It was 36 days, 1900 km of ski touring, about 90,000 m of ascent, and three times harder than anything 37-year-old Mark Smiley has ever done in the mountains.
The 2018 Red Bull Der Lange Weg (The Long Way) took everything he and his wife Janelle had in the tank. Plus some. The world’s longest ski tour from Vienna, Austria across the Alps to Nice, France started on March 17 and finished on April 26. Only seven athletes started, only five finished, including Mark and Janelle, who became the first woman to do so.
Their average moving time was 10.5 hours a day. They covered about 32 km a day and burned 12,000 calories everyday. No amount of Wiener schnitzel and potato dumplings could fill the hole. “It was insane,” Mark says back in the comfort of his own home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The mountains have been Mark’s happy place since he first laid eyes on them as a kid. “I remember going on a family skiing trip when I was 11 and driving down Interstate Highway 70, which has big mountains on either side, and I was like, ‘why hasn’t anyone told me about this before now? I’ve been jipped!‘” After that he moved from the farming plains of Indiana, where he grew up, out to the Rocky Mountains. He’s been there ever since.
He and Janelle have attempted all of America’s 50 classic climbs, and have been successful on 48 of them. It’s took them seven years to get that far.
“No one has climbed all of them. We were trying to become the first,” Mark says. “Now I’m more psyched about combining technical climbing with technical skiing. The combination of the two is cutting edge. If I can get in both on a trip then I’m winning!”
Mark started mountain guiding 17 years ago, and has been doing it pro for five years. With many teachers in his family it’s not surprising he enjoys educating and empowering people in the outdoors. “I treat the people I guide like partners, rather than risks,” he says. “The best teachers can teach without the pupil feeling like they’re being taught.”
It was a logical next step for him to combine his knowledge and passion for outdoor education with his filmmaking skills. He recently produced an online video course on Crevasse Rescue for the Modern Climber, and it’s proving popular.
“This course is like a seat belt,” Mark says. “You wear a seat belt even though you probably won’t actually need it.
“Most of the time out there it‘s fine, but when you need it, you really need that rescue knowledge. Especially in the US, it could be days before someone else comes along and finds you. It’s crucial to be self-sufficient.”
“I‘ve spent 300 days on glaciers and have never fallen in. The chances of needing to use these rescue skills are pretty low. But when you need them, they’re suddenly super important.”
Mark is clear the course doesn’t replace in-person learning in the field. He says it’s always better if people can come out and do a three-day course with him, and drill the skills so they become muscle memory. However, the online course has some advantages.
“Online learning has limitations, but the benefits outweigh them,” he says. “You can rewind it, pause it, play it 100 times. You can’t do that in person. So if you’re a slow learner you can watch it until you get it. If you want to hire me for the day, it’s $600, plus travel, plus time away from work. So, for many people, this course is more accessible.”
He encourages people to try the course and if they don’t learn anything he offers a full money back guarantee. The course offers the latest, cutting-edge ways of carrying out crevasse rescue.
As a taster, Mark offers three tips:
1. "Tie butterfly knots every three or four meters apart in your rope between each two people. The butterfly knot acts like a boat anchor and it will drag the victim to a stop and potentially hold all of the victim's body weight."
2. "Buy a Petzl Micro Traxion and know how to use it. They’re a game changer."
3. "Getting yourself out of crevasse is five times faster than waiting for your buddy to haul you out. Have a good plan about how to get yourself out."
Mark is offering Suunto.com readers 20 % off the course price until July 22, 2018. The promo code is: suuntoclimb. Watch or download the course here.
All images are from Red Bull Der Lange Weg and taken by Philipp Reiter and Christian Gamsjäger. ©Red Bull Content Pool