Learn the ropes as you navigate the coastal beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Strait of Georgia, British Columbia
Photo: Benjamin Lester
The wilderness of the Northwest—your home for two and a half months—is like no other region in the country.
In close proximity to the NOLS Pacific Northwest facility are steep, heavily glaciated mountains, impressive forests of towering evergreens, outstanding rock climbing areas, and miles of wilderness coastline.
You’ll explore all these environments, from jamming your hands into granite cracks on a climb to taking the helm of a 36-foot sailboat in British Columbia waters. Throughout, you’ll experiencing keelboat sailing in Canada and a coastal hiking section where you’ll study the coast’s marine life and end at the Makah Indian Nation.
From the snow-capped peaks and clear mountain lakes to old-growth forests and tidal waters, you’ll explore, navigate, learn, and practice your skills, returning home with a solid foundation in wilderness expeditioning.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
Hosted by the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute, this 20-hour section covers CPR and first aid specific to wilderness emergencies and is essential for anyone spending extended time in the outdoors.
Mountains serve as the walls of your backcountry classroom as you learn skills that will let you explore them.
Photo: Alexis Alloway
The intricacies of backcountry living are revealed as you move through this stunning environment, from packing your pack efficiently to staying warm and dry in a wet and sometimes chilly climate.
You’ll hike up through forested valleys to areas of snow and ice where you’ll learn specialized mountaineering skills such as ice axe and crampon use, rope systems, and crevasse rescue.
At a base camp at one of the Northwest’s many great climbing areas, you’ll immerse yourself in the finer points of rock climbing techniques and systems. You’ll progress at your own speed, learning skills such as belay and rappel techniques, protection placement, risk management, and single pitch versus multi-pitch climbing.
On the outskirts of Olympic National Park, you’ll visit the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and then embark on a coastal expedition, studying life in tidal pools and camping and traveling beside the ocean. You’ll learn about tide charts, weather patterns, and identifying coastal hazards. You’ll also visit the Makah Cultural Center for a glimpse into the region’s human history. This section culminates in a student-led expedition.
A 36-foot keelboat will be your moving classroom during this segment of your adventure. Boats will sail in pairs, each carrying five students and one instructor, as you learn the finer points of seamanship, including how to handle your boat under sail or power, navigate using charts, and function with your coursemates as one tight-knit crew.
Sea Kayaking (optional dates only)
You’ll paddle the remote waters of Vancouvers Island’s coast while learning a range of technical skills, from basic to advanced sea kayaking strokes to weather awareness and knowledge of tides and currents.
Backpacking (optional dates with sea kayaking)
This section begins on the western edge of the North Cascades National Park and traverses spectacular old- growth forest and rugged ridges to the shores of Ross Lake and beyond in the Pasayten Wilderness.