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Wilderness medicine in South America and Africa: Dispatch from WMI Instructor, Mike Moxness

I am a registered nurse living in Anchorage, Alaska. I spent much of my career in the emergency room. I got my Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) from NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) back in 1999 in preparation for a tour of duty up with the mountaineering patrol on Denali in 2000. I started teaching for WMI in 2001, mostly WEMTs with a few Wilderness First Responder (WFR) courses up here in Alaska.
Mike Moxness
Mike Moxness and Daniel DeKay, WMI Instructors, and Matt Medich, WFR, in northwest Nicaragua 2011
About 5 years ago, I started signing on to medical teams going to developing nations, and once I started, there was no looking back. I've worked in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Uganda and Kenya on multiple occasions. I am typically a member of a small expatriate team sent in to support local medical staff during emergencies. My last two trips have been to Uganda at refugee camps along the border with Congo. In January, I'll be back in Honduras, teaching at a rural hospital.
My work has been with Medical Teams International, located in Portland, Oregon, and MEDICO, located in Austin, Texas. There are quite a few good outfits out there, but these two have been good fits for me. I've also been seconded to World Concern (on the Somalia border) and worked in multi-organizational teams with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Humedica.
Mike Moxness
Kenya-Somalia border in 2012
The wilderness medicine model is extremely useful in these assignments where resources are few and problems are many. Wilderness medicine is a context of practice: improvised or inadequate gear, inconsistent or non-existent communication with outside support, challenging environments for patient and caregiver, and independent risk-benefit decision-making. 

Permalink | Posted by Leslie van Barselaar on Oct 15, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Instructor News, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Water World - Lynn Petzold's 9 Favorite Backcountry Locales

NOLS Senior Field Instructor and Professional Training Account Manager, Lynn Petzold is no stranger to stunning and captivating backcountry locales. Working NOLS courses in Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, British Columbia, and the U.S. and living in Bolivia and Spain has given her access to so many beautiful spots, it came as a real surprise when she agreed to whittle down her favorite spots to just nine. While she has experienced some of these places as an instructor on NOLS courses, there are a few that she has pursued on her own accord. Here they are, in no particular order...

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~ Lynn Petzold ~

1) Baja coast from San Felipe to La Paz (Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico)

"This coastline holds a special place in my heart. I started paddling here in 1993 and since then, I've witnessed changes like development of the area and a decline in the fisheries that used to thrive along the coast. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the local Mexicans every couple of years."

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El Nido - Photo by Lynn Petzold

"While I was paddling at sunrise one morning along the southern end of San Basilio, I encountered these formations just off the coast. There was something really captivating about the contrast between these sharp protrustions and the serene, white beaches just behind me. This area holds some great memories!"

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Bahia San Basilio - Photo by Lynn Petzold

2) El Pulpito (Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico)

"2009 was a great year for paddling down in Baja! There was a point at which we were able to get really close to these caverns at El Pulpito. This is a north facing wall coming straight out of the ocean near San Nicolas. When there are high winds (which is typically the case in winter) and a built up sea, this is an area that you want to steer clear of. We were lucky enough to hit it just right. Being able to get close to these features was pretty special."

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El Pulpito - Photo by Lynn Petzold

3) Laguna San Ignacio (Baja, Mexico)

"I've visited San Ignacio several times. These particular photos were taken during a NOLS Alumni Trip in 2008. We were there to witness part of the annual Gray Whale migration. The Baja Pennisula is the final stop along their journey from the Chuckchi Sea (which is just north of the Bering Strait)."

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Photo by Lynn Petzold


Lynn touching a whale
Lynn, making contact

4) Deer Isle Archipelago (Maine)

"Deer Isle is one of my favorite spots to paddle on the Atlantic coast. This photo was from a NOLS Alumni Trip in 2008. I'm a member of the Maine Island Trail Association, which is an organization that promotes stewardship of this Archipelago. They also provide information to members regarding camping spots, since many of the islands are privately owned."

Photo by Doug Lowry

5) Rangitata River (South Island, New Zealand)

"Rangitata River is a unique spot on the South Island of New Zealand. I lived in nearby Christchurch for a year in 1995 and on the weekends, we'd escape to the river to go rafting. It is a little more remote and off the beaten path, a favorite spot for locals. Paddling with local Kiwis made it that much more special. Their fun-loving, adventureous spirit was infectious."

Rangitata gorge
Photo by Lynn Petzold

"Headwaters of the Rangitata River above the gorge. This is a salmon fishery and generally a beautiful, serene spot."

Above gorge
Photo by Lynn Petzold

6) Eastern side of Knight Island (Prince William Sound, Alaska)

"Knight Island might be my favorite spot in Prince William Sound. This area is special, simply because its fairly remote and partially protected from the ocean. This area is great for humpback whale and orca watching!"

Looking out toward Knight Island - Photo by Doug Lowry

 7) Harriman Fjord (Prince William Sound, Alaska)

"In 2011, I was working a STEP course in Prince William Sound. Harriman Fjord is located at the southern end of the Chugach Range, and the surrounding terrain feels immense. Between the rain, fog, and tide-water glaciers, it seems as though you're stepping...or paddling...back in time. This location brings back many memories and is my current desktop background!"

Harriman Fjord - Photo by Lynn Petzold

8) Lofoten Islands (Norway)

"In the summer of 2001, I went to Norway on a personal trip to paddle with one of my students, a Semester in Patagonia grad and native Norwegian. I was attracted to explore this area after hearing about it from my friend Lena Conlan, a NOLS/WMI Instructor and co-owner of a guiding company, Crossing Latitudes, which operates in this area."

Lofoten Islands - Photo by Lena Conlan

9) Coastline from Bella Bella to Port Hardy (British Columbia, Canada) 

"Part of the Inside Passage, this coastline provides 'world class' paddling. Between the Pacific swell, the lush, old growth forests, and spectacular islands along the coast, this place is surrounded by beauty."

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Photo by Lynn Petzold

"Sunsets here are pretty special as well!"

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Photo by Lynn Petzold

What's next on Lynn's list?

Bahamas by Mary Nicol
Exuma's, Bahamas - Photo by Mary Nicol


Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Sep 12, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Instructor News, On The Net

NOLS Rocky Mountain makes ‘back to school’ more fun

NOLS Rocky Mountain brought extra adventure to Lander Valley High School freshman orientation in this week.

NOLS facilitated two days of climbing for rising freshmen "to coalesce the incoming freshman class, experience problem solving through challenge and uncertainty, and provide a shared experience going into their four-year experience of high school," said NOLS Rocky Mountain Special Projects Manager Brian Fabel.

Over 70 students participated at no cost to them or to Lander Valley High School.

Kyle Duba photo

The program was documented by local news source County 10.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 15, 2013 in the following categories: In The News, Instructor News, On The Net, Rocky Mountain

NOLS to Play Major Roles at Cowboy Tough Adventure Race

Starting Thursday morning in southeastern Wyoming is the Cameco and City of Casper Cowboy Tough Expedition Race. As part of the Rev3 Adventure Race Series, this point-to-point race, starting in Cheyenne and ending in Casper is also a national qualifying race for the North American Adventure Racing Series (NAARS). Teams of two or four people will race through a series of outdoor disciplines including trekking, biking, river travel, rappelling as well as other challenging activities.

NOLS is a major sponsor of the event, providing support in multiple ways. As the racers depart from Cheyenne, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute will join the medical crew, bringing the experience of three of WMI’s own WEMTs. Jared Steinman, the NOLS social media coordinator, Travis Welch, WMI’s program and retail store manager, and Greg Flemming, a WMI instructor will all use their training to provide medical attention as needed for the racer. In addition to being there to treat race-related illnesses and injuries, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute will provide most of the medical gear.

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Brad Christensen photo

A section of the adventure race will be orienteering. NOLS’ own Casey Pikla and Kelly Carlin will manage and oversee this portion as adventure racers go to and from each checkpoint. There are mandatory checkpoints as well as optional checkpoints for time bonuses. Once the race is over, Pikla and Carlin will continue to help by breaking down the orienteering section of the race.

On the other side of the race, NOLS’ own Katie Everson, admission office and Adam Swisher, instructor and curriculum and publications manager, will participate in Cowboy Tough. Everson, with a background in marathons and swimming and Adam, with a history of long -distance adventure races will be strong competitors as Team Wyo.

Team Wyo prepares for the race with a long bike ride.

NOLS will also set up an information booth at the finish line in Casper, Wyo. The booth will host backcountry cooking demonstrations and knot tying lessons. Anyone in Casper for the race is encouraged to stop by the NOLS table for information and demonstrations.

David Anderson photo

“NOLS has been taking people into Wyoming’s backcountry for over 45 years. We’re excited to support an organization and race whose goal is to showcase and raise awareness to Wyoming’s recreational opportunities and wild places,” said Steinman.

While Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks garner most of the natural world attention of Wyoming, it’s important to remind visitors that the entire state is full of natural beauty from the sagebrush plains of the high mountain desert to the craggy peaks of Wind River Mountain Range and into each lush river valley surrounded and contrasted by the arid red rock canyon landscape. 

Permalink | Posted by Mike Casella on Jul 17, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, In The News, Instructor News, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Team Wyo, NOLS, and Cowboy Tough

The starting gun for the Cowboy Tough Race, a three day adventure race beginning in Cheyenne, Wyo. and finishing in Casper, Wyo., will go off next Thursday, July 18. This race will highlight some of Wyoming's wildest and most beautiful locations. NOLS is helping in the organization, as well as comprising Team Wyo!

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Join NOLS in helping make this race possible by volunteering next week. Learn more and sign up here.

Follow Team Wyo's training so far on their blog. We're so proud that both of these athletes are NOLS grads and current employees, and we can't wait to cheer Adam and Katie on next week.

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Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Jul 9, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Instructor News

NOLS gets Cowboy Tough

A lot of people at NOLS are planning for the first Cowboy Tough adventure race in Wyoming. NOLS is sponsoring and designing the ropes section and a trekking and orienteering section of the race. But there are two more people at NOLS gearing up for the race: Team Wyo competitors Katie Everson and Adam Swisher.

The two-person team brings the experience of many NOLS courses, some as students and some as an instructor, the in-town roles of an admissions officer and curriculum publications manager, and a variety of endurance racing.

Everson,a marathon and half marathon runner and NOLS Pacific Northwest Semester graduate jumped at the chance to compete in the first Cowboy Tough race shortly after moving to  378031_10151030918275512_1306652249_nLander, Wyo. for a job at NOLS Headquarters. Her teammate, Adam, is an instructor with a few adventure races under his belt. Together, they’re training for a top finish, though they recognize just finishing will be a challenge.


This weekend, they will spend a day biking and hiking outside of Lander. They have a few days planned this summer for multi-day training, preparing themselves for pushing through the point of fatigue together.

After building their endurance through the spring, Swisher and Everson will turn their focus to the more technical aspects of the race like navigation and taking on the relatively new skills to both of them: whitewater kickboarding and canoeing.

We’ll keep you updated on their training and their goals as July 18 approaches. In the meantime, wish Team Wyo speed and perseverence as they prepare!



Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on May 15, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Instructor News, Pacific Northwest

Congratulations, Liza!

 NOLS’ own Liza Howard is yet again making impressive impacts on the world. The NOLS instructor, ultra marathoner and coach, and mother has been named to the Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) Advisory Board. The nonprofit organization’s mission is “to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”

Howard joins this mission with such advisory board members as retired General Frank Kearny and the co-host of “the View” Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The “proud Army brat,” according to her Team RWB bio, will provide guidance, resources, and oversight to drive Team RWB’s mission nationwide. She will bring her dedication, passion, and expertise in 100-mile and 50-mile races and her experience teaching leadership skills to NOLS students to the table to benefit America’s veterans.

Congratulations, Liza!

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Feb 18, 2013 in the following categories: In The News, Instructor News

Chapul Bars: Feed the Revolution


Has anyone ever double-dog-dared you to eat a slimy, creepy crawly, six-legged creature as they dangled it in front of your face? Did you swallow hard, tug on your shirt collar a bit, and start to perspire slightly? Did you accept the challenge, or turn in the other direction and bolt for the hills? Though consuming insects may seem repulsive to some, let it be known the multiple advantages might soon persuade the remaining 20 percent of the world population who don’t currently ingest them as part of their diet, to convert.

 There are 6 million species of insects in the world and a thousand of them are currently part of a regular diet somewhere. There are only a few hundred species of mammals. Ten pounds of feed will produce one pound of cattle, but it can produce eight pounds of crickets. Insects also emit far fewer greenhouse gases and are more nutritional. Based on these facts, Pat Crowley (NOLS instructor and founder of Chapul energy bars) believes the United States’ psychology of eating insects can be changed.

 For a number of years water has been Crowley’s passion. After getting a chance to see water supply problems up close in person on a post-college trip to South America, he returned to the U.S to complete a graduate degree in hydrology. As he learned more and more about the unsustainability of water consumption in the United States, the quicker the picture came into focus. In the Southwest, 30 million people from San Diego to Phoenix rely on the Colorado River as their water source. The river, which once flowed all the way to the sea, no longer does. With 92 percent of the world’s fresh water supply used in the agriculture sector, Crowley started exploring the use of insect protein as a way to cut back. The first insect Crowley ever ate came on a NOLS raft/kayak course he was instructing on the Green River. A student had caught a cricket and dared anyone in the group to eat it. Crowley seized the opportunity and the cricket simultaneously and munched and chomped it into tiny pieces and swallowed. He then explained why he had done so. By the end of the course, half of the students had tried crickets.


 Chapul got underway in the summer of 2011 after Crowley watched Marcel Dicke’s TED Talk on the benefits of an insect diet. Chapul Bars are delicious; an all- natural energy bar with protein from Chapul’s innovative cricket flour produced using techniques inspired by the Aztecs. The crickets are raised in a commercial farm and are fed vegetable by-product received from local grocery stores and farms. Crickets, and many other insects can be raised vertically, which require far fewer land resources, and can be raised in an urban setting, thus reducing the carbon footprint of food transportation. The crickets are dried out and then milled down to flour. The procedure is based off of Aztec and ancient Puebloan techniques that used cricket and grasshopper flour to make protein-dense breads. The name "Chapul" is a Nahuatl (Aztec) word for cricket/grasshopper.

The future of our world lies heavily on resource management. There inevitably will come a day where alternative sources will need to be addressed and implemented. We may soon be ordering a cockroach and locust pizza (perhaps with lots of extra cheese at first), termite stew, or a beetle burger with a side of worms. With the multiple benefits and advantages, the real question is “Why not eat insects?”

Permalink | Posted by Brent Wallen on Feb 12, 2013 in the following categories: Instructor News

New Technology in the Field at Rocky Mountain

As part of a pilot program, NOLS sent eight eReaders into the field this fall with semester courses.  Each eReader weighs less than a paperback and carries a big library, including most NOLS books.  

Photo provided by James King Nooks being loaded with eBooks.

James King presented at NOLS headquarters Tuesday, Oct. 9, explaining the project.   

An eReader is a device that can read eBook files.  An example is the Barnes and Noble Nook or the Amazon Kindle.  Most eReaders can carry about 2GB while each eBook is about 6MB.  That means one of these light eReaders can contain more than 300 books at a fraction of the weight!  

James said his eReader holds 23 pounds of books but only weighs 7 ounces.   Several NOLS books are already available, including student texts and some instructor course books.  

The eReader that NOLS decided to test is the Barnes and Noble Nook.  It weighs 7.3 ounces, has a six-inch e-ink screen, can store 2 GB, has wifi and USB connectivity, and has a battery life of two months if used only 30 minutes a day.  

The pilot semesters were two fall Semester in the Rockies courses.  They tested the usage and durability in the field.  Only one broke in 192 user days.  The batteries performed well and lasted the entire course or charged with solar chargers.  They were a little sluggish in the cold, but once warmed up in a sleeping bag worked great. Instructors and students, alike, were receptive to the idea of eReaders on courses, and many discussions and much data analysis will follow to determine the next phase of their incorporation.

Permalink | Posted by Nate Robbins on Oct 11, 2012 in the following categories: In The News, Instructor News, Rocky Mountain

Notes from the Field: Summitting or not, the work doesn’t stop

The last time we heard from Phil Henderson on this blog, he had returned to Everest base camp with a bad chest cold. He was unable to heal quickly due to the elevation, so he descended and took over the team’s communication.

There was about 10 days before our next rotation on the mountain, which would be our summit push. I didn’t have time to get better. I ended up taking some antibiotics in base camp and it still was about 12 days before I was back to 95 percent.

It’s easy to go, ‘Oh, I’m sick, I’m just getting out of here,’ but the rest of the team still needed support. We needed to get things out to sponsors, things out to National Geographic, and a lot of logistical things. That’s what I do here in my job at NOLS every day. It was a natural fit, and I wanted to continue to support the team that way.

It was awesome. It was great. It was a success. There had been so much up and down prior to that; every member of the expedition had gotten sick at some point, or sprained an ankle … Things weren’t looking good at one point. The weather wasn’t cooperating.

When it was all said and done, five of eight climbers ended up summitting, and that was pretty successful. For me personally, it was a disappointment, but I have no regrets in terms of not going on that summit push.

Once everybody came down, we had to break down base camp, as well. There were the logistics of getting out, which I was doing while the team was making the summit push. With there being so few summit windows, everyone on the mountain went at the same time and left base camp at the same time. All the climbers wanted to fly out at the same time. But planes were grounded because of the weather.

Phil managed flights, luggage, and expensive cameras and gear over the next nine days before being the last to leave Kathmandu and return home. Over those nine days, he visited the Everest Days festival in Namche, witnessed the first annual Outdoor Festival in Kathmandu, and interacted with “the broader community, in terms of outdoor industry, in that part of the world.”

“It was a good ending to a good expedition,” he concluded.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 29, 2012 in the following categories: In The News, Instructor News, Leadership, Rocky Mountain

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