by Seth Lightcap. posted on 2 July
Story and Photos By Jeremy Jones
The first DEEPER AK basecamp in 2009
DEEPER will always be the film I am most proud of. After filming dozens of movies using helicopters and snowmobiles, the thought of giving up my primary means of access to film DEEPER on foot left me with a lot of anxiety.
At first the goal was just to do one foot-powered glacier trip in Alaska that would be featured in a traditional snowboard movie. The two years before DEEPER this glacier basecamp was the trip I was most looking forward to each winter. Sadly, the much anticipated plans never worked out. The film crew I was working with at that time was not down with it. Sunny days in Alaska were too precious and too few and far between to spend time setting up and living out of a remote basecamp. There was also the thought that filming movie quality lines with a heli was hard enough. Filming from a basecamp on a glacier sounded foolishly improbable to many people. How would we charge batteries? Will our lenses fog up camping on the glacier? How will we climb over bergschrunds? I didn’t have answers to any of these questions yet, but I was sure expedition filming like this could be done.
Scouting for potential camp locations on a recon flight with Drake Olson.
When I finally made what felt like this career ending jump off a cliff I was at the prime of my career doing the best snowboarding I had ever done. I think a lot of people thought I was crazy and maybe taking the eco thing too far. What they didn’t realize is that the main reason I wanted to forgo machines is because we were very limited by the boundaries of where we could take those machines. My goal wasn’t to make a hippy split board movie. The goal was to ride the best lines of my life on the world’s most magnificent, untouched peaks and continue the progression of challenging myself as a rider.
In 2006 I met Chris Edmands while filming for his groundbreaking movie ’My Own Two Feet’. Chris is a long-time snowboard filmer who felt the same call of the wild I did and decided to act on it. ’My Own Two Feet’ was the first 100% foot-powered snowboard film. Working on MOTF made me realize that if I wanted to keep pushing the limits of filming foot-powered freeriding I was going to have to start my own project. I had never wanted to organize my own film project before but now it felt like the only answer to achieve my snowboard dreams.
Chris Edmands in Glacier Bay AK tent city.
In 2008 I started filming DEEPER with Chris as the lead cinematographer. Raising a film budget was especially hard the first year so we kept it local and shot most of the winter in the Sierra. Shooting in the Sierra went well, but the big test was still to come. The basecamp trip to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska was finally going to happen.
As we got closer to the AK trip the stress grew. We were staying in the same hotel as the TGR heli crew, and after a week of bad weather, the skies finally cleared. I watched as the TGR heli crew filed out. Chances were good that they would be standing on top of their first line of the day in less than an hour. Our crew would be lucky to make it to camp that day.
By 11am I was flying through the heli zone in Haines, but this time inside a single-prop plane, not a heli. We passed Dr. Seuss, Hotel Room, Tomahawk and Brothel, all epic lines that were in perfect shape. "Am I crazy? What am I doing?," I thought to myself as I saw tracks from the TGR and Absinthe crew’s morning session written on some of the best lines in the range. Thankfully, the worry wouldn’t last long.
Enroute to basecamp with Tom Burt, Chris Edmands, Travis Rice and Johan Olofsson.
All anxiety vanished as I crossed from the explored to the unexplored. We flew for another 50 miles passing unnamed peak after unnamed peak before landing on the edge of Alaska. Just like that, the thought of needing a helicopter vanished from my brain. Everything made sense. The silence, freedom and excitement that hit as I watched the plane drift into the horizon was as enormous as the landscape I now called home. This was exactly where I was supposed to be. That evening, with camp set and the mountains turning pink, we roped up on a glacier for the first time in my life and skinned up to a low saddle. Looking over camp and our new playground the silence was broken by Jonaven Moore, "This is the coolest thing I have ever done." I couldn’t have agreed more.
Alpenglow touring on the glacier.
We had no idea what we were in for. The plan was to session the forecasted five-day weather window and then move to a new location or even head back to town. To be on the safe side we brought ten days of food. Little did we know we were in for a 25-day trip and over 15 days of bad weather. The riding was good right out of the gate, and we rode some amazing terrain in those first few weeks, but it was not until day 23 that I got on what I would consider a heli-level "trophy line". Two days before breaking camp I climbed and rode a line that I named "McConkey’s" in honor of the recently fallen Shane McConkey.
Mt.McConkey standing proud above camp.
Flying off the glacier at the end of that trip it was official - the dream had changed. For the past decade the dream had been to spend as much time as possible in a helicopter. The new dream was to hike everything I rode and return to a tent at the end of the day, not a hotel room.
As it turned out, the new dream was much harder to achieve. It required cold, dark, pre-dawn starts and riding lines with frozen feet and heavier backpacks. It also required a lot more time. The tradeoff was that the rewards of the new dream were a lot more fulfilling and it cost a lot less money to make a film on foot.
That first trip into Glacier Bay National Park would be a pinnacle moment in my snowboarding career. Right up there with my first time on a board, the first day my local resort allowed snowboarding, my first tram laps in Jackson Hole and my first run in AK. But the real significance of that first AK basecamp trip was not the lines I rode on that trip. The significance was how it affected my future and how drastically it changed my perspective on what was possible in the mountains. All boundaries disappeared, the options became endless and there was no place in the world that was too hard to get to.
A huge thanks to the first DEEPER AK crew who believed in the mission as much as I did: Travis Rice, Jonaven Moore, Tom Burt, Johan Olofsson, Chris Edmands, Dan Milner, Garry Pendygrasse and pilot Drake Olson for delivering us to the promise land.
by Seth Lightcap. posted on 20 June
Bariloche, Argentina is one of the most incredible mountain towns on earth. If shredding the Andes in Bariloche is not near the top of your bucket list, it’s time to adjust that list. Like Chamonix, Jackson Hole or Lake Tahoe, the mountains rise straight off the city streets in Bariloche and the shred potential of the surrounding peaks is truly endless when the snow conditions line up.
Jones Ambassador Guide Chris Coulter spends every August riding in Bariloche working for SASS Global Travel. SASS offers 8-35 day snowboarding camps that include splitboarding sessions with Coulter in radical backcountry zones.
Here’s the lowdown from Coulter as to why you should join him in Bariloche this summer with SASS:
Coulter rips a line in the Bariloche backcountry. Photo - Ben Girardi/SGT
Spending August in Bariloche working with SASS Global Travel at Cerro Cathedral has become a constant point in my triangle of riding during the year. How could it not be? It’s a great traveling experience for a snowboarder to go to a foreign land in search of adventure and nothing beats riding pow in August!
Argentinian Asado’s (BBQ parties) are legendary.
The mountains around Bariloche offer a wide range of terrain and riding opportunities. Granite spires rise up off the ridges and offer a Mordor / Castle of Greyskull vibe to the mountains. There is truly something for all riders here - great alpine bowls and couloirs that pour into some of the most enchanted tree runs ever. We even have a park for extended high pressure periods. The SASS basecamp is also right on the mountain so we are in pole position to get the goods.
Refugio Frey is just outside the boundaries of Cerro Cathedral resort and surrounded by a cirque of insane couloirs.
SASS is a guided backcountry experience that emphasizes avalanche awareness and helps advanced riders push themselves. Whether you want to splitboard in the backcountry, spin laps at the resort or build backcountry jumps, SASS is for you. We ride it all on our courses.
SASS Argentina has been in operation for the past decade. We know these mountains like no one else and our guide staff and crew of pro coaches is there to put you in the right place at the right time. We love sharing this experience with our clients and friends. The all-star staff leads small groups of like-minded clients of similar ability all over the mountains every day during the month of August.
SASS Argentina makes a point to emphasize avalanche education at every opportunity. Both US and Canadian avalanche courses are available and offer you the ability to gain experience using the Andes as your classroom. Your lodging, food, airport transfers, lift tickets and guiding are all included. Group rate airfare discounts are also available to get you to Argentina for less.
Program runs from Aug. 2nd - Sept 6th. Sessions starting at $2,595 (USD). Click here for more info and don’t hesitate to contact SASS for more info.
Thanks hope to see you in Argentina!
by Seth Lightcap. posted on 13 June
Talk about a ’Season Finale’! French ripper Julien ’Pica’ Herry finished his shred season laying tracks down two heavy lines in the Alps. One line was on the infamous North face of the Aiguille du Midi and the other on the Testa di Valnontey in the Gran Paradiso. Both were first repeats and first snowboard descents of lines pioneered respectively by steep skiing legends Jean Marc Boivin and Remy Lecluse. Here’s thoughts from Herry about both the historic lines:
North East face of Testa di Valnontey
The North East face of Testa di Valnontey looks pretty impressive when seen from Valnontey village. It has been skied only once by Remy Lecluse in April 2010. Once again it’s Davide Capozzi and I who are following in Remy’s tracks. Davide had gone up to Cogne a few times during the past weeks to check the conditions of the face.
On May 18th, Davide and I left before dawn and started our long walk under the stars. After two hours of hiking we finally found enough snow to put skins on. Three and half hours into the tour we arrived at the bottom of the face just as the sun slowly illuminated the top of the mountain.
The snow conditions were good for climbing which made the ascent pretty quick. The long traverse midway up and complex route finding were the main challenges. Photo - Davide Capozzi
At 8:30 am we strapped into our boards for 650 meters of technical exposed riding. The snow was good but with a hard layer underneath and hidden rocks in the narrowest parts. Photo - Davide Capozzi
Davide midway down the face. Photo - Julien Herry
We finally found spring snow on the lower slope which made the ride a bit more fun. The long walk back to the car with heavy backpacks killed any energy left in our legs or shoulders. After a long last look at the line from the carpark, we headed home. Second known descent and first snowboard descent. Thanks again Remy for finding such nice lines and Davide for the idea and great company.
North face of the Aiguille du Midi - Jumeaux Spur
After riding the Testa di Valnontey came school holidays and the occasion to spend more time with my family, but I was still dreaming about a last run to finish the season on a good mark. After all the descents in Italy and Switzerland this season I was very happy that this last run would end up being a line that I can see everyday from my house.
The Jumeaux spur is located on the North face of the Aiguille du Midi, on the left side, in between the Tournier spur and the Chere couloir. It’s named after the twin seracs at the top of the line that are the key to safely access the spur. These seracs have changed a lot in recent years and are a lot more friendly than they used to be. The route was first climbed in March 1971 by a French party (P.Dussauge and J.J.Prieur) and skied only once by Jean Marc Boivin in 1986. Not much information is known about Boivin’s descent. He was skiing alone and supposedly only had to rappel once.
Conditions on the North Face of the Midi were finally good and stable the last week of May into the first few days of June. My friend Raph Bonnet was motivated to try this line so on June 3rd, the last day before a heat wave, we loaded the first bin to go have a look.
After 5 minutes of riding off the top we got to the start of the line. The clouds were coming in which made the first turns a bit stressful, but luckily the snow was amazing and the slope wasn’t too steep.
Next came a complex and steep section with exposed traverses to access the top of the spur.
Two 30 meters rappels in between a few controlled turns led to the main couloir. The couloir was still steep but a bit wider so we enjoyed making a few faster turns.
The next section started with a 20 meter rappel, then some easier turns and a few moves of ’dry riding’ (maneuvering over exposed rocks). The last traverse was steep, mental and technical on exposed terrain, with more delicate steps of dry riding. We found hard snow on the last slope but it was less exposed and the bergshund was easy to cross. A few minutes later we were back at the mid-station, happy to have ridden one of the most exciting runs of our lives.
This descent of the Jumeaux Spur was complex, technical and easily one the best snowboarding experience of my life. Along with the East face of Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey that I rode last year (second descent 29 years after S. De Benedetti), i’m honored to have the chance to repeat a second line on this mythical face almost 30 years after such an incredible alpinist and skier as Jean Marc Boivin.
Thank you Mr. Boivin for the inspiration and thanks Raph for the good company!
Now it’s time to put the snowboard away until next winter...
- Julien Herry