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Pacific Northwest

Climate Change and the Ocean of the Northwest

Following up on the glacier research blog post two weeks ago, the National Park Service has also released a video about the impacts of climate change on the coasts and intertidal biological communities of the Northwest. In this video Dr. Steven Fradkin, coastal ecologist at Olympic National Park, explores these communities on shore and by boat and discusses how the stunning breadth of biological diversity are indicators of environmental health.

Interested in traveling through similar terrain this summer, take a look at the Sea Kayak and Sailing course. Want to explore these same intertidal communities of Olympic National Park while earning a full semester of college credit, check out a Semester in the Pacific Northwest this fall.

Permalink | Posted by Chris Agnew on Mar 24, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Pacific Northwest

Get to Know NOLS Pacific Northwest

Curious about the Pacific Northwest? Chris Agnew, NOLS Pacific Northwest director, has a great deal of insight to offer. Read our recent Q&A session with him to learn more about the region and NOLS courses there.

State of the School_044If you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:

Our staff are smart, multi-talented, and passionately focused on creating positive and challenging learning experiences for our students in wild and remote places. 

How long have you been Branch Director at NOLS Pacific Northwest?

Three and a half years—it correlates almost perfectly with the age of my oldest child!

What is your background with NOLS? Or how did it all begin for you?

As I was growing up, my father would always mention this organization in Wyoming suggesting I should take a course with them at some point. In college I was considering different study abroad opportunities and considered an international semester with NOLS as well. Having grown up backpacking and climbing with my family in the western U.S., I was attracted to a NOLS course that would take me far from my experience and have a strong cultural emphasis. 

I ultimately chose a Semester in Kenya. The extended time in the wilderness, authentic leadership opportunities, and immersive cultural experiences I gained on my course were life changing. It gave me and two friends I made on the course the confidence and skills to travel across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda following our semester. It also lit a spark for me in the field of education.

Three years later, I finished undergraduate and took my Instructor Course.

What is your favorite aspect of running courses in the Pacific Northwest?

Courses in the Pacific Northwest are unique in so many ways: The proximity of high, rugged alpine to ocean. Large, urban areas being so close to wild, remote, and rarely visited wilderness. Challenging weather, engaging terrain, countless glaciers, and deep lush vegetation. The Pacific Northwest is special.

The powerful ocean, steep mountains, and challenging weather can be intimidating to students at first. Through time in these wild places and excellent coaching by our faculty, by the end of a course our students return feeling at home and comfortable in this formidable landscape.

Where else would you want to be?

What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?

Access to our campus and our stunning classrooms is unparalleled. With our campus only a little over one hour from Sea-Tac airport and only having to travel as little as 90 minutes from our campus before they start hiking, we can maximize learning and time in the field rather than getting from here to there.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Mar 17, 2014 in the following categories: Leadership, Pacific Northwest

Glaciers, Climate Change, and the National Park System

In the North Cascades, scientists are hard at work analyzing glaciers to evaluate the impacts of climate change. In this visually stunning video, Dr. Jon Riedel, lead glaciologist at North Cascades National Park, discusses and interprets his glacier monitoring research. 

Many National Park Service employees got their start learning how to safely travel through and lead others in terrain just like this video on a North Cascades Mountaineering or Outdoor Educator Mountaineering course.

Permalink | Posted by Chris Agnew on Mar 12, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Pacific Northwest

NOLS Pacific Northwest Soaks Up the Sun

Newly installed solar panels went live this December at NOLS Pacific Northwest. NOLS PNW is one of nine NOLS locations to use this form of alternative energy. The school teamed up with Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), The North Face, and Whidbey Sun & Wind to install the 9.54 kW solar array that will provide 20 percent of the campus’ electricity needs.  

Blog 4 NOLS PNW Solar
Photo: Solar 4R Schools

For the past five years, the NOLS strategic plan, Expedition 2013, guided the way for the school’s growth. This plan set goals for NOLS locations to focus on areas such as risk management, access to wilderness classrooms, and environmental stewardship. In pursuit of the environmental stewardship goal, NOLS PNW installed solar panels to decrease their carbon footprint and improve their student and community sustainability education.

“This array not only saves our school significant financial resources, but it also is the right thing to do.” Chris Agnew, NOLS PNW Director, commented enthusiastically.

Chris, the students, and faculty are excited to have a brand new array of 39 solar panels perched on their school’s roof. The new panels are estimated to produce 9,700 kWh annually, which will put a dent in both electricity costs and CO2 emissions. In fact, this past Tuesday, February 25, marked the largest solar energy production day in the history of the NOLS PNW solar panels! Who said Washington can’t get a sunny day in the middle of February?  

Permalink | Posted by Caitlin Camilliere on Feb 28, 2014 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Pacific Northwest

Imagine your 2014 summer

Summer is here!

Well, at least the 2014 summer NOLS course catalog is here, and that's even better, because you still have time to plan the perfect summer with NOLS.


We have boxes and boxes and boxes of the summer catalog here at NOLS Headquarters, so request one here. If you'd prefer a paperless version, we've got you covered, too. Download the iPad version of the 2014 summer catalog here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Jan 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Curriculum, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, Yukon

Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 6

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 seek excellence in all we do. We recognize that maintaining excellence requires that we question decisions, learn from failures, and celebrate success. We are committed to high quality experiences where every moment and every relationship counts. We evolve and adapt with new technology, changing techniques and differing circumstances.
Climbing pic

Luis Rosario, 2009 Pacific Northwest Trip Leader alumnus.

Luis Rosario on Excellence

Around the office, I’m known as GSD (Getting Stuff Done). That’s because when a project needs a hard-hitter, I will implement my do-whatever-it-takes (DWIT) attitude to get it done.

Flash back to 2007. Like so many young adults growing up in urban areas, I had never experienced true wilderness. When I read about NOLS in a student travel magazine, it sounded like an exciting challenge. I pinned the article to my dormitory wall as a reminder of my new goal. Two years later, after graduating from Florida Atlantic University, my dream became a reality with the help of a scholarship.

Pic 2

Enjoying the wild mountaints of the Pacific Northwest.

And so I traveled from suburban southern Florida to the wildlands of Washington, where I found myself a little out of my comfort zone. I’ll admit that heading into the woods with a bunch of other people you don’t know, into a place you’ve never been, without any outside contact or communication, was kind of worrisome.

Group pic

Luis and coursemates high in the Cascades.

Yet, by taking risks and taking the lead, I opened doors of understanding for opportunities of that nature. As the course progressed, and I learned the tricks to pack packing and keeping a clean camp, I even began to thrive. I realized that there are many things in life we avoid because of uncertainty and that when you overcome fear, it opens up doors.

Before my course, I would have been willing to settle for a normal nine-to-five job for the security. Instead, I’ve taken a calculated risk by accepting a job as the Director of Business Development with The Alive Foundation, a young organization that promotes changing consciousness for the better. Everyday I get to use my NOLS skills of overcoming uncertainty by implementing my DWIT philosophy.

There’s a quote out there that says, “One bite at a time.” I learned that during my course, but it’s the same in life. It’s a good reminder whenever I become overwhelmed.


Luis uses the lessons he learned at NOLS daily, which is why he's chosen to give back through the NOLS Annual Fund.

To support the NOLS Annual Fund and Campaign NOLS, please consider making a gift today.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Dec 19, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS, Pacific Northwest

The 12 Days of NOLS

We’ve found the perfect way to get you into the holiday spirit and fight the cold snap with a hearty laugh. Watch NOLS Creative’s newest (and possibly goofiest) release, “The 12 Days of NOLS,” a NOLS variation on the classic tune, to get a taste of the NOLS experience or reminisce about your course! Written with extensive input from the peanut gallery, shot and edited in less than 12 hours, and brought to you with only mild shame, we now ask you to watch the video and sing along.

On the first day of my course Paul Petzoldt gave to me ...


Windpants with a reinforced knee

Two trekking poles

Three Peaks Ranch


Five pounds of cheese

Six dudes belaying

Seven miles a' shwackin’

Eight malt balls missing

Nine quickdraws clipping

Ten backpacks bulging

Eleven toasty hot drinks

Twelve students mapping

 Happy Holidays from NOLS

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Dec 10, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Books, Curriculum, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon

Youth Leadership Conference - North Cascades Institute

image from
John Harnetiaux and Courtney Kuhl represented NOLS Pacific Northwest at the fourth annual Henry M. Jackson Youth Leadership Conference on Nov. 10th at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. 
The conference brought together diverse students, partners, and regional organizations to participate in discussions on leadership, advocacy, stewardship, and collaboration. The event is primarily targeted to high school-aged students, and culminates with an Opportunity Fair, giving them a chance to connect with local and regional organizations to discuss potential opportunities as program participants and future employees.
John and Courtney spoke with many students about NOLS, highlighting opportunities like internships, in-town employment, and taking NOLS courses. A NOLS course has been a first step for many with long careers in outdoor related professions.  On an Outdoor Educator Mountaineering course, students learn the skills and gain the experience for successful work in outdoor education, public land management, guiding, or even research.
John and Courtney also participated in an Open Space partnership forum and had the opportunity to share ideas with members from such organizations as The U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Skagit Fisheries, and Northwest Youth Core in an effort to build collaborative ties with other conservation professionals in the region. 

Permalink | Posted by Chris Agnew on Nov 13, 2013 in the following categories: In The News, Pacific Northwest

Taking Stock of the Government Shutdown

Tourists and wedding hopefuls weren’t the only ones disappointed by the closure of the National Parks and other public lands during the partial government shutdown. As barricades and closure signs adorned the normally welcoming entrances to parks and national forests, those in the outdoor education industry were, in some cases, left without a classroom. Several NOLS locations had to re-route courses at the last minute, quickly adapting and finding new locations for several courses.  

Alexis_alloway_pnw_122Students hike and work on map skills on Ptarmigan Ridge near Mt Baker, Wash. Photo by Alexis Alloway

  • A Semester in the Northwest course had its hiking section moved from North Cascades National Park to the adjacent Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest and was able to run without further complications. Another Semester in the Northwest course was scheduled to run their coastal hiking section in Olympic National Park and instead they hiked on Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
  • NOLS Southwest had a canoeing section scheduled to run through Big Bend National Park in western Texas and had to relocate upriver to Big Bend Ranch State Park. During the two days of logistics and shuffling around the students were sent to a primitive skills camp just outside of Tucson. The students ran the same part of the river twice, as entrance downriver into the National Park was off-limits. A custom course with NASA at NOLS Southwest was also postponed.
  • At NOLS Rocky Mountain, a climbing course scheduled for Devil’s Tower National Monument moved to Vedauwoo.
  • NOLS Teton Valley was not affected, but if the shutdown had taken place during the river running season, a course that runs through the Salmon-Challis National Forest likely would have been re-routed.

Willy_Hazlehurst_tvb_16Instructor Dennison Web (stern) and an IC student on the Owyhee River. Photo by William D. Hazlehurst.

Though public lands have re-opened, the shutdown will continue to have rippling effects as commercial outfitters try to regain the momentum they lost.



Permalink | Posted by Mike Casella on Nov 6, 2013 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Teton Valley

Drumroll, please ...

It has arrived. Thirty thousand copies of the shiny new course catalog have been unloaded and piled up at NOLS Headquarters, and another 30,000 will be shipped to potential students soon.

We thought we’d introduce you.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 2.09.47 PM

Like last year, the NOLS course catalog has a clean, square shape and inspiring personal accounts to make the NOLS experience relatable.

With this catalog, though, we have dedicated more pages to courses and NOLS locations, specifically for the upcoming season. In fact, it’s dedicated almost entirely to the winter and spring course offerings at NOLS because we are going to publish three seasonal catalogs a year from now on. This will allow us to tailor the information in each catalog to each season to give you more helpful information about our course offerings.

You can look forward to a summer course catalog in January and a fall course catalog in April. All three catalogs will be available iPad apps shortly after their publication.

If you haven’t already requested a catalog, do so here or keep an eye out for the app, to be released soon! 

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 28, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

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