Senior Four Point – NOLS Backcountry Touring

June 9, 2020

This blog was authored by Cecille Anderson ’20 based on her experiences during the NOLS trip she completed for Senior Four Point.

Cecille Anderson during her Senior Four Point NOLS trip
Cecille ’20 during her NOLS experience in March

Since coming to Gould, I have found myself becoming more involved in outdoor adventure, from hiking and skiing the White Mountains to butt sledding down Mount Willard.

A large portion of the faculty has a lot of passion and skill when it comes to hiking, climbing, skiing, and camping. I have made strong connections with these faculty, and because of it, I have done a fair amount of exploration.

Being outdoors has become a place where my anxiety fades and I am able to be completely present with myself. Winter is my favorite time to do outdoor activities. It wasn’t until Junior Four Point, that I became interested in what happens when we disconnect from society and connect more with ourselves.

Cecille on Junior Four Point
On Junior Four Point in 2019 with Laura Wilson ’20

Junior Four Point is a nine-day winter camping trip that happens at the start of March. It presents the challenge of keeping warm and hiking to new campsites every day with all of your gear. It takes grit to complete. At the end of the trip, my group leaders, Ms. Young, and Ms. Stack told me something that is what led to me choosing a NOLS trip for my senior four-point. They said that I had grown tremendously over the course of the nine days, and my confidence and sense of leadership started to shine. I left emotional habits behind as the daily challenge to keep going brought out the best in me and shaped me into a person that I was proud of.

After thinking about the personal growth I made on Four Point I became curious about outdoor adventure and the leadership skills it requires. This led me to NOLS, the National Outdoor School of Leadership.

My Senior Four Point Project

NOLS is a non-profit global wilderness school that strengthens students by teaching environmental studies, technical outdoor skills, risk management, and wilderness medicine while enduring challenging conditions.

Cecille on Senior Four Point hauling a sled while skinning up a mountain.
Skinning while pulling a sled in the Palisades

On March 7, I flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a NOLS Teton Valley Spring Break Backcountry Touring course. I became certified in avalanche level one training and traveled over 20 miles while gaining more than 6,000 feet of elevation in the Palisades Range via Pole Canyon on skins.

The trip, TVS4, consisted of 10 students and 4 instructors. From day one, we prioritized community, facing daily challenges as a team. We skied powder, built quigloos, and trained for avalanche situations. We were put to the test immediately, having to re-route on day one, spending more than nine hours hauling sleds up Turtle Hill trying to find a camping spot. 

The inside of a quigloo shelter
Inside a quigloo shelter

Want to ski powder in the backcountry
for school credit?

My Essential Question(s)

On my trip, there were four questions in the back of my head.

  • How will NOLS alter the way I view myself?
  • Will I be able to reconnect with myself?
  • What are the underlying components of being a successful leader?
  • Is my passion for outdoor education something I want to pursue?

As each day presented another challenging skin, grit and resilience became my backbone, supporting me through the long days and allowed me to develop better self-awareness. This enabled me to care for others before myself and strengthened my ability to communicate with the team. I returned from my trip with a stronger understanding of myself and where I fit into society.

“Being in an uncertain situation that pushes your mental and physical strength to a breaking point is an opportunity to learn the most about yourself. I learned that I am unstoppable.”

My Takeaways

Underestimating yourself is a default.

As I got further into my course, I realized how much potential I have, physically and mentally. Being in an uncertain situation that pushes your mental and physical strength to a breaking point is an opportunity to learn the most about yourself. I learned that I am unstoppable.

Make sure you expose yourself to adversity and failure.

With failure comes growth. Second chances do exist, look for it, step towards it.

Vulnerability makes a great leader.

Sometimes you’re not going to know the answer, be ok with showing up, and not knowing which direction to take. Have the strength to show up knowing you can’t control the outcome.

Be kind to yourself.

Know that you always have a purpose. 

Be open to alternative options.

In the backcountry plans rarely go accordingly. React wisely and be solution-oriented.

Cecille and a teammate on Senior Four Point

My Advice

My advice to every student is not to wait until senior year to really explore what you’re passionate about.

It’s ok to change interests. If there is something that you’re longing to do, and you have a passion for it, stop thinking about it, and just do it. At the end of the day, exploring and following your passion is what’s going to make you a better version of yourself. 

The whole NOLS crew

To My Mentors

Mrs. Stack, Ms. Young, Ms. Murphy, Mr. Hayward, Mr. Riley, and Mr. Blauss, I cannot thank you enough for mentoring me!

Because of your love for teaching students in and out of the classroom, I have exceeded what I thought were my limits. Every adventure we had are the moments where I learned, laughed, and sometimes cried the most at Gould.

Spending time with you and developing a better understanding of myself and nature at its core has been a blessing! Thank you for growing my passions, thank you for inspiring me!


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