Lucas Debari: Dispatch 3
It has been a wild ride since we left the Falkland Islands over a week ago. Now that we are not puking our brains out and are within the protection of the small bays and inlets, we have had the opportunity to switch our focus to snowboarding.
Despite the many distracting endeavors required for us to be here, that is after all why we are here!
As the weather cleared that first day, we laid our eyes on the real terrain that this foreign land has to offer and it’s steep, real freakin steep. The first line we saw was about 55-60 degrees and continued this pitch directly into the ocean. With one good looking line as a prospect, our spirits were starting to rise.
I know that any trip with Xavier is going to be scary, but this is a whole new world of shit. My major concern at this point was that the snow would be hard, and I straight up do not enjoy riding big lines in anything other than fresh pow. Riding steep lines in pow is how I have made it to where I am, although I did know coming into this that I would be pushed way beyond that comfort zone of mine.
So with my head spinning, we continued our navigation of the coast in a southerly direction. As we crested around a small horn it came into view. Holy shit, it was the most perfect, steepest line that I had ever seen. I’m calling it the ‘captain’, because it is the most impressive chunk of earth I have seen since I first laid eyes on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It was perfect. The Bergshrund was small and positively oriented, there was not a single cornice or objective hazard the entire way up the thing. It looks about 1500 feet tall from the schrund, and the majority of this looks at least 60 degrees from any vantage point. The film crew shit their pants, though I’m sure they can imagine the glory of their documentation if Xav and I are willing to step to this. We had found a gem, but it was the most intimidating gem I had ever thought of touching.
The next day, we awoke to our first blue skies. The stoke was high and the scenery was unlike anything that I could have imagined on the journey down. We had found a nice looking warm up face the day before, and as we approached it in good light we realized that it was a legit 400 ft spine wall that belongs somewhere up in Haines, Alaska.
Still, very apprehensive of the snow conditions, we skinned up to the base and started climbing. Our guide Tony Lamiche is a French badass, who has been getting gnarly in Chamonix for years. He has a very competent and confident persona to him and this is very helpful in building my own confidence in these rowdy situations. As we topped out on the ridge we could not help but look across the bay at the Captain, sitting there staring right back at us, looking nothing short of dead vertical from our vantage point. How the hell are we ever going to ride that? As we traversed the ridge to our drop in points I am wondering what the hell I am doing there. I have no business riding this shit in these conditions. I have very little experience with hard packed mountaineering descents.
Nonetheless, there I am strapped in with my ice axe in hand ready for my first real line of the trip. The signal from the camera crew comes over the radio and I drop in. No fucking way, it’s pow. Not like knee deep Mt. Baker pow, but pow. What seemed barely rideable to me at first sight is now getting ripped apart by my snowboard. I came flying out the bottom of the run over the schrund and into the flats. I’m screaming shouts of joy and stoke as the adrenaline pumps through my veins. Am I back in the Wrangells with Jones and Ryland?
It was unreal. Xavier was ecstatic as well as he came flying down from the highest peak at speeds only he seems to reach. Neither of us had any hopes of touching pow on this trip. I quickly threw my board on my pack and sprinted up to the ridge for another lap. My next line was a bit shorter, but much steeper and more technical spine riding. Less than an hour later the camera crew was set and I’m dropping in. Three to four steep turns, a nice straight line and one big leap, and I’m over the schrund pinning it into the flats of the glacier.
Once again ecstatic hoots of stoke are being screamed from my body. That is the kind of shit I live for. The snow was great, even by AK standards.
It was almost midnight as we sat down for dinner with the whole crew on the boat. In a matter of five hours I had gone from shitting my pants just thinking about riding some of these lines, to being fully stoked that it was a very realistic possibility. Even the captain of the boat and his crew seemed to catch the fever of stoke that we all have. They have never seen anything like what we are here to do, but are beginning to comprehend our addiction and passion for it.
Everything is beginning to make sense. I did come to Antarctica for a good reason, I’m here to shred.
After today, anything is possible.