Mobilization and Events

How to Prep for a NOLS Instructor Course

To work as an instructor for NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School), you have to pass their Instructor Course. Part job interview, part expedition, and part learning experience, the 30-day courses are designed to challenge potential instructors while introducing them to the NOLS leadership curriculum. Preparing for this experience can be daunting, but this advice from a recent graduate will help:

Be nice
You may be a 5.13 climber who crushes during the climbing section of the course while the rest of your coursemates are still working on gear placement, but griping that their lack of skills are holding you back does nothing to help the group. Sometimes the most impressive skill is the ability to help others master a new technique. That’s what NOLS is all about–teaching technical and leadership skills to beginners. Be ready to teach some skills and, more importantly, be ready to learn from everyone else.

While technical skills are important on the Instructor Courses, there’s a reason it’s not called the National Outdoor Climbing School: leadership is a key component of the curriculum. You’ll be expected to practice leadership everyday, so make sure your communication skills are dialed. This may sound simple, but picture trying to be tactful at 3:30 in the morning when it’s pouring rain and your tent is collapsing because your tent mate tied the wrong knots.

Learn to cook on a Whisperlite
When you’ve been out climbing all day, a thunderstorm is bearing down on camp, and it’s your turn to cook, you may reach for the potato pearls, thinking mashed potatoes will pass as dinner. That’s probably the fastest way to lose friends. Make sure you can do more with a Whisperlite than boil water. One high-calorie option that never disappoints is cinnamon rolls. Prepare the dough the night before so it has time to rise, then all you have to do in the morning is roll everything up and bake it.