Felicitaciones PY graduates!
A huge felicitaciones is in order to our recent graduates of one of the longest programs offered at NOLS, the Year in Patagonia. These students have been in the field since October 16, and have covered all sorts of territory in Region Aysen, Chile using a myriad of outdoor technical skills. These bold participants underwent a hiking section, mountaineering, sea kayaking, rock climbing, lived with a Patagonian family on a cultural section, and even had the opportunity to become a Leave No Trace Master Educators as well as a Wilderness First Responders through WMI.
PY 2, Sonido Acido, finally got their chance to kayak in the south out of Rio Exploradores towards Puerto Chacabuco covering a total of 190 nautical miles. They were granted many days of good weather with frequent sun and little rain. The group focused on Chilean natural history, sea kayaking skills, and wrapping up their Leave No Trace training curriculum. Everyone seemed to enjoy the incredible sunsets followed by bright starry nights, and visits from local dolphins, sea lions and other wildlife.
PY 1, Los Brillos, wrapped up their year with a climbing camp in three distinct locations, on very different rock. They learned the basics in the new development area of Bahía Murta, climbing on granite. They then moved to Cerro Aguila, volcanic conglomerate outside of Puerto Ibañez. They were also able to take day trips to the limestone of Maitenal just down the road for some sport climbing practice. The group also entertained a group of in-town staff for their respective Staff Climbing Day. The students received the staff in a friendly and helpful manner, and continued by escorting them to the crag for a lesson on knots, commands, and climbing techniques. The students showed skill competence by being able to manage a crew of “clients” as well as the added risk factor of high winds that joined them that day.
One student, Jack, expressed to me that he plans on taking many of the skills he has learned to teach others, especially at a summer camp where he is employed. He says he will continually reflect on how this whole Patagonia experience will translate into “real life,” though with confidence he told me that the leadership and personal expedition behavior learned through NOLS will help him to become a better communicator in the future. As the group was departing, Jack confided that “NOLS is such a great community, I feel like I can do so many things on my own now. I feel independent and empowered to continue experiential learning. And the more I think of it, the more I realize how much I am taking away.”
Montañismo en Español y Primeros Auxilios al Aire Libre
Hace solo un par de semanas regresaron los alumnos del curso de Montañismo en Español (CMT) quienes estuvieron por 2 semanas aprendiendo habilidades de liderazgo, técnicas de montañismo y mínimo impacto (No Deje Rastro); en el área del Cordón de Melikina.
Fue un gusto contar con representantes de la ciudad de Punta Arenas, Coyhaique y Santiago entre otras. Y como es característico en estas latitudes en nuestros cursos hubo representantes de 3 países diferentes.
Todos se fueron muy contentos pero deseaban que el curso durará más días, y ademas que se realizara en otras zonas el pais.
Por otro lado, finalizaron 2 cursos dirigidos a la Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF) en el área de primeros auxilios con WMI. Las personas que participaron se capacitaron fuertemente. 30 fueron los profesionales del área forestal que se capacitaron y aprobaron el Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA). A ellos se sumaron 5 particulares provenientes de otras regiones y organizaciones.
Gracias a todos quiénes hicieron de estos cursos una realidad. Esperamos seguir aportando como NOLS Patagonia en la región.
Especial gracias a los alumnos e Instructores por las buenas vibras y estar atento a los detalles.
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Recently, students from the Chilean Mountaineering Course (CMT) returned from the field after two weeks learning skills of leadership, mountain techniques, and minimum impact through Leave No Trace; in the area of Cordón Melikina.
It was a pleasure to have representatives from the Chilean cities of Punta Arenas, Coyhaique, and Santiago among others. We also had representation from three different countries!
All left the course very content but wishing the course was longer and could visit other regions of the country, the sign of a good course!
In other news, we have competed two WMI courses for the Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF) in the subject of First Aid. The people who participated in the program trained hard to achieve their Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) certification. 30 professional forest rangers from CONAF passed the course, along with five others from different regions and organizations.
Thank you to everyone who made these courses a reality. We hope to continue contributing to the Aysen region with NOLS Patagonia.
A special thanks to the students and instructors for their attention to details and their good energy throughout the programs.
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Spanish and English translation contribution from Patricia Soto, Mercedes Lagos, and Taylor Feldman
Patagonia Year Students onto their final sections!
Our Patagonia Year (PY) students have been busy this austral summer! After completing their independent student group travel sections, students from PY 1, Los Brillos, dove headfirst into their kayaking section. They traveled from Caleta Tortel to Isla Teresa, and south to see the Jorge Montt Glacier. They continued paddling through Río Huemules to see the Steffens Glacier and back around to Tortel. The group was favored with beautiful weather and was even able to swim in glacial (read: cold!) lakes. On February 14th they moved on through their cultural stay with Chilean families in the area for ten days, and have already transferred into rock camp! Los Brillos started their rock camp February 25th near Bahía Murta, and are continuing climbing in Cerro Aguila, near Puerto Ibañez, for the remainder of their section. They are preparing to receive a group of in-town staff for a Staff Climbing Day on March 11th.
PY 2, Sonido Acido, saddled up in cultural section before they went to rock camp in Cerro Aguila. Students in groups of two traveled to the remote areas outside of Puerto Bertrand and Cochrane, Chile to meet their Patagonian host families. The students had the opportunity to milk cows, collect eggs, ride horses, and shear sheep, all while practicing their Spanish! Many experienced traditional Chilean asados (BBQs) over an open fire, and drank yerba mate while listening to Patagon guitar and accordion, or stories about the land.
Sonido Acido students were then reunited at rock camp in Cerro Aguila, and began their training as backcountry climbers. They learned climbing techniques, recue systems, anchor building, and had the chance to sport climb, boulder, climb traditional style, and ascend big walls on multi-pitches! As part of their leading by doing curriculum, the students hosted a climbing day for all of the in-town staff at the NOLS Patagonia branch. 12 staff members traveled out to the climbing area and the students put on a spectacular show with a fun 80’s inspired stretching session and technique class, while setting up three distinct climbing areas to play on. They had great energy teaching others with various levels of experience, and proved they are prepared to climb on their own. On February 16th PY 2 transitioned into their final section of kayaking, paddling out of Tortel.
Cornell Cultivates Leadership, Elementally
As both a NOLS instructor and an MBA student at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Jamie Hunt acts as a one-of-a-kind bridge between individuals typically sporting an array of Patagonia apparel and those who don blazers and button-ups on a more regular basis. Hunt’s distinctive perspective helped forge the pathway for the first Johnson Leadership Expedition, a 10-day hiking course in Patagonia for academic credit that took place in January.
Hunt pointed out that, “leadership is the new business school ‘buzz word.’ Yet, few business schools provide MBAs with the opportunity to lead in situations with real consequences.”
From his own experience, Hunt knows “A NOLS expedition provides a unique opportunity to fail, to give and receive face-to-face feedback, and to reflect.” He went on to explain, “In the mountains, there are few distractions—no partner to call, no iPhone to pull out, no game to watch—one learns to accept reality as it is, instead of how he or she would like it to be.”
During the first three days of the course, students faced unexpected challenges presented by suboptimal weather conditions: 30-45 degrees with steady precipitation culminating in the traverse of a snowy pass in similar circumstances. Fierce wind repeatedly knocked participants to the ground. Though trying and unpleasant, Hunt acknowledged that the bad weather brought the team together and helped them recognize that they had a greater tolerance for adversity than expected.
In addition to time spent in the field, participants also partook in pre- and post-expedition sessions designed to support the experiential learning process and enhance the analytical rigor of the leadership material. The classes were designed and led by Johnson Associate Professor of Management and Organizations James Detert. Pre-expedition sessions centered around active followership, peer leadership, decision-making styles, and how to effectively cope with stress in leadership situations. After the expedition, a collective debrief was followed by individualized coaching. Students gave and received honest feedback about observed leadership and followership capabilities while the coaching focused on developing plans for transferring learning from the trek to their everyday lives and professional careers.
The Johnson School's Director of Leadership Programs, Jerry Rizzo, who was also a member of the expedition, highlighted one of the business school’s main objectives: “to teach an ongoing cycle of instruction, experience, and review.”
He explained, “It is hard to find ways to provide meaningful experiences that reinforce classroom learning.” However, he observed “NOLS takes students to an environment away from day-to-day interruptions and allows them to fully focus on their personal leadership style as well as areas of strength and areas for improvement.”
Student Alex Chang reiterated Rizzo’s assertion: “The backcountry life removed all the front-country distractions, and my leadership style and personality came through to me a lot more clearly than if I was in a leadership training retreat in the front-country."
Columbia Business School Students Tackle Patagonia
Last December, 11 Columbia Business School (CBS) students completed the first 10-day CBS Leadership Expedition to Patagonia. Maya Mandel, CBS class of 2013 and president of the Outdoor Adventures Club was responsible for bringing the course to fruition. Initially introduced to NOLS through a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, Maya was interested in what NOLS could offer her and her peers. After discussing several different options, it was determined that an expedition to Patagonia would best suit the CBS students.
Mandel, a second year student from Israel, noted that her decision to attend CBS was not fueled by a desire to change careers. Rather, she said, “I was eager to push myself outside my comfort zone. I wanted to create meaningful relationships with new colleagues… and I hoped to be inspired to do things that I never would have done otherwise.” The inaugural CBS Leadership Expedition to Patagonia helped her do just that. In fact, she stated, the course “was the pinnacle of my CBS experience thus far.”
The expedition consisted of 10 days spent in the remote Northern Patagonia Mountains. Mandel reminisced, “We carried 60-pound backpacks, crossed rivers, climbed mountain passes, drank maté, devoured the dulce de leche treat, handled fatigue and injuries, enjoyed two to three sunny mornings, and survived the last day of the world, (at least according to the Mayan Calendar), and witnessed first-hand how in such a short time period we learn new skills, adapt, grow, and lead.”
Mandel spoke highly of their three instructors and explained, “[They] introduced leadership principals, decision-making styles, and encouraged us to conduct an open and honest feedback session at the end of every day. We learned about self-leadership, designated leadership, and most importantly how to be an effective active follower. We lived by the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles and practiced good expedition behavior (EB) day in and day out.”
Regarding the many lessons gained from such a unique expedition experience, Mandel reflected, “We had the opportunity to focus on the simple things in life, to receive (and give) sincere feedback from teammates, to face and overcome obstacles never faced before, to practice all kinds of leadership, to laugh, to explore, to reflect, to challenge, to conquer, to support.” She closed by saying, “The inaugural CBS Leadership Expedition to Patagonia was everything I was hoping my MBA experience would be.”
January 1/22 Semester
Our final semester groups for the season have completed their WFA course and are out into the field! Both groups arrived on January 22nd to begin their three-day Wilderness First Aid course here on the campo. They continued their preparation by organizing their personal and group gear, and packing their rations for the next 2 months.
January Start Semester 1 (JSPM 1), or Los Facones as they call themselves, are beginning their course mountaineering. They are starting out in Barrancoso, and traveling S-SE in Cordón Barrancoso, to gain experience with basic outdoor living skills and wilderness travel techniques. After crossing Río El Salto they will skirt around Laguna Callequeo and cross Glacier Callequo, where they will be able to practice glacier travel and potentially glacier camping. They will continue focusing on environmental studies, with particular emphasis on leadership. They will also have ample opportunities to swap stories with the local poblador families and gauchos that live in the area. From there, the group will continue to explore in Cordón Tres Leguas, finishing up traveling north in small groups throughout Cordón Esmeralda.
JSMP 2, Los Rebenques, left the campo and headed south to the small town of Tortel, to begin their kayaking section. The students will have the opportunity to see this fascinating community of Tortel, which was founded in 1955, and was only accessible by boat until a road was completed in 2000. They started in Canal Baker, and crossed to Estero Nef. They will continue through the Paso del Indio and are on their way currently to check out the incredible views of the Bernardo Glacier. After that the group will paddle their way north back to Tortel.
Patagonia Year ISGE
On January 17th the Patagonia Year students returned from their Independent Student Group Expedition section and each group had a unique, fun experience. Six groups of 4-5 students each set out on expeditions they designed in areas surrounding Lago General Carrerra and Cerro Castillo. Many of the groups were able to converse with poblador families along their route, some even were invited to dine and take mate with the gauchos. One group said a highlight of their trip was eating a meal with a local family, full of homemade bread, cheese, and jam that was all produced on their land. One student, Marcus, and his group traveled from Cerro Castillo to Cerro Negro. His favorite part was “the phenomenal views of the passes” and having the fortunate weather window of sleeping under the stars multiple nights in a row.
A couple of groups hiked around Lago General Carrerra and spent an afternoon swimming in the region’s largest lake. One group was even able to catch some fish for dinner! In addition to the fishies, groups were able to see wild cows as well as condors. Student leader Julia described it as “an amazing condor moment. It was almost scary because they are so big. I didn’t realize quite how big until it was flying within 10 feet of us.”
The two courses have now regrouped. One group is kayaking for 30 days; the other is on their cultural section with local families outside of Cochrane followed by rock camp near Puerto Ibañez. The two groups will rendezvous once again in a few weeks, and switch into their final sections of their course.
January 1/13 Semester
Our first semester groups that started January 13th have completed their Wilderness First Aid class and are out in the field exploring the wonders of the sea and the mountains with their instructors. The first group of kayakers (JSPM 1) are taking a 37 hour ferry boat from Puerto Chacabuco just west of Coyhaique north to the town Melinka, on the northernmost islands of the Aysen region, Islas Guaitecas. From Melinka they will paddle south and cross Canal Moraleda west to east. They will work on technical skills of sea kayaking including basic and advanced strokes, assisted rescues, and seamanship in exposed canals. They will also be practicing leading by doing, group dynamic management, and spending time on environmental studies, emphasizing a connection with nature. They will finish their route in Puerto Amparo, and we will meet them for the section transition on February 17th.
The first group to go mountaineering (JSPM 2) is starting south of Coyhaique in Lago Plomo. They will start hiking in Valley One, crossing over to Valley Zero and Hidden Valley, continuing to El Cañal and Lago Melaquina, following Río Leones to the rendezvous point in Los Leones. The group will be on the east side of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, and may get the chance to practice ice climbing. In addition to basic outdoor living skills, the mountaineers will attempt peak ascents, and learn techniques in crevasse rescue and placing snow and ice protection.
Our final Semester group of the season has arrived in Chile and has finished their Wilderness First Aid course and is heading into the field tomorrow.
Kicking off our summer season here in the southern hemisphere we just congratulated our NOLS Pro course from Cornell University on finishing their course. They spent 10 days backpacking in the Avellano mountain range, and are already back in the New York.
Also traveling in the Avellano range currently is one of our Patagonia Mountaineering courses (AMT 1). This is a month-long mountaineering program that is spending 31 days exploring the area, starting in Puerto Sanchez, over Río Muller to Río Peligroso. Their course work will focus on increasingly technical passes and bigger glacier perimeter camping. They will be picked up on the NW side of the Avellano Mountains, near Río Traiguanca.
Their sister course, AMT 2, was dropped off in El Cañal, doing an exploration of the area traversing Cordón Contreras north to south. They will be doing several river crossings and attempting a couple of technical peak ascents.
Next up, Patagonia Year students arrive from their Independent Student Group Travel sections! Stay tuned.
Student Profiles, SSPM 9/30
I was lucky enough to grab a few moments with some of the students from the 9/30 semester group before they headed out on their Independent Student Group Expedition. I interviewed a few students from the SSPM 1 about their experience on their mountain and kayak sections.
Students I spoke with are Nicky, Kaya and Luke.
When you think back about what you just experienced, what is the first thing you think of?
Kaya: The first thing I think of is this one really hard day we were bushwhacking in a swamp. [Our instructor] John was blindly leading us through nalca, and we just emerged onto this clearing, it was probably a cow pasture or something, and we all just let out this primal scream and started running towards camp, shedding all of our wet layers as we ran. I think it was the most spiritual moment of the trip, I have never felt more alive.
Do you have a highlight?
Nicky: We were high on a glacier, Cerro Piñon, and we could see the clouds moving across the valley. We were so close to them as we watched. Seven of us had gone to scout out the route going over the glacier, and we just had this amazing view of Lago General Carrera- you could see everything. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. We could hear the mountains cracking, no one really talking because we were spread out on rope teams, and we were just so connected all around us. I felt so badass.
What was most challenging for you?
Luke: Definitely this day we called the “Lenga Day,” where we were bushwhacking through this Lenga forest without instructors. Our 5km “easy day” turned into 8 hours of bushwhacking. But we just kept on truckin’ and it was the best feeling ever to get through that day and to see the red of the instructors’ tents when we got to camp. Seriously overwhelming happiness to get through it- overall it was a great day because the whole group had a good attitude.
What aspect of your course can you foresee staying with you after your course ends?
Luke: I feel prepared to organize and plan a trip of my own, any kind of future outdoor trip because I learned how to do it right.
Kaya: I always grew up in nature but progressively got more disconnected in my daily life and now I feel a lot more motivated to be outside more. Being at NOLS on a trip like this really reawakened my passion for the outdoors.
Nicky: I think the thing I will most take out of this trip is expecting the unexpected. I realized that if doors are open, I’ll be more confident in going for it- into that unknown. I already loved nature, but this made me love and enjoy it even more, more appreciative. It helped me in getting to know myself and inspire that connection with nature.
Nicky, Kaya, and Luke are currently out on their ISGE, due back in about a week to finish up their course and graduate their NOLS semester.