Monday, May 13, 2013

Alaska 2013 from my iPhone

   Back home from Alaska for nearly 20 days now, and I still can't believe it. The great land of the north was good to us this year. After our first trip to Alaska in 2012, my brother and I were determined to return this spring with more knowledge and a better understanding of how things work up there, and with any luck, ski the best runs of our lives.
  We decided to buy roundtrip plane tickets out of Salt Lake for $699 to Anchorage, packed with only the absolute essentials for living and skiing in the bush for a month. The first part of our trip we teamed up with the Howell brothers, Jonah and Noah of the Powderwhores, and together we planned to camp out on a glacier high in the Tordrillo mountains for 12 days. A fifty minute flight in a 1950's beaver had the four of us positioned right where we needed to be, in the middle of nowhere...

^ we weren't very heavy when we flew in. The uphill landing approach and flat light made it feel like we were going to crash into the mountain side, but thanks to our pilot Joe, we landed safely. For fear of sliding backwards, three of us held on to the struts as Joe cranked up the throttle and slowly broke free. After flipping a bitch he pointed it downhill and he was off.

   Now the fun part, building up a base camp. I spent my entire childhood running around the woods of Connecticut constructing all kinds of cool forts and secret hideouts with my brothers. 20 years later and nothing has changed except the locations. I love setting up a proper camp.

^ As soon as we were dropped off, we put up the stronghold provided by mountain hardware, and a storm rolled in. Perfect timing really. We spent the first day waiting out the storm by reading, digging a snow cave, playing games, drinking, etc.

   Perhaps the most important piece of equipment for me on the trip was the iPhone. Its an incredibly powerful tool, never-mind the fact that its telephone and internet capabilities were completely useless. While the never ending music, real time GPS, high resolution images, and Tiger Woods 2012 among many other features are very plush to have, none of it would would have been possible without power.
   For that we teamed up with Goal Zero. Their solar panels and battery packs were just what we needed to keep our "phones" charged up the entire time, not to mention all of the other professional cameras, gopros, laptop, and speakers. So I have to give a big shout out to Goal Zero for giving us the ability to bring our technology deep into the backcountry, to gather images to bring back and share with everyone at home.

^ Here's a photo of Neil having a nice guzzle. Waiting out the storm on the first day, we were just trying to drink the sky blue like they do in the movies! You may notice some of the photos are a bit blurry, and its not because we drank too much whisky. All of the pictures in this post were shot with my iPhone, powered by Goal Zero Guide 10, or Sherpa 50 battery packs. I'm continually amazed with the quality of photos, and ease of use provided by the little gadgets.

^ As it turned out, we were able to drink the sky blue. A 1/5 of hundred proof peppermint schnapps did the trick. The next morning we woke up to 20 inches of the fluffiest snow I've ever seen and breaking clouds. We clicked into our skis for the first time and broke trail through deep snow to a high point above camp to get the first look at our surroundings. Our camp position was so fucking choice its not even funny. Perched on top of a saddle bisecting two massive glaciers, at the foot of the highest peaks in the Tordrillo mountains, we were in position!

We spent the first few days skiing around camp, testing out the snowpack, and lapping up the deep powder on the south faces. The area began to open up to us and potential objectives were noted.

^ Our zone was perfect. There were plenty of short, steep lines with minimal exposure around camp to give us a good taste, and allow us to learn about the terrain and snow. After the first snow storm on day one, the skies opened up for us and it remained clear and cold for the remainder of our trip. The powder was so perfectly preserved, and without any wind to fuck things up, we skied amazingly stable blower snow the entire time. It was unreal.

^ With the help of our verts, which are essentially small snow shoes to aid in climbing up through deep snow, we were able to go anywhere we wanted. Often times the best choice was to climb the lines directly, but every so often we were able to gain the safety of a ridge. 

^ click on the pano to view larger size.  

^ This is the kind of terrain I have been dreaming about for the last 10 years. After we skied all of the low hanging fruits around camp, we began to venture further out on to the glacier. We explored different branches of the glacier, always curious what might lie around the bend. 

^ Eventually we made it to the top of our first true, alaskan summit. It was a beauty of a peak with an airy summit pyramid, enough room from my brother and I and perhaps one more. 

^ looking down the line from the top, 2500 feet up off the deck. I lost the rock paper scissor match and Neil was awarded with the first drop. We called the route "Thanks Joe" for the pilot who dropped us off, because thanks to him we were riding the best runs of our lives. 

^ As the trip progressed, the lines got bigger and the walks got longer. We called this the long walk wall because it was a long ass walk to get there. By the end of the trip though we were feeling strong and confident.

^ One of the highlights of the trip for me was coming across these fresh wolverine tracks. I've always been fascinated by the animal, and I was fired up to think there was one nearby. We followed his tracks and eventually we ended up in a beautiful cirque full of glorious big lines.

^ Wolverine Cirque (x10)

^ Halfway up one of the couloirs, looking back down. This would end up being the last line I skied in the Tordrillos. After 9 consecutive blue bird days shredding powder, we were almost out of gas and food and it was time to fly out. It was a shame really, we felt like we had just unlocked the zone, and I was very sad to leave. But I also felt great about what we had accomplished. 
   All of the footage we gathered from our camping trip on the glacier will be featured in the Powderwhores newest film to be released this fall. Be sure to check it out! 
   As a small side story, a few days before we were set to fly out, a group of campers were dropped off, 3 miles down the glacier from us. The next day they showed up at our camp and sure enough it was our friends from sweet grass productions! We shared drinks and smokes and stories and we wished them farewell. I think they also had an amazing trip.

^  We recharged in Anchorage for a few days, while another storm refreshed the mountains. After securing the cheapest rental car we could find, we hit the road for two weeks camping about the Girdwood area and Turnigan Pass. 

^  We stayed in this little hut for a night and enjoyed some of the finest tree skiing in Alaska. The accommodations were five star compared to what we were used to. 

^ Turnigan Pass

^  Our last day of riding In Alaska was sublime. What better way to celebrate a successful spring in AK then to shred a 2000' ft spine wall with our two good buddies, Pep Fujas and Zach Clanton, under glorious evening light. 
   This trip was an incredible experience, proving to me that you don't need a helicopter or huge budget to ride quality lines in Alaska. With three thousand bucks and the right gear you can go a long way, of course you have to like hiking... a lot. 

- Get geared up for any adventure at -


  1. Awesome pics and narrative Ian!

    Looking forward to seeing the film.

  2. Absolutely incredible. What an adventure. And you have a good eye!