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Rocky Mountain Power Foundation Supports NOLS Scholarships

NOLS is delighted to receive a $3,500 grant from the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation to provide scholarships to students from Wyoming and Utah. The funds will support underserved youth living in Wyoming and Utah as they embark on the educational adventure of a lifetime this summer. 

Each year, NOLS offers $1.5 million in scholarships, enabling students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to benefit from the school’s unrivaled experiential outdoor skills and leadership training. The Rocky Mountain Power Foundation’s contribution to this initiative is of great importance to NOLS’ mission.


Rocky Mountain Power's Craig Nelson and NOLS' Pip Coe commemorate the grant in front of NOLS' solar panels, another project made possible by Rocky Mountain Power.

“The Rocky Mountain Power Foundation is pleased to support this worthy organization and its efforts to teach students valuable lessons in communication, decision-making and teamwork,” said Craig Nelson, Rocky Mountain Power customer and community manager.

“We believe positive, ethical leaders change the world,” said Pip Coe, NOLS Alumni and Development Director. “The Rocky Mountain Power Foundation demonstrates the impact of ethical community leaders while also supporting the development of future leaders by helping them take NOLS courses.” 

Students interested in applying for a NOLS scholarship should submit the standard NOLS scholarship application. Find the form and learn more about scholarships at NOLS at

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Jul 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News, Leadership, On The Net

Colorado Mountain Club and the WRMC

The 21st annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) is only a few months away, and we are beyond excited to get our wonderful WRMC community together once again. We thought we’d highlight some of the organizations that continually attend the WRMC and ask them why they send staff to the conference year after year.

We caught up with Brenda Porter, director of member and volunteer engagement at Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) in Golden, Colorado, and asked her some questions about CMC and its participants and why they prioritize the WRMC each year.


Colorado Mountain Club, said Porter, “is a community of people who love the challenge, thrill, and inspiration of exploring the mountains.” CMC has over 5,000 club members and teaches 7,000 K-12 school children through their Youth Education Program (YEP). Many CMC members are also volunteers who provide thousands of hikes and classes to other CMC members every year. Participants in CMC’s outdoor education activities and trips range from rank beginners to experienced high-altitude mountaineers.

According to Porter, CMC has more than 3,000 trips and over 25 educational courses for members and the public, all led by volunteers. She finds it challenging to provide ongoing training and support to outlying volunteers.

“The WRMC has been a good source of colleagues with whom to share ideas and experience with volunteer outdoor leaders,” Porter said.

One of CMC’s key volunteers, Uwe Sartori, attended the WRMC last year and commented afterward that his experience was, “both eye-opening and life-changing for [him] as a volunteer trip leader and instructor.”

Porter emphasized that, “the WRMC is a fantastic place to network, both with staff and volunteers from other mountain clubs, as well as with people from other outdoor organizations. The WRMC is also the best place to share ideas and learn about current topics in wilderness risk management. I have grown personally and professionally when presenting workshops at the WRMC on ‘risk management with volunteers’ to other volunteer organizations.”

When asked how the WRMC helped her provide a better experience for her participants, Porter shared the following story of CMC’s YEP program:

“When the first accident in the program’s 15-year history happened this summer, YEP staff responded according to our EAP, protocols, and training. I believe that CMC staff’s past experiences with the WRMC factored in a positive outcome with the child who needed emergency care, his family, as well as the other participants who continued their outdoor activities.”

We are honored to have CMC in attendance once again this year and look forward to having them share their knowledge and experiences. If you are volunteer-based organization, come take advantage of the opportunity to network with CMC and other similar organizations. Please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.

Register today at   Small banner

Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Jul 15, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Wilderness Risk Management Conference, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

She's Cowboy Tough

It takes a certain type to sign up for a three-and-a-half-day adventure race through the wilds of Wyoming.

But it takes something truly special to sign up three days before the race starts because a team needs a new fourth team member. NOLS Marketing Representative Marina Fleming (Pacific Northwest Trip Leader, WFR and soon North Cascades Mountaineering-Prime grad) is that kind of person. Up for anything, adventurous, and, to the Wind River Country Team, a hero.

When an injury benched one of the team’s members a week before the Cameco Cowboy Tough Adventure race began, a frantic search came to an end with a simple Google chat to team captain Casey Adams from Fleming:

“okay, I want to do it,” she typed, and with that, the team would be able to race, as only four-person and two-person teams are permitted.

The Cameco Cowboy Tough Adventure Race is in its second year, and once again this year the NOLS Marketing and Admission Department has two competitors headed into the field for the competition. Last year, Adam Swisher and Katie Everson represented NOLS, who is also a sponsor of the event.

This year, the four person team from Fremont County includes Adams, NOLS PR specialist and writer, and now, Fleming, as well as locals Shad Hamilton and Karla Wagner. 

“The Wind River Country Team couldn't be more grateful to Marina for rising to this challenge just three days before the starting gun goes off in South Pass City,” Adams said. “She's made Lander her home recently, and we're excited to show her so much of what Fremont County has to offer in these four days and 400 miles!” 

Fleming and Adams also expressed gratitude to NOLS for sponsoring the team as they headed down the block from NOLS Headquarters to visit The Gulch and NOLS Rocky Mountain to store up on food and locking carabiners.

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Jul 15, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, In The News, Rocky Mountain

Yukon Semester Re-Ration

The Yukon semester was re-supplied by floatplane about 4 days ago. They’re having a great time – highlights so far include the breathtaking terrain, surviving a 100mm rain event, and seeing tons of wildlife, including caribou, wolverines and grizzly bears!

Image (3)The Coast Mountains, on the flight in – July 2014

Image (1)Coming in for a landing – July 2014

Image (8)All 9 YSS students, still here! – July 2014

Image (5)Intrepid YSS instructors Sarah and Zand – July 2014


                 Image (4)                            YSS students having a great time - July 2014 

Image (6)

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 14, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

A Thorn In My Side for 39 Years (Part One)

This article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of The Leader

A FAILED ATTEMPT ON THE GRAND TETON... On a cold September morning in 1974, my father, Jay Margolis, and five other Fall Semester in the Rockies students began working their way up a boulder field to the Grand Teton’s Lower Saddle. Led by instructor Bart Womack, the group reached the infamous Belly Roll on the Owen-Spalding route around 1 p.m. Though not technically difficult, the Belly Roll requires the climber, while on belay, to tiptoe around a bulge with about 2,400 feet of exposure below.

2 2013 Trip

“Everything was going fine until we got to the Belly Roll. I looked down and felt like I was on the wing of an airplane. I got sewing machine leg and couldn’t get [my leg to stop shaking],” Jay recalled. “It was 1 p.m. and there were a few clouds accumulating in the sky, so the instructor decided we had to turn around. We got back to camp after dark and then we all packed up and hiked a few miles, making camp at 10 p.m. That was our longest day.”

The climb on the Grand was optional for the course, and half a dozen decided to do it.

“The views were spectacular. We were on a very narrow trail and you could see off both sides of the ridge. We roped up for the last 500 feet, I think. There was ice in the chimneys. [The climb didn’t feel] exposed until you got to the Belly Roll,” Jay said.

“Nobody ever said a negative word to me about not making it up the Grand. Nobody ever criticized me about…keeping them from getting to the top. I thought that was extremely generous of the other [students].”

1 1974 Semester
Jay on the Upper Saddle after the last rappel

...BUT A WORTHWHILE EXPERIENCE Like many NOLS students, Jay learned about the school through word-of-mouth. He had some interest in the outdoors from his experience as a summer camp counselor. When he graduated from college, he got a teaching job in Waterville Valley, N.H., a ski town.

“I had a friend … who used to take me with him on his adventures— rock climbing, whitewater canoeing, and cross-country skiing. [That] got me interested in the outdoors. [My friend] knew about NOLS and recommended it to me.”

“I didn’t know a semester was offered; I thought it would be a 30-day course. When I heard they had a semester, I was excited at the chance to be on the first semester course. It was great being out there and it was little bit of a shock to come back.”

Jay describes his semester as, “one of the best times of my life.” Fifteen students participated in an array of sections including backpacking and rock climbing in the Winds; backpacking in the Tetons and an attempt on the Grand Teton; backpacking, canoeing, and fishing in Yellowstone National Park; caving at Natural Trap; horsepacking in the Winds; kayaking across Lake Powell; desert backpacking; and backcountry skiing and winter camping in the Absarokas.

5 1974 Semester
Jay's 1974 semester group

Jay’s strongest memories are of the instructors who taught the semester: “[They] were so capable and dedicated to what they were doing … qualified and confident,” he reflected. “They loved what they did. I have tremendous respect and love for them as people.

“[Bruce Hampton] gave us wildlife biology lessons out in the field. I remember him wearing a red bandana around his neck, and he had a dog with a matching bandana. One of the first nights we were out, [Bruce led us] down to the lake and trout were biting. We caught browns and rainbows. We put them in a bag with cornmeal and spices, shook it up, and had sautéed trout. That was a highlight. He was a really a good teacher. He had a contagious love for the wilderness.”

Skip Shoutis visited with the course.

“He didn’t go out on the course with us, but he came and spoke to us,” Jay recalled. “He said Paul Petzoldt would say he was an environmentalist because he threw his billy can (an old coffee tin) in the woods where no one could see it.”

NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt talked to the course.

“He was a big, white-haired man with a tan cowboy hat. He talked to us about his climbing experience. He looked old to me, but I guess when I was 25 everyone looked old,” Jay noted. Petzoldt was 66 at the time.

“Haven Holsapple was our caving instructor. Haven carried a battery operated razor and would shave every morning. He was a real clean cut guy.”

The caving section was in Natural Trap. They rappelled from a pickup truck; getting back up wasn’t easy.

“I [had] the darnedest time getting out of there because I had never used ascenders,” Jay recalled. “You had the tendency that you wanted to pull yourself up the rope but that wouldn’t work. It was very slow [and] you were hanging in mid-air for a long time.”

Then there was George Hunker.

“We went to Yellowstone and learned to fly fish. I whipped my line back and the hook caught on my eyebrow. [Instructor George Hunker] took it right out. He was really nice; a long-working, popular instructor.”

Susan Margolis, Jay’s sister, was also a student on the semester.

“Susan was the most skilled rider on the course. The horses were amazing. We went up and down these … really rocky and incredibly steep [canyons]. At night, we would put hobbles on the horses’ feet and put cowbells [around their necks]. So we listened to cowbells all night. The things wouldn’t stop going,” Jay recalled.

The course went boating with Tim Schell on Lake Powell. Jay remembers him as “a remarkable guy,” because he had had polio. His lower body was affected but his upper body was very strong.

Instructor Carolyn Gillette carried ice skates with her on the winter course. “She shoveled off part of one of the lakes and went ice skating out there in the backcountry in the Absarokas. That was something—an unforgettable memory.”

7 1974 Semester


The winter course only flycamped and never made snow shelters, according to Jay. They were out for 15 nights and had temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Jay reflected that, “on the nights it didn’t get [that cold], it would snow a foot and a half.” He recalls frequently getting up to shovel out the tent.

“We skied on long and wide wooden Army skis with bear trap cable bindings. [One day], we went up and over a pass late in the afternoon. We had 65-pound packs on. I was a fairly experienced skier, but I got about halfway down and fell down. [The section] was challenging.”

The course gear was quite different than it is today. Jay recalled, “The lumberyard was where we used to get all our rations and gear. I just remember all these ladies sitting at sewing machines and making goods to be used for the courses—sleeping bags and parkas.”

“I brought an old pair of dress slacks that were 100-percent wool. I wore them every day. Every student had to bring two old wool sweaters to the course and the seamstresses made them into one long wool sweater.

“Everyone was issued a billy can. We would gather our cooking water with it. [Occasionally], we cooked on fires with billy cans.”

When asked about what he ate on his course, Jay responded, “I can’t really remember anything other than ‘mac and cheese.’ I’m sure the students at NOLS now are living large compared to what we had.”

Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon!

By Jim Margolis, NOLS Field Instructor and Rocky Mountain Program Supervisor

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Jul 14, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni

NOLS Instructor Talks Leave No Trace Practices and Perspectives


image from a recent interview on Alaska Public Media's Outdoor Explorer program, NOLS Instructor Tre-C Dumais speaks about the ethics and practices of Leave No Trace (LNT). In addition to practical tips, listen in for a rich discussion about wild places and their role in our lives, wilderness ethics on a NOLS course, and the way we can all preserve the value wilderness for future generations. Enjoy!

Click here for current LNT courses offered through NOLS.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Pikla on Jul 11, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Curriculum, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Professional Training

Introduction to the new NOLS Yukon

Hello everyone, and welcome to the NOLS Yukon section of the NOLS blog! After a long hiatus, I’m finally going to be regularly updating this section for the remainder of the 2014 season. Here’s an overview of our new location, and I’ll be posting more shortly about our staff, our branch and, most importantly, the courses that have gone out. 

The NOLS Yukon branch has been located for the past 14 years in a warehouse near the Whitehorse airport. 

068The old NOLS Yukon warehouse - July 2013 

This past fall, however, the branch moved to a former retreat center about 30 minutes drive out of town. The new location is right next to the Takhini Hotsprings, and has facilities for the staff to live on-site. It’s located in a fantastic area, backing onto a hill that has a view across the entire Takhini valley.

IMG_0653Our new NOLS Yukon branch main building, before we started setting up - May 2014

Yukon_hill_panoramaThe view from the hill above the branch - June 2014

Starting in May, the 7 branch staff were all involved with making the branch ready for our first course, which arrived on June 16th. Though we’d never run a course out of this location, and three of our staff this year hadn’t worked for NOLS in the past, it went really smoothly, and the course (a hiking and canoeing combo) was able to leave by 6:00pm.

IMG_0966First course issue day - June 2014

Before the course, though, we had a visit from the NOLS Board of Trustees, who held one of their annual meetings up here in the Yukon for the first time in over a decade! 

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 10, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

'An American Ascent' Screened Before a Sold-Out Audience

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, NOLS Diversity and Inclusion Manager and Expedition Denali Coordinator

After a year long tour in which the Expedition Denali team inspired over 8,000 young people across the nation with their story, the film documenting their historic journey was screened before an audience of over 300 in Washington D.C. in late June. Titled “An American Ascent,” Distill Productions' hourlong film narrated by well-known Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson told the story of the team’s fears and expectations before the climb, their expedition on the mountain, and how they felt when they had to turn back with the summit in sight due to an unprecedented lightning storm. Mountaineering icon Conrad Anker and author John Krakauer make guest appearances.

Watch a trailer for the film:

Expedition Denali Promo from Distill Productions on Vimeo.

Adventure films can be many things. They generally are entertaining, dramatic, adrenaline-inducing, and feature “sick” beats paired with action-packed scenes of the heroes dangling from dangerous precipices. This film stands out. It was many of the things that mountaineering films are. It was funny and it was inspiring. But it was also brutally honest. It was a true story of the team’s journey with no spin and no embellishments.

One mother of a young man who is deaf wrote in response to the film: “KiJuan ... has been told many times what he ‘can’t do’ and he has defied the odds every time. I knew this film would grab him and now he is very determined to do something similar.”

Another family brought two of their neighbors’ children who had previously not been exposed to camping.

“A team member made an interesting point that you can only choose ‘what I want to do when I grow up’ from the options that you know are available,” they wrote. “Now my two friends have a new option they didn’t know about before. If nothing else they now know they ‘have permission’ to use America’s parks just like everybody else. Thank you to NOLS for your courses and efforts, they are life-changing.”


Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Saal. (L to R) Expedition Denali members Scott Briscoe, Robby ReChord, Erica Wynn, Billy Long, Stephen DeBerry, Rosemary Saal, Stephen Shobe, and Ryan Mitchell at the film screening.

The film screening was a capstone event to two years of hard work by many people, but we cannot be complacent. Our expedition to change the face of the outdoors continues. Learn more about Expedition Denali here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Jul 9, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, In The News

NOLS Supports Cowboy Tough Adventure Race In its Second Year

The Cameco and City of Casper Cowboy Tough Expedition Race from Lander to Casper, Wyoming is back for a second year! Once again, NOLS is a major sponsor of this event.

NOLS will support this event by providing WEMTs trained by the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI). These WEMTs will join the medical crew and help support racers along the 330- to 400-mile race course. They’ll travel in cars scanning the course and using their training to provide medical attention racers need along the course.

Held in Wyoming’s backcountry, this one-of-a-kind adventure race challenges individuals and teams to test their limits. The race terrain is rugged and wild.

CT 2013-5

The race consists of multiple activities including trekking, mountain biking, paddling, white water rafting, ropes and additional team challenges.

Teams will start the three-and-a-half-day race in a genuine ghost town— South Pass City. Each day of the race is broken down into different sections that racers are given 16 to 24 hours to complete.

In this adventure race, there are mandatory checkpoints each day. For those who want a bit more out of the race, there are optional checkpoints to give elite racers an additional challenge. After feedback from last year, this year’s race was designed to be even more difficult.

Racers compete in two categories: competitive and those who just want to finish. For competitive racers, this event serves as a national qualifying race for the North American Adventure Racing Series (NAARS).   

CT 2013-2

Last year, NOLS sent a team to compete in the full race. This year, NOLS is sending a team of WMI representatives (Kira Gilman, Anna Horn and Jill Moeller) to the Casper Strong Adventure Race.

The Casper Strong Adventure Race is a separate event that will be held on July 19 at Crossroads Park. This day-long adventure race will include the following disciplines: trail run, archery, mountain biking and white-water tubing.

NOLS has been taking students into Wyoming’s backcountry for 50 years and is excited to support an event that encourages people to visit wild places.

This event also aligns with NOLS’ values of assessing risks, developing tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, and minimizing risks associated with recreational activities.

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Jul 1, 2014 in the following categories: In The News, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Sustainable Roads

Forest Service roads provide outstanding access to a breadth of interests from recreation to research to commercial activities. Faced with limited resources to maintain the large network of roads in Western Washington, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Sustainable Roads Cadre united in 2013 to research how the public uses the roads in this National Forest. The groups hosted community meetings in the Puget Sound area that attracted 224 people to speak about the roads they value most. An additional 1800 people filled in the online questionnaire, providing the Mt. Baker Sustainable Roads team with plenty of data with which to make appropriate recreation and stewardship decisions for the future. The groups are hosting a further series of meetings to discuss the results of the research and are inviting interested members of the public to join them. Check out your local event listed below!

Capacity limits attendance to a first-come basis. Please RSVP to


JULY 10, 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Bellingham Public Library

210 Central Ave 

Bellingham, WA 98227


JULY 17, 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Park Place Middle School Commons

1408 W Main St. 

Monroe, WA 98272


JULY 24, 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Issaquah Main Library

10 West Sunset Way 

Issaquah, 98027


JULY 29, 2:00 -4:30 p.m.

The Mountaineers 

7700 Sand Point Way NE 

Seattle, WA 98115


JULY 31, 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Darrington Community Center

570 Sauk Avenue

Darrington, WA 98241

For more info check out the webiste at

Permalink | Posted by Tasha Block on Jul 1, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Pacific Northwest

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