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Deeper Tordrillos

I always liked the simplicity of hiking lines. No heli noise, first hand impressions of the snow conditions on slope and – above all – the satisfaction to have earned your turns is just priceless. So when the idea came up amongst my snowboarding friends to plan on a mission deep into the alaskan backcountry with nothing but tents to sleep in and nothing but the own feet to get us up the mountain, it  was a no-brainer for me to join. The area of choice were the Tordrillos, a mountain range northwest of Anchorage that became famous for being the stage of parts of Brainfarm‘s legendary snowboard movie‘The Art of Flight’ with Travis Rice and John Jackson showing big mountain riding never seen before. The challenge to access some of these spots ‘barefoot’ was just tantalizing.

After quite some planning and finding the right guides to pull of a mission like this we were finally meeting at a seaplane airfield in Anchorage. Five riders, two filmers, two guides and myself for shooting stills. Three plane loads with a Beaver aircraft, equipped with skis to land on snow. More than a ton of tents, stoves, sleeping bags, snowboards, safety gear and food to be brought to the back of beyond.

The spot the guides had picked for the base camp was perfect: A big flat area in the middle of a huge glacier, free of crevasses and still close enough to get to most of the runs withing two hours. Rumors had reached us during the final preparations, that the temperatures would bottom out at -30°C during the first nights, so first priority was to set up basecamp with proper snow walls around all sleeping tents to minimize the wind chill. Get as much as possible of the ‘infrastructure’ done, before the temperatures drop from ‘bearable’ to ’really f***ing cold’. Fire the camping stoves and get the water boiling for some hot tea and our first dinner out in the wild.

After a really cold night, it‘s always nice to get the body moving. Good thing, most of our dedicated lines required around two hours of splitboarding, followed by another hour or more of bootpacking up the steep sections to get to the top of the run. A thorough look at the topographic maps revealed plenty of possibilities to ride and shoot around the camp with the best light at different times of the day, so planning was crucial to be at the right spot at the right time. The downside was of course, that the spots with early morning light required a sharp 5 a.m. wakeup call. Most spots had nice late afternoon light though, especially the technical more difficult ones.

Camp life was increasingly comfortable, as the temperatures slowly rose and everybody adjusted to the unfamiliar living. Snow caves were dug, lunch boxes used as poker-table as soon as the sun brought the temperatures above freezing level. Maybe it also helped, that the pilot of one supply-flight brought in two boxes of beer. A rare luxury that nobody had even dared to hope for! So the spirits couldn‘t have been higher, no matter if it was bluebird with lots of riding and shooting or down days to rest the bones and get some lessons in knots- and ropework-science.

Although everybody was craving for a shower and some other cultural amenties, nobody really wanted to leave after 12 days out on the glacier. We were happy that our big dream had come true and everything had worked out so well. We got further and deeper into the alaskan backcountry than any of us had been before. A perfect match of living a simple camp life in a breathtaking scenery and getting steep AK runs every day, achieved only with the power of our own feet. The whole trip was for sure a game changer for all of us and Alaska will be on our annual schedule from now on. The only question is, what‘s the next level… It‘s gotta be deeper and further for sure!

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