Things I’ve Learned: Chris Davenport explains how to execute the best trip of your life
Hi and thanks for your email. I’m currently in the Northwest skiing volcanos through late May. I’ll try and respond as time and web access allow.
Upon receiving Chris Davenport’s auto-response email, the jealousy hit hard. While I sat at my office desk looking out towards the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, somewhere up and over those peaks and far beyond, Davenport, Jess McMillan and a handful of others were climbing and skiing one volcano after another.
Between May 5 and May 19, Davenport and McMillan, along with a rotating crew of friends, completed the Ring of Fire—a tour of 15 volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. Mt. Shasta, Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker were just a few of the noteworthy stops along the way. Traveling by way of Spyder’s tricked-out RV (dubbed the Land Yacht) the crew completed the tour at an astonishing rate, pausing for only two rest-days during the trip. In total, the group climbed 78,674′ and hiked 141.32 miles.
The skiing community followed the tour fervently via the Spyder Antidote blog, keeping tabs through daily updates including photos and video. When the tour was finally completed many were certainly left wondering, “Why does it have to end?” The coverage had been so thorough that I, for one, couldn’t help but feel as though I’d been along for the ride.
For Davenport, the volcano tour becomes another proverbial notch in his belt of grand skiing adventures. Amongst the most well-known of these adventures are his completion of all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers in one calendar year, and his descent of the Lhotse Face while on an Everest summit tour in May of 2011. Having orchestrated and executed some of the more popular skiing outings in recent memory, we checked in with Davenport to discuss his experiences both past and present.
Dav leads the pack. Photo by Ted Mahon.
The craziest thing about the volcano tour was the pace. We had such great weather and a solid forecast so we wanted to try and pack in as many peaks as we could before the weather turned, so we were going hard every day, and moving locations every evening. There is no way we could have skied this many volcanoes so quickly without a driver for our RV and all the great food that allowed us to eat, rest, and recover so quickly.
When we were planning the trip I was psyched to ski some new peaks, but also kept my expectations low knowing how the spring weather can be in the Northwest. I was hopeful that we could ski all of the volcanoes on my list but also thought that realistically we might get eight-10 done.
Something that came as a surprise was how stoked people were on what we were doing. The outpouring of support from the NW ski community was awesome and we were blessed to have so many skiers come join us on the volcanoes.
Along the way, I couldn’t get over how awesome the forests were. Every morning at dawn we seemed to be walking or skinning up through an amazing old-growth forest approaching the mountain. For someone who is not from the PNW the sheer immensity and beauty of the trees is really breathtaking.
I’d say my favorite Volcano of the tour, for the skiing, was Mt. Jefferson. It was long (7,477’ vertical), steep, and really sustained, with a nice two-pitch steep climb to the summit pinnacle. We skied 5,000’ of amazing corn snow down to the snow-line and then had a gorgeous walk on a perfect path down through the awesome forest. We also saw two mountain goats on our ski line. Really, it was the perfect day.
There wasn’t a let-down at all during the trip. Everything was so positive and smooth. If there was one bummer it was that on Mt. Rainier the upper mountain was frozen solid and the lower mountain, which was perfect corn, was in the fog. Oh the things we have to deal with…
By the end of the tour, my legs were in great shape. My body as a whole was pretty fatigued, but the legs were lean and mean and ready for more.
It was a big help having “Captain” Grant Burrows along to drive the Spyder Land Yacht and keep things organized for us with regards to the travel from one peak to the next. Without his help we never would have gotten so many volcanoes done so quickly. It was also huge having Whole Foods Market sponsor the trip. Our food and the menus created specifically for us by their Healthy Eating Specialist, Sarah, were incredible and that is always good for moral.
Dav and McMillan on the Headwall at Baker. Photo by Ted Mahon.
You can never really have enough coconut water. It rocks for hydration and I would pound a liter after every peak.
Looking back at the trip one week later, I can’t believe Mother Nature was so kind to us. 14 days in a row of perfect sun! Seriously? What did I do to deserve this?
The single best piece of advice I could give to someone looking to complete this tour is to do your homework. Plan your routes and trailheads, and make sure you have plenty of good food that is easy to prepare. Also, be flexible. We had to deal with road closures due to snow, and long approaches, and numerous times had to adjust our plans. And always try and engage the locals… they know best.
The volcano tour was a very similar experience to April of 2006 when I skied 22 Colorado 14ers in a month, except this time around we traveled in relative luxury. It felt great to push our bodies that hard every day, and to do so surrounded by great friends.
Dav makes his way down Mt. Baker. Photo by Ted Mahon.
Physically this tour was short and intense; 14 days of huge vertical and long hours, so physically it was harder than Everest, which is so drawn out. And the 14ers project was hard mentally, just keeping focused on the goal for a year. These trips are all awesome in their own special ways.
The most rewarding thing I’ve gotten from these challenges is probably new knowledge of mountain ranges and zones I have never visited before. I’m adding to my personal encyclopedia of mountains and it’s becoming quite a collection. These experiences are so rich and awesome, they will be the things I reflect on much later on in life.
Perhaps what I’m most proud of is the fact that everyone was safe on this tour. No one got hurt or made a bad decision. When you have that many people on big mountains that many days in a row, all pushing themselves physically, things can go wrong. I’m proud of my partners for being so professional and solid.
I’ll never get tired of climbing and skiing beautiful mountains with friends. It’s the best thing I know.
Dav and McMillan close out the Tour.
At this point in my career I’m fired up for more. In fact I’d say I’m more motivated now than I’ve ever been for fun, inspiring ski trips. I love documenting the amazing places I get to ski and sharing the stories with people. I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing and never take it for granted.
This summer I’ll be chilling for a couple months and then will travel to Chile for the 12th year in a row to guide and host my annual SuperStars Ski Camp at Ski Portillo.
And next season I’m working on a couple big project ideas right now, but I like to keep those quiet and let people imagine what they might be. I’m also looking forward to a proper winter in Colorado next season; I didn’t get a real powder day here this year.