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“Choose-Your-Adventure” contest: Trip Report

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Matt Eder’s baptism by fire into the world of mountaineering began in mid-February when he travelled from sea level in his home town of Portland, Ore., to Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, pulling on a heavy pack, cinching snowshoes tight, and trekking off into the wild.

As the winner of the Gear Junkie’s Choose-Your-Adventure Sweepstakes, Eder picked REI Adventures’ Sequoia Winter Mountaineering Clinic from five possible adventure-travel destinations. “I’m a resort skier who’s always been interested in the backcountry and out-of-bounds,” Eder said.

Trip members Courtney Coe (in front) and Heather Gough at about 9,500 feet on Alta Peak

The REI clinic, a three-day trip in Sequoia National Park, combines instruction on snow camping, mountaineering, and backcountry travel skills along with the ascent of a bonafide 11,000-foot peak. It was a perfect introduction for Eder, who had never before handled an ice ax or strapped crampons on his boots.

In addition to winning the trip for himself and a friend (Heather Gough), Eder was outfitted head-to-toe by REI, including a generous package with REI’s Kilo Expedition -20 Sleeping Bag; Lite-Core 1.5 Pad; UL Flash 65 Pack backpack; Cirque ASL 2 Tent; Shuksan Jacket and Shuksan Pants; plus base layers, gloves, a hat, boots, and other items. “It was like Christmas when the shipment arrived,” Eder said.

Eder cramming gear into his pack at the trailhead

The trek into Sequoia National Park — and eventually to the summit of the 11,204-foot Alta Peak — began Thursday, February 19, when the group — including Eder, his friend, Heather Gough, guide David Cressman, Courtney Coe, Tim Loftus, and myself — converged at a hotel in Three Rivers, Calif., a few miles west of Sequoia National Park. After introductions, Cressman went through trip itinerary and a gear check. We turned in early to prepare for the big trek the next day. Here’s a photo tutorial on the trip from there.

The group snowshoes toward camp on day one, a 5-mile plod in deep snow with 40- to 50-pound backpacks

Camp is at Emerald Lake — three tents and a dug-out kitchen serve as our home base for three days in the park

Heading uphill under heavy packs on day one of the trip

Overview map, trailhead to the summit

Close-up view of Emerald Lake and Alta Peak above

REI’s clinic interspersed on-site skills training — here ice ax technique and self-arrest instruction — with a day of climbing

Nudging ever up on Alta Peak, the group snowshoes toward 10,000 feet

Guide David Cressman nearing the summit of Alta Peak

Eder (in orange at base of cornice) pulling over the top on Alta Peak, a 11,204-foot mountain and his first significant summit

LazyMan after party at Brewbakers Pub in Visalia, Calif.

Cressman hoists a congratulatory root beer float at the LazyMan party in Visalia

Thanks to our sponsors, including headline sponsor LazyMan, REI and REI Adventures, Adventure Medical Kits, Bear Naked Trail Mix and Wigwam. Thanks to all the readers who signed up and made this sweepstakes a success!

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