'An American Ascent' Takes Home Best Documentary, Best Director

“An American Ascent,” the film documenting the National Outdoor Leadership School’s (NOLS) Expedition Denali, earned Best Documentary Film and Best Director honors at the San Diego Black Film Festival this weekend.

The film follows Expedition Denali, which set out to be the first African American team to reach North America’s highest point: Denali. All members of this NOLS expedition were NOLS graduates or instructors, and the film crew included NOLS instructor and video producer Kyle Duba. Though a lightning storm forced the climbers to turn around short of the summit, Expedition Denali achieved its first goal: to inspire youth of color to explore the outdoors.

“Expedition Denali has already reached and inspired thousands of young people through its national tour following the climb,” said NOLS Executive Director John Gans. “I look forward to the ways the film will help solidify the legacy of Expedition Denali.”

NOLS partnered with Distill Productions to produce the film and enjoyed the widespread support of Kickstarter sponsors to make the documentary possible. Watch the film trailer below or at


An American Ascent - Film Trailer from Distill Productions on Vimeo.


About NOLS

Since legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt founded the school in 1965, more than 254,000 students have graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the leader in wilderness education. Whether through field-based courses offered in some of the most awe-inspiring locations in the world or classroom-based courses, the school provides transformative educational experiences to students of all ages. Graduates emerge as active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. To discover the NOLS experience or to bring a course to your business or organization, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit