Firsthand: Max Djenohan

Posted on 02 November 2021

Firsthand | Max Djenohan
Get to know Max DjenohanMax Djenohan has a lot of stories to tell. From placing first at the Transworld TransAm as an amateur competitive snowboarder, to being a five-time Discovery Channel Naked and Afraid survivalist legend, Max has packed a lot of life into his 32 years. Notably, last spring, Max climbed Denali and became the first African American to snowboard off the summit. Eager to learn more, we caught up with Max about what climbing Denali meant to him, some of his all-time favorite expeditions, and what’s next on his radar –

MAX, ON DENALI

Let's start with an overview of your Denali expedition.
My Denali expedition took place in late May-early June of 2021. The expedition was composed of me and four other climbing partners, two of us from Washington and three from Colorado. It took 14 days from door-to-door. We summited on the 10th day of our expedition, but had planned to be on Denali for at least 18 days.

What did climbing Denali mean to you?
Climbing Denali was a culmination of my mountaineering, snow camping, and alpine split boarding experiences. It was also the opportunity to become the first African American to snowboard off the summit of Denali. It was about inclusion, diversity and equity in expedition style climbing.

Highs of the trip? Lows?
One of the highs for me was being able to summit the highest point in North American. The climax of training, planning and perseverance! 

One of the all time lows was not being able to ride some of the classic ski lines above 14k camp due to icy conditions above 15k.

What's a lesson you took away from your experience on Denali?
Sounds cliché, but you can do anything you put your mind to, or that you've brought enough snacks for! 

Photo by Max Djenohan

ON OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

When did you start adventuring in the outdoors?
Growing up in the PNW, I started adventuring when I was about 6 years old. My mom would take my siblings and I camping around the Cascades, Olympics, and Coast. I would say my mom was my #1 outdoor influence.

Milky Way over Mt. Rainier. Photo by Max Djenohan.

What are some of your favorite places you've been? Which places challenged you the most?
Jeez, that's a tough one. It's hard to beat Mt. Rainier National Park (photo right) or the rugged terrain and peaks of the North Cascades, but the Italian Dolomites and South African Bushveld are some of my all time favorite places on earth. So many places...not enough time or money.

I would say physically and mentally, my 60 Day Naked and Afraid challenge in Louisiana was the hardest thing I've ever done.

How do you plan your missions?
I approach each mission differently depending on the commitment involved. I'll read tons of trip reports, gather beta from friends/experts, and train specifically for the mission at hand. A lot of the time, I'll be focused on capturing the feeling/mood of an area. So I'll do some Google/IG searches on what's been captured there before.

If it's a mellower, less committing mission, I'll do as little research as possible. I love the idea of exploring something unknown. Having little expectations leaves you stoked for whatever's in store.

What do you make sure to have in your pack?
Water is crucial, a utility knife, the 10 essentials, and a Skida Alpine Hat for alpine missions! 

Mt Baker. Photo by Max Djenohan.

What is the highlight of your career as a snowboarder?
There's been a ton! When I was in the competition circuit, placing first place at the Transworld TransAm and flying down to Bear mountain to compete with riders from around the world and meet some childhood legends was a definite highlight. Placed 4th out of 100 amateur riders! 

Also, sending the Mt. Baker Road gap (photo of Mt. Baker, right) for the first time is up there with my all-time favorite moments. These days, traveling and doing what I love and getting supported to do so is pretty all-time! 

What motivates you?
Life!! Life is such an epic miracle, to treat it as anything less is a shame and a waste of our precious time on this planet! 

Outside of mountain explorations, what are your favorite things to do?
Geeking out on good books, survival, exercising, biking, yoga, canoeing, plotting the next adventure and hanging out with my better half, Chels.

What's up next for you?
Might have some TV opportunities in the works, as well as getting on the first all-black expedition to climb Everest. Stoked!!

Anything else you'd like us to know?
I am a five time Discovery Channel Naked and Afraid survivalist legend, surviving 156 days on 4 different continents! 

All photos by Max Djenohan.
You can follow along with Max's latest adventures on his website or via Instagram.

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