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 the day 6 of filming for Ode To Muir with photos and videos he captured along the way.
Jeremy captures the stunning alpenglow on the line the crew rode during their sixth day in the John Muir Wilderness.
“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” - JOHN MUIR
We are starting to get in to the surreal, “dream state” stage of the trip. We find our pace, we wake in the twilight hours, ease into the day with a casual coffee talk waiting for sun to reach camp, pack our gear, saddle our packs and settle into and start our day of walking and riding until we run out of daylight. We are deliberately moving slow as we climb up the ridge above camp. On long trips I never like to rush the pace. Every line has a estimated drop in time and I pad the schedule so we are not rushing. Rushing burns too much energy and limits our ability to climb all day everyday. This mornings climb is spectacular right from the start do to our high camp. We leave camp in crampons and quickly gain the upper plateau in half the time as anticipated. The snow on our intended line needs more time to soften so we take the opportunity to climb the broad snowcapped peak to our left.
The only thing in sight for Jeremy and Elena were vast mountains and epic lines. Nick Kalisz photo.
As I approached the peak my breath becomes short, knees start to shake, spine starts to tingle do to the new horizon that is about to greet me. The view shakes me. It is like getting a lightning bolt to my soul. A proud, stand alone peak with a steep north east face falling from its summit explodes from the infinite landscape. The hundreds of other peaks mean nothing. I see nothing else. It is like seeing your eternal soul mate in an ocean of people. A tractor beam highlights the perfectly triangular, perfectly sized – just plain perfect peak. No doubt our plan has changed. We have a new objective, new camp, new drainage, and a new path Things need to be figured out, details need to be adjusted. I scream. Nick and Elena join me. I let their eyes find it on their own. It does not take long, “look at that!”
The map ads clarity and answers to our questions and in 10 minutes we have a new plan for tomorrow. Example #127 of the benefits of being nimble in the mountains and why I do not spend much time pre planning trips. Pick an entry, pick an exit, decide how many days of supplies you want to carry and start walking.
Jeremy captures Elena and Nick Schneider hiking towards their next big line. Nick Kalisz photo.
Focus on today is regained and a few minutes later, Nick and Elena and I are spread out on a large open bowl hooting and howling next to each other while descending an unnamed 12,000 ft peak.
The fact that it is an unnamed peak is not unique or special in this landscape, for the majority of these peaks remains nameless. Looking North I see Dana barely visible 80 miles away. Between Dana and I the named peaks are easy to spot; Red Slate, Bloody, Banner, Mammoth and Ritter, rise above the masses. They are the outliers. They make up a small fraction of the mountains in my view. Doing a 180 degree to the South the same story, same ratio holds true. 95% of these mountains, unnamed – However, it is not for me to say who has stood on what or where someone has laid tracks.
These lands have seen footprints for thousands of years. First the Native Americans then the prospectors, sheep heerders and early explorers. Muir opened up the higher peaks, Snowshoe Thompson traversed the range in winter, Norman Clyde explored the more vertical realms and Brower and friends started making turns down the snowy flanks in springtime (research required).
Schneider leads Jeremy and Elena west.
Most applicable to what I am doing would be the Alan Bard generation. They focused on long traverses of the range in winter. This culminated with their ski traverse of the high peaks that they called the “Red Line.” This 150 mile highline still holds weight today. The traverse was committed to staying as high as possible on the crest of the range and it is not hard to imagine they pitched camp at our Red Slate or saddle camp. But did they take time out of their already ambitious itinerary to burn calories riding the steep faces of the lesser name peaks and faces I am now walking towards?
It is not for me to say. I am not here to put names to unnamed peaks, nor to stake my claim. The younger me would have wanted that attention, but I now see the value of keeping things fresh and unknown for the next generation.
Statistically speaking, it is safe to say we have made turns in places no one has ever turned – my guess is we are breaking ground when we ride these steep, technical lines of less prominent peaks.
- Jeremy Jones
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