Took a winter mountaineering course with Climbbigmountains in Hohe Tauern mtns, Austria. Organisation was sound, no surprises - guide was very experienced, knowledgable, certified. Nice bunch of people who got on this course, we had a great time for the 5 days together.
Best part was the avalanche training - very thorough, more detailed than what you usually get on a winter mountaineering course.
Only negative aspect where they could improve is quicker help with organising transport to the mountains - I needed help with getting to hut from Salzburg airport - they offered help to organize but it felt just a bit "last minute"... still, it was flawless.
Highly recommended, will probably book another climb.
Review by FabioD2 years ago
Myself and some friends did the Avalanche Mastery System run by Dan Renyi from climbbigmountains.com the content was lacking and the infield training was very poorly run!! don't waste your money and your time on this.
Review by Kantika Giummarrascordo2 years ago
As a reasonably good skier that is starting to head more and more off piste, I had always thought it would be good to do an avalanche safety course, but I never really got around to it. When a friend of mine showed me the Climb Big Mountains Avalanche Mastery System, run by Dan Renyi, with its online lectures then a weekend away in Austria applying everything you’ve learnt, I thought it was a great opportunity to get a really good comprehensive education, with some quality experience in the mountains that would set me up to start explore the back country. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The online courses/lecturers were OK, there was some good material in there. In terms of content there was not anything you wouldn’t be able to find with a bit of your own light research. However, Dan had compiled the info and laid out a step by step process that you should follow when planning and executing a trip into the back country. There is some room from improvement on the lectures, they are a bit waffly and he jumps around a lot, which makes them hard to follow sometimes. It is quite clear that he has not had a lot of experience giving lecturers. But I thought the base idea of having a step by step guide to follow in the lead up to, and while in the mountains was really good. I watched all of the lectures, learnt what I could, and followed all of Dans pre trip tips. I was really looking forward to getting out in the mountains in Austria and applying this.
My friends and I arrived at the car park and we met up with Dan and the rest of the group, there was a brief introduction and then we set off up the gondola. We got to the top of the mountain and he led the way off into the back country towards the hut. At this point I was a little confused. What happened to all of the preparatory steps he had talked about in the lecturers??? Where was the talk about where we’re going? What route we are going to take? What the weather has been doing? What the snow conditions are like today? A check that everyone has the right equipment, and knows how to use it? He had just set off into the mountains for a three day trip with a group of strangers, half of which had to be shown how to wear a transceiver (let alone how to use it). He basically ignored everything he had spoken about in his lecturers, completely disregarding this “Avalanche Mastery System” of his. Being a newbie to all of this I wasn’t exactly feeling confident in the guy. Luckily I was with two friends that are very experienced in the mountains, so I continued on.
This is where things started to deteriorate. When we were putting on our skis we realised half the group had snow shoes. This meant that there were going to be two groups going at very different paces. How was he going to guide two different groups to the hut? (Especially when he hadn’t discussed with anyone where we were going). It soon turned out that he couldn’t. There were skiers heading off ahead and snow shoe-ers trailing way behind all over the place. He did manage to get everyone going the same way at one point, which turned out to be the wrong way. This is when it came to light that Dan had never been to this area before. He was lost. We managed to get back on track but the group continued to disperse. It was starting to get dark and we could see the hut so we decided to just gun it there. What should have been a three hour skin to the hut turned out to be about six. Others trickled in as it got darker, and some were even two hours behind us in the pitch black. Even after all that, which could have been turned into a great lesson in what not to do, and highlighting what went wrong, there was no debrief from Dan.
The next day we got up and continued hiking up the mountain for a few hours to hopefully learn something (note at this point we have still not had a lesson in how to use an avalanche transceiver). We got up to a spot on the glacier and went over some snow pack tests, which was some really good info, unfortunately the lesson only lasted 40 min or so. We then hiked a bit more to get a few good turns in and then skied back to the hut. Instead of getting into some more lessons Dan thought we could have some chill out time. At this point it was quite clear that a number of people in the group were dissatisfied with the course and how much we had learnt so far. After a beer or two Dan thought we could get into a lesson in how to use a transceiver (Personally I think this would have been useful BEFORE we had gone hiking round the mountains for two days). After a rather sub-par lesson on how you “kinda just follow the numbers to where the transceiver is buried” and then “poke around until you hit something soft”, a few people that clearly knew more than Dan split off from him and taught myself and a few others in the group a much more systematic grid search method. This was pretty much the end of the course. There was small debrief that night, and the next morning Dan got up early and went for a hike up a peak we skied down the mountain and headed home.
Overall, my friends and I agreed that we learnt about as much as you would from a half day avalanche course out the back of any big ski resort. We had paid hundreds of dollars, booked flights, hired cars, and taken time off work to come and waste three days following Dan around the mountains, to listen to at most a few hours of useful info. When we approached Dan after this to give feed back, discuss our disappointment in the course, and request a partial refund. He refused and said that we could come along next year free of charge. We have already wasted one potentially good weekend of skiing, I don’t think we will waste our time with this again.
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