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'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

NZS-2 Semester under way

NOLS NZ Spring Semester NZS-2 1/22/15 were welcomed at the Aniseed Valley base last week and were outfitted for the 77 days of expeditioning ahead. Their semester began with an overnight Maori Cultural Section at the Te Awhina Marae in nearby Motueka. The group then transitioned to the Marlborough Sounds to begin their month-long Sea Kayaking section.

Their semester schedule is as follows:

NZS-2 – 01/22/15


Cultural:  23-24 Jan
1 – Sea Kayaking:  25 Jan to 23 Feb
Branch Switch:  24-25 Feb
2 – Backpacking: 25 Feb to 26 Mar
Branch Switch: 27-28 Mar
3 – Sailing: 28 Mar to 6 Apr
Branch De-issue: 7 Apr
Course ends: 8 Apr

NZS-2 Student Group

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Jan 26, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS-1 Start their adventure

NOLS New Zealand Spring Semester One students all arrived safely at NOLS NZ. They spent the first day bagging rations and thoroughly checking through their equipment for their 77-day adventure.

The semester began with a cultural section at the Te Awhina Marae where they were formally welcomed on to the Marae, got introduced to Maori customs, weaved anchors out of flax, and visited culturally significant sites. 

P1230089NZS-1 Student Group

The group is now canoeing on the Clarence River toward the Pacific Ocean.  

NZS-1 – 01/22/15 Schedule

Cultural:  23-24 Jan
1 – Canoe:  25 Jan to 15 Feb
Field Switch:  16 Feb
2 – Sea Kayaking: 17 Feb to 10 Mar
Branch Switch: 11-12 Mar
3 – Backpacking: 12 Mar to 6 Apr
Branch De-issue: 7 Apr
Course ends: 8 Apr


Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Jan 25, 2015 in the following categories: New Zealand

Wyoming Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights

There is a growing concern for the youth of today: will this be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents? Obesity and diabetes are scary realities for many children in the United States, and there are several theories as to why these health issues have become such an epidemic. One major contributing factor is that kids are not spending enough time outdoors and being active. When children spend more time outside, they are not only physically healthier, but they also have an overall higher quality of life.

Many are beginning to realize the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and are trying to find ways to motivate young folks to get outside. WY Outside is a coalition of various Wyoming organizations, including NOLS, that care and recognize the importance of connecting youth with the outdoors. As part of the WY Outside mission to enhance the number of people participating in outdoor activities, WY Outside has developed the Wyoming Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights to embody the movement for more movement. The Wyoming Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights promotes the participation and enjoyment of children in the beautiful Wyoming outdoors. The bill of rights includes fundamental outside activities such as, sleeping under the stars, planting a seed or a tree, appreciating a mountain-top view and visiting a Wyoming historic or cultural site. Activities such as these capture the essence of how valuable it is to play, create, observe and make memories in the outdoors.

In order to make this bill of rights as comprehensive and successful as possible, WY Outside gathered input directly from Wyoming youth on what activities are the most essential to an outdoor experience. Aaron Bannon, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director at NOLS, is a member of the WY Outside committee and was involved in the creation of the Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights. Bannon is also continually involved in formulating events through WY Outside with the hope of finding new ways to engage youth in outdoor activities.

“I’m hopeful that the Wyoming State legislature will embrace the Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights,” says Bannon. “It is the right message for Wyoming’s youth today. As we know at NOLS, time spent outdoors leads to a healthier, happier life.”



Permalink | Posted by Becca Sage on Jan 23, 2015 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

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