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NOLS Thanks In-Town Staff

Each year, NOLS hands out a few awards to instructors, community members, alumni, and in-town staff to recognize their hard work, dedication, and positive changes in the world.

Please join us in congratulating this year's NOLS in-town awardees Alexa Callison-Burch, Debra East and Chris Agnew!

Continue reading "NOLS Thanks In-Town Staff"

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 15, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Instructor News, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Wilderness Medicine Institute

What Wilderness Means to Us


As a kid camping in the Wilderness on our annual father-son camping trips to Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains, the grandeur of the untrammeled alpine has always been a source of inspiration, reflectiveness, and challenge for me. Since making my career as a Wilderness advocate, I have come to appreciate the Wilderness legacy that has been bestowed upon us by so many great conservation heroes: people like Olas and Mardy Murie, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir. Because of their vision, I can take my children to those same special places that my dad took me, and discover those places anew through their eyes.

—Aaron Bannon, NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director

Join Aaron at the celebration of the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary in Albuquerque this weekend. Learn more here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 15, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

NZSF-1 Cultural Section

Between Mountaineering and Sea Kayaking, NZSF-1 students spent a night at the Te Awhina Marae in Motueka. They were formally welcomed onto the Marae and learned about Maori customs and culture

P1010058NZSF-1 students all healthy and happy at the gateway to the sacred waters of the Riwaka Resurgence

The group is now out Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough sounds with instructors Lloyd Stetson and Andrew Harrison. 

PA070080Seriously, we need to take extra cocoa! 


Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Oct 14, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

What Wilderness Means to Us


Dale Lescher photo

Wild places are an important source of wonder and inspiration in my life. Having and taking advantage of access to wilderness shapes my values, gives me sanctuary for recreation, makes me mindful of how my actions are a part of the world as a whole, and connect me with people in a safe, non-judgmental space. Experiencing and sharing this brings me satisfaction and joy. In this age of fast-paced communication, growth, and change in our society, I think that it is particularly important to preserve wilderness areas and encourage Americans to see, feel, touch, and play in the amazing natural resources that are our wild areas.

I have been uplifted by the overwhelming support for Expedition Denali. It warms my heart to meet people who are touched by wild places and to participate in encouraging all Americans to find themselves in nature.

Adina Scott, Expedition Denali team member and NOLS graduate

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 14, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

Switching gears!

Last week was a busy one at NOLS NZ with Fall Semesters NZSF1 9/11/14 and NZSF 2 9/11/14 back at the branch for the switch between their respective semester sections. Both groups arrived with all students in good health and with smiles on their faces.

NZSF1 enjoyed relatively kind NZ spring weather on their Mountain section and witnessed some spectacularly clear Southern night skies when making their alpine starts. They were able to fit in several peak ascents and some glacial travel on the Ashburton Glacier. The group has now switched ice axes for paddles and is out exploring the Marlborough Sounds on their 22 day Sea Kayak section.

NZSF2 were challenged by strong winds for much of their Sea Kayak section, but managed a 105 nautical mile journey through the Marlborough Sounds. Their section featured encounters with penguins, gannets, dolphins, seals, eels and albino possums and had the closing highlight of a moonlit night kayak in glassy conditions between storm fronts. They've now donned packs and have headed into the Arrowsmith Range for 23 days Mountaineering.


Saying goodbye to the luggage for another 3 weeks in the field
Head over heels, jumping for joy - NZSF2 ready for the mountains

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Oct 12, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

What Wilderness Means to Us


I have spent my whole “adult” life guiding in the wilderness! The feeling that we have in this country is beyond words. Aren’t we so lucky that  those with insight were able to put aside these lands in perpetuity, where man is “only a visitor?” It just seems incredible that we have these jewels for ourselves and future generations and they will remain essentially untouched. As has often been said, “They aren’t making that any more.”

—George Hunker, longtime former NOLS instructor

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 8, 2014 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Instructor News

RM Interns Organize Community Garden Cleanup

At NOLS Rocky Mountain, each season the interns are required to develop and facilitate a community outreach project.


This past weekend, NOLS Rocky Mountain Interns John Burrows and Kathryn Martin organized a cleanup at Lander’s Pushroot Community Garden.

They selected this project to get involved with the Lander community, give back, and enjoy some beautiful fall weather.


Burrows and Martin also communicated with local businesses and received food donations for the volunteers who came out for their event.

The volunteers earned their lunch, by building garden beds, sifting dirt, pulling weeds, and helping unload manure. NOLS employees and locals worked together to improve the garden and learn about the community plot.


"We had fun getting our hands dirty and working to help benefit Pushroot Community Garden this weekend. It was great to see the community support and enthusiasm for the volunteer day, especially within local businesses that made the event a success through their donations to the cause," said Burrows. 

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Oct 6, 2014 in the following categories: In The News, Rocky Mountain

Take Care of Things: Goodbye Alfred

On the last night of my NOLS course Mandy Pohja pulled an essay out of her pack and we all sat down to debrief the course. We took turns reading “Briefing for Entry into a More Harsh Environment” by Morgan Hite.

It talked about what we could take home from a NOLS course. One of the points is to, “take care of things.”

Hite wrote, “Take care of things. In that other world it's easy to replace anything that wears out or breaks, and the seemingly endless supply suggests that individual objects have little value. Be what the philosopher Wendell Berry calls ‘a true materialist.’ Build things of quality, mend what you have and throw away as little as possible.”

Alfred 2

This was the original backpack Pohja took on her student course years ago and she has taken care of it through many good nights in the backcountry.

Alfred 1
Pohja reflected on her time with her backpack, “Today I said goodbye to my good friend, Alfred (Yes, I named my backpack, and yes I can fit inside of it). Over the past seven years we have spent 300 nights camping and 1,000 miles hiking together in some amazing places.

Alfred 3

Thanks Alfred for all the amazing adventures, and thanks to countless NOLS students and instructors for putting up with his shenanigans.

Alfred, you will be missed.”

Alfred 4

Congrats to Mandy for providing an excellent example to students and instructors of how to take care of your gear!

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Sep 30, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Rocky Mountain

Introducing the First Annual NOLS Exploration Film Tour

This year marks the inaugural NOLS Exploration Film Tour, a series of free events hosted by NOLS that feature outstanding short films created by or about NOLS grads and instructors. The tour has been a hit thus far. After four events—Fairbanks, Anchorage, Bellingham, and Olympia—we are still having fun and learning a lot.

The Exploration Film Tour aimed to be something different. The main goal was to encourage increased participation in outdoor activities by making them more accessible. Secondly, we wanted to broaden recognition and a better understanding of the NOLS name and mission. All showings were free, making room for the curious as well as those already connected to the world of outdoor adventure. We maintained a high standard for films included in this tour and managed to gather nine that inspired, challenged stereotypical cultural norms about who the outdoor enthusiast is, and encouraged critical thought about the outdoors.


All the films are being well received at each location. After each show, there are many thanks from attendees and requests to return next year. Highlights for the audiences have included Craig Muderlak’s film “Maiden Light,” as well as “Golden Ears” and “An American Ascent,” a film about NOLS Expedition Denali. Viewers have raved about watching women climb hard, educational and environmental themes, and the focus on real people rather than sponsored, professional athletes. 

We are looking forward to bringing the tour to Birmingham,  Atlanta, Greensboro, and Cookeville. Learn more and get your free ticket at

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Sep 29, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni

Final NZ Fall Semesters in the Field

NZ Fall Semesters NZSF4 and NZSF5 headed for the hills over the weekend to start the Backpacking section of their respective courses. Prior to getting their hiking boots on, both groups joined to complete a two day Cultural section at Te Awhina Marae in Motueka, where they were introduced to the Maori culture and traditions.

NZSF4 bagging rations for 77 days in the wilderness

NZSF4 hiked straight out of the NOLS NZ branch into Richmond Forest Park, starting a journey that will take them full circle around the north-east part of the South Island. Their hike will take them through to Nelson Lakes National Park where they will see the source of the Clarence River, the river they will paddle the lower reaches of in their Canoe Section. Upon reaching the sea, they will transition via the branch to Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds for their final section.

Instructor Jacqui leads one of the NZSF4 hike groups out into the field straight from the NOLS base!

Meanwhile, NZSF5's Backpacking section will explore the wonders of Kahurangi National Park (Kahurangi translates as "Treasured Posession"). The course will then Sea Kayak in the Marlborough Sounds before their Canoe section finale on the Clarence River.

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Sep 28, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

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