Branksome Hall News

Building Character by Climbing Mountains

“It was the most profound and enlightening experience of my life!” exclaimed Liz, a Grade 12 student.
Liz and her peer Sophia were selected to participate in two summer wilderness education courses run by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), thanks to the generous annual donation from alum Bridget HORNE Colman’87.

Liz travelled to the Yukon for a 35-day mountaineering and whitewater canoeing expedition. “I spent 23 days traversing the coastal mountain range between British Columbia and Alaska, and 12 days paddling the Ross River in the Yukon,” she said. “We did some really cool stuff like ice climbing, repelling, rock climbing, summiting mountains and going down class four and five rapids.”

Meanwhile, Sophia tackled Alaska, “I traversed the barren tundra and kayaked along the open Pacific Ocean for 32 days,” she said. “I became immersed in an environment where the only real goal, although unspoken, was to survive, and when that’s your goal, life becomes so simple, and so beautiful.”

Through nature, NOLS fosters character building and leadership skills. “NOLS seeks to help students step forward boldly as a leader, alongside some of the most remote and beautiful terrain in the world,” said Liz.

Stick anyone in the wilderness for weeks on end and character is not only built, but tested. “My biggest learning came from the less glamorous accomplishments,” said Liz. “The 14 hour days, when I was hungry, tired, cold and didn’t think I could push any further—but did. The days when my feet bled, my lips chapped and my eyes burned from the sunlight reflecting off the snow—and I kept climbing.”

Sophia had a similar inspiring experience. “Climbing mountains is not for everyone, but at some point in our lives we’ll face challenges that are equally, if not more daunting than a snowy peak looking down on you,” she said. “So, when you find yourself climbing your mountain, whether it be a literal one or not, go climb it, because no one else is going to climb that mountain for you and no one else will be able to experience the thrill of reaching the top like you will!”

Unforgettable NOLS trips like these ones, funded by Ms Colman, will be available again this summer for two students entering Grade 12.

Branksome Hall

10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
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