Archived Outdoors

On the mark: Cullowhee base-camp raises profile in wilderness emergency training

Landmark Learning, a Cullowhee-based wilderness training center for the outdoor industry, has forged a new partnership with the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Medicine Institute.


Landmark Learning runs a base camp in Jackson County for outdoor guides and educators and emergency technicians who come from across the southeast to hone their skills in wilderness settings, from search and rescue to emergency medical care in the backcountry. Landmark also provides EMT training.

The partnership is a major tribute to the caliber of programs offered by Landmark Learning. The National Outdoor Leadership School is a leader in the outdoor industry. Their wilderness medical training arm, Wilderness Medical Institute, is a global leader in wilderness medicine training.

Landmark will be providing courses under the name Wilderness Medical Institute — making the organization’s popular courses more widely accessible and available for the first time in the eastern United States.

“Partnering with WMI allows us to offer our students a much broader range of training,” said Justin Padgett, executive director, Landmark Learning. “As a result we can help them open the door to a variety of new job opportunities — whether they want to lead outdoor trips, work as an EMT, join an outdoor rescue team or take steps towards a career in medicine.”

Related Items

As an authorized training provider for the Wilderness Medicine Institute, Landmark will offer a curriculum that includes: Wilderness EMT, Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Advanced First Aid, Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals, Wilderness Medicine: Practices and Protocols, and Wilderness First Responder Recertification.

The wilderness medicine practices and protocols taught in each course are supported by a physician-based medical advisory panel.

The new partnership with Wilderness Medical Institute of NOLS builds on Landmark Learning’s reputation as an authorized training provider for several preeminent outdoor and healthcare organizations — their courses are sanctioned by the American Canoe Association, American Heart Association and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services and Starfish Aquatics Institute. Landmark also offers its own custom programs, including a unique Relief Medic program that teaches students how to deliver emergency care in the backcountry and under Third World conditions.

“This partnership represents an important step for us and will expand our course offerings into a region of the U.S. where we have traditionally been underrepresented,” said Melissa Gray, director, WMI at NOLS. “We’ve found Landmark’s mission and teaching style to be an excellent match for us, so we’re excited about working closely with them to serve a broader base of students.”

The training instills backcountry treatment principles and decision-making skills for times when there are few resources and no other help on the way. Dynamic lessons and role-playing scenarios model the kind of medical situations people face when calling 911 is not an option.

Mock emergencies give students hand-on experience treating victims who pretend to have various injuries: hypothermia, a broken back from a fall off a waterfall and an impaled femoral artery from a rock climbing accident. The victims might wear fake blood or scream in agony, placing the students in the moment as they try to assess the symptoms, diagnose the problem, perform treatment, and evacuate the victim over rough terrain. Students learn to function under the stress of an emergency and adrenaline rush that accompanies rescue in scary situations.

Landmark Learning serves more than 2,000 students a year at their center in Cullowhee, Ecuador and at remote sites. The Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS has trained over 30,000 students around the world how to respond to medical emergencies in remote settings.

For more information on Landmark Learning, visit

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.