I co-lead with two other NOLS instructors an Executive Leadership Expedition every summer.  This expedition falls under the rubric of an Executive Leadership training program, and the below memo which describes the expedition which we run for 8 days every August.  If you are interested knowing more about this expedition, read the below and contact me for links to the information for this year’s expedition.


Friends – The NOLS Executive Leadership Expedition is designed for experienced professionals, ages from 30’s to 60’s ‘ish’ – We have had men and women participants ranging from 37 to 73.

We’re looking for experienced leaders, with a commitment to the values of teamwork, discipline, responsibility, and camaraderie, with an intrepid spirit, the commitment to group over self, and willingness to get out of their comfort zone and learn from others. Given that many ‘mature and experienced leaders’ may not be as strong and fit as they once were, we adjust our pack weights by using llamas as pack animals, and adjust our daily mileage accordingly.

If you might be interested in spending  7 days (6 nights) in the mountains this summer, with a group of mature leaders, and/or know others who might also be the type of people YOU would want to spend nearly a week in the mountains with, read on:

Goal: Create an opportunity for experienced leaders to participate in a NOLS course together, and learn the fundamentals of backpacking, camping and expedition behavior and discuss with other leaders how living in the outdoors applies to leading High Performing Teams in the ‘front country.’ Learn how to work with llamas as pack animals and take care of each other in a challenging but beautiful setting.

Location: Wind River Mountains, Wyoming, just southeast of Jackson Wyoming—some of the most beautiful country in North America.

Environment: Mountains and valleys 8-12k feet – much time spent at around 10k feet.  No mechanized transport, no roads, no buildings, no civilization, no cell phone access, no blackberries.  (We will have a satellite phone for emergency use only.) You will be incommunicado for 6 days.  There will be rain and mosquitoes, possibly snow, partially frozen lakes, wildlife, wild flowers, spectacular, sheer rock faces – on and off trail movement. Temps. range from 20’s at night to 60’s during the day.

Testimonials (from 2011, 2013, 2014 Expeditions):

“This was one of the great experiences of my adult life. The opportunity to spend time in a beautiful mountain wilderness area with a group of terrific people was priceless.”   Morris ‘Buzz’ Busby, Former US Ambassador, and Senior State Department official

“NOLS ELLE 2014 was a catalyst for me, inspiring me to get in shape and get prepared beforehand, try to perform at the high level of my excellent peers during, and re-set my priorities after the expedition. Spending seven days in some of this country’s most beautiful wilderness with ten high achievers and six llamas is a recipe for growth, reflection and re-charging your soul. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”John Ford, former President and General Manager, Discovery Channel (2014)

“While I expected to enjoy the NOLS ELLE experience, I didn’t expect it to affect my morale and outlook on life as profoundly as it did.  Spending time in the breathtaking wilderness, teaming with great people to accomplish common goals, and having a week away from distractions allowed me to reflect on my personal goals and future opportunities.  This expedition was an absolutely phenomenal experience, and I find myself savoring the memories and communicating with my new shipmates frequently in the months that followed our return to the front country.” Gretchen Herbert, Rear Admiral (retired) US Navy  (2014)

“This expedition provided all of us an opportunity to reflect on the beauty this planet offers and understand just how insignificant we are when removed from all our technology.  Nature is the master, not man.”  Jeff Trumbore,  retired Navy Captain and Explosive Ordnance Group Commander. 

 “All participants brought their life experiences and strengths to the game and teamed up for a unique adventure. I couldn’t have hoped for a better group of course mates.  This NOLS Course proved to be the perfect combination of physical, mental, social and emotional elements and challenges to make it a top spot on anyone’s Bucket List!!”   Mary Regner, Senior Advocate for Marine Corps Family Readiness.

 “With decades of decision-making and leadership experience, our skills were still tested and deepened—one day with map-reading challenges and another day in traveling with llamas over the steep Wind River mountain pass. The wilderness immersion and the lessons in backcountry skills, risk management, and leadership now inspire and energize me, returning to the ‘front-country’ of work, relationships, and life.”  Anne Fege, Ph.D., Retired Forest Supervisor, US Forest Service, and Chair, San Diego Children and Nature Collaborative

“It was a pleasure to be in the company of guides who have so much first-hand knowledge about the wilderness and about leadership, and with others in senior leadership roles who have so much to share. A highlight for me was watching the space station fly from west to east across the starlit sky while our guide read a message from one of the astronauts in it, also a NOLS alumnus. I’ve found no better place to learn to lead with heart, insight, and deep wisdom than with these people in these mountains.”   Ernest Gundling, Managing Partner, Aperian Global (2014)

“The Wind River course was the best experience in risk management I have had in thirty years in education and business leadership.  At 11,000 feet on a snowfield, with a storm threatening and 200 feet of elevation to gain, the risk was real.  Our team edged across the snow and ice, cleared the pass and descended 800 feet before dark to a sheltered valley below the tree-line where we caught brook trout for dinner and weighed our lessons learned.” Stephen Wrage, Professor, US Naval Academy

Expedition Leader/Instructors:  The expedition leader will be Rick Rochelle who is currently the director of NOLS Professional Training, has been a NOLS instructor for 28 years and  has instructed NOLS courses all over the world.  Lynn Petzold,  and I will be Rick’s assistants.  I am a retired Navy SEAL Captain, former director of University of San Diego’s Master of Science in Global Leadership, a NOLS instructor for 10 years, and am currently a Leadership speaker, coach, and consultant.  Lynn has been a NOLS instructor for 22 years, has a Masters degree in Leadership and Organizational culture, currently works full time for NOLS professional training and “moonlights” as a leadership consultant.

Equipment:  You can and should bring your own, but the instructors will go over it with you, and tell you whether it’s appropriate. NOLS rents quality gear – packs, sleeping bags, etc – that are appropriate for the expedition.  Most students rent much or much of their gear, while more experienced back-packers have most or all of what they need. We will provide you with a comprehensive equipment list is provided on the website, which details what you can rent or purchase from NOLS and what you must bring. And we can (and want to!) answer your questions about this list and what you might bring.  You’ll be surprised how little you really need.

Preparation: Previous backpacking experience is helpful, but not required.  You learn the fundamentals pretty quickly in the field. The instructors teach, and you have each other to learn from. Whatever you might need but don’t have when you get to Lander, you can get in Lander.  You just need to show up with a good attitude and willing to have an adventure and work with other people.

Communications:  Prior to the expedition, once we know who is joining us, we’ll communicate by email, provide updates, and keep everyone informed.  We begin to build the team before we show up and that has worked well. As noted, we will be incommunicado for the 7 days we are in the field.

Fitness level:  NOLS recommends that you participate in some cardio activities 4-5 days per week as you prepare for the course. If you can carry a 20 lb pack 5 miles on flat land in 2 ½ hours you’re probably in good enough shape.  This is not a gut check – the younger, stronger, fitter, people will probably carry a bit more weight to help those who may be not as young, strong or fit, or may be having a bad day.  Pack weights at the beginning of the expedition will be 20-30 lbs, depending on how much you insist on carrying.  Instructors will try to talk you out of much that you think you can’t live without – and will try to insist on being minimalist. We’ll also have llamas supporting us, carrying much of our weight – food and group gear (tents, cooking stoves, fuel, etc) which offers some latitude for camp comfort that we wouldn’t have if we had to carry everything.  This is not that hard, but it is not a picnic and is meant to be challenging.  But it is safe and doable if you are reasonably fit and healthy, and have a good attitude.

You will need to have a medical professional complete a NOLS Health Form in order to participate in this experience. Those over 60 will be required to take a stress ECG test; others may have to as well if you have certain risk factors.

What do we do in the field:  We’ll move 3-8 miles per day and we’ll have time for fishing and day hikes.  We’ll hike to the Continental Divide. We’ll do some trout fishing.  We may do a ‘non-technical’ peak ascent of 12K+. Classes are held in the field on the fundamentals of living well in the field, cooking, first aid in the field, Leave No Trace camping, the NOLS leadership model, and its applicability in the front country. We expect leadership discussions with this group of accomplished leaders to be very rewarding.

Food and Cooking: While in the field, everyone participates in cooking. Proper nutrition and good cooking are essential to any expedition. Cooking and baking in the backcountry is an important outdoor skill emphasized in the NOLS curriculum. It’s a critical part of being independent and successful on an expedition.  NOLS has a reputation for eating well by backcountry standards.  We use ample amounts of simple foods and prepare them well. There is no alcohol allowed in the field.

Who can come:  Reasonably fit, resilient, and adventurous people of both sexes with leadership experience, and a positive attitude are invited.  Women and men (who are not partners) tent together on NOLS courses all the time – no problem.  The course needs a minimum of 8 and no more than 12 students.  Participants need to have a good attitude and know that there will be physical challenges – we will be back-country camping with no bathroom facilities.   If we can get the right people to commit, it will be the experience of a lifetime. I guarantee it.

We don’t want people who think they know everything, are unwilling to learn, or who have trouble getting along with others.

So what do you have to do? Respond to Bob Schoultz, at Schoultz@sandiego.edu and let him know whether you have any questions.  And then we’ll need to know pretty soon whether you are ready to commit.

If you know someone else who you think would be a good fit, let them know about this opportunity

We hope to hear back from some of you!   Bob Schoultz