Student Caroline Cheung ties a trucker's hitch like a champ. Divide Basin, Black Rapids Glacier, Eastern Alaska Range
Photo: Fredrik Norrsell
Your semester in Alaska includes everything from forested coastlines to the snow and ice of the high mountain peaks to the tundra and rivers in between.
In the long days of the northern summer, you’ll have plenty of time to learn about and travel through wild Alaska. Hiking takes you to the continent’s largest assemblage of glaciers and its greatest collection of peaks over 16,000 feet in elevation.
The semester’s mountaineering section travels even further into this area, an ideal training ground for learning to live and climb on snow and ice. Finally, you will spend 23 days sea kayaking in Prince William Sound.
Amidst all this activity, you can also expect an extensive environmental studies curriculum, giving you a unique perspective on some of the world’s most stunning wilderness. After honing skills and leadership for 75 days at NOLS Alaska, you can be confident traveling in a variety of wilderness settings.
You’ll explore the wilderness coastline of Prince William Sound by starting with basics, such as learning how to load your sea kayak, then moving to more advanced topics in a gradual progression that allows for quality learning.
Classes will include paddling techniques, ocean hazards, tidal evaluation, natural history, and risk management. You’ll camp among the spruce or on rocky beaches and live and learn with your instructors and coursemates.
Alaska's mountains and rivers set the stage for your course to work as a team through expedition behavior, communication, and setting goals. Matanuska Valley
Photo: Madhu Chikkaraju
Learning how to pack a backpack and walk lightly on the tundra of Alaska's Southcentral mountain ranges kicks off this section. Then you’ll progress to studying flora and fauna of the region, learning practical leadership skills, and practicing Leave No Trace camping techniques.
Map reading, river crossing, bear camping, hazard identification, and decision-making will all be part of your continuing education.
This section includes intensive skill training for living and climbing in Alaska’s glaciated mountains. You’ll learn things such as belaying, anchors, rope systems, crevasse rescue, and ice climbing techniques while practicing basic glacier camping and travel.
Crossing vast fields of snow and ice in rope teams will require using the clear judgment, technical know-how, and decision-making skills that you have honed all semester.
Photo: Michael Fiebig
Beginning in the Talkeetna Mountains, you’ll journey down the Little Nelchina River, which eventually leads to the coastal community of Cordova in Prince William Sound.
You’ll navigate these rivers in both paddle rafts and oar rigged rafts. These rivers flow from one into the next with increasing size and volume, so there will be plenty of opportunities to learn about the many aspects of running different kinds of rivers. From the town of Cordova, on Prince William Sound, you will trade out rafts for sea kayaks and paddle all the way to Whittier. Making this a unique "Source to Sea" experience few will ever have.
Semester in Alaska
17 and over (Average age: 21)
May 26-August 8, 2014 Sea Kayaking, Backpacking, Glacier Mountaineering
June 5-August 18, 2014
Seakayaking, Backpacking, Rafting
“NOLS is really the foundation for
everything I do in the outdoors and it’s not an exaggeration
to say that every week I use something that I learned at
Semester in Alaska, 1985; Semester in Kenya, 1986
First woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean
EXPLORE NOLS ALASKA...
Meet NOLS Semester in Alaska alumni
Hughes -- Ryan loves to tell others about his semester
in Alaska. "Go for it," he tells friends. "It's
going to be one of the best times of your life. At the end
we could hardly believe what we'd accomplished."
Murden -- Tori, the first woman to ski to the South
Pole and the first American and first woman to row across
the Atlantic Ocean recalls, "NOLS made me comfortable
in the outdoors. After my [semester in Alaska] I realized
that I could go anywhere in the world and be comfortable."