This guide roster is world-class, and I firmly believe that our clients go into the field with the absolute most accomplished and credible guides that any outfitter or educational organization can offer. To boot, we have excellent people and group skills, and necessary medical certifications.
- Andrew Skurka
- Buzz Burrell
- Mike Clelland
- Mary Cochenour
- Alan Dixon
- David Eitemiller
- Paul Magnanti
- Joe McConaughy
- Brian Robinson
- Justin Simoni
- Jessica Winters
Special guests for 2019:
I’m a 38-year-old adventure athlete, guide, and writer, and I live in Boulder, Colo. with my wife Amanda and feline fur child, Oden.
As a twenty-something I was a prolific long-distance thru-hiker. My most notable trips were the 4,700-mile 6-month Alaska-Yukon Expedition, the 6,875-mile 7-month Great Western Loop, and the 7,775-mile 11-month Sea-to-Sea Route. Only one has been repeated, and only once.
For these accomplishments I was named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker.
More recently, I’ve focused on high routes and long-distance running. I pioneered four off-trail backpacking routes — the Yosemite High Route, Pfiffner Traverse, Kings Canyon High Basin Route, and Wind River High Route — and created guidebooks for each.
I own a marathon personal-best of 2:28:24, and placed 73rd at the 2017 Boston Marathon. But, naturally, ultra trail running has interested me more: I’ve completed six 100-mile races, and have finished Top 3 at the Leadville 100, Run Rabbit Run 100, Bighorn 100, and Vulcano Ultra Trail 100K.
Buzz is a living legend within the trail and ultra running community. He is the former record holder for the Colorado Trail and John Muir Trail, and thru-hiked the Sierra High Route and Wind River High Route (both with Skurka). He excels at the intersection of technical adventure and endurance. For example, he completed the Flatiron Quinfecta (climbing Boulder’s five fifth-class Flatirons, which entails about 5,000 vertical feet and 5 miles of trails) in just over 2 hours, and climbed three of the four tallest Northwest volcanoes (Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood) in 28 hours. He undertook a number of similar projects in places like Zion, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, and the Tetons.
For five years Buzz has been the Brand Manager of Ultimate Direction, a Colorado-based hydration gear company specializing in ultra running water bottles, belts and pack.
Mike lived in the shadow of the Tetons for a quarter century, giving him access to phenomenal backcountry skiing, climbing and ultralight hiking. He has been a guide for the Alaska Mountaineering School and for NOLS, where he was pivotal in creating a lightweight backpacking program. He is the author of ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING TIPS, an instructional book (with cartoons). He’s been an illustrator for a long list of educational outdoor books and magazines. He presently lives in the Adirondacks.
Mary is a former wilderness ranger, ski patroller, and Grand Canyon river guide who more recently has been organizing and leading groups of women on backpacking trips in the northern Rockies. She is the founder of Hiker Midnight, a personal coaching service that mentors beginner backpackers.
Mary lives in Montana with her husband, Matt, and their two young kids, Kennedy and Cameron. They are addicted to the mountain lifestyle, spending their free time skiing steeps at Big Sky Resort in the winter and backpacking, mountain biking, and rafting in the summer. While she plays hard, she works hard, too, as lawyer for the Montana Attorney General.
Alan is the co-founder of Backpacking Light Magazine. At age 4 he carried his first backpack into the Sierra Nevada, and since then he’s backpacked, climbed, packrafted, canyoneered, skied, fly-fished and kayaked in spectacular places on six continents. Alan is also a national level kayaker and triathlete. He resides in Washington DC with his wife Alison, who is his partner in outdoor adventures and triathloning. Alan posts technical articles about backpacking to his website, and was a contributing author to Lightweight Backpacking & Camping: A Field Guide to Wilderness Hiking Equipment, Technique, and Style.
Dave held a long and successful career in Asia as a Senior Executive for major paper, packaging and printing companies. Now semi-retired and living in Colorado Springs with his wife Sue, he has much more time for fun stuff.
Dave has completed the Wind River High Route and Pfiffner Traverse, and portions of the Sierra High Route and Kings Canyon Basin Route. He also competes in several ultra marathons per year, normally finishing on the podium for his age class. Among others, he has completed The Bear 100, Silverheels 100, Run Rabbit Run 100, Never Summer 100K, and San Juan Solstice 50 (four times, because the San Juan’s and Lake City are awesome).
Paul has completed the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail (the “Triple Crown” of long-distance trails), as well as Vermont’s Long Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail, and the Colorado Trail. His most recent jaunt was a 600-mile+ walk through Utah on an undefined route with no name or snazzy initials, but was a lot of fun.
In addition to his long hikes, Paul is an avid backcountry skier and enjoys alpine climbing. He is a contributing author to The Colorado Trail Guidebook (8th Edition), has written articles for various publications, is a well-known presence in the online backpacking community, and has a well-regarded and read website at PMags.com. When not out in the backcountry, Paul is seeking the perfect the pint, eating the most scrumptious post-trail burger, and discovering where the best chile relleno may be found.
Joe McConaughy set speed records on two of America’s oldest and best known long-distance hiking trails. In 2014 he finished the Pacific Crest Trail in 54 days, averaging 50 miles per day and besting the former supported record by six days. In 2017 he completed the Appalachian Trail in 45 days, an average of 48 miles per. Remarkably, he did this in a self-supported fashion (i.e. as a traditional thru-hiker), yet still beat the previous records of ultra-running legends Karl Metlzler and Scott Jurek, who had support teams.
Joe ran cross-country and track at Boston College, and remains a runner today. He has competed in numerous trail ultras in the US and Europe, and in 2018 he set a new FKT on Ireland’s Wicklow Round.
Joe lives in Boston with his fiancé, Katie, and can often in a climbing gym or on one of New England’s 4,000-foot peaks. Find him on Instagram, @thestring.bean.
Brian has been backpacking since the 1970’s. He helped to popularize many ultralight techniques, including use of the poncho-tarp as shelter and raingear. In 2001 Brian became the first person to complete the Calendar Triple Crown — a 7,400-mile, triple thru-hike of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails, all in the same year. This feat earned him the trail name “Flyin’ Brian” and induction into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame. It also caught the attention of Andrew Skurka, at the time still a college student, who was fascinated by Brian’s far, fast and light style.
Brian is also an accomplished ultra runner. He set the course record at the Barkley Marathons, an off-beat and somewhat insane 100-mile race, in 55 hours, 43 minutes. And he completed the 224-mile John Muir Trail in just 4 days 7 hours.
Justin specializes in self-supported adventures that entail hard biking, hiking, and climbing, and sometimes all three. He has completed the 2,700-mile Tour Divide and 500-mile Colorado Trail races. In 2014 he climbed Colorado’s fifty-eight 14,000-foot peaks (pedaling his bike between them), and in 2017 climbed Colorado’s Centennial Peaks (its one-hundred highest), again pedaling between them. In 2018 he hiked and scrambled the 80-mile Mosquito/Ten Mile Range, which is the first known traverse.
When not on lonely, soul-searching sufferfests, Justin is usually found either on the trails or scrambling the Flatirons right outside of Boulder. Simoni holds a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design.
Jessica has thru-hiked the Pacific Crest, Appalachian, and Continental Divide Trails, the so-called Triple Crown of long-distance hiking. She has also completed the Arizona Trail, climbed Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro (the highest peaks in South America and Africa, respectively), traversed Iceland, and logged thousands of miles on foot through the Pacific Northwest, most recently to summit all five of Washington’s volcanoes.
Jessica is a full-time yoga teacher and owns Wilderness Adventure Yoga, which combines yoga with rafting trips on two of the wildest rivers in the US, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and the Middle Fork of the Salmon through the Frank Church. She became a certified yoga teacher in 2011 in the system of the Ghosh lineage.
Ron is the founder and owner of Mountain Laurel Designs, which designs and manufacturers ultralight shelters, sleeping bags, and backpacks at its shop in Roanoke, Virginia. It was founded in 2002, and is one of the most innovative and influential backpacking gear companies — and one of the most popular among in-the-know backpackers and thru-hikers.
Ron is joining Alan, Andrew, and Joe McConaughy for the Backpacking Fundamentals courses in West Virginia in May 2019. In addition to being great company, Ron will be sharing his exceptional knowledge of gear design, manufacturing, fabrics, and materials. His tutorials on shelters, bags, and packs will be authoritative and beyond insightful
Matt turned a love of the outdoors into a PhD in environmental science. He is keen on the context and details of ecosystems, and believes that a healthy appreciation of geology and vegetation adds necessary spice to any backpacking trip. Matt learned a great deal about the Appalachians from his days testing soils for the National Park Service and enjoys imparting his knowledge to others. His backpacking experience includes thru-hikes of the Sierra High Route, the West Highland and Cotswold Ways in Great Britain and portions of the Wind River High Route, Pfiffner Traverse, and the Appalachian Trail. Matt hails from Washington, DC and currently works on environmental and agricultural policy for a member of Congress. He enjoys politics but looks forward to biking home at the end of a day and exchanging suit and tie for running shorts and shoes so he can prepare for the next marathon.