The Alaskan Guide: Dan Oberlatz
What I Do:
Dan Oberlatz, owner of Alaskan Alpine Adventures, specializes in multiday wilderness trips in Alaska’s parks and refuges. Oberlatz manages a staff of upwards of 20 in the summer and personally guides three-to-five trips a year, usually to new places. "I get to be the exploratory guy, backpacking, running rivers, or doing these mountaineering trips where we rope up on the sheet ice of big glacier systems," he says.
A diverse wilderness skill set is key to deal with Alaska's varied terrain. In other words, you should "be able to play in Alaska’s mountains on skis and on foot and in a boat or a pack raft, with ice tools and rock-climbing gear." Then there are what Oberlatz calls "the soft skills" that include cooking, being understanding and sympathetic toward clients, and a motivating force when things get difficult. "It really helps if you can keep a smile on your face when it’s snowing in June, you’ve got to catch a float plane that afternoon, and you’ve got a seven-mile hike in front of you.”
Screaming at Grizzlies:
"I was taking a group down the Chilikadrotna River in the 16-foot inflatable kayaks. Two of my clients were in a boat together up in front when I heard them both start screaming. I looked up and the current was sweeping them right toward a big brown bear that was standing in the river. They screamed so loud that the bear got terrified and ran up the bank and disappeared and I couldn’t stop laughing. We were all talking about it, and still floating downriver, when we came around another bend and those guys saw another bear and started screaming on purpose. That time, they scared the bear so bad it shit himself. They’ll do that sometimes. They want nothing to do with us." –Daniel Duane