Daniel Cavanaugh is a 3rd year social work PhD student who spent the summer climbing mountains in the Cascade Range of Northern Washington and Southern British Columbia with the National Outdoor Leadership School’s (NOLS) Outdoor Educator Leadership Mountaineering and Rock Climbing program. Daniel took this course to prepare for his planned dissertation research utilizing techniques from adventure and wilderness therapy in mental illness prevention work with adolescents.
Adventure therapists incorporate facilitated adventure experiences such as hiking, rock climbing, and other activities into mental health therapy. NOLS is nationally recognized as the premier organization offering training in outdoor education and expedition risk management. Daniel pursued education with NOLS to learn how to integrate best practices and risk management in adventure based therapies with youth.
At NOLS, Daniel and a group of outdoor educators learned a myriad of skills including advanced rock climbing techniques, Leave No Trace conservation ethics, mountaineering skills, glacier travel, crevasse rescue, and wilderness first aid. This was done over 30 days that were spent living in remote wilderness locations in North Cascades National Park, Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and Squamish, British Columbia. During this time, the educators traveled on rope teams across rocky and frozen landscapes camping on snow and ice.
They climbed to the summit of two technical mountains in the Cascade Range, Mt. Baker (the snowiest place on Earth) and Eldorado Peak. To reach these summits safely, the educators learned to become proficient in the use of ice axes, rope teams, and crampons (metal boot spikes for climbing frozen slopes). After summitting these prominent peaks, the educators completed multi-pitch rock climbs on the sheer granite cliffs that raise hundreds of feet above the Squamish, British Columbia. During these expeditions, the group of outdoor educators learned the skills to safely guide students in complex alpine zones and to experientially integrate education into adventure.
NOLS was founded in 1965 in Wyoming by wilderness education pioneer Paul Petzoldt. The organization started teaching safety and outdoor living skills to a select few students. As the organization has grown, they have expanded their course offerings and are now a world leader in outdoor and experiential education. Outdoor educators take NOLS courses to learn wilderness medicine, outdoor living skills, outdoor education modalities, Leave No Trace environmental preservation, and more. NOLS now maintains campuses across the world in locations that include the Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, The Yukon, and more. To learn more about NOLS visit www.nols.edu