Assistant Director Michael Galano walks the Presidential Range with CLAWS MA

Assistant Director Michael Galano walks the Presidential Range with CLAWs

Los Angeles/Massachusetts Exchange Program

Senior Lead Teacher and Assistant Director, Michael Galano, recently returned from an intense week of training and assisting with Biocitizen MA Executive Director, Kurt Heidinger and his staff during their summer Claws program in the White Mountains. MA’s Claws program is, “a field environmental philosophy adventure that takes students above treeline for 4 days of elemental wilderness hiking and “thinking outside.

The group summited multiple peaks in the Presidential Range, from Madison to Eisenhower, navigating some of the most rugged terrain and unpredictable weather in the country: A perfect proving ground for aspiring mountaineers. Michael is returning to LA to co-lead Biocitizen in LA’s, Claws Trek in Sequoia with Senior Lead Teacher, Sara McGillewie – July 15-19 (seats available – contact LA Director Jesse Carmichael 310 279 2934 if interested!)

Michael rejoins us with new skills and insight, and a great story to tell!

 

King’s Ravine: “Trees began to shrink. Or, were we growing?”

Day 1

Distance: 4.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,065 ft

The humidity was thick. The incline was steep. I was not mentally prepared for the physical exertion that the first 2 miles of this trek would require, straight up into the thick of the White Mountains. As if the mountains heard my internal cries of doubt, as soon as I thought the pack was going to outrun me for good, the weight of the dense New England air lifted.

We had surmounted the humidity. Thick turned thin. A moss-covered waterfall assured me I would make it to the top. Trees began to shrink. Or, were we growing?

Day 1 taught me the importance of clear communication. Just 15 minutes into the hike, I sent another staff member back to grab a walkie talkie that had come loose from my backpack. I was panting and out of breath. They didn’t hear me say, “I think it came off at the stream crossing, just a quarter mile back. Don’t go further than that.” They didn’t catch up for another two hours.

Luckily, just before communication would become an even more potent priority.

This lesson was reinforced as we approached King’s Ravine, a steep and rocky climb. It is the penultimate half mile to the Madison Spring Hut, which would be our eventual resting-place for the evening. This climb carries the biggest risk for a rockslide, especially during a 200 ft section of scree and loose rock. Each step requires intense attentiveness to the impact that it can, will and has caused on each stone passed.

Our group was 32 strong, and I was charged with leading the final group of 8. Meaning, 24 other hikers were over 100 ft above, potentially knocking rocks in our direction. I have never been more alert in my life. Communication was quite literally step-by-step as I guided my Claws up the King’s Ravine. And, of course, due to our attentiveness, clarity, specificity and gentleness, we were successful in communicating and climbing one of the more challenging hiking routes in all of New England, if not the entire East Coast.

And we still peaks to summit and more terrain to traverse: 4 more days to go!

More to come…

 

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