Editor's Note: Last spring big-mountain snowboarding legend Jeremy Jones set out with two-time Olympian Elena Hight on an ambitious foot-powered expedition across California’s John Muir Wilderness. Jeremy documented the journey in a travel journal that recounts their nine-day mission. What follows is his entry from day 8 of filming for Ode To Muir with photos and videos he captured along the way.
This couloir was the hidden gem of the day. Nick Kalisz Photo.
“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains – mountain dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature’s workshops.” — John Muir
Every time we move camp I make it a few hundred yards and have to stop. Still, in view of our four new friends, we have frolicked with the last few days. At my back, the original line that got us here. To the right of that, the Easter sunset chute, continuing right is Freeride Peak named due to its open flanks and endless waves and jumpable cliffs. Moving more right and directly across from me is today’s beauty.
Like so many times before, we come to an area because a certain mountain pulls us in only to realize that a hidden gem tucked in the corner is the actual trophy of the region. Such was the case for today’s line. It kept us at the high camp an extra night. (We actually miscalculated the trip and our scheduled pick up is a day later than we thought. A quick calculation on our provisions and we realize we will have enough coffee to extend a day. Food too!)
Seeing the peak from this lower and different angle adds to my admiration of the peak. It is possibly the line of the trip (not that I am counting.) I never rate mountains, they are all like my kids – I love them all, some more than others depending on their mood.
The only way up the mountain was through its steep and winding couloir. Jeremy Jones Photo.
A perfect tower of granite with sharp relief on all sides. Impassable except for one piercing, corkscrewing couloir up the granite-clad east face. Climbing up, I had the feeling I was getting into something special. It was steeper, bigger, and more dramatic than what I had anticipated. Halfway up the couloir we are on an off camber diagonal ramp. The exposure is real, the snow is deep and I pause for moment to make sure Elena respects the situation.
“This is a great place not to fall. Be sure to not catch your crampon on your pant.” (This simple mistake has killed many a skilled mountain climber.) “It’s also a good time to get your axe in your hand.”
I go over a brief self arrest lesson, slow my pace and kick my steps a little deeper then normal. All day, everyday Elena is doing things she has never done before. She shows no fear or weakness and it has us perplexed as the trip goes on.
The route was an absolute no fall zone. Jeremy Jones Photo.
At one point she asks, “how does this compare to your other trips?”
Figenshau, who has documented more foot-powered snow expeditions than anyone I know is next to me. Nonchalantly he takes the words from my mouth, “it’s one of the hardest ones.”
“Really?” says Elena.
I chime in, “ it's not the most dangerous but this is the longest self-supported trip I have ever done so it is the most physically demanding.”
“We are also really far from help so a simple injury can become really serious.” - JJ
“I actually made movies about foot-powered snowboarding being really hard.” We have a good laugh. But she moves on with her day as if to say “I do not see what the big deal is.”
The crew takes in the view from the top. Jeremy Jones Photo.
Moving down the valley I am once again stopped in my tracks by the lines on the horizon. Big hanging ramps lined with granite cliffs glowing beautifully in the afternoon light. But we are far from our pick up and I force myself to keep moving down valley.
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