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Dolomites with Mountain Madness

Denali Prep Course Gets Big Mountain Weather

The start of the 2013 North­west sea­son was marked by a Denali Prep Course, led by long­time Moun­tain Mad­ness guide and expe­di­tion guru Jacob Schmitz, and a Mount Bak­er Ski Descent! Some of you may have read about the ski descent already. How­ev­er, for the Denali Prep Course, things did­n’t exact­ly go as planned. But we did get a good taste of life on a big mountain.

The weath­er start­ed out gor­geous — clear and sun­ny and pret­ty warm. We went to Par­adise and pre­pared to take off with our huge packs and sleds. There were lots of tourists play­ing in the snow — which meant that we were in A LOT of pho­tos. At one point I left my pack to help a client. When I turned back around, there was a group of for­eign­ers sur­round­ing my pack, pos­ing for pho­tos. One woman held my trekking poles in her hands while a man rest­ed his hand on my pack. The rest of the group clus­tered around try­ing to look macho, switch­ing places repeat­ed­ly for each pho­to. It was a lit­tle bit awk­ward to walk into some­one’s pho­to and take my stuff away from them.

Head­ing up the moun­tain. Viviane deBros photo

We fled from our celebri­ty sta­tus and hiked up to about 7000 feet, set­ting up camp on a lit­tle ridge with amaz­ing views. The first two days were packed with train­ing: sled rig­ging, camp con­struc­tion, crevasse res­cue, and of course, expe­di­tion cook­ing. Who says you can’t have piz­za on a mountain?

Study­ing hard. Viviane deBros photo

Inside the cook tent. Viviane deBros photo

On the sec­ond night, the wind start­ed to pick up. And it nev­er stopped for the rest of our course. By morn­ing, one of our sleds had blown away (despite being anchored), our cook tent had a gap­ing hole, and our tents had col­lapsed. We had to lean toward each oth­er and shout just to be heard above the wind. 

One tent down, two about to go. Stephen Cole­grove photo

Moun­tain sky­div­ing. Viviane deBros photo

But every­one was hap­py to ral­ly. After recu­per­at­ing for a bit in Ash­ford, we head­ed back out. The wind con­tin­ued and the snow fell, but the rest of the course went well.

Cold out­side, warm and hap­py inside. Viviane deBros photo

Snowy morn­ing. Stephen Cole­grove photo

Why drag your sled down­hill when it can drag you. Viviane deBros photo

All in all, spir­its were high. We may not have had ide­al con­di­tions, but we sure had real­is­tic ones!

~ Viviane deBros, MM Guide