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Summer 2005 Issue
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    Tim Mulvey, NOLS' most enduring student
    30 Days to Success
    Jim Ratz & the birth of LNT
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"Inexhaustible" Defined: Tim Mulvey, NOLS' most eduring student.
By Carolyn Hight-Harf

With descriptive phrases like “unparalleled work ethic,”  “relentless energy,” “amazing tenacity,” “exuberant,” “genuine and forthright,” and “contagiously passionate,” popping up in all of his student evaluations, it’s no wonder that Timothy Mulvey owns the record for taking the most NOLS courses in the history of the school — in fact, Tim has more “weeks in the field with NOLS” than many instructors.

With 13 in-country courses under his belt and some international alumni trips on the way, from the icy peaks of Alaska to the serene waters of Baja, Tim has come a long way with NOLS in 17 years. Attending his first course in 1986, Tim’s enthusiasm for our mission has grown as he constantly finds ways to bring field lessons back home to Chicago, where he works as a network engineer. Here are some thoughts from NOLS’ most inexhaustible student.

In the span of 17 years you have taken 13 courses… which was your favorite, and why?
The second Denali course — we summitted. Tony Jewell was the instructor. He’s a lot of fun and was the instructor on my 2003 Waddington Range Mountaineering course, too.

What is it that keeps bringing you back to NOLS?
Professional and knowledgeable and unparalleled instructors, and a wide variety of course offerings, and an expansive and thorough curriculum.

You have participated in outdoor leadership programs with other organizations… how does NOLS compare?
NOLS is the best place to learn new skills, from tying knots to expedition behavior. The trips are organized, efficient and satisfying. NOLS is the best school out there. While there are other great “adventure” organizations, NOLS courses are designed to teach more than play.

Have you conducted personal mountaineering trips?
I’ve done a few, but it’s much easier to go through NOLS. Everything — the food, the staff, the permits, the routes — is planned out for you. With NOLS, you can feel confident that you are going to be traveling with competent, motivated and enthusiastic people. It’s hard to round up a group like that on your own.

How have you been able to incorporate the lessons you have learned on your NOLS courses into your daily life back in Illinois?
Expedition behavior (“EB”) and leadership definitely apply. NOLS courses are a break from the political games that you play in the office world. On a NOLS course, you have be willing to take on an entirely new mindset toward the people around you because everyone’s life is in everyone else’s hands. You can’t quit so easily. In the backcountry, there are immediate responsibilities that one must assume to maintain group health and morale.

How do you explain NOLS to your friends and family? Ever talk about NOLS to strangers on an airplane or colleagues at work?
It’s a challenge to explain NOLS to friends and family. I live in the flatlands where people can understand camping for a few days but can’t comprehend the draw of a longer, more intensive backcountry experience where you have to carry everything in and out.

What’s your favorite NOLS field meal?
Gado-Gado – it’s in the Cookery, it’s Thai dish mix of pasta with vinegar, soy sauce and smooth PB… I’ve tried it in the front-country and it’s not quite the same.

Are there any more NOLS courses in your future?
I am interested in the Alumni India Trekking trip. The terrain and culture of the Garwhal region fascinates me. I am also interested in doing one of the NOLS Australia trips… crocodiles! I would also love to try out Gannett Peak with NOLS… I would spend my whole year doing NOLS courses if I could afford it.

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