...A few weeks after the first class, at nearly 7,000 feet, ... the terrain was all white mountains and alpine forest. The forecast for the weekend looked grim: three days straight of rain and snow. When I arrived, other students ... were discussing what to do, until ... Adam Mayfield, hiked out of the woods ...

“You’re going to be really challenged this weekend,” he said. "... We’re trying to develop for you the closest thing we can to a true survival emergency.”

He added, “I love this.”

The first day’s tasks included building fires and learning how to “baton” wood—i.e., split logs with a knife. In the afternoon, we worked in pairs to build A-frame structures out of fallen branches—shelters we’d be sleeping in that night ... Our band set out and spent the next two hours crossing snowy hills. Even in the rain and mist, the terrain was stunning. Mayfield ... pointed out survival hacks along the way: how to purify creek water; how the bark of a willow tree can be chewed for its salicin, a chemical with properties similar to aspirin.

GQ excerpt


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