Rock Rescue and Wrapping Up
As they entered the last week of their semester, the WMR (Whammer) students had a chance to use their skills in a student-led cliff rescue scenario in Sinks Canyon outside of Lander, Wyoming. The exercise involved rappelling to two “victims” on a small ledge, assessing and treating their injuries, and evacuating one with a tandem rappel and the other with a litter lower. This is in preparation for students’ final “graduation” scenario on May 2nd, the last day of their course. This full-day scenario will incorporate skills learned on every section of the course.
The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester is a new course offered for the first time in 2013. It began with a one-month Wilderness EMT course outside of Lander, Wyoming, followed by one month in the canyons of southern Utah, two weeks on the Yampa River, and two weeks of climbing around Lander. Students will walk away with Wilderness and Urban Emergency Medical Technician, CPR Instructor, Leave No Trace Master, Basic Swiftwater and Rock Rescue certifications. You can read more about the first WMR here and here.
Checking In with the WMR
After weeks of wilderness medicine training, students on the Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester (a.k.a. the Whammer!) were ready for another scenario, but they weren’t expecting it to be, well, real. Regardless, when one of their course mates had to be evacuated, students were calm and prepared to help. Unlike their other scenarios, this one ended with a real satellite phone call to the NOLS Evac line. Dave, the evacuated student, attributes the group’s reaction to weeks of commitment, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Happily, Dave will be able to rejoin the group within the next week for rock climbing in southern Utah.
WMR students have now completed a month long WEMT course and a month in the slot canyons of southern Utah. While in the canyons, students practiced the medical skills they learned on their WEMT and learned the technical and decision-making skills necessary for managing risk during slot canyon travel. By the end of this section, students were able to do a technical entry into a slot canyon, including rappels and pack lowers, on their own while instructors took on the role of silent observers. According to their instructor Anna Gast, they did “phenomenally well.” The canyon section also highlighted a curriculum strong in fundamental wilderness living and travel skills, leadership, teamwork and communication.
Students are now on the Green River in Utah on the swiftwater rescue and canoe section of their course. The section began with a three-day river rescue seminar on the Yampa River in Colorado led by instructor Nate Ostis. Much of the time was spent in the water learning rescue swimming, throw bag technique, river crossing and mechanical advantage rope systems. The group will practice these skills as they travel down the Green for 12 days while also continuing their wilderness medicine scenarios on a real wilderness expedition.
Next up, students are moving on to a CPR Instructors course and finally the rock rescue section. Stay tuned for more information as the first WMR wraps up on May 2nd!
Final Draft of Lander BLM Resource Management Plan Released
On February 22, 2013, the Lander BLM field office released its latest revision of the 2013 Resource Management Plan (RMP). The RMP is a lengthy public document that “provides a framework for the future management direction and appropriate use of BLM administered lands” in the office’s area of jurisdiction.
The Lander BLM oversees a large area east of the Wind River Range. Popular recreation spots on BLM land near Lander include Sweetwater Canyon, parts of Sinks Canyon (both NOLS operating areas), and biking/running trails at Johnny Behind the Rocks and The Bus at Baldwin Creek.
The revisions address wildlife areas, including greater protection for Mule Deer winter range and controlling surface disturbance and fragmentation of Sage Grouse habitat. The plan also outlines Route 287’s status as a scenic byway. Right of Way corridors, National Trail zoning and mineral withdrawal areas are mentioned as well.
At this point in the plan’s process, people who have already participated by filing a formal comment are invited to file a protest up until March 25, 2013. Protests must be submitted in writing. Specific directions and a helpful checklist can be found here.
The release of the RMP marked the beginning of a 60-day Governor’s Consistency Review period. During this time, the Governor’s office will look over the document and ensure that its contents are consistent with state policy.
Following the resolution of any protests and clearance by the Governor, the plan will be approved by the BLM’s State Director and used to guide land management decisions in the district for the next 10 to 15 years.
If you submitted input to the Lander BLM earlier in the process, we encourage you to submit further comments or support. If you haven’t yet participated, please encourage friends or family who have to continue to be part of the conversation.
NOLS Rocky Mountain Gets Examined for Energy Efficiency
For the past several months, the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability department has coordinated a series of efficiency audits across a number of NOLS facilities. The rigorous inspection process is designed to locate and evaluate existing energy and water efficiency problems with appliances, plumbing fixtures and the structures themselves. After the inspection is complete, the data is compiled and organized to help identify waste-reduction solutions.
Lander’s NOLS Rocky Mountain (RM) completed the audit process in January of 2013. Facts about the efficiency, age, and frequency of use of every single device that plugs into an AC outlet was recorded and entered into a spreadsheet. Every sink and shower was run and tested for flow rate, in gallons per minute. Toilets were tested for leaks by introducing dye to the tanks and observing seals and gaskets for seepage. Doors and windows were inspected for insulation. Window frames were checked for cold drafts, cracks, and visible gaps. Doors were checked for appropriate and functional weather stripping and latching mechanisms. The insulation on certain exterior walls was examined with an eye toward fill density, volume, material and age.
Fortunately, the solutions for these issues are often times simple and inexpensive housekeeping repairs. If a door is drafty along the bottom seam, a piece of weather stripping will seal it. If a toilet or faucet is leaking or dripping, just tightening the fittings or sealing the threads with silicon tape often stops the water waste. If a large, old and inefficient appliance is only used, say, once a week, the wires can be configured so that the plug can be removed from the wall when it is not in use, preventing “ghost draw” (a term used to describe how appliances use power even when not turned on).
This examination is far from the first energy and efficiency project the school has implemented. Since 2006, NOLS has been moving towards a goal of a 30 percent reduction in the school’s carbon emissions by 2020. Up until now, NOLS Rocky Mountain has installed a waste oil heater in the branch’s transportation department, a geothermal heating system, an extensive solar panel array, and widespread use of LED lights and fluorescent bulbs- all of which have proven to be effective.
The systems already in place have put NOLS well on its way to reaching the 2020 objective, and efforts like this school-wide facility audit are yet another push in the right direction.
Welcoming the Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester
February 2nd marked the beginning of the Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester. Students spent the first two days of this 90-day adventure in an orientation at the new Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus outside of Lander, Wyoming. During this time, students laid the groundwork for the community that will be the bedrock of their course.
The weekend’s activities included team building exercises and an introduction to the NOLS leadership model, during which students and instructors discussed how to create a positive learning environment. Students then had the first of many opportunities to put theory into practice with a GPS navigation field exercise. They also had their first environmental studies class, a theme that will continue throughout their course.
After the fun-filled weekend, students are hitting the books for their Wilderness EMT course that will go until the beginning of March. From there, they will be off for a month of canyoneering and two weeks each of canoeing and rock climbing in southern Utah. At each turn, students will learn and practice proper expedition and leadership behavior, along with wilderness evacuation, swiftwater rescue, and rock rescue skills. They will walk away with Wilderness and Urban Emergency Medical Technician, CPR Instructor, Leave No Trace Master, Basic Swiftwater and Rock Rescue certifications. Most importantly, however, they will leave with a tight-knit group of friends and a signature NOLS experience.
Does the Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester seem right up your alley? There is always next year! Find more information at www.nols.edu/courses/locations/rockymtn/wmr_semester.shtml.
Utah BLM Sued Over Natural Gas Project
Four conservation advocacy groups are suing the Bureau of Land Management, BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma, and the Department of the Interior. The plaintiffs are troubled by the lack of investigation surrounding the potential environmental repercussions of a proposed gas-drilling project along the Green River, where NOLS operates courses.
Gasco Energy Inc. of Denver, Colorado currently has authorization to drill nearly 1,300 natural gas wells over an area covering 206,000 acres near eastern Utah’s Green River. The company is not a party in the lawsuit.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club have cited air and water quality decline, erosion, and the destruction of wildlife and recreation areas as consequences that would occur as a direct result of the project. Referring to the BLM’s initial analysis as “shortsighted,” the suit calls for the federal agencies to rescind the clearance for drilling and to reassess the impact the project would have on the Unita Basin’s ecosystem.
The lawsuit states that the "BLM failed to take a hard look at impacts of the Gasco project -- including direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts -- on air quality, soil instability and dust generation, climate change, sage grouse, vegetation, wildlife, recreation…”
The resources provided by the affected area extend far beyond biodiversity and fossil fuels. An area important to the whitewater boating community as a whole, this vicinity serves as an operating area for NOLS Rocky Mountain. Courses out of the RM’s river base in Vernal, Utah explore the whitewater of Desolation and Lodore Canyons, camping along the banks of the Green River. This classroom provides students with an opportunity to learn technical whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking skills on some of the best and most rugged stretches of river in the world.
Currently, the lawsuit is pending and will likely not be resolved for some time.
Lease Buyout Spares Hoback Basin in the Wyoming Range
Photo: Aaron Bannon
In a remarkable display of generosity and community cohesion, The Trust for Public Land recently announced the completion of a deal to purchase the leases attached to 58,000 acres of wilderness within the Bridger Teton National Forest surrounding Bondurant, Wyoming in the heart of the Wyoming Range. The $8.75 million needed to purchase the leases from Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) was raised by over 1,000 individuals in just 90 days.
This buyout is Wyoming conservationists’ most significant victory in recent memory. It put a stop to PXP’s plans for the installation of 136 natural gas wells, and as a result guaranteed protection for the headwaters of the Hoback River along with wildlife migration routes, and prized hiking, climbing, fishing and hunting forever.
Though we do not operate in this area specifically, we commend this collaborative effort and success. NOLS runs several courses, including Adventure Courses for younger age groups, and backcountry skiing and winter camping in the Wyoming Range just to the south of the Hoback Basin. While students learn in a similar ecosystem and on similar terrain, the newly preserved area to their north will serve as an ever-present example of today’s struggle to maintain wild spaces.
This achievement sets a precedent for other land management scenarios that may arise in the future, and serves as a good example of the sense of persistence and determination that is important to instill in the leaders of tomorrow. Area residents agree that the buyout is something to be proud of, and many are wary that this situation will not be the last of its kind. In an interview at a backcountry fishing spot, Hoback Basin land owner and outdoorsman Dan Bailey comments, “There will be other battles that will come, but these are important initial battles to the success of preserving this area.”
Congratulations to The Trust for Public Land for their remarkable achievement, and thank you to all who contributed to the lasting protection of the Wyoming Range.
Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 2
NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, safety, excellence, wilderness, and education inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.
NOLS is an international community composed of talented individuals who care deeply about what they do. We value diversity, integrity, and personal responsibility while recognizing that our strength lies in teamwork and commitment to our mission and each other. We appreciate creativity, individuality, and passion among our staff and as an institution. We take our jobs seriously and pursue our mission with enthusiasm, and we cherish our sense of humor and our ability to laugh at ourselves.
Sadie Sarvis on Community
My NOLS experience was truly life changing. I learned how to make my voice heard, deliver constructive feedback, embrace hardship and the unknown, be intentional, and live minimally. I learned to appreciate each moment; that the past and future are only thieves of today. I hold all that I learned close to tackle the next adventure.
I found NOLS through a guidance counselor at my high school in Portland, Maine and decided on a semester course because I wasn’t as engaged in my coursework at high school as I might’ve liked. Life is too short and wonderful to spend time doing something you’re not excited about; there are too many amazing things to experience!
My course taught me the value and power of community. Everyone tried to be fair-minded, open, compassionate, respectful, and helpful. We worked hard at effective communication and conflict management, which paid off incredibly well. I will never forget the power of expressing even the smallest frustration to maintain a healthy relationship. By the end of our course, we completed tasks efficiently and relied on each other for support.
Sadie and coursmates pose in front of NOLS headquarters in Lander, WY after graduation.
In the backcountry you can’t let things “brew.” Although this is common in the frontcountry, it is not healthy or productive. Since my course, I am more aware of myself as a function of the whole community of my school, workplace, and teams. I understand that when everyone is decent and respectful, we can accomplish more.
I think everyone should experience outdoor education. One of the hardest parts of the course was raising enough money to be able to participate, and I could not have done my NOLS course without a scholarship. I have never seen myself, or anyone else, grow in leadership skills, competence, self-awareness, judgment and decision-making, risk management, and expedition behavior in such a short time. Everyone deserves to experience that.
Sadie Sarvis is a 2011 Semester in the Rockies graduate and scholarship recipient.
To donate or learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values visit giving.nols.edu.
An international menu in your pack
No matter where your hiking boots take you, you can enjoy the foods of the world over a Whisperlite Stove. This version of the Indian dish saag paneer replaces the paneer with tofu, but a white cheese instead of tofu would be a great option as well. The Mexican cheese, queso fresco, is a great replacement for paneer.
According to NOLS Rocky Mountain intern Geoffrey Journeay-Kaler, who provided NOLS with this recipe, the backpacking version of saag is surprisingly easy, far easier than making it indoors, actually.
Watch NOLS own Cooking Show talents as they prepare this recipe in the backcountry, then take your own international menu on your next adventure.
¼ cup water
¼ tsp curry powder
2 pinches salt
1 slice dried tofu
2 tsp oil
1 ½ cups freeze-dried spinach
1/3 cup freeze-dried tomato chunks
¼ cup powdered whole milk
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp coriander
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ginger powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ Tbs oil
Mix together the curry powder, salt, and water. Add in the tofu and let it soak up all of the liquid. While the tofu is rehydrating, put the spinach into a bowl. Add in the tomato chunks and whole milk power.
Back to the tofu: heat the 2 teaspoons of oil on medium heat. Add the tofu. Fry on all sides until it is browned and crispy. Chop the fried tofu up and set it aside for later.
Heat the 1 ½ tablespoons of oil, add all the spices at once, and fry them briefly on medium low heat. Don't let them burn!
Add in the rehydrated spinach, tomatoes, and milk. Stir the saag, breaking up any clumps of spinach that did not fully rehydrate with your spatula, and distribute the saag evenly across the pan.
Cover and cook on medium low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tofu. Stir together. Cover and cook for 2-3 more minutes, allowing the tofu to soak up some of the liquid.
Serve over basmati rice, on bread, or solo.
Serves one to two with the rice.
This recipe was originally published in the fall 2012 issue of The Leader. If you have awesome backcountry cooking ideas, we'd love to share them in our next video! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Gnat's Delicious Dishes
If you have even taken a course at NOLS Rocky Mountain then you know how awesome the food is at the Noble Hotel. Served up before courses begin, between sections and at the end of courses, the buffet style banquets are nutritious and delicious. Gnat Wells, the Kitchen Manager, and her staff, Stephanie Peterson, Janet Smithson and Tina Cunningham, are accomplished chefs with a large repertoire of scrumptious dishes.
Every meal has many choices that change from day to day. At breakfast, enjoy fruit, yogurt, granola, banana bread, zucchini bread, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns, cereal with milk, bagels and toast. Milk, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and fruit juices are also served. When you arrive for your course you can let us know if you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, have any food allergies or other special dietary needs and NOLS will accommodate you.
Lunch and dinner always comes with a choice of creative salads and a variety of vegetables. Possible entrees could be lasagna, enchiladas, burgers, pizza, pork roast, burritos, chicken marinara, fish or beef tacos to name a few. Tater tots, sweet potato tots, french fries, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, green beans, chili, squash soup and chicken noodle soup are possible sides. Iced tea, lemonade and milk are served at lunch and dinner.
If you like a sweet treat after your meal enjoy brownies, cookies, rice crispy treats, root beer floats and other tasty desserts!
-Geoffrey and Luke