Whether you’re deep in the mountains or just miles from town in your local park, wilderness medicine training can come in handy—and even save a life.Read More
Viral, flu-like illnesses like stomach bugs or viral upper respiratory infections (“the flu” or “a cold”) can be common on wilderness expeditions. While having a cold is never fun, being in the backcountry when the bug decides to bug you can make it that much worse.Read More
NOLS grad Arthur Herlitzkais recalls using his WFR-level training in action.
Three days into guiding a nine-day trip—the Bailey Range Traverse on the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle—my colleagues and I noticed that a 65 year old gentleman was showing more fatigue than we thought normal (even with a heavy pack).Read More
I am not entirely sure what I meant when I claimed to “hate nature” for the majority of my life.
But I said it. Often. My dad used to bribe me up mountains with M&Ms every 100 steps. He threatened to send me on NOLS courses during my high school summers when I complained of boredom.Read More
This course was by far the most diverse NOLS Wilderness Medicine course I've ever taught.
There was geographic diversity, with students from as far away as Slovakia, Puerto Rico and Florida, as well as those just a few miles down the road.Read More
Four experienced cavers were traversing Ellison’s Cave (one of the deepest caves in the lower 48 States) when, in the middle of the mountain, one of the party slipped and fell about 30 to 40 feet down a hole. When his buddies got no response after calling down to their friend, one left to get help while the other two stayed behind.Read More
“Bee stings cause more anaphylaxis than do the stings of any other insect. Multiple stings … can be life-threatening.” -NOLS Wilderness Medicine
My friend Pedro de Toledo Piza and I were riding on a trail access to Medicine Hill in Paraibuna, Brazil when we decided to leave our ATVs to hike up to a lookout.
On the walk back from the lookout, we were attacked by a large swarm of Africanized bees.
The buzz of the colony was deafening as we began to suffer stings all over our bodies. Knowing that Pedro was allergic to bees, I put myself in front of him in order to divert attention from the swarm—despite my efforts, the bees still seemed to have focused more on Pedro than me.Read More
I refused to wear anything other than dresses until I was 7 …and even then it was only because my family moved to a small country town in northeast Wyoming and I wanted to fit in.
I’ve been a “girly girl” my entire life, and I had no interest in playing in the backcountry until about three years ago when I transferred to a university in the Black Hills of South Dakota and was lured out by their beauty and the exercise (plus, I got invited to go hiking with an attractive guy who has now been my partner in all adventures and in life for the past three years).Read More
“Wilderness has no handrails, no telephones, and no simple solutions for complex emergency situations. It does have dangers. Some are obvious: rock fall, moving water, stormy weather, avalanches, crevasses, and wild animals. Others are subtle: impure water, dehydration, cold and damp weather, altitude illness, and human judgment.” -Tod Schimelpfenig, NOLS Wilderness Medicine
The importance of wilderness medicine knowledge and protocols in disaster zones is tenfold. When resources are depleted, emergency access is delayed, and safely functioning environments become austere, an urban setting ultimately transforms into a modern-day wilderness.Read More
"When you find yourself in an emergency situation, is it better to resort to drinking unfiltered and possibly contaminated water or drinking no water at all?"
It’s a question, or as we like to say at NOLS, a judgment call, of which is the greater risk: dehydration or waterborne illness.
If this is an emergency, you need your wits and your health; both deteriorate when you are dehydrated. You need to consider how well hydrated you were at the start of this emergency, how fast you are losing fluids, how hard you are working, and how long you expect to be without a reliable water source. Perhaps you have the experience and self-awareness to anticipate how long you can function without fluid intake.Read More
I found myself patient-side during an intensive and grueling scenario at the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus in Lander, Wyoming.
“Keep holding still, you’re doing great,” I told Anna. Our eyes met as I held her hand and she took panicked breaths through the non-rebreather that was pressed against her face, filling her lungs with oxygen. Bright red blood was beginning to seep through the large pressure dressing I was holding against her abdomen to cover the 6-inch laceration there. We needed to move, but the single, tunnel-like entrance to the mine was blocked by other screaming patients on backboards and teams of rescuers, with only their headlamps visible in the thick, chalky smoke.Read More
I entered the Wilderness First Responder course nervous.
It was January, four months prior to my first season as a rafting guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for AzRA Discovery. The WFR certification through NOLS Wilderness Medicine would grant me the final two certifications I needed.
I was nervous for a couple reasons: my medical knowledge was limited to watching Grey's Anatomy on TV prior to the course, and I was unsure how I would be triggered or invalidated in my Queer identity through the nine-day course.Read More