May 19, 2022 6 min read
It's been almost five years since Naomi Prohaska set the record for the youngest climber to reach Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan. Since then, a lot has happened to our young, adventurous, and ambitious Nomad ambassador.
We're so pumped to catch up with Naomi again right before the busier academic and outdoor seasons.
Hi Naomi! Thank you for joining us today.
Growing up in Pemberton, BC, . My love for skiing started during ski trips in the Whistler Backcountry. Lately, I have been going for more local trails since starting my studies at the University of British Columbia last fall.
I am in my second year of general sciences now, but it is my first year moving to Vancouver since the first year was online remote studies. I am doing more stuff in Squamish whenever I get the chance.
After climbing Mount Logan, I started planning to go to Denali for a few years now, but not long after, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, which shifted my goal. Now I am mostly focused on ski touring.
When my dad was first diagnosed, he started researching more about diet and factors influencing health and wellness. One of the videos he shared with the family was Cowspiracy, and after watching the documentary back in May 2019, I became vegan all at once. It was a very powerful film that affected me, and I have enjoyed being vegan since. Before becoming vegan, I was already working with Nomad as an ambassador, and I am glad to continue our relationship after this change in diet and lifestyle.
I have been ski touring for about ten days this ski season and resort skiing for about 15 days. I try to go as often as I can, depending on my class schedule. I was hoping to get more days during the Christmas break, but then I've got COVID, which cut short my trip.
The most significant shift between now and ski touring in the past 5 years is definitely the crowd I go with. Now, I am going with peers my age and back then, it was just me, my dad, and his friends.
The other change is that I have to drive a lot further now [from Vancouver compared to Pemberton]. It's awesome to connect with people more of my age who have varying experience levels. I also enjoy ski touring a lot more and seeing the mountain through other people's eyes.
Mountain culture was a big thing back in Pemberton, but it didn't really mean anything to me at that time. Don't get me wrong, I totally adore the mountains, but when you are exposed to this repeatedly at a young age, it becomes less shocking.
During the reading break, I had eight of my friends join me to visit my parents' place for ski touring and the local community. They have shared with me that they were thankful for being able to experience mountain culture in a mountainous area. So, just learning from them and seeing them get excited during the trip made me happy and eager to experience the mountain differently.
Another thing that has changed throughout my mountain experience was the issue of safety concerns. As I was introduced to skiing and mountain culture by someone as experienced as my dad, I was privileged to be with someone who has a lot of knowledge about safety which took some of the burden off of me. But when I started going out with other people, my experience with safety became more of a concern as not everyone in our group was experienced. A couple of friends were introduced to the outdoors as young teenagers by their older siblings, but they weren’t able to pass along as much knowledge as an experienced guide.
I enjoy sharing a little bit of my expertise in the backcountry with a big group of people. A group with more beginners may require a little bit more guidance, but we do our best to balance the varying levels of skills.
Ever since I moved to Vancouver, I have been able to join a social club on campus with like-minded peers through friends of friends. It has been awesome to meet people interested in the same activities! Although I spent my first year of university living in the mountains, I wasn't involved in community of people who get excited to go outdoors and ski touring.
Something that I did that was really exciting was the Garibaldi Névé, a 40km traverse, which I did across two days this winter. It was really memorable since it was already on my [bucket] list, and.
Another thing that I am working on this year is taking more leadership roles in the backcountry. This means taking more responsibility for safety and organizing. I have planned a couple of trips for my friends, but I would love to lead a trip to The Spearhead Traverse, a 34km long, challenging, and U-shaped ski traverse in Whistler. I have completed the traverse six times in the past, but this is a big trip, so I hope the timing will work out.
I would also like to go on longer trips like Denali someday. And for the next couple of years, I would like to build up more leadership skills, make more connections, and build bigger objectives in the backcountry scene. Meeting other people who have more experience can also change the dynamics as they will be a little different than going with my peers in comparison.
I don't think I will have as much time [to go outdoors] this summer as I will be working on a ropes course at a summer camp. I would also like to go rock climbing and hiking around Vancouver with friends. If not, that will be the plan this fall, and I am hoping to go ski touring most weekends next year!
There are not going to be many people who would want to go as a group when you don't have the avalanche safety training knowledge. So try to save up money and get certified for Avalanche Safety Training Level 1 (AST 1) as it is an indispensable resource in case of emergency, but the unpredictability of mountain accidents is rarely stressed enough.. Sometimes people underestimate the risks associated with going backcountry, and in some instances, some overestimate the risks. There's a YouTube video from Patagonia that's good, which talks about the risks when you are out in the backcountry.
I also recommend looking for groups around your area, like if you are in a university, check out the alpine clubs or get on Facebook to join a hiking or outdoorsy groups that can help you get connected with new people and the local community. Trying to make friends who do this is definitely going to make it less of a barrier to starting and a whole lot easier. After building these connections, start asking people to share what they love about the mountains or any tips they have to share, which can be helpful. I think it is important to be conscientious about the fact that some people are experienced, and some less experienced. It is good to be aware that people have different opinions, and you can build your own after learning more through these conversations with them.
Lastly, learning how to read the avalanche forecast is crucial. Becoming familiar with the critical signs and checking the forecasts can help make a difference. I recommend regularly checking so you know what it is usually like instead of just checking before your trip, so you will have something to compare [to as a baseline].
Red Heather in Squamish is great for beginners in the Squamish and Vancouver area. It is a good spot to help you get used to the ski gear and ski for two to three hours with low risks for avalanche as it is mostly on an old logging road. It still feels like you are getting outside, but it is a safer spot, and many people are around. It is also a bonus to be closer to Vancouver.
Another place is Cerise Creek on the Duffy lake road. I enjoy going up there but be mindful that you might follow someone else's track which may not be great due to its popularity. That happened to me, and I didn't end up going where I wanted to go, and it also shows that not everyone knows where they are going in the backcountry.
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