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 Lander, 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!
Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 3
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.
We believe that education should be exciting, fun, and challenging. With this in mind, our courses are designed to help people develop and practice the skills they need to live, travel, and play safely in the outdoors. On our expeditions, people learn by accepting and meeting real challenges. Our instructors are educators, not guides. They are committed to inspiring students to explore and develop their understanding of wilderness ethics, leadership, teamwork, natural history, and technical skills.
Rachael Abler on Education
In 2011, after pursuing a Master’s degree in recreation, I started making calls to numerous collegiate outdoor recreation programs. I found myself hearing one thing that would help me make it in the industry from each and every coordinator, director, graduate assistant, intern, etc.: NOLS. At that, my mind was made up. NOLS, here I come!
The Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educator Course allowed me to develop technical skills in mountaineering and rock climbing while growing as an outdoor educator. Like many people, I was at the point of my life where, after obtaining two college degrees, I did not have much disposable income. But, thanks to the NOLS scholarship program, I had the opportunity to spend 30 days in the backcountry learning who I was, what I was capable of, and transforming myself into a better person for the rest of my life.
The outdoor experiences throughout the course of my life have allowed me to become the person who I am today, and I hold the strongest regard for the 30 days spent on my NOLS course. It is easy in our technological age to go through life without placing ourselves in situations that allow us to see our true potential. I believe there is nothing more powerful than immersing oneself in outdoors and that there is nothing like making personal accomplishments in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Without such educational experiences, how can anyone possibly know what they are capable of?
NOLS is responsible for impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. Whether the impact is teaching leadership and teamwork qualities, exposing people to new worlds, or offering career advancement opportunities with wilderness medicine, outdoor educator, and instructor courses. No matter what the case, the result is always the same—NOLS changes lives.
My own ability to attend a NOLS course is attributed to the philanthropic efforts of those who came before me. As a donor, I am honored to join the fraternity of individuals who place value in continued education and outdoor leadership development for all who have the drive to pursue it. It is a privilege to give back to the organization that gave so much to me through support of Campaign NOLS. My hope is that many more future leaders and educators can reap similar benefits.
The view from Mt. Baker.
Rachael Abler is a 2012 Pacific Outdoor Educator graduate, scholarship recipient and a donor.
To learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values or to donate, visit giving.nols.edu.
City Girl Loves Life in the Wilderness
Accustomed to California sunshine and city living, 16-year-old Ale Sternberg was launched into a world unknown last fall as she spent a week backpacking through the North Cascade Mountains in Washington state.
As juniors at The Archer School for Girls, a private all-girls grades 6-12 school in Los Angeles, Sternberg and her classmates traveled to the Pacific Northwest to participate in the NOLS/Archer Arrow Week Expedition.
The Arrow Week Expedition program, designed with an educational progression for seventh-, ninth-, and eleventh-grade girls, stands as a unique experiential learning opportunity, fostering the development of backcountry skills, leadership, and deeper peer relationships. Over the three-course progression, the girls’ knowledge, experience, and abilities grow, as do their personal and team responsibilities for the technical and interpersonal aspects of the course.
Reflecting on her NOLS experience, Sternberg recalled, “I was anxious before the Archer Arrow Week. I had some idea what to expect, but I was still really nervous to be out in the woods.”
Despite her nerves, Sternberg embraced the course and “loved [the expedition] because I learned so much about myself and my classmates. After the trip I also realized how much I understood about being a leader and team member.”
She also developed a stronger appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors and found it “relaxing not to worry about responding to emails or texts for a week.”
In addition to the technical and leadership skills gained, Sternberg reminisced about the fantastic “bonding experience with my classmates. Every night we would all crowd into one tent and tell stories.”
As she grew closer to her classmates, she also created fond memories of her instructors. “I had two of the best instructors in the world. It blew my mind how much they learned about me in just six days,” she said.
Sternberg, a high school junior, challenges herself to live in the present, despite the constant pull to think about her future. Consequently, she was grateful that the course allowed her to “just be present in any given hike or activity.”
Inspired by her Arrow Week Expedition, Sternberg decided to take another NOLS course and is excited to participate in a 30-day backpacking expedition through the Wind River Mountains this summer. She looks forward to “bonding with complete strangers, seeing a new place, sharing [her] knowledge, and improving skills that can only be achieved through practice.”
Vivacious Young Woman to Conquer Denali
“Once we think it gets real, it gets realer”. “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”. These quotes come from a valiant young lady blessed with an opportunity most of us dream of. With Expedition Denali tiptoeing closer and closer, a reality check summons Rosemary Saal to fully realize what lies ahead of her this June. Measured from base to peak, Mt. McKinley soars 20,320 feet into the frigid Alaskan air, and bows down to nobody.
Expedition Denali is all about promoting diversity in the great outdoors, and that is exactly what Rosemary intends to do. In her past, Rosemary admits to struggling a bit to speak up when the moment called for it. When she took a Waddington Range NOLS course in the summer of 2012, she began with the same dilemma. Good thing NOLS implements four types of leadership roles into the curriculum: Self Leadership, Peer Leadership, Active Followership, and Designated Leadership. With this strategy, it was inevitable Rosemary find her voice. Upon completion of her course, Rosemary left NOLS with a confidence that would carry her over to the next chapter of her life.
Armed to the teeth with her newfound instrument and leadership qualities, Rosemary is ready to take on the feat, which is Denali. The physical aspect being the biggest challenge, Rosemary will rely on her team for support. She appreciates the fact she has the ability to “get out there” and wants to take advantage of it even after the expedition. The most important thing is that she inspires youth of color to do the same thing. “The outdoors are beautiful and natural, and a place few people have access to”.
The entire point of Expedition Denali is to create the exposure necessary to inspire people of all ethnicities to go out and enjoy all mother nature has to offer. Rosemary is most excited for the view from the top, and that “bubbly” feeling you get when time stands still, and for that moment the whole world seems to make sense. For more about Rosemary’s story, click here.
Wilderness Medicine Expedition - Mountaineering Style
The Wilderness Medicine Institute's most recent Wilderness Medicine Expedition (WME) just returned from the Cascade Mountains. The WME is a continuing education course designed for EMTs, Medics, RNs, and MDs that focuses on the curriculum areas of wilderness medicine, leadership, and outdoor skills. This particular course was run in conjunction with NOLS Pacific Northwest and had a mountaineering skills focus.
The five WME students began their course with a day of medical work, gear issue, and food preparation at NOLS Pacific Northwest in Conway, Washington. An early departure on day two saw the group dropped off at the Shannon Ridge road head for their backcountry expedition on Mt. Shuksan. One week later the group emerged having learned and shared many new skills and with sore abdominal muscles from a great deal of laughter!
Expedition members practicing patient assessment at NOLS Pacific Northwest.
On the hike into North Cascades National Park.
An improvised splint for an unusable knee injury.
Enroute to the summit of Mt. Shuksan.
Members of the expedition on the summit of Mt. Shuksan!
Airborne Support for Waddington Range Courses
The Waddington Range is one of the most remote locations traveled to by PNW courses. Located in the heart of the British Columbian wilderness, with limited road access, it’s not easy to support Waddington courses from the ground—that’s why we depend heavily on aviation by our partners at Coral Air and White Saddle Air.
Coral Air, based out of Campbell River, British Columbia, supports our courses via float planes from the South. They help us by shuttling students and instructors in and out of the Waddington range.
White Saddle provides helicopter support from Tatla Lake, British Columbia in the North, and primarily helps with resupplying rations to courses during their time in the field.
In combination with boats, ferries, and NOLS’ 15-passenger vans, getting a Waddington course in and out of the field safely is no small feat! We couldn’t do it without the tried and true partnerships of our friends across the border. Thanks!
CSA’s and Gardens for a Sustainable Summer in the Northwest
The Skagit Valley, home to the Pacific Northwest branch, is one of the most fertile agricultural environments in the Northwest. The sprawling delta of the Skagit River holds ideal farmlands with rich soil. The temperate rainforest climate, with stretches of plentiful rain interrupted by spells of sunshine, makes the area perfect for growing towering pine trees and produce alike.
It’s mid-summer season at the PNW, and berries, veggies, fruits and greens are springing up all around us. This means that we have the opportunity to source a hefty amount of our fresh produce from local farms. The PNW kitchen has started its summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in cooperation with Hedlin’s Family Farm located just down the road in LaConner, WA. Hedlin fruits and veggies make it into everything from salads and stratas to scones and crisps. We are excited to be supporting local farmers and sustainable food practices!
But that’s not all! The PNW garden is in full swing this summer as well. Through the dedicated care of branch members like Ellie Keller, Kiren Lee, Lara McCluskey, and Anne Harmann—passionate gardeners with a love of fresh, local food—the garden has been more productive than ever. Kale, radishes, husk cherries, and basil abound, keeping in-town staff happy and healthy!
Hooray for a summer of fresh, sustainable food!!
Well-prepared for Bears in the Northwest
In the wake of last summer’s encounter with an Alaskan Grizzly, NOLS spent the winter reviewing our school-wide bear practices. While our bear practices were and are state-of-the-art, this review drew on input from experienced NOLS faculty and outside experts to alter our teaching methods related to bear safety and changed some bear spray practices.
At NOLS Pacific Northwest, courses travel to bear habitat in the Northern Cascades, the Olympics, and the Waddington Range. The Waddington is the only Grizzly habitat, but Black Bears roam much of the northwest wilderness. That’s why the PNW is taking proactive measures for educating students and managing bear interactions in the wilderness.
One key update is the opportunity for students to observe and/or practice using bear spray canisters before going into the field—don’t worry, the canisters aren’t live! Students use test canisters that mimic how a real canister feels when it’s un-holstered, unlocked, and discharged.
Instructor Mike Riley, demonstrating correct activation and use of a bear spray canister.
Another way the PNW is tackling bear safety is through the use of bear fences for food protection. The branch is piloting use of these fences for courses going into the Northern Cascades’ Pasayten Wilderness. The fences are particularly handy in places with few trees for setting up traditional bear hangs. They’re made of a charged wire, and designed to give a quick but powerful shock to bears and other animals that get too close to a course’s food. The shock is strong enough to startle bears and simply scare them away. Effectively protecting human food prevents creating habituated bears that can later become a threat to wilderness travelers.
Left: Program Supervisor Nick Storm, demonstrating correct set-up of a bear fence. Right: Nick testing the shocking power of the fence—he’s wearing shoes, so it’s all good. But don’t expect to be smiling if you’re barefoot like a Grizzly!
Here’s to a fun and safe season in the Northwest!
GiveBIG to NOLS this Wednesday
Last summer, 17-year-old Seattle resident Georgia Ray attended a NOLS Alaska sea kayaking course through the Student Conservation Association, a NOLS Gateway Partner. The lessons she learned at NOLS extend beyond technical and leadership skills in the wilderness setting, translating back to her life in the frontcountry.
“Interacting with my coursemates, in the very open environment provided by NOLS, let me know how my words are perceived and interpreted,” recalled Georgia, “Today I use this knowledge with my family and friends to be a clearer and better communicator. I use this to give instructions or suggestions, particularly feedback, in a friendly or sensitive way.”
On Wednesday, May 2, NOLS will participate in the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG campaign. The one-day, online giving event aims to inspire Seattle area residents to donate to their favorite local non-profits to build a stronger community. The NOLS Pacific Northwest branch location allows us to partake in GiveBIG, and we do so with the goal of raising $5,000 for one full scholarship to send a Gateway Partner student from the Seattle area, like Georgia, on a NOLS course.
NOLS Gateway Partners are organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities to populations underrepresented in the outdoors. By providing these students with full-tuition scholarships to attend NOLS courses, the school is able to narrow the gap between underserved communities and a life in tune with nature. Gateway Partners in the Seattle area are the Student Conservation Association, Seattle Summer Search, and Metrocenter YMCA Leadership Development Expeditions—BOLD and GOLD Mountain Schools.
Each donation made to NOLS through the Seattle Foundation between midnight and midnight (Pacific Time) on May 2, 2012, will receive a pro-rated portion of the matching funds (or "stretch") pool. What does that mean? If NOLS raises 3 percent of all the money raised through GiveBIG, then we will get 3 percent of the stretch pool. The more you give, the more of the stretch pool NOLS will get. Additionally, throughout the day “Golden Tickets” will be randomly drawn and a lucky donor will have their contribution matched with an additional $1,000.
Last year, every $100 in donations resulted in an additional $14 from the stretch pool, so every gift really does make a difference and results in more funding support for NOLS!
GiveBIG to NOLS on Wednesday and help us send a Seattle area student on a life-changing adventure.
Donor Profile: Scott Bass Learns it's in the Details
Last summer, NOLS grad Scott Bass and his 12-year-old son, Tyler, travelled to Wyoming to summit the Grand Teton. The second highest peak in Wyoming at 13,775 feet, the Grand towers sharply above Jackson Hole valley. Even though Scott hadn’t climbed in the high mountains in 22 years, he felt like it’d only been a week since he got off his North Cascades Mountaineering course. Skills he learned at NOLS came back naturally as they kick stepped through 2011’s epic snowpack up Garnett Canyon to the lower saddle of the Grand.
“I think that speaks to the depth of the experience of doing it for a month in the Cascades,” Scott explained. “It’s embedded in me now.”
Now an investment advisor, the 43-year-old Atlanta, Ga. resident feels the lasting impact of his NOLS course beyond the backcountry in the business world and at home. One of the sayings that stuck with him is that “details save lives.”
“That really resonated with me,” he recalled. “Certainly in that environment it is important to set protection in the snow, be roped up properly, and use proper technique when you’re travelling across a glacier, but it also applies to everything in life.”
Scott keeps this in mind when dealing with clients and tells it frequently to his kids. For him, this means to “make sure that you think things through, that you take the right precautions. If you’re going to do something, do it right,” he stressed.
The same goes for Leave No Trace principals in the backcountry. Many people enter the wilderness without the minimal impact mindset.
“People don’t come by [it] naturally. We’re so used to thinking ‘Oh somebody’s going to come behind me and fix this or clean this up.’”
But for Scott, that just doesn’t cut it, which is another reason he appreciates what NOLS teaches. He prefers the untouched wilderness.
“Maybe nobody’s been there for days or weeks, at least that’s how I perceive it,” he said, “The experience that I have is with something that is pristine and new, I should leave it that way so that the next person can have the exact same experience.”
To Scott, this is the most important lesson NOLS can impart on students.
Two years after his course in Washington, Scott donated to NOLS when he began earning regular paychecks. It’s not the only organization he contributes to regularly, and he has a method for selecting them.
“I think first, ‘What are the things that have had the most impact on me in my life, for me as a person?’”
NOLS is in Scott’s top three, and he continues to give back to the school through the annual fund.
“I want to make sure that other people have the opportunity to do what I did, to experience the wilderness. I know that there are people who can’t afford it and programs that need additional funding. I want to help support NOLS.”
To learn more about the NOLS Annual Fund and Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values, visit NOLS Giving, or contact us at (800) 332-4280 or email@example.com.