Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

The Search for the Perfect Heliski Terrain at Skeena Heliskiing

April 15, 2010

Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Imagine being invited to Canada for a week, together with some of your best friends, to help a heliski operator scout and ski previously untouched mountains in search for new heliskiing terrain. So it was that in April, I flew to Smithers, B.C. Canada, to join Giacum (Jake) Frei, owner, operator and head guide at Skeena Heliskiing, to scout the enormous heliski terrain in the Skeena Mountains, 2 hours north of Smithers.

Griffin, Mcfly and me: the luckiest people in the world!

The existing lodge, the Bear Claw lodge, is located in the southern part of the tenure and offers luxury accommodations for 10 to 15 guests. Although the first runs are only a 6 minute flight away, the size of the tenure, which encompasses 8,500 km2 and represents the second largest heliskiing area worldwide, means that the most northern mountains are a 45 minute flight away. Most of this area is rarely skied, not even Jake was familiar with the mountains there.

Endless possibilities

The next week consisted of poring over maps, spending a ridiculous amount of helitime, analysing and observing snow pack, terrain forms and potential dangers. We scouted and skied amazing runs over wide, endless glaciers, fun pillow lines, and through glades and gullies.

Endless challenges

The perfect cliff band

Is this a dream?

We documented our experiences on film, which will be out next winter.  Stay tuned!

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Ohau I love to ski!

July 26, 2009

It snowed last week. We decided to avoid battling it out with the powder-crazed skiers and snowboarders in Treble Cone and to head to Ohau instead, a small ski area with 1 double chair which takes you to the top of a beautiful bowl of off-piste terrain. I was going there with Camilla Stoddart, up and coming photographer here and overseas, as well as a crew of boys from NZ Skier magazine.  We left at 7 am sharp to be up at the Ohau ski area 2 hours later.

Ohau excited I was to ski the fresh pow pow!

Ohau excited I was to ski the fresh pow pow!

Ohau ski patrol was spooked. Some serious slab avalanches had covered the road in debris in two places and had taken out the shed, where the dynamite safe as well as the tools were stored. We had to wait for the roads to clear, the powder frenzy was thick in the air.

The tool shed was destroyed by an avalanche

The tool shed was destroyed by an avalanche

1 hour later, we had made it up! There were still freshies to be had, and since the light for shooting wasn’t great yet, we could indulge in a couple of warm-up runs. The powder was great and people were hooting, having a ball!

Small but heaps of fun

Small but heaps of fun

The boys put on a great show throwing massive back and front flips over a decent sized cliff. All 3 of them stomped the landing first go, and all 3 of them crashed and burned the 2nd time. The snow had become quite firm during the course of the day, a regular occurance here due to the mild temperatures.

Pete Oswald sending it

Pete Oswald sending it

Camilla took this photo of me at the end of the day.

Ohau I love that spray!

Ohau I love that spray!

Bali surf trip: a taste of summer

June 23, 2009

Knowing that I would be missing out on the European summer months once again due to my annual pilgrimage down to Australia, I decided I needed to treat myself to some hot weather and surfing action. And what better place to visit than Bali for a surf trip of 2 weeks? So off we flew to Denpasar, where we were picked up by our driver, Komang, and whisked away from the hustle and bustle of the city to the idyllic rice paddies of Canggu. Here we were to stay with friends of ours, very close to the excellent Pererenan beach break.

Rice paddies close to Pererenan Beach

For the next 10 days, our daily agenda consisted of surfing, checking the surf, eating, and resting. And boy did I need to rest, because 3 or more hours of surfing every day sure makes you tired.  For the first 4 days of our stay, we were blessed with small waves (well perfectly sized according to me) to get back into it after such a long break.

Weee look at me!

Weee look at me!

After that, Bali was getting hammered with massive waves, some of the biggest for the past 5 years. There was 1 day we couldn’t go out, it was just too big. Instead, we watched the cracks shredding wave after wave and the carnage of broken boards at the famous Padang Padang break down south.

Watching the action and carnage at Padang Padang

Watching the action and carnage at Padang Padang

Surfing the big sets at sunset, Padang Padang

Surfing the big sets at sunset, Padang Padang

With new inspiration, it was back to our local break where all I cared about was getting a ride on a wave.

I wasn’t always successful.

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But the hard work did pay off in the end.

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Dropping in!

Front side turn at the Rivermouth

Front side turn at the Rivermouth

My surfing buddies Nyoman and Jake

My surfing buddies Nyoman and Jake

More Pics from the Lyngen Alps

May 6, 2009

Here are some more stunning photos from my recent trip to the Lyngen Alps.

69 Degrees North with Warren Miller

May 1, 2009

I flew to Tromso in the north of Norway on the 24th April to meet up with the Warren Miller film crew. We are producing a segment for the next Warren Miller film about freeski mountaineering in the Lyngen Alps. The Lyngen Alps are located 500 km north of the Arctic circle at 69 degrees north latitude, the furthest north I’ve ever been. We’re too late in the season to see the Northern Lights because at this time of year it doesn’t really get dark anymore. We’re just 2 weeks out of the midnight sun, when the sun revolves around the North Pole and never goes down. The beauty of this place is hard to describe, but it certainly is the combination of the ocean and the mountains that make it so fascinating.

On the East side of the Lyngen Fjord is the Lyngen Lodge, a truly special place for ski tourers and tourists alike to discover the area. The brand new lodge with breathtaking views of the Lyngen Fjord is run by UIAGM mountain guide Graham Austick and Elisabeth Braathen. I felt instantly at home here. The level of service is outstanding, one of the best lodges I’ve ever stayed at. It is high class yet cozy. Some highlights include the great food and wine, the hot tub overlooking the Fjord and the library packed with mountaineering literature.

The view from the Lyngen Lodge

The view from the Lyngen Lodge

The Lyngen Lodge

The gorgeous Lyngen Lodge

Joining me on this trip are Kastle team mates Chris Davenport and Karine Falck-Pedersen; Tom Day, Josh Haskins and Colin Witherall behind the camera and photographer extraordinaire Peter Mathis. We are on a mission to document the beauty of this place and show what freeski mountaineering is all about.

One of the best things here is accessing the ski tours by our boat “The Spirit of Lyngen” and hiking directly from the shoreline. On Monday, which unexpectedly turned out to be blue a bird day, we took the boat to Uloya Island and hiked up to the summit of Blaatinden. The hike was 144o vertical meters and took us around 5 hours including filming.

The ski tours are accessed by boat or road

The ski tours are accessed by boat or road

Dream team Karine and Lori

Karine and me

Mountains, beach and surf: can this get any better?

Mountains, beach and surf: can this get any better?

The ski tours start directly at the shoreline

Our boat "Spirit of Lyngen" in the background

Chris Davenport enjoying the hike up

Chris Davenport enjoying the hike up

Skiing on Uloya Island from the summit of Blaatinden

Chris and Karine experiencing an incredible run at around 8pm

Freeride Project: Mission III Granatenkogel

April 23, 2009

What started out to be a super short notice decision turned out to be one of the best runs of my season. The 3304 meter high Granatenkogel in Obergurgl, Ötztal, was the goal of our third mission for our documentary movie “The FreeRide Project”. Our crew consisted of Mitch Tölderer, Bibi Pekarek, Martin Mcfly Winkler, Flo Edenberger, Xandi Kreuzeder (photografer), Carsten Darr (camera) and myself.

We knew the conditions were perfect: Mitch had checked the face a couple of days before and on the 21st April we headed up with the last chair lifts in Obergurgl so we could make camp at around 2500 meters in the Gaisberg valley and make an early start tomorrow. The ascent was 743 meters in total, ending in a great hike over the ridge to the summit which we reached in 2,5 hours. The run down was incredible, the snow perfect for skiing top speed. It was the fastest and one of the best lines of my season and I was visibly bouncing with energy from the experience for the following 12 hours.

Freeride Project: Mission II in Sellrain

April 7, 2009

Getting the best lines often involves lift or heli access. But sometimes the most rewarding runs are the ones you reach using your own two feet. Mitch Tölderer, Bibi Pekarek, Flo Edenberger and myself set out on a mission a few days ago with the intention of telling a story about the trials and tribulations of accessing high alpine freeride lines without lift or heli access. Our mission took place in the Sellrain valley, 30 minutes outside of Innsbruck, starting from Haggen. The idea we had involved hiking up to 2550 meters where we wanted to make base camp for 2 nights. From our base camp we could access 2 impressive faces with multiple freeride lines.

After only the first 100 meters I seriously thought I wouldn’t make it. My backpack, filled with a thick down sleeping back, air matress, skiing and safety equipment, food, water, a change of clothes and fuel, weighed over 30 kilos, more than half of my body weight. My glutes where aching already. The 800 vertical meters ahead of me which would otherwise seem like an easy stroll where grueling to say in the least. However, after I repacked my backpack to make it more top heavy I felt much better. A good pack is essential. The 800 vertical meters took us a good 4 hours (normally I would hike this in half the time). In two sections we were forced to take off our skis because of the steepness of terrain and icy conditions. However, eventually we made it!

After a break we busied ourselves with setting up camp. This included shaping an even surface for our tents and setting those up, and building an area to cook food and water. I have slept in the snow before, in a snow cave, however never in a tent. Thankfully I had a very high quality goose down sleeping bag and air matress but even then I was quite cold the first night.

I had an excited and nervous churning in my stomach the next morning. What will the face and conditions be like? Will the effort and toil pay off? “Face 1” as we called it was accessible after a short hike of 45 minutes. We left our skins at camp and boot packed up the steep ridge. I found it hard going after the hike yesterday, thankfully I drank heaps of water the day before.

I wasn’t disappointed. The snow was good due to the altitude and aspect of the face. Lower down the warm weather and strong sun had made the snow to dangerous wet mush. After studying our lines we skied them one after the other and watched our buddies from below. Half the fun is watching your mates have a great time! Harry Putz was in position to film us. Here’s my first line:

After a warm up line I chose quite a more technical line, dropping in through a small chute lined with rocks. Lucky, didn’t hit any! Then a hard turn to the skiers left to get away from the slough. 3 big turns, then some smaller ones…keeping my speed…and launching off a 5 or 6 meter cliff at the bottom of my line:

It was so much fun. After 3 lines I was exhausted and although there were more lines to do, I was only interested in getting back to camp and having something to eat and drink.

The following day we hiked up to “Face 2”, another North facing ridge. I couldn’t make it work today. The lines I chose were too hard for me, although on a normal day I had the ability to ski them. Maybe the hiking and sleeping at high altitude was taking its toll. The face was also sloughing like crazy, but the snow was good.

I still had fun and enjoyed watching Bibi who ripped an amazing steep line with 3 drops. She showed no hesitation and was strong on her feet, awesome! We all put on an action packed show and Harry was stoked with the footage.

Czech-Slovak Road Trip

March 30, 2009

My friend Lucas Swieykowski from Argentina was on the phone. Did I want to join him and Nike ACG team mate Robin Kaleta for a film trip in the Czech Republic and Sovakia? Hell yes! I was going to Jasna anyhow for the FWTQ so why not make the long trip worth it by checking out these countries I had never been too? The following day I picked Lucas up from the train station and 10 hours later we arrived at Robin’s home in Stritez.

Our trip consisted of skiing and filming the best the Czech Republic and Slovakia had to offer, including Reka, Vratna-Chleb and Jasna. Fog, rain and wind certainly posed some challenges for us but it didn’t stop us from experiencing the warm hospitality of the people here. I was amazed how developed the freeski-scene is and how committed the local skiers are. It just goes to show that good skiers can come from smaller resorts without all the bells and whistles. Thanks so much to Czech’s most successful freeski pro Robin Kaleta and our cameraman Tomas Galasek for showing us such a good time. Here are some impressions of our trip:

Heliskiing in the Skeena Mountains, Canada

March 3, 2009

This past week I’ve had the pleasure to experience one of the most exclusive heliski operations in the world. Skeena Heliskiing, only 3 hours north of Vancouver airport, offers everything anyone has ever dreamed about a heliski trip. Expert guiding to new locations every day, small groups of 5 people in B2 or B 407 helicopters with a guarantee of 30,500 vertical meters per week and of course first class accomodation in the “Cliffs at Kispiox River Lodge” which – with its family atmosphere, excellent home made food and entertainment area – is almost as hard to leave as the skiing.itself. Situated in northern BC, the Skeena Mountain range is characterised by continual snow dumps and powder snow due to its colder temperatures.

The crew

Mountains as far as the eye can see

Ice fishing