Five course participants walking back to camp after a day of climbing.
Camera Matt Hage

Southwest Hiking and Climbing Instructor Course


28 days


21+ yrs



Stay tuned for dates


Please contact with any questions you might have.

This instructor course combines foundational leadership training with a 14-day backpacking expedition in the Gila Wilderness and a 10-day rock climbing section in Cochise Stronghold. <meta charset="utf-8"> You and your coursemates will travel using traditional backpacking techniques in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness practicing skills such as navigation and camping in combination with leadership and coaching. You will then transtion to climbing in Cochise. There you will use a stationary base camp that will cover the NOLS rock climbing teaching progression, additional 3rd and 4th class terrain travel, improvised self-rescue techniques, and top rope climbing site management. Depeding on your rock climbing experience, you may be evaluated on your technical skills and lead climbing abilities, with a chance to be assessed as a NOLS rock climbing instructor. Your Southwest Instructor Course will build on the outdoor and education experience you already have, while allowing you to fine-tune your teaching and leadership skills.

Successful completion of this instructor course will prepare you to work wilderness backpacking courses and potentailly rock climbing for NOLS.

Please refer to the FAQs to learn more about instructor courses.

Additional Details

Prerequisite: Minimum of a 70-hour Wilderness First Responder and current adult CPR certification

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Course Dates

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Course participants sitting in a semi circle and chatting next to their tents.

The NOLS experience—at least for me—crystallizes one universal truth about leadership: that the essential criterion for leadership is uncertainty. It is in these situations where true leadership is defined. NOLS empowers us to embrace uncertainty, to overcome obstacles and to see opportunity through challenge. NOLS reminds us to explore, to be curious and creative in our thinking and problem solving. NOLS highlights the value of mindfulness, reflection, and adaptability. NOLS reinforces the importance of compassion and empathy and reminds us that we are all is this together.

Joe O. NOLS Southwest Instructors Course grad