The idea for Chulengo has been a long time in the making, taking its ethos from generations of adventurers-turned-environmentalists. As our mentor Kris Tompkins puts it, "we defend what we love, and we love what we know." Every day of bushwacking through remote valleys and scrambling unnamed peaks reinforces the special power of wild landscapes to challenge, inspire, and transform.
Chulengo benefits from the wisdom and support of many, including those below.
NADINE LEHNER (Co-founder)
After years working in conservation while exploring wild places, Nadine dove into Chulengo to build connections between people and place that inspire lasting change. After graduating from Harvard College, where she studied History & Literature with an environmental focus, she headed south to work with Doug and Kris Tompkins (founders of The North Face, Esprit and Patagonia, Inc). As Executive Director of Conservacion Patagonica, she focused on the establishment of the future Patagonia National Park, the 700,000-acre flagship national park that is home to most of Chulengo's expeditions. After five years with Conservacion Patagonica, she pursued a joint MBA - MS in Environment and Resources at Stanford University. She's a NOLS instructor and has led wilderness backpacking and river expeditions for over a decade. She now spends most of her time in one of her favorite places on earth, Patagonia National Park, leading expeditions with Chulengo.
BEN WILCOX (CO-FOUNDER)
Ben works as a guide and educator in the Aysén region of Chile, with a particular focus on student groups and environmental conservation. During the 2015 season, Ben directed Conservación Patagónica's field volunteer and education program, spending nearly five months living in a tent in the backcountry of the future Patagonia National Park. He has also worked with teams of local guides to manage expeditions onto the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, one of Patagonia's most remote areas. Ben studied Latin American History as a Harvard undergraduate, which included stints in Argentina and Brazil, and completed a degree in philosophy at Oxford University. A long-distance cyclist, he has pedaled across North America, South America, and Europe. When he isn't leading expeditions for Chulengo, Ben works on translation projects for the Coyhaique-based publishing house Ñire Negro and collects stories that relate to the history of Aysén.
Rock-star conservationist and businesswoman Kris is a crucial mentor to Chulengo. After co-founding Patagonia, Inc with Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, Kris served as the company's first CEO for two decades before retiring to move to Chile and focus on conservation with her late husband Doug Tompkins. In 2000, she founded Conservación Patagónica to create national parks in Chile and Argentina that save and restore wildlands and wildlife, inspire care for nature, and generate healthy economic alternatives for communities. With Doug, she has secured protection for more land than any other individuals in history - over 2.1 million acres - and enabled the establishment of numerous national parks.
Environmental education and behavior guru Nicole guides the vision and approach of Chulengo. As an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, Nicole focuses on environmental behavior and place-based connections. Nicole has current studies on the use of education, communications, and other social strategies in informal and community-based settings, including nature-based tourism programs, to engage individuals and communities in deliberate dialogue, environmental decision-making, and informed conservation behavior. She also researches the effectiveness of a range of environmental education and social science endeavors in achieving measurable and meaningful conservation results.
After growing up in Santiago, Chile, Juanjo first arrived to Aysen, Chile to volunteer at Patagonia National Park. He planned to stay for two weeks and ended up staying for two months, before returning the following year to work for Conservacion Patagonica as a volunteer program leader. He studied ecotourism at Duoc UC in Santiago, where he started climbing, then moved to New Zealand for two years to gain experience in the field and learn English. He worked for Patagonia, Inc, then received a scholarship to attend NOLS's Patagonia Year course, which inspired him to become a NOLS mountaineering and rock climbing instructor. Going forward, he's inspired to "keep learning and sharing a love for the natural world."
BEN Nevis BARRON
Hailing from Boulder, Colorado, Ben is a musician, educator, and climber. He met Ben Wilcox in grad school, at a Pete Seeger memorial sing-along; neither of their lives have been the same since. With his band, the Infamous Flapjack Affair, he composed and performed music about the Colorado River ecosystem, inspiring a documentary film called "Confluence." Ben studied Literature at Princeton University and Geography at Oxford University.
Raised in the mountains of Colorado, Brooks has held a strong emotional connection to wild nature that has driven him on a varied career path in clean energy, entrepreneurship and outdoor recreation. He is a NOLS Instructor and previously designed and led team-building outdoor trips as Co-Founder and CEO of Ascend Adventures. Brooks studied climate and energy policy at Princeton University, and attended the joint MBA/MS in Environment and Resources program at Stanford, where he served as an Arbuckle Leadership Fellow and as a design leader at the d.school.
Born and raised in Santiago de Chile, Paula first visited Patagonia in 1986 through Operations Raleigh Chile. One of her first projects occurred in the area that is now Patagonia Park. Later, she worked as a trekking guide for the Explora Hotel in Torres del Paine National Park. In 1997, with her partner Rodrigo Noriega, she joined Doug and Kris Tompkins' team, creating Pumalin Park. They lived in the remote heart of the park for 12 years, raising two children there. Paula ran the Information Center at Caleta Gonzalo, touristic operations of the bee project at Pillan Farm, and production of organic jams. She says: "I am very lucky and proud to have helped in the creation of Pumalin Park and Patagonia Park, and to have shared this experience with Doug and Kris Tompkins." Now Paula is becoming a Forest School Leader for early learners. For Paula, "being outdoors is going back to basics. It is the opportunity to reconnect with myself and nature, to find my own rhythm."
Jay is an activist, musician, environmentalist and master of fun. At Harvard, he studied biological anthropology and served on the steering committee for the First Year Outdoor Program (FOP), which brings over 400 students into the mountains of New England for a week of pre-orientation. Since college, he's worked on campaign finance reform, first at Maplight and then as executive director of CounterPAC, which model solutions to our broken electoral system by creating incentives for candidates to run more publicly accountable campaigns.
Born and raised in Puerto Ibanez, Aysen, Chile, Mauricio has worked as a field instructor and expedition logistics coordinator in the region for over two decades. He has instructed sea kayaking, mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking, and horsepacking with NOLS in Patagonia, Alaska, Wyoming, and the Pacific Northwest. He and his partner Gabi run Huella Patagonica, a new hostel in Coyhaique.
Alison is a conservation activist, storyteller, and outdoorswoman. After growing up in New England, Alison discovered the big outdoors of the US West first as a student at the High Mountain Institute, and then while attending Colorado College. She's worked for Patagonia, Inc, National Geographic, and Outside Magazine. A member of the Tompkins Conservation team since 2014, Alison is the Communications Director for Conservacion Patagonica. Alison is an avid long-distance runner and backpacker.
Jesse is a wilderness adventurer and expert in building experiences that empower changemakers. He founded School for Change, directed education initiatives at Impact Hub Bay Area, a community of entrepreneurs, activists, and artists, and has led initiatives for self-directed learning through the Bay Area Open Masters’ program. His experience includes student advocacy, fisheries conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and sustainability strategy for the National Park Service. Jesse has a B.A. from Northwestern University and a Masters in Environment and International Development from Cambridge University.
Robin grew up in Colorado where she developed an early relationship with the outdoors while exploring the Rocky Mountains. She spent a formative time in the future Patagonia National Park as a greenhouse intern in 2012, and was excited to return to Valle Chacabuco to co-lead a trip in December 2017. Since graduating from Colorado College in 2012, she has worked as a teacher, outdoor educator, and environmental writer. Her interest in grassland conservation has taken her across North America’s grasslands to report on land issues and conservation efforts in the West. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the University of Montana in Missoula, where she lives with her pup Banjo.
As Nadine's co-outdoor-conspirator and grad school roommate, Colleen has been at the core of Chulengo's instructional philosophy since the pre-beginning. A Portland native, she headed east for college at Dartmouth, where she studied geology, Spanish, and education. She stayed in beautiful New Hampshire working for Dartmouth and The Mountain School. She's instructed for NOLS in Scandinavia, Wyoming, and the Pacific Northwest, received a joint MBA - Masters in Education from Stanford, and works for the Boston Consulting Group in Seattle.
From Oslo, Norway, Julie is a born explorer of nature. She grew up skiing, hiking, kayaking and climbing throughout Norway and beyond. She studied at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen for university, and later attended Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she and Nadine spent as much time as possible outdoors adventuring in northern California.
Rene Sandoval (LOGISTICS)
Rene coordinates transportation and logistics for Chulengo, bringing decades of experience in the Aysen Region to this role. Originally from Rio Bueno, Chile, he has lived in Coyhaique for many decades. As an officer in the Chilean military, Rene gained an appreciation for detail-oriented coordination and logistics. Through his company, Servicios Integrales, he has helped hundreds of travelers to the Aysen Region organize safe and efficient transportation. A proud Aysenino, he enjoys sharing his knowledge of the region with travelers and students.