2020 guiding program: Tentative schedule

This weekend I received four inquiries about the 2020 guiding program. Normally I would not be prepared to discuss it until December, but I’m ahead of my usual schedule and can share a few things now.


A tentative 2020 schedule has been posted. In coming months I’ll confirm some additional details, notably guide assignments and the Rocky Mountain location.

A “final” schedule will not be posted until after the open application period in early-January. Based on demand, I’ll commit to specific dates, trip types, and intensity levels at that time.

Open application period

I will accept applications starting no later than January 2, 2020, and may open the application period in December if it’s ready to go. The open application window will end on Sunday, January 12.

During the open application period, all applications will be considered equally. Starting January 13, applications will be considered on a first-come-first-serve basis, and only unfilled spots will be available.


I have not presented this tentative schedule with my guide team or discussed their availability. If the dates are not workable for certain key guides, I may modify the schedule, but I don’t think this is likely.

Lunch spot in Arrigetch Creek, Alaska

Southern Utah

In my first draft of the tentative schedule, southern Utah was not on the list. But I received enough inquiries about the location that I’ve added it. The most likely location will be Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, pending approval of a commercial permit.


In West Virginia we will run at least four trips, and we’ll run more if demand warrants them. The dates for the first two blocks are firm.

For the first time ever, we’re offering 5-day trips east of the Continental Divide. They’ll be a chance to explore the state’s best wilderness areas (e.g. Dolly Sods) and to master Appalachian conditions. The guide team will be very strong, with Alan Dixon, Joe McConaughy (“Stringbean”), yours truly, and one other TBA hammock specialist.

Brooks Range

The second half of June seems to be an excellent timing for the Brooks Range. The weather is generally stable; the snow has melted off; the mosquito season has barely started; and there is little competition for bush flights.

Last year all of the Alaska sessions were rated High and Very High. This year, I’d expect at least one Moderate session. All applicants must still have a strong resume, however.

Yosemite & Rocky Mountains

For certain, we’ll run trips in Yosemite in July. The bugs can be thick, but I still love this month: the high country is super green and still capped with some snow; wildflowers are everywhere; and we have the opportunity to teach early-season skills like snow travel and river crossings.

Overlooking Roosevelt Lake, on the descent from Don’t Be A Smart Pass

The schedule in August and September will be shaped by both demand and commercial permits. To keep the guides (and alumni) excited, I’m hoping to take a break from Rocky Mountain National Park, and at least for 2020 check out another location in Colorado, Wyoming, or maybe Montana.

If my usage is restricted, I’ll probably run a few trips in the Rockies in August and then return to Yosemite in September. If I have more flexibility, I’ll run the full schedule in the Rockies in August or September, and only run a second set of trips in Yosemite if demand is high and I’m up for it.

Questions about 2020? Leave a comment.

Posted in on October 14, 2019


  1. Sue Kovats- Bell on October 14, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Hi Andrew! This is exciting! Thanks for sending this out ????.

    PS I noticed on the link for trips and dates, the Appalachian trip schedule had two trips with dates for March 23, 2020… Most likely typos, but thought you would want to catch them ????

    • Andrew Skurka on October 15, 2019 at 7:55 am

      WV dates are all in May, definitely not March. Thanks for catching that.

      • Ginny on October 15, 2019 at 1:23 pm

        May can feel like March in WV….Dolly Sods would be great (albeit possibly too well travelled) but also check out Roaring Plains wilderness to the SW of DS for some off trail opportunities.

  2. Scott Endsley on October 15, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Hey Andrew,
    Any chance of guiding trips in the New York area?

    Thanks, Scott

    • Andrew Skurka on October 15, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      West Virginia is not prohibitively far from New York, depending on where you live in the state. From NYC it’s 5-6 hours.

      I don’t intend to operate in another Eastern location in 2020. For every location I operate, there’s a lot of overhead work. That’s why I try to operate in the same locations each year and to minimize my total number of locations.

  3. Mike G. on October 16, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Live in PA and have hiked Dolly Sods and Monongahela National Forest many times.

    It’s very nice seeing you offer trips for the East and it’s a great spot! Best of luck to you.

  4. Max Khusid on October 17, 2019 at 6:16 am

    Excited about all of them. I do like the idea of Montana/Wyoming. New environment, new challenges, new skills to learn

    • Patrick Ploenzke on November 8, 2019 at 8:46 pm

      How would I determine which trip I am ready for?

  5. Kimberly Sanders on October 17, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Alaska Adventure week?

  6. Alex on October 22, 2019 at 9:08 am

    I loved Dolly Sods when I went hiking in May. I was considering practicing off-trail navigation there this month and then decided against it when I read about the live mortar and artillery shells that were found there from the days during WWII when the army practiced maneuvers there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_Sods_Wilderness#History

    I ended up going to another wilderness area in Monongahela National Forest not too far away and had a great time navigating with map and compass and occasionally checking myself with Gaia. Your navigation series of blog posts was quite helpful!

  7. Matthew Long on November 13, 2019 at 4:31 am

    Looking forward to the application opening as I plan to apply for the first time. Looks like some great options.

  8. Stephanie Shoot on November 13, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    I vote Wyoming as your Rocky Mountain alternate. I was just checking out your high route guide, epic!
    I’m going to apply for a Brooks Range trip but if I don’t get selected for that, could I put the Yosemite High Route as a second choice?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 13, 2019 at 6:53 pm

      Yes, the Application Form will be set up so that you can indicate First Choice and Second Choice locations and dates. I always try to get people on their First Choice trip, assuming that they’re qualified and that there’s space.

  9. Stephanie Shoot on November 13, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Perfect. Could you eval me now to see what you think I’m up for? And recommend any prep-work I could do to get on a trip to the Brooks or Winds?
    I’d guess you get my email address from these posts, please feel free to use it.

    • Andrew Skurka on November 13, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      I’d be happy to do that, and in fact would encourage it, because it can help you better set your expectations.

      Send me an email with some basic bio information (age, state, height and weight) and then list your backpacking experience, including details like duration, distance, and vertical, and perceived effort. I ask for all of this info on the Application Form, so you might want to save some of your answers. I should be able to steer you towards the suitable trip type and trip intensity.


  10. Gaetan Gerville-Reache on December 10, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Any chance you’d consider creating a guided 5-day trip in the Grand Canyon south rim or some other warm place between April 3 and April 11? It’s Spring Break time. Good for father-daughter treks.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 10, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      That’s a great time of year to be there, but unfortunately we won’t be running trips during that time or at the Grand Canyon. For every location that I operate, I need commercial authorization from the managing land agency, and I don’t have that approval from NPS for Grand Canyon.

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