Educator Expedition: Washington Climbing, Back to Where It Began 

By NOLS Blog

Jan 21, 2016


Climbing in Washington Photo by Mick Pearson, KAF Adventures.


By David Dunphy, NOLS instructor

On a crisp fall morning with the trees in full fall colors, I pulled into the parking lot of Minnehaha Park in Spokane, Washington to take KAF Adventure’s single pitch rock climbing instructor course. This was a great opportunity to return to the city park that was a short bike ride from my college campus, the place where I first really learned how to rock climb and love the sport.

As part of NOLS’ dedication to staff development, the school helped pay for this course through the Instructor Development Fund.

My goal was to learn and reinforce best practices of rock climbing site management. On longer NOLS backpacking courses, we sometimes get the opportunity to integrate climbing, and I hope to bring back the information I learned on the course to my next instructor team.

As I got out of my car on the first day of the course, I was excited to be joined by students from Gonzaga Outdoors, my old university's outdoor program that had been my spark to join NOLS after graduating. Despite the looming rain clouds, over the three-day course we shared the joy of learning and practicing in community. Spending time with those fellow students also gave me the opportunity to reflect on time I had spent on expeditions with NOLS since graduating college. Their curiosity and energy to hear what I have been up to drove my reflection on how the challenges, friendships and deep immersion into a place have continued to shape who I am.

At the end of the course, not only did I have new tools in the tool box for climbing, I also had a deeper appreciation for time spent in wilderness. I hope that those students I spent the weekend with get the same opportunities that NOLS has given me to go on expeditions and continue their education beyond the college classroom.

Learn more about NOLS expeditions here.

About the Author: David is a NOLS field instructor who teaches backpacking and sea kayaking. When David is not on a NOLS expedition, he spends his time exploring the Cascades Range near his home in Seattle, Washington and hosting community dinners with his friends. David enjoys volunteering with the Mountains to Sound Greenway education program, Responding to King County Search and Rescue Missions and working for the YMCA of Seattle.

Post cover photo by Christina Cuneo.


Written By


The leader in wilderness education.

Up Next

Educator Expedition: Kiwi Boot Camp


Smiling on the river A short paddle on the Landsborough River before the rains came: Aaron Reimer, Amy Christeson, Ben Weigl, Dulkara Martig (pictured left to right). Photo courtesy of Amy Christeson.
Read More