Position at NOLS: Senior Faculty, NOLS Professional Training Instructor
NOLS Course: Mountain Instructor Course, 1999
Ten years ago, while others celebrated the new millennium, Darran Wells spent his New Year’s Day earning his place on Team Vignette, an adventure racing team that placed 26th in the 2000 Borneo Eco-Challenge. “They wanted to know that the people who showed up were serious about it,” says the Texas native who has loved going fast in remote places since his dad introduced him to mountain biking.
Expedition behavior, leadership, communication, first aid and navigation: these have been Darran’s tools both with NOLS and adventure racing. He was serious enough to compete in 14 races over four years, including three more Eco-Challenges, the first Primal Quest Race, and Global Extremes. In addition to the physical challenges, he enjoys the team aspects of adventure racing: “It forces you to depend on others, and that’s when NOLS leadership skills translate. You really need to be self-aware.”
As a NOLS instructor, Darran taught mountaineering, caving, canyoneering, rock climbing and whitewater canoeing. With NOLS Professional Training, he can teach any of these skills on courses that he custom-designs for groups. And while he has put his adventure racing career on hold, he knows that he can always go back. For now, he enjoys teaching leadership skills. “The most exciting part of working for NOLS Pro is the amazing variety of people I get to work with who all come from such different fields, from the military to outdoor schools to astronauts.”
After graduating from the University of Houston and completing two tours with the Peace Corps in Central Africa, he thought he might become a nonfiction travel writer. His first book was published in 2004; but instead of a travelogue, NOLS Wilderness Navigation helps adventurers navigate through the backcountry.
Darran completed a Masters of Arts program in Adventure Education at Prescott College in 2007. He now runs the Outdoor Education and Leadership program at Central Wyoming College (CWC) but still prioritizes time to work for NOLS Professional Training during the summer. CWC maintains a close partnership with NOLS and provides direct college credit for NOLS courses.