Pod up! Work together to navigate to the next take-out. Canal Martinez
Photo: Kyle Hammons
Deemed one of the most challenging NOLS courses, the Semester in Patagonia has strong leadership outcomes on account of adapting to and operating in harsh weather.
Teamwork, communication, and problem solving are critical to the success of this expedition. You begin your semester in Coyhaique, Chile, for five days of wilderness first aid training and expedition preparation before stepping into the backcountry for 75 days.
Once on this unique continuous expedition, your transition between sections includes swapping gear in the field with another Patagonia semester group on an opposite route. You’ll hike and camp in Patagonia’s valleys and mountains and sea kayak in breathtaking archipelagos, stopping to visit with locals along the way.
The grand finale of this remote adventure is the extended student expedition, wherein you and a small group of your peers earn the privilege of planning and traveling a route on your own.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
Before embarking into the field, you and your course-mates will receive a 20-hour WFA training taught by staff of the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. Fast paced and hands-on, this three-day course covers a wide range of wilderness medicine topics for people who travel and work in the outdoors.
A shared cup of maté warms the soul and always brings out smiles. A campo near Rio Baker
Photo: Betsy Winston
You’ll move up remote mountain valleys, plan daily routes, and choose campsites. Early in the course, your instructors will lead you, helping you to read maps, find routes, and judge and evaluate hazards.
They will then step back incrementally until you find yourself in charge. Some days you’ll be named “leader of the day” and be responsible for a small group of your fellow coursemates. Depending on the weather and how your entire group is progressing, you may have a chance to cross glaciers and work on such skills as tying knots, handling ropes, and ice climbing.
Most of Chile is off the beaten path for world travelers, and the island chains of the southern part of the country are no exception. You’ll learn about the dynamic environment of the region, strong currents, tidal fluctuations, and fickle weather. Instruction will include seamanship, paddling techniques, rescue skills, and route planning, and coastal weather patterns. You’ll also study the natural history of the area while you continue to hone your leadership and communication skills.
After you’ve successfully completed the previous three sections, you’ll move into the student expedition. Typically, groups of four to six students travel without immediate instructor supervision for a seven- to ten-day hike through the wilds of Patagonia. Before setting out, and under the supervision of your instructors, your group will craft a travel plan, work out a proposed route, and get ready to use and refine what you’ve learned over the past months.
Semester in Patagonia
18 and over (Average age: 21)
January start: $15,725
September start: $15,775
January 13-April 2, 2013 WFA, Sea Kayaking, Mountain Travel, Backpacking January 22-April 11, 2013 WFA, Mountain Travel, Sea Kayaking, Backpacking
September start September 25-December 13, 2013 WFA, Mountain Travel, Sea Kayaking, Backpacking October 2-December 20, 2013 WFA, Mountain Travel, Sea Kayaking, Backpacking
"As the course goes on, students get a bit grimier,
a bit hairier, and they start to get a little more real. I try to
model values of commitment and leadership for the group, and I do
so with actions rather than words. Anyone can become an effective
leader given the opportunity and leadership tools.