Alaska Mountaineering & Sea Kayaking

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(26 days)

Mt. Fairweather from Alsek Lake in Glacier Bay National Park. -Bryan Hinderberger


Towering glaciated peaks rise above the pristine waters of Glacier Bay National Park. From the dramatic world of snow, rock and ice, to a vibrant marine environment, this combo course explores the best that the Alaska wilderness has to offer.

Imagine paddling placid waters amidst a pod of orcas, navigating through a maze of islands, or watching in awe as a serac of ice plummets into the ocean. Picture yourself leading your group through a crevassed icefall, ascending a rocky ridge with the clouds beneath your feet, or digging a snow pit profile to assess the avalanche danger.

This comprehensive sea kayaking and mountaineering course is the perfect setting to achieve your goals whether you are looking to become a professional guide, hone your technical abilities for personal adventures, or expand your leadership skills. It focuses on teaching students to be safe, efficient, knowledgeable and confident outdoor leaders a variety of environments.

THE INSTRUCTORS AND GUIDES OF IWLS are widely recognized as some of the very best in their field and have practical leadership experience from around the globe. They are well trained and have an uncommon enthusiasm for sharing their skill and knowledge, borne out of a passion for outdoor exploration.

The International Wilderness Leadership Schools’ educational model nurtures leadership development and creates an awareness of the guiding mentality that is essential for leading safe, fun adventures in the mountains. The combination of technical skills training, experiential education and practical leadership experience make the IWLS curriculum world class.

THE IWLS GENERAL CURRICULUM outlines the essential components for effective outdoor leadership. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Weather: Will the storm arrive in the next 12 hours or the next 48? Understanding weather patterns and trends will help you plan successful trips in a wilderness setting.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Safety is always the #1 consideration. As the course progresses, you’ll develop an awareness to appropriately asses risk and make safe decisions.
  • Natural and Cultural History: Having a strong understanding of cultural history, flora, and fauna is an integral part of leading people in an outdoor environment. You’ll learn some of the botany, ecology, and geology that apply to these remarkable areas.
  • Wilderness Emergency Procedures and Treatment: Learn how to effectively manage safe, efficient, and timely backcountry rescues.

-Bryan Hinderberger

IWLS MOUNTAINEERING CURRICULUM is built from countless expeditions in Alaska and around the world. You’ll learn how to be a competent and proficient mountaineer in a variety of different environments. Below are some topics we’ll cover.

  • Crevasse Rescue: Traveling in glaciated terrain requires that every member of the team be proficient in crevasse rescue. We’ll learn how to get a team mate out of a crevasse quickly and efficiently.
  • Self-Arrest: What happens if you fall on a steep now slope? Learn, through hands-on experience, how to stop a fall quickly and efficiently.
  • Sleds: Key for long expeditions in the mountains. Learn how to maneuver, pack, and construct expedition sleds.
  • Timing: In the mountains, timing is everything: when to leave camp, when to turn around, and when to push for the summit. Time management is a critical component of safe travel and plays into many aspects of mountaineering.

-R. Gooden

IWLS KAYAKING CURRICULUM is oriented to providing students with a solid skill set of paddling techniques to be safe and confident in a coastal environment. Here are a few of the topics students will learn on the course.

  • Strokes: Forward, reverse, sweep, beam draw, and sculling draw: we’ll cover them all, and you’ll get ample opportunities to practice and refine your strokes.
  • Rescues: What happens when you’re paddling with clients in the frigid waters of Southeast Alaska and a boat capsizes? We’ll learn everything from the paddle-float rescue to the assisted bow rescue to kayak rolling.
  • Navigation: Expeditions in the meandering waters of Alaska require solid navigational skills, including how to use deck compasses, read charts and position off land features.
  • Tides and Currents: Southeast Alaska is home to some of the largest tidal changes in North America. We’ll learn about tide charts, the “Rule of 12’s”, and how to identify and avoid strong currents.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL No previous experience is necessary for this course. However, with a desire to learn and an enthusiasm for adventure, you’ll develop the skills necessary for a lifetime of wilderness exploration.

CERTIFICATIONS Upon completion of the 26-day course, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

ACA Certificates of Completion
American Canoe Association

ACA Assessment Levels 1-5
American Canoe Association

26 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion

International Wilderness Leadership School

*Dependent on weather and season

DATES & PRICES Please see our schedule for current dates and price information.