Owen Mellin completes 80-day wilderness course

Nineteen-year-old Wiltonian Owen Mellin recently completed a wilderness expedition with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a wilderness educational school that offers field-based and classroom-based courses.

Since its founding in 1965, more than 254,000 students of all ages have graduated from NOLS.

Owen and his expedition group kicked of their semester in the Pacific Northwest with a technical mountaineering section that began in the Pasayten Wilderness. There, they were given the chance to learn back-country skills like cooking, assembling shelters and basic self-care.

North Cascades

While hiking 97 miles, the students had to manage a limited supply of food that was split into two ration periods. The third ration period marked the beginning of the technical mountaineering in the North Cascades.
They traveled across glaciers on fixed lines, facing deep snow and harsh weather the entire way.
Owen and the expedition group transitioned from land to sea as they began the sailing portion of their semester.
They traveled 187 nautical miles through calm and rough seas and learned how to operate the sails and motor, navigate in and out of coastal inlets, and work together as a team within the confines of their sailboat.

Smith Rock

The group then relocated to Smith Rock, Ore., where they developed technical rock climbing skills, including multi-pitching, anchor building, top rope management and cleaning sport anchors.
These skills allowed them to lead climbs to the summits of multiple rock monoliths and leave the section as competent rock climbers.

Nootka Island

The students returned to the coast to begin hiking along the wild west coast of Nootka Island. Students saw humpback whales, wolves, black bears, seals, otters and sea lions during their trek.
To test an entire semester worth of newly acquired skills, students embarked on a four-day expedition, independent of instructors.
They were met with gale force winds, snow and rain challenging them to stay warm and dry. The group persevered and left Nootka Island with a deep appreciation of the coastal environment.
Owen and his course-mates graduated from their NOLS semester in the Pacific Northwest, equipped with lifelong technical outdoor skills, wilderness ethic and leadership skills.

To learn more about NOLS: www.nols.edu, 800-710-6657.