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DEQ Aims to Downgrade Essential Streams in Wyoming

It’s a hot summer day in Wyoming and you are hiking along a cherished trail surrounded by pines, peaks and sunny skies. Care to take off your boots and soak your feet in a cool stream, or perhaps go for a swim? Water quality may not cross your mind when you’re sweating and distracted by the beauty of the landscape, but you might have to think again.

With countless streams, creeks and rivers flowing through Wyoming wilderness areas, we have reason to acknowledge their relevance to the environment and our lives. In August of 2014, the Water Quality Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) made a decision to downgrade certain surface waters from primary, to secondary contact recreation. By downgrading streams in this manner, the standards set for water quality in more than 87,000 miles of streams will be lowered significantly.

The process used by the DEQ involved analyzing stream size, proximity to population centers, and recreation access. These three steps were designed to determine the potential use of the stream for swimming, bathing, or other activities that could result in full body immersion or accidental ingestion of water. Although the analysis aimed to consider the public in the decision-making process, the outcome has proven to be a misrepresentation of which streams are likely to be used by the recreating public. As we know at NOLS, just because a stream is located further than a half a mile from a trailhead, does not mean it is inaccessible.

As a primary user of streams in Wyoming’s backcountry, NOLS is taking a stand against the proposal to downgrade these essential waters. In addition to being a part of our classroom and where we recreate, water is one of the most amazing and imperative resources on our planet. To downplay the significance of so many Wyoming streams is a step in the wrong direction.

NOLS students executing a river crossing

Permalink | Posted by Becca Sage on Feb 13, 2015 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

NZS-3 heads for the hills

New Zealand Semester Three students all arrived safely at NOLS NZ. The first day of their semester coincided with the first day of rain for the year at NOLS NZ. The group bagged 77 days worth of food and organized equipment that will be bought to them through out the semester. 

The group is now hiking in the Nelson Lakes National Park. 

P1310127First day of rain for 2015 

P2010141NZS-3 Student Group 

NZS-3 – 02/01/15 Schedule

Cultural:  2-3 Feb
1 – Backpacking:  4 Feb to 4 Mar
Branch Switch:  5-6 Mar
2 – Sea Kayaking: 7 Mar to 6 Apr
Field Switch: 7 Apr
3 – Sailing: 8 Apr to 16 Apr
Branch De-issue: 17 Apr
Graduation: 18 Apr

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Feb 7, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

Wyoming Legislature Angles to Annex Federal Lands

It’s the beginning of a new year, and the 2015 Wyoming State Legislative Session is in full swing. There are many reasons to pay attention to the bills passing through legislature, but why is it important to NOLS?

There are several bills being proposed in this year’s legislative session that are worthy of attention. One profoundly influential bill concerning NOLS operations is House Bill 209, the Transfer of Federal Lands. House Bill 209 mimics bills of the past, proposing that control over public lands in Wyoming ought to be transferred from the federal government into the hands of the state.

Why is this a concern? One of the greatest assets to NOLS as an outfitter is the integrity of its federal land permits. Without the permits that NOLS has acquired within Wyoming’s wilderness, NOLS operations in the state would not be possible. Transferring control of public lands to the state threatens the status of existing permits in the federal permits system, jeopardizing accessibility to NOLS classrooms.

In addition to placing NOLS classrooms in jeopardy, House Bill 209 could potentially have detrimental effects on Wyoming’s travel and tourism economy. Lending control of public land to the state encourages exploitation of the land’s resources for the greatest economic means, which does not always represent or promote the true beauty and value of the land. Furthermore, state lands are not available for camping. This fact, as we are all well aware, has the ability to negatively impact NOLS, as well as the everyday Wyoming recreationist.

As the 2015 legislative session presses on, NOLS will be keeping an eye on House Bill 209, among several other bills that may affect the school. If you would like to view the content and status of this bill or any other bills being proposed, visit the Wyoming Legislature website.

Permalink | Posted by Becca Sage on Feb 6, 2015 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News

'An American Ascent' Earns Best Picture, Best Director


“An American Ascent,” the film documenting NOLS Expedition Denali, earned Best Film and Best Director honors at the San Diego Black Film Festival this weekend.

The film follows Expedition Denali, which set out to be the first African American team to reach North America’s highest point: Denali. All members of this NOLS expedition were NOLS graduates or instructors, and the film crew included NOLS instructor and video producer Kyle Duba. Though a lightning storm forced the climbers to turn around short of the summit, Expedition Denali achieved its first goal: to inspire youth of color to explore the outdoors. That inspiration will only reach a bigger audience through "An American Ascent."

An American Ascent - Film Trailer from Distill Productions on Vimeo.


Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Feb 5, 2015

Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management in NOLS Patagonia

Jerry Rizzo
, Director of Leadership Programs at Cornell's Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, reflected on the adversity, learning, and new-found confidence his students encountered on the school's recent NOLS expedition. Ranked among the nation's top business schools, Johnson has gone to Patagonia with NOLS since 2013. Read Jerry's full post here.


Permalink | Posted by Casey Pikla on Feb 3, 2015 in the following categories: In The News, Leadership, Patagonia, Professional Training

Reaching New Levels on a Southwest Climbing Course

“These students had a broad spectrum of prior experience climbing. They came in with a variety of goals and expectations relating to their prior experience climbing. Most were excited for the ability to focus on technical skills development and have the extra time allowed for that due to the course having a base camp structure,” said Program Supervisor Sydney Hartsock of the Southwest Rock Climbing course that just came out of the field.

 This is a new course type for NOLS, and it’s been so well received that we’ve added another date this year: April 16.

SRO 2015 Student Group
 Photo by Naresh Kumar

Whether you have experience in climbing or none at all, NOLS Southwest Rock Climbing course provides you with the climbing resources needed to achieve your goals.  To help you become an experienced climber, the instructors introduce the fundamentals before jumping into climbing. During this phase, students learn to properly tie knots, use helmets and harnesses, build anchors, sport and traditional (trad) climbing principals, and more. From here, students and instructors settle in with each other and set goals based on their abilities. A student’s vision and action will determine what he or she will achieve during this course no matter what their prior experience is.  

 Once the students become comfortable with their technical skills, the team works together to climb through deep canyons, rocky domes, and tall spires in the Dragoon Mountains. There, students begin with climbs that are found to be easier so they can get a feel for the sport while progressing at their own pace. After accomplishing these climbs, the group is challenged with tougher climbs that may seem impossible at the time, but while building strength, knowledge, and working together as a team the students push themselves beyond limits that were present before. Eventually, students become competent with their climbing skills and exposed to vertical cliff rescue, fixed line accession, lead climbing, aid climbing, and multi pitch climbing.

 Besides learning technical skills, the group also develops a broad range of leadership skills in the Southwest. When climbing and hiking to new destinations, the group relies expedition behavior, communication, and self-awareness. These skills help the students stay focused on the task at hand and guide them in reaching their goals.  In all, students leave the NOLS Southwest with a set of skills that allows them to pursue future expeditions.


Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Feb 2, 2015 in the following categories: Leadership, Southwest

The Governor's Task Force on Forests

Wyoming’s expansive forests are exceptional. For more reasons than one may realize, the state’s forests play an important role in our lives and future. Whether it be environmental, economic or recreational value, these areas represent something that every Wyomingite can identify with.

Photo by Jared Steinman

Hiking, climbing, fishing, hunting, skiing, and observing wildlife are just a few of the activities that take place in Wyoming’s forests. In addition to these lifestyles, the forests generously provide us with clean air and drinking water, as well as habitats for fisheries and wildlife. It is for these reasons, among many others, that NOLS has a special relationship with these wild places.

With damaging wildfires, invasive non-native species and residential development, forests within Wyoming have been facing more challenges in recent years. The Governor’s Task Force on Forests, a group of representatives from various organizations in Wyoming, came together under Governor Matt Mead to highlight the most important aspects of the state’s forests. The Task Force was created to proactively manage issues concerning forests in Wyoming by highlighting their attributes and implementing recommendations to help maintain and protect them.  

Recommendations made by the Task Force were finalized and approved earlier this month and the result is worthy of recognition. The final report addresses issues pertaining to fire and other disturbance, resource management, and economic opportunity. Many of the recommendations are important to NOLS because they help to ensure that the unique outdoor classrooms in Wyoming are not compromised. By taking preemptive action against threats to forests in Wyoming, we can continue to enjoy and appreciate their supreme resources and beauty.


Permalink | Posted by Becca Sage on Jan 30, 2015 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News

USNA Midshipman Shares Lessons in Leadership

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 3.50.18 PM

Dale Lescher, midshipman 2/C at the US Naval Academy, recently shared a few of the lessons she's learned through NOLS. A two-time NOLS graduate, Dale participated in the first USNA expedition to attempt Mt. Denali, the highest point in North America, in the summer of 2014. Read about the lessons Dale gained on the USNA blog.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Pikla on Jan 29, 2015 in the following categories: Alaska, Leadership, Professional Training

Educator Expedition: Cape Town Sailing

By Nick Braun, NOLS Instructor

On January 5, I kicked off the New Year with an adventure on the southern seas. With the support of the Pete Absolon Fund that supports advanced instructor training, I made my first trip to Africa. The goal was to expand my sailing horizons and to gain experience sailing in an unfamiliar place, with bigger seas and more challenging weather. And that is exactly what I got!

I participated in a week of coastal skipper training with a sailing school based in Cape Town, South Africa. This region is known for its spectacular and rugged coastline, ever-changing wind and weather conditions, and often-turbulent seas. After provisioning the boat and making a few repairs, we cast off from Saldanha Bay for our first passage southbound into Cape Town. After a 17-hour beat to wind, multiple sail changes, and navigating the dreaded (often 40+ knot) winds that come barreling off of Table Mountain early in the evening, we finally tied up at the dock just before midnight. I was in for a long week!

The course consisted of multiple passages over 60 miles long that each course participant skippered. This means from the time you cast off until you tie up at your destination, you are in charge of the boat and responsible for the safety and performance of the vessel and crew. After two of my shipmates brought us safely into harbor during their days as skipper, it was my opportunity to take the helm.

Continue reading "Educator Expedition: Cape Town Sailing"

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Jan 28, 2015 in the following categories: Instructor News

Año Nuevo in Patagonia

¡Feliz Año Nuevo from Coyhaique! The first few weeks of the new year in Patagonia have been busy!

The first courses of the semester, the Mountaineering Course AMT-01/06/15 and the Spring Semester JSP-01/10/15, have left for the field successfully after a short stay at our branch to prepare their gear and rations. The Spring Semester JSP-01/23/15 is currently staying with us to get their Wilderness First Aid certification before heading out for their mountaineering section, and our Patagonian Year courses have picked up where they left and continued their adventures.

The Patagonian Year course PY 10/8/14 started this term in Magallanes, a beautiful area in the south of Chile. All the students gathered in Torres del Paine National Park and successfully followed their Wilderness First Responder classes there. Together with a new team of instructors they are now exploring the southern ice fields.
Our Patagonian courses PY-1-10/18/14 and PY-2-10/18/14 have recently finished their ISGE (individual student group expedition) sections, from which all the students came back healthy and happy! They are now out in the field again for their cultural and kayak sections.

All of the students are doing well and are enjoying the beautiful summer weather Patagonia has been getting lately!

Spring Semester JSP-01/23/15 learning about hypothermia during their Wilderness First Aid

Posted by Inge • NOLS Patagonia intern

Permalink | Posted by Kamil Sade on Jan 27, 2015 in the following categories: Patagonia

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