Denali National Park, Alaska

Lander, Wyo.—The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is taking dramatic steps to inspire youth—specifically African American youth—to get outside, get active, and become stewards of wild places. The school intends to accomplish this by running the first predominantly African American expedition on Denali, the highest peak in North America.

Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors will create role models for communities historically underrepresented in the outdoors through a 2013 summit attempt and subsequent outreach and educational initiatives.

“Through post-expedition speaking and media engagements across the nation,” explained NOLS instructor and Diversity and Inclusion Manager Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, “Expedition Denali members will inspire youth of color to connect with the outdoors and take on outdoor pursuits they may have never imagined possible—in recreation, education, policy, conservation, land management or government.”

The expedition participants are united in their dedication to connecting African American youth to the outdoors, to mitigating projected obesity rates and health risks among these youth, and to inspiring a generation to protect the world’s wild places. Team members include diversity champions, change leaders in the youth and outdoors movement, educational reformers, writers, photographers, business leaders, and mountaineers who have made historical ascents.

No team of predominantly African Americans has ever summited Denali, and NOLS is proud to spearhead and lead this attempt. NOLS was the first commercial outfitter on the mountain in 1971 and has regularly run expeditions on Denali since. The success of NOLS’ Denali expeditions can be attributed to the fact that NOLS does not simply “guide” participants up the mountain. It runs its Denali expedition like any other course, training participants to become technically versed in mountaineering skills while they acclimatize and running participants through the leadership curriculum so that by the end of the expedition, participants become team leaders.

The longest and most strenuous day on Denali will be the summit day, a five-mile round-trip to the summit and back to High Camp. NOLS intends to partner with organizations to mobilize youth of color nationwide to take their own “10,000 steps to Denali,” on the same day.  “Armed with pedometers, youth will hike 10,000 steps in wild places near their homes to commemorate this historic event,” said Rajagopal-Durbin

Ultimately, the goal is not the summit on that day in June of 2013.  “The goal of the expedition is to engage a broad constituency in a public dialogue about diversity in the outdoors, specifically in the field of outdoor recreation and education, and to make a profound impact on the lives of today’s underrepresented youth, who are tomorrow’s adventurers,” Rajagopal Durbin said.

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS is a leader in wilderness education, providing awe-inspiring, transformative experiences to more than 15,000 students each year. These students, ages 14 to 70, learn in the wildest and most remote classrooms worldwide—from the Amazon rain forest, to rugged peaks in the Himalaya, to Alaskan glaciers and Arctic tundra. Graduates are active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. NOLS also offers customized courses through NOLS Professional Training, and the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS is the leading teacher of wilderness medicine worldwide. For more information, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit

We enlist the power of partnerships to promote visitation to America’s national parks!