…the opportunity to take this class opened my eyes
to a completely new sport during a time of year that I otherwise dread.
Off Season Alternatives,
By Shelton Boggess
In Alaska, there are two things to do in the winter: build a fire and hole up in your cabin or throw on a coat and get outside! In October of 2017, I was helping on a late season Mountain Goat hunt in the Chugach Range of South Central Alaska. I almost died because I wasn’t prepared for what the Chugach had to offer. God was gracious, however, and got us off that mountain with the goat, which I am positive most people would have abandoned.
About a month after our adventure, my buddy who shot the goat sent me a link to a class the local university was offering called, “Intro to Ski Mountaineering.” I wasn’t really interested, and when I saw the required gear list, I knew this wasn’t for me. A few weeks later though, there I was, in a lecture hall for the first time in the two years since graduating college. In an instant, everything that I thought I knew about the words “Ski” and “Mountaineering” changed. We learned about ice axe arrest, crampons, glacier travel, skiing forms, crevasse rescue, pulley assists, winter camping tips, avalanche safety and rescue, and so much more.
Before this class, skiing to me was something that people who couldn’t escape to the desert did to pass the time, and mountaineering was for lunatics who loved the mixture of pain and cold. Now, while I still don’t love all aspects of skiing, I do love how incredibly effective skis are at winter mountain transportation. And mountaineering? I cannot get the thoughts of climbing giant snowfields and craggy mountain peaks out of my head! While this class was an entry-level seminar, it was still much more intense than anything I had ever done between the months of January and April. Our capstone was my first ever “winter camping” event—even though I joked with the instructors that I had spent numerous nights under the stars in January and February—in Arizona!
While the gear required to become a mountaineer is still completely overwhelming, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to take this class as it opened my eyes to a completely new sport during a time of year that I otherwise dread. The best part about it? I’ll be one-step—or maybe more—ahead of the rest of the sheep hunters this spring when they crawl out of their dens in May to begin their training for August. That might be all the lead I need to find that once in a lifetime Dall ram.