Professional Wilderness Rescue

(12 days)

This course is designed to give students a solid technical, theoretical, and experiential background for managing emergency situations in a wilderness environment. Students will practice emergency scenarios on rivers, oceans, rock faces, and snowy mountain slopes, and receive certifications in swift water rescue, low and high angle rescue, and avalanche level 1. For individuals looking for comprehensive rescue, emergency response, and risk management training, this is the course for you.


  • Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to professionally deal with emergency scenarios while in the field.
  • Students will gain the technical skills to implement rescues on rivers, steep rock, and avalanche terrain.
  • They will be able to recognize their own leadership abilities and limitations within the context of emergency scenarios.

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

  • Decision Making and Problem Solving: Over the course of 12 days, we’ll discover ways to assess problems, explore solutions and evaluate options in order to make effective and safe decisions in the field.
  • Leadership: Opportunities to lead the group will be abundant and you’ll have the time to learn and practice multiple styles of leadership.
  • 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.
  • Environmental Ethics: As adventurers in some of the most pristine environments on the planet, it is our duty to respect the natural world. All of our courses practice and teach Leave No TraceĀ® principles.
  • Health and Sanitation: You’ll learn water treatment techniques and waste management skills for healthy backcountry living.
  • Travel Techniques: Course instruction will help you discover ways to safely maximize your efficiency, whether hiking down a well-beaten path or traversing an exposed ridge.
  • 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.
  • Wilderness Emergency Procedures and Treatment: Learn how to effectively manage safe, efficient, and timely backcountry rescues.
  • Communication Skills: Speaking in public, managing a personal conflict, or leading a group in the wilderness, all of these situations require effective communication. You will gain confidence in your communication abilities as you develop your personal leadership style over the length of this course.

-Eli Fierer

IWLS AVALANCHE CURRICULUM is a nationally recognized progression of material. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Avalanche Characteristics: We’ll examine loose snow, wet snow, soft slab, and hard slab avalanches along with some potential triggers. You’ll learn the definition of terms such as stauchwall, alpha angle, and bed surface.
  • Avalanche Pyramid: Terrain, weather, snow pack, and human factors all play into the creation of an avalanche. Develop your decision making skills by breaking down avalanche danger assessment into these components.
  • Snow Stability Evaluation: Is this snow capable of avalanching? Learn tests such as compression test and rutschblock test that will help you evaluate layers within the snowpack. Develop your documentation skills for accurate recording and analysis of information.
  • Safe Winter Travel: As a group, we will travel safely through avalanche terrain. Considerations will include cornices, equipment selection, route finding, campsite selection, and effective communication.
  • Avalanche Rescue: Someone buried in an avalanche has an 87% chance of survival if found within the first fifteen minutes. We’ll practice using probes, beacons, and effective search patterns in order to quickly and efficiently find a buried person.

IWLS SWIFTWATER RESCUE CURRICULUM is designed for river guides, field researchers and expedition leaders. A brief list of the topics covered is below:

  • River Equipment – Care/Use/Maintenance
  • Boat-based Rescue
  • Swimming Rescue
  • Basic Mechanical Advantage
  • Shore Rescue and Rope Rescue

An independently verified practical skills examination on final day requires the student to demonstrate: swimming rescue, throw bag rescue and mechanical advantage system.

LOW ANGLE RESCUE (Rope Rescue Level I) covers basic rope rescue as it applies to the mountain environment. We will focus on the following technical skills:

-Adam Clifton

  • Knots
  • Anchors (trees, large objects, snow, and rock)
  • Patient Packaging
  • Rappelling
  • Belay System Construction
  • Anchor System Set-up and Orientation
  • Raising Systems
  • Litter Attendant Considerations
  • Ascending Fixed Ropes
  • Mechanical Advantage Systems
  • Safety Considerations

HIGH ANGLE RESCUE (Rope Rescue Level II) instructs advanced rope rescue techniques as they apply to the mountain environment. Whereas Low Angle (Level I) focuses on less steep terrain, Level II focuses on specific considerations that apply to rescue techniques in the vertical realm. Students will practice and participate in numerous high angle rescue scenarios and cover the topics listed below:

  • Passing Knots
  • Operating in Vertical Terrain
  • Load Distributions
  • Rock / Snow / Ice Anchors
  • Anchor Equalization
  • Scene Safety / Management
  • Litter Attendant Considerations
  • Rigging Fixed Ropes

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