Program orientation: My 2019 guided trips

Atop Colorado’s Continental Divide, following the Pfiffner Traverse with views south to Longs Peak

My 2019 guiding program is coming together. A few details are still being finalized, but everything should be settled by Monday, January 7, when the open application period will begin.

For in-depth details about the trips, go here or follow other links below. This post is a succinct summary.

Guide roster

The program has always stood out for its guide roster, and that remains the case in 2019. Let me boast for a second: It’s the most accomplished and credible group of backpacking guides out there.

Leading most of the trips will be Mike Clelland, “Adventure Alan” Dixon, Flyin’ Brian Robinson, or me. Vital assistance will be provided by Mary Cochenour, David Eitemiller, Paul Magnanti (“Mags”) Justin Simoni (“Long Ranger”), and Jessica Winters (“Wildflower”).

I also made two new hires: Heather Anderson (“Anish”) and Joe McConaughy (“Stringbean”). My one worry about them is: Will I be able to keep up?

We’re experts at all things backpacking

Trip types

We’re offering three types of trips:

  • Level 1: Fundamentals (3 days/2 nights)
  • Level 2: Adventures (5 days/4 nights and 7 days/6 nights)
  • Level 3: Expeditions (7 days/6 nights)

The trips are best suited for beginner, intermediate, and advanced backpackers, respectively, although some crossover is expected (e.g. I’ll consider strong, fit, and well read beginners for Adventure trips).

Hammock camping: the best way to sleep in the Appalachians

Physical intensities

Experience is not necessarily correlated with fitness, so I decouple these variables. Each trip type is offered in several intensity levels: Low, Moderate, High, and Very High.

By pairing like-abled backpackers together, the pace is “just right” for about everyone, including those at the front and the back.

Trip schedule

Several weeks ago I released a tentative trip schedule. Its summary:

  • Early-May: Fundamentals courses in West Virginia
  • July: Fundamentals and Adventure trips in the High Sierra
  • August (or June): Expeditions in Alaska
  • September: Fundamentals and Adventure trips in the Colorado Rockies

Overlooking the Yanert River valley.


Special permits are required to operate commercially on public lands, and the process takes months.

  • My permit in West Virginia is pending. If approved (which is likely), the location will be near Elkins.
  • I hope to run the High Sierra trips in Yosemite National Park, pending permit approval (which I believe is likely). As a backup, the trips will be in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.
  • In Alaska, I’m debating between the eastern Alaska Range and the Brooks Range. This is the least settled location.
  • The Colorado trips will definitely be in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rock Island Lake, a rarely visited alpine basin


The trip prices are around the market average, and not inexpensive. But they’re justifiable: if you’re new to backpacking, we’ll save you hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars in regrettable purchases; and if you’re more experienced, we’ll teach you skills that would take years to learn on your own, and we’ll spare you from hours of tedious trip planning.

Women-only trips

For the first time, we will be offering women-only sessions.

  • Fundamentals: Sept 6-8
  • Adventure: Sept 9-13

These trips will be in the Colorado Rockies and be guided by Mary Cochenour, Jessica Winters, and Heather Anderson. You’re in good hands:

How to apply

The open application period will start on Monday, January 7 and end on Sunday, January 20. Applications received during this time will be divided into three groups: alumni, previously waitlisted, and newcomers. Priority will follow that order, but all applications within each group will be given equal consideration.

Starting January 21, I’ll move to a first-come-first-serve system, with new applicants eligible for any remaining spots. In 2019 I’m offering more trips and more spots than I ever have before, but I’m still expecting the most popular trips to fill completely or mostly with applications received during the open period.


Leave a comment below, or contact me directly.

Posted in on December 19, 2018

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