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Mountain Madness Climber


Mt. Bak­er in all her glo­ry! Jere­my Allyn photo

As I write this blog post a major win­ter storm is at our doorstep here in the Cas­cade Range of Wash­ing­ton State — thun­der and light­en­ing this morn­ing, urban flood­ing on Seattle’s streets, and 3 feet of new snow fore­cast­ed for the next 48 hrs. I’m con­tem­plat­ing which day to skip work to go ski touring…tomorrow? Fri­day? I’m track­ing the weath­er radar, the freez­ing lev­els, pre­cip­i­ta­tion rates, scour­ing ski reports on the inter­net (some dubi­ous, some valu­able), think­ing about what part­ners I want to go out with? Where to go? How to go? What ter­rain to com­plete­ly avoid? How are those wind slabs from Sat­ur­day going to react now they have a new snow load on top of them? Where’s the good ski­ing? Hmmm…maybe I should wait. No…I real­ly want to ski! The trail break­ing is going to be bru­tal. On and on and on…

Ski Tour­ing in the Cen­tral Cas­cades. J. Allyn photo

It’s hard to be a win­ter recre­ation­ist in this area. Our weath­er is incred­i­bly finicky, often extreme, and we get a huge amount of snow. No mat­ter what activ­i­ty you chose – snow­shoe­ing, ice climb­ing, ski moun­taineer­ing, mel­low ski tour­ing, even dri­ving the moun­tain pass­es – all win­ter back­coun­try trav­el expos­es one­self to avalanche risk at some point or anoth­er. What is risk? Expo­sure time vis-à-vis objec­tive haz­ard? What is your per­son­al risk accep­tance lev­el and does it match up with your part­ner? Can you car­ry out a com­pan­ion res­cue if some­one in your par­ty is caught in an avalanche? These are impor­tant ques­tions if you trav­el in the moun­tains – espe­cial­ly in winter. 

So, as we merge into the hol­i­day sea­son, and win­ter knocks heav­i­ly at our door, I urge you and yours to embrace these ques­tions and con­tin­ue to hone your deci­sion mak­ing in what­ev­er activ­i­ty you choose. One excel­lent way to gain a sol­id foun­da­tion of skills and gain a greater pro­fi­cien­cy in your deci­sion mak­ing is to take an avalanche course or hire a pro­fes­sion­al ski guide.

Crispin Prahl tak­ing off the climb­ing skins. J. Allyn photo

Moun­tain Mad­ness offers a vari­ety of course options and we are excit­ed to join you this win­ter! Our avalanche cours­es are small and our instruc­tors are among the best in the busi­ness. Over the years I’ve real­ized that the best avalanche instruc­tors are the ones with the most diverse snow expe­ri­ence – ski patrol, moun­tain guid­ing, avalanche course instruct­ing, fore­cast­ing. One can have a Ph.D in snow sci­ence but nev­er felt mov­ing snow under their skis. One can be a ful­ly-cer­ti­fied moun­tain guide but lack good teach­ing skills. I firm­ly believe that the jack-of-all-trades” snow per­son makes the best avalanche instruc­tor. Of course, you need to love snow, love teach­ing, and love the over­all expe­ri­ence of shar­ing trav­el in the moun­tains. All of us at Moun­tain Mad­ness def­i­nite­ly do! We hope to see you out there!

Moni­ka John­son in win­ter won­der­land. J. Allyn photo


Jere­my Allyn
North Amer­i­ca Pro­gram Director