“While I may never have set foot on the Moon or Mars, I have, however, stepped foot in South Central Utah.” These are the words used by founder Christopher Hagedorn to describe the uniqueness of the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, they portray the personality of a true explorer who sought to discover the unknown. Christopher originally grew up in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee. Ever since he can remember, his passion has been exploring the outdoors. During his early explorations, he discovered another important quality that has served him to this day: his equally great passion for teaching others and guiding people on fascinating outdoor adventures.
After years of adventure in the southeastern United States, Christopher set out with his family on his first journey towards the West. He spent countless hours studying maps, route descriptions and trip reports to assemble the most intriguing, least-traveled trip westward imaginable. He and his family soon found themselves in the vast, open plains of the Midwest and the serene landscapes surrounding the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
Next on the itinerary was the Badlands of South Dakota, then the striking granite monoliths of the Black Hills, until they finally reached the grandest mountain range any of the Hagedorn family had seen thus far: the Bighorn Mountains of North Central Wyoming. They continued west through the Yellowstone Caldera, one of the most inconceivable and fascinating thermal basins on Earth, past the Teton Mountain range and across the magnificent expanse of the Snake River Plain.
Upon arriving in Washington, Christopher’s life changed forever. The Columbia River and its valley gave way to the impressive sight of Mount Rainier, the first of the Cascades they’d seen. After visiting the verdant treasures of the Olympic National Park, Christopher knew his destiny: once he completed his Bachelor of Science in geological science from the University of Tennessee, it would be time to begin the next chapter of adventure and wilderness exploration by moving to the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
Christopher now resides in the awe-inspiring shadows of the greatest alpine playground and wilderness training area in the Lower 48. In the early days of this experience, he worked several adventure and science-based jobs, including working as a hydrologist for the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest and as an engineering consultant for an oceanographical research company. These jobs were yet another great adventure that allowed him to travel around the world while continuing to lay a new foundation in building his alpine climbing and technical leadership skills in the Pacific Northwest.
For the next 10 years, while pursuing the greatest adventure of his life — his dream to become an astronaut — Christopher earned his Master of Science in geotechnical engineering and worked in leadership roles for municipal government organizations. Most recently, he served as Director of Public Works and Interim City Manager for a small city agency. In addition to his ongoing education in outdoor leadership education, public leadership roles provided him with another means of sharpening his carefully honed planning, organizational, project management, communication and leadership skills that are essential to teaching others how to safely travel and enjoy North America’s unique wilderness areas.
Upon beginning his formal alpine mountaineering training, Christopher experimented with courses offered by the Seattle Mountaineers, Bellevue Community College Outdoor Recreation Program, Mountain Madness and American Alpine Institute. It didn’t take long for him to discover which training methodology worked best for him. The Bellevue Community College program was taught by a well-established Pacific Northwest instructor that had been teaching students about alpine mountaineering for over 25 years.
Christopher was immediately taken to the program’s core focus on outdoor leadership education, safety and well-rounded technical skills. Unlike other programs that focused primarily on either leading groups up mountains without teaching them essential wilderness skills or teaching overly large groups that made one-on-one instruction exceedingly challenging, this methodology seemed to make the most sense. The program also offered another important quality that was unmatched amongst any of the competition: an unblemished safety record with no fatalities. This was impressive.
Chris concluded that these folks must be doing something right. He set out to take every course offered by the program, including its Basic Glacier Climbing Class, Advanced Glacier Climbing Class, Wilderness Leadership Class and Winter Mountaineering Class. During this time, he also established himself as an assistant instructor for these classes where he gained invaluable experience helping to lead others on their first wilderness adventure.
With the USA space program in decline and the realization that becoming an astronaut was getting further from his reach, Chris made the monumental decision to bring his lifelong adventure goals closer to Earth and start his own outdoor adventure company. Development of the company mission statement was quite simple: he would utilize his wealth of knowledge and professional experience in wilderness adventure planning, leadership, safety, technical climbing and science and engineering expertise to build a company focused on sharing this knowledge and passion for adventure and exploration of wild places with others.
In doing so, he developed a company that is unique from typical US guide services. He focused his endeavours exclusively in the wilderness of North America, the land that he loves most and knows best. He created programs that are designed to not only lead others to spectacular wilderness settings but also teach them essential outdoor safety and leadership skills along the way.
For years, Chris had heard stories from less than satisfied clients about being led up a mountain like a herd of cattle without learning very much along the way. It appeared the primary goal for some guide services was to get as many clients up and down a mountain as quickly as possible, which left little time for learning and practicing essential skills. Any experienced guide can lead a group of clients up mountains, but doing so in a way that focuses on building awareness of one’s surroundings so that one can travel more safely on their own, provide them with the basic technical knowledge that is essential for traveling safely and competently in wilderness environments, and learning basic skills to minimize the impact on wilderness environments is both extremely important and unique in the industry.
There are surprisingly few programs that teach basic wilderness education techniques such as trip planning and proper gear selection, hazard recognition and avoidance, wilderness navigation, and basic safety skills. Offering programs that are well rounded in the fundamentals of exploring wilderness landscapes, learning basic safety skills and safe travel techniques make up the core foundation for what is Get in the Wild.