I’m thrilled to have assembled this all-star guide team, and to work beside them. Each one is an expert backpacker and guide — they combine extensive first-hand backcountry experience with a passion for teaching, excellent people skills, relate-able family and work lives, engaging story-telling, and necessary medical certifications.
- Andrew Skurka
- Matthew Bright
- Mike Clelland
- Scott Christy
- Mary Cochenour
- Alan Dixon
- Dan Durston
- David Eitemiller
- Caroline Kellough
- Paul Magnanti
- Joe McConaughy
- Brian Robinson
- Christy Rosander
- Justin Simoni
- Jessica Winters
- Client evaluation: 4.96/5.0 in 2019
I’m 38 years-old and live in Boulder, Colo. with my wife Amanda and feline fur child, Oden. Since founding Skurka Adventures in 2011, I have led 75 trips and managed 25 more.
As a twenty-something I was a prolific long-distance thru-hiker. My most notable trips were the:
- Alaska-Yukon Expedition (6 months, 4,700 miles),
- Great Western Loop (7 months, 6,875 miles), and the
- Sea-to-Sea Route (11 months, 7,775 miles).
More recently, I’ve focused on high routes and long-distance running. I pioneered four off-trail backpacking routes and created guidebooks for each of them. I own a marathon personal-best of 2:28:24, and have completed six 100-mile races.
My definitive book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Tips to Hit the Trail, was published by National Geographic and has sold over 125,000 copies.
What did clients from 2019 say about Andrew?
- “Andrew is a strong communicator who has developed his skills over years of hard fought trial and error.”
- “Andrew should write a book on small team leadership and management — how to compose a group, balance leadership personalities, set expectations, encourage the group, teach at the level of the student, help people get outside their comfort zone, and be transparent in decision-making. Let me know when I can order it.”
- “Andrew inspires confidence with navigation and travel skills. He’s a caribou whisperer, and provides great guidance for negotiating rivers, snow field, and talus.”
- “Andrew is always very well organized, which makes the trips run smoothly. This allows you to focus solely on learning and enjoying yourself.”
- “If you had a question he helped you find it without just giving it to you. He steered you in the right direction, but let you kind of have the ah-ha moment so you might better retain the information.”
- Client evaluation: 5.0/5.0 in 2019
I’m 35 years old and live three miles north of the White House in the heart of Washington, DC, where I develop federal climate change policy.
Like the Lorax, I love the trees and turned that love into a PhD in environmental science. My friends like to say I’m a “stop and smell the flowers kind of a guy.” I strongly believe that an understanding of the context and details of an ecosystem are a necessary spice to any backpacking trip through the Eastern Hardwood forests.
In 2020 I’m excited to share my knowledge of the geology, flora, fauna and history of West Virginia. This will be my second year guiding with Andrew.
My backpacking adventures include thru-hikes of the Long Trail, Sierra High Route, West Highland Way, and Cotswold Way; loops on the Wind River High Route and Pfiffner Traverse; and numerous other trips on both coasts and all points in between. My latest project is climbing Colorado’s fifty-eight peaks over 14,000 feet.
To keep in shape while living in a city, I run and am currently training for the Boston Marathon in 2020.
What did clients from 2019 say about Matt?
- “Matt is such a great presence. He’s highly engaging and I truly enjoyed learning the history and the plants in the area. In sync with Andrew.”
- “Matt has a permanent smile. Just a consistently amazing attitude. Super observant with the clients and able to gently help some cold wet people with their compass skills.”
- “I LOVED hearing Matt talk about the trees, rocks, and history of the area.”
- “Education of the history of the ecology and explanation of its current state was an unexpected value/benefit of Matt’s guidance.”
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.
I’m 44 years-old and live in Lander, Wyoming in the rain shadow of the lovely Wind River Range. For over twenty years I’ve taught backpacking skills for NOLS and helped develop their lightweight backpacking program. In that capacity I’ve had the honor of working with a diverse range of participants including training NASA Astronauts, MBA students, US Marines, and Google directors.
My work has taken me backpacking all over the globe, from Chilean Patagonia, to Alaska and the Yukon, with countless more miles hiked in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, California, and Arizona. When not guiding, I’ve recently been focused on long packrafting trips in northern Alaska and canyoneering explorations of the Grand Canyon. Also, it turns out that most of the lightweight backpacking systems also work for bikepacking and elk hunting!
When not spending time outdoors I make radio stories for podcasts and radio shows, including the Telemetry podcast for Yellowstone National Park. In addition, I’m on the command team of my local Search and Rescue unit.
I live in Helena, Montana, with my husband Matt and our two kids, Kennedy (12) and Cameron (9). We are outdoor fun hogs, spending most of our time skiing, mountain biking, and backpacking in Montana’s mountains.
I work for Gaia GPS, which is a new and exciting career — in late-2019 I resigned as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Montana after fifteen years in law. In my spare time I run Hiker Midnight, which organizes and leads women’s backpacking trips in the Northern Rockies; and I’ve been working with Skurka since 2018.
Before kids I guided forty-two rafting trips down the Grand Canyon, roamed the Desolation Wilderness for seven summers as a US Forest Service ranger, and worked as a ski patroller at Heavenly for ten seasons. I have a lot of experience with first aid, avalanche safety, and search and rescue.
I’ve been backpacking for decades and have lived through the entire ultralight transformation of the sport. My experience includes the John Muir Trail (x3), Tahoe-Yosemite Trail, Wonderland Trail, the Circuit in Torres Del Paine in Patagonia, and countless miles of beautiful trail and off-trail routes in California, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Arizona, Utah, and Montana.
What did clients from 2019 say about Mary?
- “Mary is the whole package – intelligent, experienced, strong, and personable.”
- “Mary has a client-first mindset. I heard her several times ask, ‘What can I do to make this experience more comfortable/amazing/exceptional for you?'”
- “Mary is super motivating and was a great role model for women.”
- “There is a fine line between being responsible and having fun, and Mary walked it perfectly. I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone else I would rather have lead the trip.”
- “Mary had a lovely way of offering a small tip or piece of advice in the context of a situation. These micro-doses of learning felt relevant, not like a scripted curriculum.”
- “Several times Mary had to scout out a bit of the off-trail terrain before the group, to make sure it was safe — it was amazing to watch her in her element and tell us her thought process and reasoning.”
I’m 59 years-old and live in Washington, DC, with my wife and adventuring partner, Alison. I have two children and two grandchildren. Four years ago I retired as an environmental engineer, and now focus mostly on Adventure Alan, one of the oldest and most respected sources for ultralight backpacking.
Since joining Andrew’s program in 2012, I have guided twenty-six trips (including fifteen as the Lead) in Alaska, California, Utah, and the Appalachians.
I’ve been backpacking for over fifty years, and ultralight backpacking for the past twenty. In 2001 I co-founded Backpacking Light, and was the Gear Review Editor there for many years. I pioneered the Wind River High Route and Southern Sierra High Route, and am one of the few people to have completed the Escalante Overland Route. In recent years, I’ve been making annual trips to explore off the beaten path areas in Patagonia.
What did clients in 2019 say about Alan?
- “Even with adverse weather conditions Alan always had a smile on his face which was contagious. He was very knowledgeable, attentive, and thorough.”
- “The guy knows everything!!! He’s so freaking experienced, it’s scary.”
- “I appreciated Alan’s depth of knowledge and skill, his kindness, and his passion for this work. He was responsive to the groups needs and goals, striking a good balance in providing for comfort (finding us the best group campsites/setting good pace) and challenges (quizzing on navigation/leading peak-bagging). I trusted Alan to get us safely through any obstacle.”
- “Alan is the BEST storyteller ever — the trip could not have been more engaging!”
- “The instruction and guidance provided by Brian and Alan was over the top. And the group was amazing, cohesive and free of egos and challenges. I have come out with a great experience, I am a stronger backpacker with skills in micro, off-trail navigation, trip planning and training, trail running, river crossings, digital navigation, backcountry protocols and lightweight backpacking.”
I am 36-years-old and live in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Golden, British Columbia, with my wife T. I have an insatiable passion for both outdoor adventure and gear, which has led me into ambitious gear projects and even more ambitious sufferfest trips (where my perpetual optimism tends to get me through).
After thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, I went on to complete a wide range of challenging on- and off-trail trips, notably the:
- First yo-yo of Canada’s Great Divide Trail (1500 miles, 4 months);
- Bob Marshall Wilderness Open (five-time fastest finisher, 80 to 120 miles in 38 to 66 hours); and,
- FKT on the Stein Valley Traverse (60 miles, sub-20 hours).
Recently I have been scouting and refining several high route alternates for the Great Divide Trail, and bushwhacking into remote river valleys for packraft first descents. For 2020 I have a long list of ambitious new routes to try.
Professionally, I work as a fisheries biologist, with a strong interest in botany. I have authored a popular online hiking guide to the Stein Valley. And in conjunction with Drop, I designed the popular and widely acclaimed X-Mid 1P and 2P Tents.
The 2020 season will be my first year guiding with Andrew.
- Client Evaluation: 4.95/5.0 in 2019
I’m 60 years old and live in Monument, Colo. Recently I retired from a long and successful career in Asia as a Senior Executive for major paper, packaging and printing companies, so now I’m filling my days with a lot more fun stuff.
I started guiding with Andrew in 2018 and can honestly say it is the best “job” I’ve ever had.
For most of my life I’ve backpacked. My most notable trips include the Wind River High Route (twice) and the Pfiffner Traverse, and portions of the Sierra High Route, Kings Canyon Basin Route, and Yosemite High Route.
In addition to backpacking, I fly fish, hunt, ski, and trail run. I’ve completed four 100-mile races and many others in the 50K to 100K range, notably the San Juan Solstice 50 (four times, because the San Juan’s and Lake City are awesome). In 2019 I set the 60+ age group record at Run Rabbit Run 100, and was the only 60+ year-old to secure a Golden Buckle for a sub-30-hour finish. It was a fun family affair, since I was supported by my two daughters, son-in-law, and four grandchildren.
What did clients in 2019 say about Dave?
- “Dave has so much experience and so many interests, it was always easy to chat about something while he hung back with me on long uphill climbs. He was always willing to answer questions. He also set a great example of how you can just truly enjoy being outside no matter what you’re doing.”
- “Dave’s manner gave me the sense that I could immediately trust him completely.”
- “Dave was excellent at explaining the situation and his thought process when we would reach decision points.”
- “Dave had a calm vibe even when swamped with tasks, and his how to poop lecture was as good as Skurka’s video.”
- “Dave …is a physical wonder.”
- “Attitude, leadership, patience, fun; he’s the (freaking) best”
- “I felt really safe around Dave. He was never rude even though there were times he had to wait on me because I was slower than the rest. He was always encouraging me.”
I am 30 years-old and currently live in Salt Lake City, at the base of the Wasatch Mountains with my partner and my scrappy trail dog, Oso. I grew up in the flatlands of this country but quickly found my passion in the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest where I learned to backpack and climb.
Initially I trained as a guide in the Yukon Territory, where I completed the Donjek Route at nineteen. Since then I have taught in wilderness education and worked as a family and group therapist at a wilderness therapy company in Utah’s West Desert where I’ve racked up over 300 field days.
I’ve completed several long walks like the Camino de Santiago (2015) and the Pacific Crest Trail (2018), plus shorter ones all over northern New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Oklahoma. In 2020 I have my sights set on the Colorado and Arizona Trails.
My most recent front country endeavor has been creating my own private practice that combines individual counseling, yoga therapy, and outdoor adventure. When I’m not hiking I’m often found baking bread, writing for my blog and other publications, and singing at the top of my lungs — my trail name is Songbird, after all.
This will be my first year guiding with Andrew, and I’m excited to meet my group!
I’m 45 years-old and live with my favorite partner in life and in the outdoors, Joan. In Moab, Utah, I enjoy exploring the red rock country of the Colorado Plateau, and I fit in well with my extensive collection of plaid button-downs that is required attire among outdoory males residing here.
Some of my favorite walks include:
- The “Triple Crown of Backpacking,” consisting of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails;
- Regional trails such as the Colorado Trail and Canada’s Great Divide Trail; and,
- In recent years, more-off-the-beaten-path treks like a 500-mile loop through northern New Mexico and a month-long walk across Utah.
I began guiding with Andrew in 2012, while working full-time in IT. Now I write and guide, and help with the local search and rescue group.
What’s my favorite thing to do in Moab? Getting out whenever I can and how I can, be it skiing, hiking, backpacking, or even camping. I’m particularly grateful that Joan and I can spend much of this outdoor time together.
What did clients from 2019 say about Paul?
- “Paul is a super nice human being. He was incredibly supportive.”
- “He encouraged and reassured our group when things got a bit dicey (bad weather, medical condition in our group) before we went up Don’t Be a Smart Pass. That was a huge help. Folks were beginning to freak out a bit. Paul was a calm presence.”
- “I really enjoyed Paul’s ability to find the fun and joy in every day. Paul was also passionate in making sure all the clients were safe and successful. “
- “Paul was great in many ways. His humor and light-heartedness, he had a huge backpack and probably carried more than he should, he was also always willing to wait for the slower hikers and help them along.”
- “His humor and encouragement made challenges easier and more enjoyable.”
I currently live in Boston with my new bride, Katie. You can find us run commuting into work, bouldering at the local gym, and clambering up one of New England’s epic 4,000 foot peaks (I know, they’re not high — but they’re rugged).
Backpacking and trail running are my two favorite ways to experience the outdoors. My stringbean-y figure on the trail gave way to my trail name, Stringbean.
I’ve set Fastest Known Times on the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail (52 days, supported in 2014), the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail (45 days, self-supported in 2017), and Ireland’s 100-kilometer Wicklow Round (17 hours in 2018). I’m an athlete for Columbia Montrail, and last year ran the Vermont 100 and the CCC 100k in France around Mont Blanc.
Fun fact: I love learning languages and travelling. If you join us in West Virginia, we can practice Spanish, German, French or even English to pass the time!
What did clients in 2019 say about Joe?
- “I spent hours talking to Joe about his AT experience, from water sources to resupply tips to gear choices. I am impressed by his humility and his excellent humor.”
- “Joe has a wonderful disposition and made great effort to engage with everyone. He was always seeking out ways that he could help which is wonderful to anyone who might be more hesitant than others to
ask for it.”
- “If you wanted to improve your basketball game, imagine if you could spend 2 days getting coached by Steph Curry and Lebron James. I had the same experience with Alan and Joe.”
- “Joe was more of what I would affectionately call a “dirtbag backpacker”. He had less flashy, more mainstream and cost conscience gear. It was fantastic to see that contrast with Alan who had cutting
edge fabrics and expensive gear choices.”
- Client evaluation: 5.00/5.00 since 2014 (totaling 112 evals)
I’m 58 years-old and live in Monterey, California. Since 2011 I’ve guided 29 trips over 155 days with Andrew, starting with his very first High Sierra trip. Most of the year I prepare tax returns as an Enrolled Agent, and in my spare time I volunteer as a wilderness ranger and trail maintainer in the Ventana Wilderness of Big Sur.
I’ve been backpacking since the 1970’s and helped to popularize ultralight gear and techniques. In 2001 I became the first person to complete the Calendar Triple Crown, which entails thru-hiking the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails (7,400 miles total), all in the same year. This feat earned me the trail name “Flyin’ Brian” and induction into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame. It also caught the attention of Andrew, at the time still a college student, who would take my far, fast and light style to the next level.
I’m also an accomplished ultra runner. I was the seventh finisher (out of 15 total now) and former course record-holder of the infamous Barkley Marathons, and I completed the 224-mile John Muir Trail in 4 days 7 hours. Before they were really a thing, I established FKT’s on the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide, and High Sierra Trails.
What did clients from 2019 say about Brian?
- “Brian is full of knowledge. He doesn’t just know what the right decision is for a given situation, he knows why.”
- “Brian was steady, confident, instructive, patient.”
- “Brian has amazing patience for everyone, is approachable, intelligent, helpful, and keeps a careful eye on everyone.”
- “An unflappable attitude. Nothing bothers him, not hard hiking nor hard client situations!”
- “WOW! Just amazing guy! Brian was so experienced in so many ways, from ultra running to first aid to minimalist backpacking.”
- “Fantastic guide! I would love to have Brian as a guide in the future.”
Doing scary things helps you grow. The magic happens outside your comfort zone!
I am fortunate to live in Tehachapi, California, the gateway to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with my husband, Dan. I’ve been married for 32 years and have three adult children and two grandchildren. The 2020 season will be my first year guiding with Andrew.
As an elementary school teacher for 20 years, I took advantage of my breaks to hike extensively with family and friends, or on my own. I love hiking in remote and wild places, and between trips I enjoy studying topographic maps and envisioning the area I’ll be going next. My most notable trips include:
- Long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest, Great Divide, John Muir (4x), Theodore Solomons, and Tahoe Rim Trails;
- Off-trail adventures like the Yosemite High Route, Sierra High Route (2x), Lowest to Highest, The Great Outdoor Challenge, Wind River High Route, and Southern Sierra High Route, plus some DIY itineraries in the Grand Canyon, southern Utah, and Death Valley;
- Big peaks like Rainier, Shasta, Russell, Whitney (via the Mountaineers Route, 4x) Sahale, Banner, and Ritter.
In addition to backpacking, I backcountry and alpine ski, road bike (25x century rides), and rock climb.
At 62 years old, I’m committed to staying healthy and fit, and having fun. With enough determination and skill, age really has no limits. A positive attitude, good planning, a bit of spunk, and lightweight gear are a few of the keys to longevity in this sport.
Peak bagging, bikepacking, and lonely sufferfests on high mountain tops: I discovered my outdoor and wilderness passions after graduating from Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design with a BFA in Painting.
First by bike and then by foot, I traveled away from the city, and started wandering through the West seeking out new adventures. I’ve had some unforgettable trips, including crossing the country three times, including twice while racing the Tour Divide.
Over time I’ve learned how to combine cycling with mountaineering. In 2014 I summited Colorado’s fifty-eight 14,000-foot peaks, and connected each climb with my bike. I repeated this trip in 2017, but added forty-seven more high points in order to complete the Colorado Centennials.
I’ve also challenged myself with long alpine on-foot mountain traverses, including Colorado’s Mosquito/Tenmile Range and the Sangre de Cristo Range.
I joined Andrew’s program in 2018 and have guided in the High Sierra, Brooks Range, and my backyard, Rocky Mountain National Park. I really enjoy helping clients develop skills and gain confidence in the backcountry.
What did clients in 2019 say about Justin?
- “Andrew and Justin gave us a safe but challenging first class adventure through some of the world’s wildest terrain.”
- “Absolutely fantastic trip! My guides, Mike and Justin were extremely knowledgeable and great fun to travel with. The education that I received during the planning phase and throughout the hike completely changed the scope of the routes that I am comfortable with attempting.”
- “Mike Clelland and Justin Simoni made us all feel at ease, and were very aware of the demands and conditions of our route in the Rockies. I’d come on any trip with Andrew and the many guides who have dedicated their lives to this cause.”
I’m 42 years-old and live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest near Seattle. This will be my third season working with Andrew, and I can’t wait to meet my groups!
Currently, I’m a full-time yoga teacher. When not in the studio I lead outdoor yoga and rafting expeditions on wild and scenic rivers like the Salmon River (Main and Middle Fork) and the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Previously I was a teacher, working with grades K-12. In my spare time I’m a steward for a youth adventure program, and I lead events and classes for the Pacific Northwest Women’s Outdoor Group.
Starting in 2002 I completed backpacking’s triple Crown by thru-hiking the Pacific Crest, Appalachian, and Continental Divide Trails. While I love long trails, I have an equal passion for shorter adventures: I’ve traversed Iceland, hiked the Arizona Trail, explored Canada’s Yukon, and hiked thousands of miles in my backyard ranges, the Cascades and Olympics. I’ve climbed two of the highest summits of the world, Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro, and I’m working on climbing Mt. Olympus and all of the Cascade volcanoes.
What did clients in 2019 say about Jessica?
- “Jessica is — hands down — the most empathetic, caring, amazingly calm human I could imagine guiding us. I was really sick for a couple days and her heart of gold shined.”
- “Jessica was the highlight of our trip. Her energy, kindness, and knowledge were incredible. She was such an encouragement to my wife, and I cannot thank her enough.”
- “Knowledge, kindness, yoga, and showing us what a badass, super accomplished, woman hiker can be like were just a few qualities Jessica brought to the table.”
- “Not only was Jessica very knowledgeable, patient, and interested in learning about the people in our group, she encouraged me step by step scrambling up the rocks. I wouldn’t have done it without her.”
- “Jessica was exceptional, extremely knowledgeable and a ton of fun to have on the trip. She even went out of her way to teach me all the knots needed to set up my new tent without having to ask.”