Day 5: Whiteout
We wake up in another total whiteout, with a few snowflakes falling slowly due to the lack of wind. Even if we are not in a big storm, the lack of visibility is definitely an issue. So after breakfast we decide to hike the closest peak near our tents. Worst case scenario, if the wind picks up at some stage and the visibility decreases even more, we are going to be really close to camp
Hiking up, the tents are all we can see around us.
Surprisingly we manage to hike on the same track a couple of times and make a few turns. We are back at camp after a couple of hours and, a part from some time spent in the mess tent to eat and chat, I have been in my tent for the rest of the day. Right now it looks like we’ll be stuck here for quite some time so we better make ourselves comfortable on our sleeping mats.
Day 6: Exploring south
It’s a glorious morning, all the clouds are gone and the sun is shining again. Now we can clearly see where we were yesterday, including our tracks on the way down back to camp.
We are off again to the Morning Glory peak. There are still a number of faces we would like to ride on that side of the glacier. You can tell from the tracks around the camp that it didn’t snow much yesterday.
We hike only for a couple of hours before dropping into this big, steep and open face.
The snow was really good and the angle perfect, about 35°. Every line here feels the best line of my life! We named this one Morning Light Wall. I guess one of the many reasons why every line feels special out here is because we might be the first people who hiked and skied theses peaks. I obviously didn’t travel all the way here because I wanted to ride first descents and give peaks names but I confess it feels very special. And again, this is why in one of my previous posts I mentioned that this trip wasn’t going to be only about the snowboarding. That’s what expeditions are all about – exploring, venturing into untouched and unexplored lands like this one, where although sometimes glaciers do have names, peaks don’t. The exploring side of things is definitely where a lot of the buzz of ski and snowboarding mountaineering comes from
Back at camp we eat and rest in the sun lounge for a while before setting off for another tour. From left: Mike, Alan, myself, Mark and Alistair.
Mr. Jones, thank you for bringing snowboarding to a level nobody ever did before, inspiring us all and for designing a dream board like the Solution. Best board on the planet, hands down. There ae some among us who do not understand compromise and I think Jeremy Jones is certainly one of them. We shall be truly grateful for this.
We are determined to make the most of the 24 hours of light. Although we could not be happier about the lines we have been riding so far, we are also aware that we have only barely scratched the surface of what is possible around here, so everyone seems to be very keen on keep exploring our wild backyard. The next mission is therefore to find out more about the southern side of the glacier where we are going to try to ride the northern facing slopes which receive a beautiful evening light. Faces we have been looking at several times every day since we got here about a week ago.
This is probably the first line we’ll try to ride.
This is the slope we are about to hike. It’s a lot bigger than what it looks like. Steeper than everything we have ben hiking so far and the snow deeper than the one we have found so far.
After about 1 hour and half we are almost at the top. Neil is right in front of me, breaking trail and frequently checking the snowpack. I know there is a weak layer up here so for the last part of the zigzag we are going to spread 50 meters apart from each other. Just look at my left hand side how steep it is. This last part it’s probably above 50°. So far in this trip I enjoyed every minute of every hike. This one is different. I confess that I am not enjoying this as much as the other ones.
Only about 50 meters more to get to the ridge.
From here the views on the delightful endless variety of peaks surrounding our neighbor glacier, Grete Gletcher are simply stunning. This place is unreal. The past few nights I have been laying in my sleeping bag before falling asleep thinking I had seen the most beautiful landscapes and horizons of my life and the next day I would see more, even more beautiful. When I started snowboarding 20 years ago, only in my wildest dreams I could picture myself exploring an alpine wonderland like this one on a board, standing on a peak like this, surrounded by these views and about to drop into another best line of my life. Today I had the chance to completely fulfill that dream.
Don’t be fooled by the surreal silence, beauty and calm atmosphere of this alpine wonderland. They seem to hide very well the unforgiving nature of this environment. This is not just a place for everyone, where dreams come true. It’s so remote out here that we know we can only rely on our own skills and on our team’s and that is something that triggers a few thoughts, of different kind, at different levels. Of all the many aspects that make these peaks and valleys so special, this is definitely the one that makes it such a high intensity place.
This is Alan, showing all his love and proud for his beautiful country. I can’t believe he carried a flag all the way up here!
It’s now about 7pm. It doesn’t take us long to find the access to the couloir we have been looking at from camp. Unfortunately as we drop in the light goes a bit flat. Neil is on his way in followed by David. You can see the tents in the far distance to the right, just below the rocks.
This is our line, and guess what? It was one of the best lines of my life. Ok, we now know now that every line in this trip seems to be the best line of my life so I promise I will stop saying it.
It’s another solemn, silent and peaceful evening up here on Hans Glacier. A rosy mantle, at first almost imperceptible, will gradually deepen and surround the peaks once again. I obviously can’t see my face as I skin back to camp but I know I am smiling, I can feel it. I am sure I have been having a ridiculous expression on my face for quite some time now. Every day here is one of the best days of my life.
Day 7: Storm
Last night we were in the middle of the biggest storm we have seen so far. A very strong wind and falling and drifted snow have been shaking our tents all night. I woke up at least three times. It’s now 7:30am, the air is still, the wind seems to have dropped, we are surrounded by a more intense than usual silence. This is the view from inside my tent as I try to go out. You can tell it’s been snowing!
This little red triangle in the middle is Mark and Alistair’s 2 man tent, almost entirely buried by the snow! They were still immersed in their dreams when we start digging them out.
Although the storm is now gone, visibility is still very poor. There are big clouds hanging over the glacier so we decide to rest today and not to go touring. Around 6pm the great part of the clouds is gone, leaving only a big one which for some reason keeps moving back and forth on the glacier. Now is down in the valley.