Expedition Watch: Skiing Volcanoes

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Chris Davenport in Alaska, by Christian Pondella/Red Bull

Skier Chris Davenport has set his next goal. On May 5, the man who skied all of Colorado’s 14ers in less than a year packs into an RV with some friends for a south-to-north, three-week road trip to ski the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest. “It’s kind of a spring project,” he says. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time—just getting out and seeing a new part of the country.”

He’ll be sharing his journey on social media and the Spyder website. In this special as-told-to version of Expedition Watch, he dishes on the details of his next big project.

Origin: The idea came from a project I did in 2006 where I was skiing all of these 14,000 peaks in Colorado. During that time, in April of 2006, I had a camper RV for a month. I hit the road in Colorado with a bunch of friends and we did 22 14ers. It was such a cool, grassroots experience—going from trailhead to trailhead, getting up at three or four in the morning, hitting the mountain, getting down, having a big meal, moving to the next zone, and doing it all over again. It’s the most fit I’ve ever been, and I wanted to replicate that experience.

Who: Starting off in California, it’s going to be me and Daron Rahlves and Jess McMillan. Daron’s got somewhere else to go, so he’s bailing after the first week or so. Jess is with me the whole time, so we’re going to do as many as we can together. Then I’ve got a few friends from Aspen, Ted and Christy Mahon, coming out. They’re in Canada on a hut-to-hut trip right now, but they will hook up with me in the last 10 days. Christy was the first woman to ski all of the Colorado 14ers and Ted [has also done them all]. They’re great partners and good friends of mine. Then we’re hooking up with whoever wants to meet us along the way. We’ve been putting things up on social media and, since that ESPN article, people have been calling and Facebooking and saying, 'We want to join you.' It’s exactly what I wanted to happen. We’re going to get together and have some great fun.

When: We’re going to start on May 5, probably on Lassen or Shasta in Northern California. We might start on Lassen because it’s further south and it’s shorter, as a warm up, and then move to Shasta, which is 14,000 feet, the second biggest of the whole project, and really great skiing.

Mount Rainier, Via Shutterstock

The Toughest Mountain: There’s a couple. Certainly Mount Rainier is a tough one. It’s heavily glaciated. It’s 14,000 feet. It’s often an overnight mission. I’ve skied it a couple times before with camps up on the mountain. It’s possible to do it in a day, but it’s a big day. Then the other one will be Glacier Peak. It’s the highest peak in the upper volcanoes. It’s only 10,500 and change, but it’s fairly remote. It’s a true wilderness experience, and it requires a camp at least one night, if not two. Plus, they get so much snow up there so you can’t drive very close.

On Avalanches: We’re always careful. This season is no different than any other season. Yes, there was a tragic avalanche accident. It wasn’t an abnormally bad winter—that was just an abnormally bad accident. So, I’m not taking any precautions with this project that I wouldn’t take anyway. We do this professionally as guides with clients, or with kids in our families, and I’m always looking to be safe and to use the smartest protocols that I can. This trip is nothing if we don’t finish it safely. We go into it knowing that, and approaching the mountains in a very humble and respectful way. We hope Mother Nature will be kind to us and give us good conditions. If she doesn’t? That’s just part of being a skier anyway. But I certainly am not going to take any unnecessary risks or push the limits for the sake of accomplishing a goal. That’s absolutely not going down. It’s just about going out there and being as safe as possible.

Chris Davenport in California, Christian Pondella/Red Bull

The Goal: Ideally, I would say 20 would be great. There are 16-20 major ones. If we did 16 of the peaks during this 21-22 day period, I would be happy. If we did 10, I would be happy as well. We’re not promising to conquer all 20 peaks. We’re just out there to have a good road trip and explore.

Why: I’m a lover of mountains and a lover of skiing. So, for me, this is about discovery. It’s about finding new places, that if I didn’t set this goal for myself, or create this project, I would probably never visit. I’ve skied Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Shasta already, but there’s a whole group of lesser peaks, like Glacier Peak and Mount Jefferson, that I would probably never visit otherwise. So I’m really excited to ski some places I’ve never seen. And it’s not just the mountains themselves, but it’s driving along the way; visiting small towns, trailheads, and back roads; and finding new parts of the country. It’s about discovery and sharing with friends.

Following: The social media side is part of what we do: create content and share it. We are working very closely with two principal sponsors: Spyder and Whole Foods Market. All of the content that we generate—video, blog, and photo—will all be aggregated on the homepage of Spyder’s website as well as Nutrition is a crucial component of this and we’re relying on Whole Foods Market to help us out. Not only are they providing us with an amazing array of foods, but they're also giving us a nutritionist to work with. Each day, after we’re done skiing, we’ll be going through selects and writing updates about what we did. We’re also building a mobile app where people can learn more about the volcanoes, follow along on Google maps, and see flyovers on Google Earth. That’s being built right now.

–Joe Spring

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