This self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast is pretty much a jack-of-all trades when it comes to adventure and life. Meet this week’s Shoestring Warrior and So Cal Snow Avalanche Center Director, mountain guide, and sustainable landscaper Allen Giernet. The lines of work and play blend a bit for Allen but when he’s not educating other outdoor enthusiasts about how to navigate winter conditions or practice wilderness medicine (or climb, or hike), he can be found gardening, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, splitboarding, snowboarding…name pretty much any outdoor sport.
When an avalanche tragically claimed the life of three men in his community, Allen decided to devote time to learning more about the mountains and then decided to expand on that education and opened So Cal Snow Avalanche Center.
For the next couple of years I continued my training and exploration and continued to think that our local mountains need some form of information to help prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.
Born in San Diego
Tujunga, California (actually sitting on Line Street outside of Bishop California typing these answers)
So Cal Snow Avalanche Center Director, Mountain Guide, and Sustainable Landscaper
What are your passions outside of work?
Gardening, poetry, music, mountain biking, kayaking, and I guess this is in work but still passions, splitboarding, snowboarding, rock climbing pretty much anything that gets me outdoors.
Tell us about yourself!
I am an avid outdoors enthusiast (some may say fanatic). It’s kind of odd talking about myself. I love to learn about other people and experience all the world has to offer. I think I’m fortunate to have started some businesses and am able to work in fields that I enjoy. I have discovered that I am passionate about teaching and love to share my enthusiasm for outdoor activities with others.
How would you describe your level of camping experience?
I would describe it as well explored. I enjoy being in different environments and love learning about new places through this intimate connection one gets from camping.
From living in a snow cave to sleeping on the open ground, each experience has it’s own uniqueness.
When did you discover your love for the outdoors?
My father tells me he used to take me hiking with him when I was still in diapers and couldn’t walk. I don’t remember this, but the outdoors is something we have shared through the years as long as I can remember. I remember those times with much reverence.
What led you to start So Cal Snow Avalanche Center?
I used to be vice president of Team Mountain High (a youth snowboard team). During this time I was beginning my avalanche education and had begun exploring the world of backcountry snowboarding. Also during this period there was a tragic avalanche just outside of the Mountain High resort that claimed the life of three men. For the next couple of years I continued my training and exploration and continued to think that our local mountains need some form of information to help prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future. In the 2012/13 season I put everything together and launched So Cal Snow Avalanche Center.
What are some signs that indicate a winter storm is coming and that it’s time to head in?
There are several things to watch for. The easiest things are if you see clouds building in the sky and moving into your area. Not necessarily the sign that a snow storm is coming but a good indicator you should heighten your awareness. If temperatures start to drop and winds begin to increase these are all signs of changing weather conditions. Of course, if visibility begins to diminish such as clouds becoming lower this is a serious indicator you should consider turning around unless you have plotted out your course well and have superb navigation skills. Navigating in a white out is one of the most difficult things to do in the mountains. Of course, if it starts snowing than some type of winter storm has begun. This in itself may not require leaving the mountains as traveling in winter snowfall is quite lovely.
Should conditions worsen or a number of the above signs present themselves together you should consider leaving before travel becomes too difficult and visibility deteriorates.
In winter storm conditions you should have the ability and knowledge to build an emergency snow shelter in case conditions quickly deteriorate and you are forced to spend the night out.
You started another company called Further Your Adventure. What advice do you have for people thinking about becoming an entrepreneur in the outdoor realm?
I would say to first and foremost be passionate about what you’re doing. This is not the industry to get rich in unless the wealth you seek is bringing joy into other peoples lives. As with most anything you set out to do, determination, drive, and hard work are key.
Further Your Adventure organizes wilderness medicine programs. Why should someone get trained in wilderness medicine?
FYA does much more than wilderness medicine. We offer programs and guiding for rock climbing, snow sports such as backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, avalanche safety, winter camping, snow travel, backcountry travel, mountaineering, orienteering and more. To answer the second half of your question, wilderness medical training is very important especially if you find yourself removed from general civilization by two hours or more, have no communication to emergency help, and spend time in remote locations. At these times it is important to be able to deal with any problems that might arise. Ultimately you could be on your own for hours to days depending on the situation. Having the proper training will increase your chances of survival significantly.
We always plan for the best but it’s important to be prepared for the worst.
Funniest outdoor experience/mishap?
Many years ago I was on a multi-day backcountry snowboard trip. At the end of the trip on our way out I stopped on a ridge to take off my splitboard. The terrain had become flat so I was going to have to hike a little ways before descending more. We were carrying heavy winter backpacks. I did not have a good hold of my board as I stepped out of the bindings. To my surprise, the board shot down the slope and out of my sight instantly. I dropped my pack and began to run downhill after it. Finally I saw it. It had come to stop in the center of a thawing lake. I was not happy about the thought of walking out or loosing my snowboard. I found my partner down the trail and we went back and set up a haul system and I stripped down to my underwear, snowboard, boots, and a climbing harness (quite a comical image in a winter mountain setting). Fortunately I was able to go across the lake on my partner’s splitboard as skies while he belayed me. Nothing happened and it now makes for a funny story. Type 3 fun!!!
What are your favorite outdoor/adventure/survival podcasts, movies, or books?
- Slide: The Avalanche Podcast
- The Sharp End
- The Dirtbag Diaries
- Annapurna by Maurice Herzog
- No Easy Way To the Top by Ed Vestiers
- I’m a big fan of the Jeremy Jones Trilogy: Deeper, Further, Higher
Where’s your next adventure?
Right now I’m getting ready to sleep for 4 hours and then climb Mt. Tom outside of Bishop Ca. approximately 6,000′ and 4.5 miles then snowboard from the summit. We’ll see how that goes.
The perfect s’more?
Not a big marshmallow fan – So a good dark chocolate with some Bulleit whiskey
Photos © 2018 Allen Giernet
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