John Able: NOLS - High Highs, and (hilarious) Low Lows


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Originally from Southern California, John Abel has worked in outdoor education from 1984 to 2019. He has worked in many different roles such as administrative, instructional, consultative – but the bulk of and the best of his work was as a field instructor for NOLS. John has been a NOLS instructor since 1991, mainly working hiking, climbing, and mountaineering courses. He has a Master's in Leadership and Organizational Development from the Leadership Institute of Seattle. Since 2010, he has worked primarily for NOLS Professional Training, facilitating various leadership training programs for NOLS organizational clients.

Presently, he's changing careers, moving from outdoor ed into financial planning. His goal is to provide financial planning in an empowering and client-centric way.

In this episode:

  • (02:23) John starts the interview by telling us the story behind "I can't see." As bizarre as it sounds, the story is stated back to NOLS fall semester in 1994, where his group faced a drastic turn in the weather that left everyone in three to four feet of snow. The story gets interesting when John shares how a group of students informed him that one of the students couldn't see, which led to more mysterious and thrilling events moving on.
  • (18:11) John gives his side of the story on the best Halloween ever. If you guys haven't listened to Andy Blair's side of the story, go ahead and listen to that first. In the beginning, Abel tells us how an instructor's robbed wallet turned the instructors being suspicious towards the whole group and all the students being resentful and upset over having a ruined experience. The course instructors planned a fun and memorable Halloween that involved witches, ziplines, and fire to cheer them up.

  • (27:50) He further shares one of his best days in outdoor education. John tells us how he was working in a climbing course in the late summers in the Wind River mountain range when he was tagged with a young student who wasn't too comfortable in outside activities. He talks about how a disagreement between the two lets them feel the breath of death on the back of their necks.
  • (41:10) Later on, John shares one of the worse days of his life that he titled "Groover explosion." He tells us about groovers, as they are attached to the toilet seats where all the human wastage is stored, but once they were full – he was left with no choice but to carry the box to an area where all the waste was supposed to be dumped. The story gets hilarious when John tells us how a hectic yet straightforward task left him covered in poop and made it the worse memory of his life.
  • (53:55) Johns tells us yet another funny story about the toilet seat prank. He talks about how one of the instructors keeps bragging about the fact that no one ever gets away with a prank on him, which made John come up with a brilliant idea to slip a broken toilet seak into his bag pack for his next trip. He soon introduced the idea with his colleagues that later turn into a 42 vs 1, the person who had no clue that he would get the prank of his life.

  • (01:02:29) We throw quick, intriguing rapid-fire questions at John to dig deeper into his favourite locations to lead trips and his go-to gear to take along. He entertains us more with his hilarious talk at the end of the show.

26 episodes