During his work as a search-and-rescue team leader in Virginia, Matt Sargent encountered many people who got into trouble because they weren’t prepared to handle unexpected events in the wilderness.
Mountain Marrow, the company Sargent founded with his wife, Alex Braha, and Colorado native Aaron Hutchings, is designed to teach hikers, campers and backwoods adventurers how to stay safe and what to do when things go wrong.
The company offers courses and wilderness experiences that focus not just on survival, but on tools, knowledge and skills that can make an outdoor adventure more enjoyable for kids and adults. It also offers team-building expeditions for businesses.
“We can take someone who’s never been outside and make them comfortable with it,” Sargent said. “People who have camped all their lives can still learn something new.”
The courses are taught at Glen Isle Resort near Bailey and on Mountain Marrow property outside Cripple Creek.
The company name embodies the power and energy of bone marrow, a concentrated source of essential nutrition. The founders didn’t want to use the word survival, since their courses offer much more than survival skills.
Sargent spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ 120-acre farm in the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, Va., where he loved exploring the natural world, fishing in a pond and spending time in the farm’s wooded areas.
After high school, he attended Nashville Auto Diesel College, where he earned a diploma in automotive refinishing and collision repair. He was employed by an auto body shop for 3½ years, until he decided that profession wasn’t for him. Then came a series of jobs in construction and private security.
Along the way, he volunteered with search-and-rescue organizations and participated in operations in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. A registered Advanced Emergency Medical Technician and certified tracker, he trained with top survival and wilderness living experts.
Sargent’s direction changed when he met Braha, a Colorado Springs native who worked as a business and political management consultant in the Washington, D.C., area and started her own business, K. Alexandra Strategies.
“I grew up knowing how to run a business,” said Braha, whose parents owned the popular Pasta di Solazzi market and restaurant. “My mom had me on a milk crate when I was 5, running the cash register.”
After six months of dating, the two came to Colorado to visit Alex’s family. It was Sargent’s first trip to the state, and he was impressed.
The couple realized they had the makings of a company, pairing Sargent’s outdoor knowledge and skills with Braha’s business acumen. The plan for Mountain Marrow solidified when Sargent met Hutchings at a training event in the Ozarks.
They developed a curriculum linking knowledge of indigenous people with current technologies, as well as their own skills.
Hutchings’ experience as a dog trainer for the Marine Corps led to a course on camping with canines that’s titled Hike With Spike. His ability to keep a group of youngsters engaged and entertained for hours sparked a course called Wild Child, “a combination of just getting kids excited and learning some things about the outdoors, but also giving them the skills to be safe,” Sargent said.
The team also developed a two-day introductory course, a six-day survival course on how to make it through 72 hours in the wilderness, and a weekend family camping adventure, among others.
Courses range in price from $65 for the one-day Wild Child class to $699 for a six-day Advanced Adventurer experience.
Land navigation — awareness of surroundings and “something as simple as realizing I followed this stream all the way in” — is a skill that cuts through all of the courses, Sargent said.
Another basic tenet: “At a bare minimum, let someone know where you’re going,” he said. “Best is, don’t go by yourself.”
Much of the wisdom Sargent and Hutchings share is based on an ounce of prevention.
“People either are very underprepared or overprepared,” Sargent said. If a storm rolls in or you get lost, “you’re going to wish you were overprepared.”
Preparation and training can keep a minor inconvenience from turning into a ruined weekend, and can save lives.
But Mountain Marrow also teaches fun skills, such as how to start a fire with a water bottle and using a knife safely to make chopsticks if you forget utensils.
Though still a fledgling business, Mountain Marrow has already taught more than 500 adventurers how to enjoy and be safe in the wilderness.
“We want to get involved with some of the schools and give back to the community,” Braha said. “And we want to feed into Colorado Springs being a destination for outdoor stuff. Mountain Marrow is one part of that.”
Established: May 15, 2019
Contact: 719-270-0883; mountainmarrow.com