Mexico Mountaineering & Sea Kayaking

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(26 days)

Evening light on IWLS students as they paddle to the next campsite. -Nathaniel Stephens

The Mexico Volcanoes of Ixtaccihuatl (17,160ft) and Pico de Orizaba (18,491ft) tower above the surrounding landscape. These prominent glaciated peaks offer a good introduction to mountaineering at altitude. On the Baja Peninsula, protected waters and a myriad of islands and endless coastline offer paddlers a great variety of terrain to explore and learn in.

Picture yourself leading a mountaineering team up mixed terrain at 17,000 feet, bartering in Spanish for local produce, or performing a mock rescue of a fallen climber. Consider paddling with grey whales and exploring a desert landscape dotted with seasonal wildflowers, or practicing rescue assists in the blue waters of Mexico. The combination of high altitude experience and sea kayaking set amidst the cultural backdrop of Mexico, make this course ideal for people looking to develop their international mountaineering and paddling proficiency.

This comprehensive 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 in a mountain and coastal environment.

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 your course will focus on.

  • Decision Making and Problem Solving: Over the course of 12 or 26 days, we’ll discover ways to assess problems, explore solutions and evaluate options in order to make effective and safe decisions in the field.
  • Expedition Behavior and Group Dynamics: Because this course is a true wilderness expedition, interactions between group members need to be supportive and contribute to the efficacy of the group. The daily dynamics of the group, combined with instruction, will teach participants not only how to be a member of a team, but how to influence and lead an expedition.
  • Basic Camping Skills: Mastering these essential skills will prove valuable whether you are pitching a tent in gale force winds or melting snow for drinking water
  • Navigation: Learn how to take a bearing, read a topographical map, triangulate your position, or navigate in a whiteout.

-Austin Peters

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.

  • Rope Teams: Rope team travel is a complicated endeavor that requires skill, technique and teamwork. We’ll cover everything from prussic arrangement to team management for this form of mountain travel.
  • Subjective Hazards: Among other things, dehydration, fatigue and personal pride can be detrimental to group safety. Learn how to implement measures to mitigate these potential hazards.
  • Short Roping: Learn different applications of short roping technique and times and places to utilize it.
  • Altitude Considerations: Pico de Orizaba reaches above 18,000 feet. Learn how to recognize signs and symptoms of acute mountain sickness, and steps to take to avoid it. We’ll also discuss the most effective treatment for all altitude illnesses: descent.

IWLS SEA 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.

  • Paddling Equipment: Safely traveling the remote waters of Southern Baja California requires that you have a thorough knowledge of your equipment and its use. We’ll talk about kayak design, appropriate clothing, rescue gear, guide gear, and more!
  • Towing: Whether you are pulling an injured kayaker away from booming surf or lending a helping hand to a seasick client, you’ll learn the finer points of a towing system and the criteria for towing.
  • Maneuvers: When coming in for a rescue, speed and efficiency are of utmost importance. We’ll learn and practice maneuvers such as the low brace turn, bow rudder and hanging draw.
  • Group Management: Managing a pod of kayaks on a windy day is challenging. You’ll learn techniques for managing safety with a group on the water.

-Eli Fierer

IWLS INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM is designed to provide students with a fundamental understanding of planning and leading expeditions in foreign countries. Here are just a few topics that will be covered:

  • Cultural History: As visitors to this remarkable place, we place a premium on being respectful and learning about the local culture and history. The rich Mexican history of central Mexico provides great insight into the culture of the region today.
  • Language Skills: The ability to ask directions, purchase items, and communicate on any level is an essential element of leading an expedition to a foreign country. Throughout the course, we’ll develop our Spanish language skills through dialog and lesson plans.
  • Trip Preparation: Logistics in a foreign country have the potential to be complex and tenuous. You’ll take part in shopping at the local market, arranging transportation, and securing permits in preparation for your expedition to Mexico.

Experience Level: No previous experience is necessary for this course. However, with a desire to learn and an enthusiasm for adventure, this course prepares you 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


26 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School

*Dependent on weather and season