Greenwich resident completes wilderness expedition

nolsEdward Oliver, 20 of Greenwich, recently completed a semester-long wilderness expedition traveling in Patagonia with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). During the semester in Patagonia, students did not have access to modern conveniences and were challenged to step outside their comfort zones.

A NOLS education stresses that leadership can be learned and is based on the belief that the outdoors is a challenging environment where students will learn technical skills and about themselves. Before heading into the backcountry, the students completed a 2.5-day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course, which gave them the tools to make basic medical decisions in the backcountry.

After the WFA course, Mr. Oliver, his 14 coursemates and four instructors loaded bus for an adventure in the Patagonia wilderness. The course began the semester-long adventure mountaineering in the Colmillo Plateau north of Rio Engano. In this rugged environment, students bean to develop leadership skills and tolerance for adversity and uncertainty.

The students learned how to responsibly manage hazards such as river-crossings, steep snowfields, icefall, crevasses and extreme Patagonian weather. Curriculum focused on mountain travel skills including route finding, bushwacking through dense forests, off-trail travel on steep, rocky terrain and risk management. Food and gear for the 31-day section was shuttled so the group was self-sufficient.

Overall, the group traveled 75 miles during this section. Continuing to travel in southern Chile, Mr. Oliver, his coursemates and three instructors transitioned to 30 days of sea kayaking. Travel was in remote areas characterized by fiords, mountain landscapes, archipelagos and pristine rain forests. On this section, the group paddled 165 miles over 13 moves. Mr. Oliver and his coursemates learned technical skills including basic kayak rescues, as well as seamanship and navigation.

Students also learned Leave No Trace camping skills. Highlights of this section were working together as a tight-knit community to expand their horizons in kayaking and outdoor living. At the end of the course, students had developed a strong connection with the beautiful coast of Patagonia as well as its incredible wildlife.

The semester in Patagonia was full of exploration, cultural immersion and bonds that will last a lifetime. Students learned risk management, judgment, outdoor living and environmental studies lessons not taught in a traditional classroom setting. Mr. Oliver and his coursemates graduated from their NOLS course competent and responsible wilderness travelers and leaders. Since mountaineer Paul Petzoldt founded NOLS in 1965, more than 221,000 students have graduated from the school. Whether through field-based learning offered in awe-inspiring locations or classroom-based courses, the school provides transformative educational experiences to students of all ages. Graduates emerge as active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. To discover the NOLS experience or to bring a course to your business or organization, visit

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