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Yukon Course Updates

Over the past week, we’ve welcomed back our first three courses from the field, including our first hiking/canoeing combo course, and both US Naval Academy Canoeing Expeditions, who were canoeing for 4 weeks in the central Yukon.

NACE B Hess RiverCanoeing the Hess River – June/July 2014

In addition to these three courses, we still have 4 in the field - I thought I’d go over some of their current locations.

Yukon_topo_18-07Circled: current active course areas - July 2014

Yukon Hiking and Canoeing (YHC)

Our second YHC course left 16 days ago. They’ve just transferred from the Coast Mountains southwest of Whitehorse to the Hyland River, where they’ll canoe until the 31st of July.

Yukon Summer Semester (YSS)

This course has been hiking for the past 28 days, also in the Coast Mountains. They’ve had two re-rations by now and left the mountains today to gather their equipment, shower and leave for the Hyland River and their paddling section.

Yukon Wilderness Hiking (CWY)

Two of these courses are in the field, both in the Coast Mountain range – one’s been out for 16 days, and one for 11 days.

For more photos of each course, see the NOLS Yukon Facebook page. Stay tuned for updates!

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 18, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

Australian combo course hikers about to get salty

Trailing pindan dust behind them, our NOLS Australia combo course students said goodbye to the King Leopold Ranges and began their transition to sea kayaking. Conducting the ‘switch’ in Broome, the students arrived back at the NOLS Australia base where they met their new instructor team and shared a lunch full of fresh food goodness.


hiking through the King Leopold Ranges
hiking through the King Leopold Ranges


A busy afternoon at the NOLS Australia base of cleaning, repairing, eating, briefing, eating, packing and some more eating and the sea kayak team were off to the local campground to get a good sleep before a long drive the next day.


So our hikers are on their way to learn a new skill and experience a new environment. They are heading almost 900km (over 500miles) from Broome to the sea kayaking location in the Dampier Archipelago- an area rich in aboriginal history, marine fauna and spectacular scenery. 

The happy group with the hiking and sea kayaking instructors
The happy group with their hiking and sea kayaking instructors

Students will not have access to outside communication on their sea kayaking leg and will return to Broome for their Graduation on the 2nd August. If you would like students to receive any mail it should be sent as soon as possible for it to arrive in time for the students graduation.



Permalink | Posted by Sharon Ferguson on Jul 17, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

Cowboy Tough Race: Team Wind River Country is On the Course!

Early this morning the Wind River Country team boarded a bus in Casper and traveled to the start of the Cowboy Tough race. Team members Casey Adams, Marina Fleming, Shad Hamilton and Karla Wagner are representing Wind River Country in this three and a half day adventure race.


After a three-hour bus ride from Casper, the team was ready to race in South Pass City, a former mining town. The first gold rush in South Pass City was in 1868; miners and merchants flocked to the area. As the gold rush ended, residents left the town. In 1968, the town was donated to the State of Wyoming. This wild and remote area was the setting for the race start.





At 9 a.m. this morning, the race began! Teams searched for checkpoints and completed challenges around South Pass City. These included: navigating a mill to find a mine core then exchanging the mine core at the general store for race supplies. Racers searched for a gold nugget on the tails. Teams also went to a checkpoint at Flood & Handle Mining Trail next to the Old Stamp Mill.


From South Pass City, teams took off on their bikes for the next challenges awaiting them in Atlantic City. Following the checkpoints at Atlantic City, teams headed towards Shoshone National Forest, riding towards Wild Iris climbing area.


Stay tuned as we follow the Wind River Country team on the Race Course this week! 

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Jul 17, 2014

This World and That (Part One)

By Jason BreMiller, Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educators Course ‘03 

BreMiller lives in New Hampshire where he teaches English, coaches hockey, and leads outdoor trips at Phillips Exeter Academy. He recently reactivated his Field Instructor status and hopes to spend more time outdoors watching his students fall in love with wild places.

A shortened version of this piece was published in the Summer, 2014, issue of The Leader, in mailboxes now! This is the first of three parts in this series. 

It’s a Tuesday night in Peabody Hall, the dorm at Phillips Exeter Academy where I reside and teach, our second day back at school after a 10-day Utah backcountry trip with my students. I can hear the hum of easy banter as they congregate outside my door for our first post-trip reunion, peeling off their shoes—or, I should say their boots—because, as one of them puts it, “we’ve been wearing our boots every day still!”  “Yeah,” another confesses, “it makes me feel like we’re still there!”  

Group, Canyon Descent

In a corner of the living room they pile their packs high, still stained red with smears of Utah dust, the telltale badges of any backcountry trip to the canyons: the grit that works itself into your boots, your clothes, your dishes, your water, and your teeth, but that catches in your soul in the lazy backwash hours of your return. My wife Molly has found a collection of stick-on moustaches for the kids to don for fun, which they adhere with characteristic abandon. “We love moustaches, too!” I’ve set up our tv so we can browse the many pictures that have emerged from the trip, and as I click away, the crescendo of background commentary heightens.

“Ah! It’s Sage eating 64 marshmallows!”

“Liana, how many times did you get to say Mr. Bre’s least favorite word ‘yam?’”

“Andrew, your hair looks like a greasesponge!” 

“Has anyone seen Quappleton carrying the poop trowel around campus yet?” 

It’s the language of familiarity, the language of love, as if by invoking their lived stories they cement the reality of what they did out there in the desert together. Of how they moved. That it was real. And that despite their present distance from rimrock and sage, they’re still carrying canyonfire in their hearts. 

The slideshow proceeds: the slop of a debut meal; a steep slickrock rappel; an awning roof pictograph; a rim to rim post-squall rainbow; the snow-clad Henry Mountains. We pause at a picture of the Milky Way: shades of violet and chalk, starclouds and space.  They stare at the picture and grow quiet, their minds going back, their gazes turning wistful and faraway, full of remembrance. 

“It’s funny,” Tom, the 10th grader who took the picture, breaks the reverie, “there are so many things to DO here now,” he pauses, his voice teetering, struggling to splice worlds, “but I find that I’m so bored by all this, you know?” His armswing encompasses the entire non-canyon world. The others nod in agreement, and the silence stretches.


So I’ve been thinking about Tom’s words all week, between classes, at night after the kids have checked into the dorm, during the few still moments of the day when the background thrum quiets long enough for me to hear inside. I’m so bored by all of this.

I understand Tom’s sentiment because I feel it, too, even after more than a decade of returning from the field, gazing backward over my shoulder every time. But navigating this world and that is endemic to getting outside, and I can’t help but wonder how I can help my students span the gap. 

Our first evening in the field: the inevitable chaos of camp setup, poop school, and bombproofing. Kai, one half of our husband/wife instructor team, has cooked burritos, and once the “where did I put my headlamp; oh no, I forgot it; oh, there-it-is” dust has settled, her husband Andy leads us in a “one thing to take with you from Exeter and one thing to leave behind” reflection exercise.

“I’d like to be able to be myself here,” one student admits, “and not who everyone expects me to be.”

“I hope our schedule can be chill,” another offers, “without something to get done every second.” It is clear they have come seeking a different world than the one they left. 

So what world did they leave? Founded in 1781, Exeter is now a school of roughly 1,100 students from, in Exeter-speak, “every quarter” of the world; it’s a place whose mission it is to help students explore the confluence of “goodness and knowledge.” We employ a pedagogical approach founded by the school in 1931 called Harkness: a system of learning in which the students work together around an oval table, teaching themselves through active conversation and collaboration. They study literature by reading texts and discussing them amongst themselves around the table; they unravel math problems by working together at the board. At Exeter, the teacher is a co-learner who helps reflect to students their own learning, but who almost always holds back, letting silences linger, creating space for the students to find their way.

But Exeter is also complicit in the world of uber-competitive private education, where the strains of academic pressures and college admission often weigh heavily on our students despite our best efforts to defuse them. It’s no wonder, then, that they open to the canyons like desert bloom.  

And once open, it’s remarkable to see what fills that space. 

Stay tuned for Part Two and Three coming soon!

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Jul 17, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, In The News

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

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