NOLS National Outdoor Leadership School: Semester in Patagonia
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.
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.
NOLS is widely recognized for its outdoor education, leadership and conservation curricula. As different as these may be from traditional academic programs, Western Washington University recognizes the educational value of a NOLS course. WWU students must register for University of Utah credit. Students must pay for the University of Utah credit fees, in addition to the course tuition, before the course begin. Registration forms and payment submitted after a course begins will not be accepted. More information about this process can be found on the NOLS website