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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to Jamie, Andrew, Jesse, Deborah, Kurt, Chris
Saturday night, a few truly outstanding members of the NOLS team were recognized for their work. Each recipient of the 2011 staff awards was given a standing ovation by the crowd in attendance at the reception and a plaque.
Our first award recipient is an instructor and program supervisor. She took her Instructor Course in 2002, and since then she has accumulated just over 200 weeks in the field.
Jamie has taught four instructor courses and countless instructor seminars. She is a “go-to” instructor for the staffing office, as she is a backpacking, mountaineering, winter, and climbing course leader. She is known for her excellent work ethic, superb attention to detail, and commitment to training staff.
NOLS Pro has noted her “high-quality work, extensive expertise, and ‘can-do’ attitude.” These qualities were exemplified on the India Air Force Mountaineering Course on Denali. Jamie worked tirelessly to provide a safe and successful expedition that greatly improved NOLS’ relationship with the India Air Force. Once again, she proved invaluable when she agreed to fly to India at a moment’s notice to help support the instructors and students who were involved in the recent and tragic fatality.
Jamie has also worked as a mountaineering program supervisor in Alaska and is presently a winter program supervisor at the Teton Valley. As a program supervisor, she shines under pressure, has great vision and action, works exceptionally well as a member of a team, and is an advocate for staff.
Andrew Knutsen—In town
Andrew started his NOLS career in 2006. He cheerfully helps employees no matter how busy he is or how hard the question might be. He has a high level of expertise and can fix most problems or answer most questions on the spot. If he can't, then he'll do some research and keep digging until he finds the answer. While he primarily works with in-town staff as information systems desktop administrator, he willingly helps any NOLS employee work-related or not.
One question on our annual evaluations is, “what have you done to improve yourself and your position?” Andrew’s response exemplifies a great work life balance. He got certified as an OS X Apple Technical Coordinator and expanded his house sitting from cats and dogs to include horses.
Andrew is a great ambassador for NOLS. He is an avid hiker and proud member of the long-distance hiking community. He often shuttles folks who are on the Continental Divide Trail between road heads and town, which puts NOLS and Lander in a good light and also supports the use and preservation of our classroom.
He is an actor and has participated in a number of theatrical productions in Fremont County such as Man of La Mancha and Guys and Dolls. In November, he will play the role of Robert Starveling in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Jesse started her career in 2000 as a student on a Himalaya Backpacking course. She has been a staple at the Rocky Mountain Branch since her Instructor Course in 2005. Thirty-five of her 41 courses have been based out of Rocky Mountain.
From the beginning of her career, she has continually worked to improve and expand her skills. In 2007, she took the initiative to expand her winter skills by taking a NOLS snowboarding course in the Teton Valley.
She brought her extensive horse background to NOLS and quickly became an integral part of Three Peaks Ranch. She played an important role in finalizing the Horse-packing Instructor Notebook.
In 2008, she became a program supervisor at Rocky Mountain and split her time between Lander and the Ranch.
In October of last year, she left her job in-town to focus on full-time course work. She joined the annual faculty program, and, in the past year she worked an unbelievable 35 weeks in the field. Students of her last course noted her passion for teaching, knowledge of the NOLS curriculum, great sense of humor, and her extreme fitness—perhaps the result of 35 weeks in the field in one year.
Not surprisingly, she was not present to accept her award because she was in the field proctoring an Outdoor Educator Semester.
Deborah Nunnink—In town
Deborah is known for working and living the values we all hold dear at NOLS. She has been a key member of the NOLS community and the Lander community since 2002. She has exemplary expedition behavior and always does more than her part. She is committed to education, wilderness, and leadership.
As operations director, Deborah has transformed many ways that we do business, and her commitment to efficiency has made it possible for NOLS to prosper in challenging times while other organizations have been challenged. She helps our individual schools better themselves and has helped develop many key employees at NOLS. She strives to build programs and operating areas that are sustainable, effective, profitable, and fun.
When she was interviewed her for her job, a former boss stated she enjoys having contests and playing games with fellow employees. He also made it clear she almost always wins those games (he actually seemed a bit perturbed about this). What he didn’t say was that when she is on your team everyone wins and so does our mission.
Executive Director John Gans wasn’t able to attend the reception and admitted, “One of the hard parts of being away for this annual meeting is that I am not personally able to award this recipient. She has given so much to our organization and has been a real key to our success.”
Kurt came to the school in 2007 on a river instructor course in Utah. He has been working consistently since then in our programs in Utah, Idaho, India, and Brazil and will work in Patagonia this spring.
Since 2007, he has accumulated over 100 field weeks working river, sea kayaking and hiking courses. In 2011 he spent 28 weeks teaching classes on the water.
He is well known for his laid- back style and his excellent student outcomes. He is a fantastic coach on the river, and students comment that he is fun yet informative, respectful, and has an incredible passion for the outdoors and paddle rafting. His self-awareness, commitment, communication, and creativity are reflected over and over in his performance evaluations and are what make branches so happy to have him back.
A recent evaluation noted he did a great job of not only coaching students, but also his junior staff. He held students to high standards while respecting the knowledge they had gained from their previous semester sections. He sat down with his patrol leader and charted out the next steps in his development to course lead.
He is not able to be here as he is presently canoeing on the Amazon with semester students.
Chris Brauneis—In town
Chris first came to NOLS in 1992 on a Fall Semester in the Rockies. He worked in the Rocky Mountain issue room on and off for several years before taking his instructor course in 1997. Since then, he has worked 146 weeks in the field.
In 2004, he began work in the Rocky Mountain Program office in both the evacuation coordinator and program supervisor roles. He has shown extraordinary patience and professionalism in answering hundreds of parent phone calls.
The staff who nominated Chris for this award said the following:
“I personally am more successful in my job for having him as a friend and co-worker, as are dozens, if not hundreds, of others at NOLS.”
“His presence at the branch makes me want to continue to prioritize field courses in Lander, and I can’t imagine working in town at the RMB under a different supervisor.”
Chris is also known for his random-acts of kindness such as personal emails thanking employees for doing some aspect of their job or offering to help an employee out either personally or professionally.
In 2007, Chris became the Rocky Mountain program director where he currently oversees the supervision of 350 field staff annually. His dedication to the student experience is always forefront in his actions.
Please join us in congratulating each of these remarkable members of our team—this year's employees of the year.
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 18, 2011 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon
The Waddington Extravaganza
Each summer the PNW sends out three mountaineering courses to the Waddington Range in British Columbia, Canada. The following video depicts the logistical side of a Waddington Course - all from the perspective of a humble intern. It shows the re-supply of WAD 2, the exit of WAD 1 from the field and the entrance of WAD 3 into the field The pictures and video are from the 2011 summer courses. (all images and music are credited at the end of the video)
WAD 1 is driven into the field
WAD 2 flies into the field on float planes
WAD 1 flies out of the field on float planes, WAD 3 is taken into the field at the same time by the same float planes (as shown in video)
WAD 2 takes a boat across a lake in order to be driven out of the field
WAD 3 is flown out of the field by fixed wheel planes
All WADs have three ration periods. They take their first ration into the field with them. One week later, they are re-supplied by helicopter (as shown in the video). Their second and third rations are brought to them at this time. While the students sort their second ration, two instructors take the third ration in the helicopter to a pre-determined location and bury it in the snow. Their second ration will sustain them until they can reach this location and uncover their final ration.
The Waddington Mountaineerng course is the PNW's most remote course and the only one re-supplied by helicopter.
"The Road Precipitates Beautiful Things"
NOLS PNW had the special honor of hosting a couple of runners in our camping loop a couple weekends ago. Ian Klepetar and Katie Visco are running from Seattle to Vancouver (Yes, Canada) with nothing but two backpacks and a bicycle and relying on the kindness of strangers for food and a place to sleep. "Running isn't just a form of exercise, it can also be a mode of transport", Katie said. "It's an excellent way to meet new people and build community.
They made a similar trip last year from Boston, MA to Portland, ME. It was such an empowering and life-changing experience that they decided they wanted to facilitate that experience for others. "We want to encourage people to move on their own two feet and take pride in their accomplishments", said Ian. So, they're making this trip to kick of their hospitality network, Adventure Foot - think couchsurfers for runners.
You can join the network, be a host, be a runner or be both.
From the Katie and Ian Chronicles:
7/21 Seattle >Everett
7/22 Everett > Arlington
HIGHLIGHT: Just South of Arlington, we ran into a group of teenagers hanging out on the side of the road with their bikes. We called out to them, "Hey, come run to Vancouver with us". They couldn't believe it "Are you for serious? You're really doing that?" We chatted with them for a while and they agreed to bike next to us to the nearest intersection. When we got there, one of the kids pulled out his cell phone and called his parents, "Hey, mom. Can we go to Vancouver?" He was sold.
7/23 Arlington > Conway (NOLS)
7/24 Conway > ?
If you happen to be between Conway and Vancouver, you might recognize Ian and Katie by the NOLS stickers they are displaying on their backpacks, oh so proudly.
Good Luck, Footers. Drop us a line from Mapleland!
This North Cascades Wilderness course left on June 15th 2011 (NCW 6/15)
This is their "before" shot with instructors Lisa and Rachel:
They spent 30 days backpacking in the Pasayten Wilderness:
They returned last Friday, July 15th, and this is their "after" shot:
Finding Common Ground in the Field
Nothing brings people together like a tough situation and a common goal. The camaraderie of the PNW Trip Leader course (TLS 6/8) that returned last week can attest to that. Their instructors, Liz and Herb were very impressed with how well they worked together. “They were all across the board - from all walks of life” We had a girl who had never put on a pack before and another who was an outdoor educator herself. There were teenagers and parents, NOLS alums and rookies. It’s incredible how there can be such great diversity in a group of seven individuals. But even with such different backgrounds, this group bonded quickly.
“That’s the beauty of being in such a challenging environment” says Liz. Even though, the course was only out for a week, they dealt with an extraordinary amount of snow for this time of year. The weather was better than expected, but they spent most of the time cold and wet. They were united in the same struggle and “in the end nobody cares about the differences” - It’s no longer important. At the debrief, the students and their instructors could all agree on one thing: “It was a GREAT group”.
Best of luck to the graduates of TLS 6/8. We hope you have the opportunity to lead your own great adventures!