedition behavior has proved valuable for me.”
Herrera raves that courses for midshipmen are “uniquely suited to offer a complimentary experience to the skills taught at the Naval Academy.” He believes while academic frameworks are important to learn what people think and why they may act the way they do, getting out and leading is the best way to learn leadership. He’s so passionate about this philosophy, he’s centered his business around it.
He founded the Special Operations Leadership Experience, which employs military–trained special operators to teach civilians how to lead in challenging, uncertain environments. While based on military leadership training, Herrera admits the framework is very similar to the NOLS leadership model. It focuses on three leadership truths: situational awareness, self-awareness, and communication. Like NOLS, he believes leadership can be learned and anybody can be a leader; it just takes time, practice, and experience.
What is so remarkable is that he’s doing all this as a wounded warrior. Perhaps it’s his type-A personality that won’t let him quit or his unfailing optimism. Perhaps it’s his keen ability to adapt to any situation. Or maybe it’s his commitment to serving the people and country he loves and who have given him so much. For all of these reasons and so many more, Herrera is a truly inspirational NOLS leader.
-By Larkin Flora, Development Communications Coordinator
For other articles like this, check out the current and previous editions of the NOLS Alumni Publication, The Leader
Stewarding the Mt. Baker area
The beautiful Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest lies to the north and east of the NOLS Pacific Northwest campus in Conway, WA. This area of alpine ecosystem wilderness serves as an amazing classroom for our North Cascades Mountaineering and Outdoor Educator Mountaineering Programs. Each summer the Forest Service looks for volunteers to serve as Mountain Stewards to help teach hikers and climbers in the area to look after and protect this beautiful area of the Cascades. For those from the Northwest, check out this amazing opportunity to give back here!