Menlo Park resident Jonathan Nash, 20, recently completed a semester course in New Zealand with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
Nash and his coursemates kicked of their semester with a 24-day canoeing section traveling on the Clarence river of New Zealand for 120 miles. The group traveled in 6 tandem canoes down the river. Curriculum focused on camping skills, canoeing skills, environmental studies, risk management, leadership and first aid.
While on the river, the group faced variable weather conditions from sunshine to snow. The river was technically challenging with low water levels and frequent rapids. Students left the river as competent white water canoeists and efficient backcountry campers.
Nash and his coursemates transitioned from the river to a 24-day hiking expedition in the Lake Sumner region of the South Island, New Zealand. Students traveled on and off trail for 100 miles through Beachwood forest and high alpine ridges. Curriculum focused on first aid, navigation, self-care, “Leave No Trace” principles and student leadership. The section highlight was an independent student expedition where students traveled without instructors for five days and nights.
For the final section of their semester Nash and his coursemates headed into the mountains for a course on technical mountaineering. The group was faced with much adversity during this section. They were first met with torrential downpours that forced the group to find high ground to escape flooding. Once into the mountains instructors and students were hammered with gale force winds and snow that destroyed all but two of the tents.
Fortunately, the group was resupplied by helicopter halfway through this 24-day section allowing them to take another attempt at summiting Anderson peak. On the second attempt, students learned a number of technical mountaineering skills that included glacier travel, fixed line travel and high altitude camping.
Ultimately injuries and weather thwarted the attempt to reach the summit; however, this did not dampen student’s spirits as they came away from the alpine country competent mountaineers.
Nash and his coursemates graduated from their NOLS Semester in New Zealand equipped with technical outdoor skills, a wilderness ethic and leadership skills they will use for the rest of their lives.