✙ BYPRODUCT OF A STELLAR HEIGHT
Bine Žalohar 8.5.2017
Virtual agenda of a modern sportsmanship consists of daily grind on Instagram, likes on facebook, e-mails to sponsors, filming video stories and constant presence of cameras, phones and drones. Cruel? Sad? True?
I can’t blame myself for that, even though sometimes I get on myself’s nerves especially when it’s cold and my fingers are freezing when I need to take off my gloves, set gimbal and POV camera to shoot my latest adventure and make it appealing to viewers eyes as much as I can. I am constantly thinking, if angles are right and if the light matches to ISO settings. Instead of JUST ski! However you have to give us props for that since we – virtual heroes of modern outdoor enthusiasm – are able to set everything in couple of seconds, focus on the line, shred it, take photos of our friends in the middle of the face so even they can post shots later and fully exposed make it down safely. EVERYBODY is doing that and if they don’t admit it. Well, they might be doing it in a very very similar way. Outdoor mentality modernised in a way. Not to mention skipping snacks or a dinner to upload it as fast as possible so that the whoooole world can see how cool are the vibes on the other side of the screen. Even if they’re not. But, human brains can develop to a very high level of understanding of what is genuine and what fake. At least i can get this feeling from just scrolling down the IG profile and by checking couple of action shots. So what is actually really worth of posting? I have no idea, but my goal is to inspire people for activities i enjoy and present my side of it. I never expect from anyone going so far i go sometimes. Please don’t! Just enjoy it, capture it if you want to, be honest about it and share it with your friends.
Anyway. Keep that in mind when reading the second part of this post.
Matevž, his brother Jan, Luka, Katja and I went back to Tyrol in March so we could shred some powder. In a hidden valley of Weissenbach we scored. We also wanted to stay on the mountain and that’s why we brought all of our bivy stuff up to a hut where we could potentially stay. Instead after a whole day of pow pleasure we have learned, that we can only stay in a very very cold barn in summer sleeping bags. So we bailed and took a cozy way out by hiring a double room down in the valley and of course sleep on mats. There were 5 of us and our underwear stank. So that was funny and after that we had another stellar day on the mountain being alone in our lines despite many touring skiers who are just craving for that cross on the top of the main peak and that’s it. I never really got that. Top of the mountain makes sence as goal i guess, but for me the top is sometimes so unimportant that I could easily trade it for a good snow conditions anywhere below or next to it.
Photo credit: Katja Pokorn
The ski season was far from over so the road lead me to Maria Alm and Kaprun for two weeks to teach English kids to ski. Wow, that was an exceptional experience too. I am not going to lose words on how badly coordinated the kids these days are. Or at least english kids are. Obesity and pure physical strength makes it hard for them by even finding and recognizing their ski boots. Not to mention what left or right means.
Next was Chamonix. I have been in Cham twice in my life before, but never skied anything »proper«. Klemen, Matevž and Andraž invited me for a 4 day »let’s see what happens« kind of an adventure. It was cool that we finally didn’t calculate on the forecast. We sat in the car with a flow to go and that was it. 8 hours drive to Courmayeur took some forecast digging and soon as we arrived to Aosta we noticed weather is really good on this side of the tunnel. Matevž took the cards in his hands and suggested Arpy. Thanks to Anja, Slovene girl who works in Chamonix and shreds with locals, we got this information about Mont Colmet. A 3000er above Arpy village. Stunning views and we also got luck with snow so that was awesome. After that we went to Cho’s. A Korean guy’s nice and humble hostel below Les’ Bossons glacier and made a plan for next days. Argentiere hut was full and we had to access by Grand Montets lift every day. So we summited Aiguille d’Argentiere in ice and fog, skied Grand Montets resort in sun and skied Col des Cristaux (Courtes) in great conditions. The experience of skiing on steep terrain that is higher that anything here in Slovenia, has been a great mental training for the future. I want to come back to this place more often, but i guess i will have to earn more money to be able to travel back and forth no matter the conditions
Andraž Šparovec in Klemen Šafar
In the beginning of the season I got an offer to do a freeride trip to Norway, which sounded awesome and i put some budget on the side for that. I worked a lot, but money can amazingly change it’s form with some cool toys. So the trip unfortunately didn’t happen and i got no plans for the late season. But than, Davo Karničar called me and invited me for a touring version and meanwhile climb the highest mountain in Europe. Mount Elbrus. Some might still think that Mont Blanc is the one, but i guess Frenchies never considered anyone else but themselves as europeans. And since i have failed to make final push to summit of Mont Blanc last season, I was in. Why not climbing to a 5642m? Many of people i know have done it, their parents have done it, people from all around the world are doing it. Because of those stories, Elbrus hasn’t left big impression on me at first. It just sounded so easy. In my case. I came back from Chamonix at 2am in the morning and had a plane to catch in Zagreb at 1pm the same day. Than off to another plane from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody and another 3.5 hour drive in a van to Terskol. Terskol is humble village bellow ski resort of Cheget and Elbrus. We took the liberty to have a day off and see what is going on with the weather. I haven’t even checked the forecast, before i took part and that never happens to me. So the forecast showed we are going to freeze during the trip. The next day we went up to a mid station with 2 out of 3 cabin lifts. Than skinned up to old russian barrels, which where meant to be our base for the next few days. It really feels lame when you are doing the aclimatisation and random people who can hardly stand on their skis and snowboards, pass by while you already feel the altitude a little. Heavy backpacks were left in barrels and we took off for another 2,5 hour ascent to around 4300m. Just to the point, where snowy surface changes to a mellow angled pure ice. It was sunny, so we got no clue how to dress up for the next days. It is extremely important that you put on right layers, because in the other case, you might catch frostbites. The forecast showed -20/-30 degrees with a windchill feel of -50 during the next days. That night in barrels was still quite comfortable for me since it wasn’t so cold, but the storm hit us the next morning. Couple of our posse did training to the bottom and than back up to barrels and some of us decided to do another aclimatisation approach to 4200m. That night was the worst. Wind blew so strong that sleeping in barrels felt like in a moving, almost derailing train. I also got really cold, since my sleeping bag only goes to -10. The storm was huge and we decided to back down for couple of days and go back to a hotel in Terskol. Challenging descent awaited us even on a ski slope. There were snow drifts everywhere and the visibility was up to a maximum of 5-10m. The bottom part was fun and it felt great to have wide skis among the rest of the crew who only have narrow touring skis. Staying in the hotel over the next 2 days and visiting Nalchik was a reminder on how well human adopt the comfort. It was so warm that only underwear was appropriate layer in the room. After that, it was a go time. The forecast showed, we only have a last day of a trip window to summit. We packed all of our bags and headed back up to barells, had an afternoon dinner and went to sleep. Morning call was 1am. I grabbed the camera and took a photo of a clear sky and mountains lit by the lights in the valley. That was a cool moment I will never forget.
Nebo nad Elbrusom
However I was surrounded by electrical towers and lines so I could not even hid that in a photo, but that is how this part of Elbrus looks like. No romance. I knew that I have to eat, but the stomach was so full from the day before. Galina, the cook, took care of us really nicely. I managed to eat some bread and drink green tea. The snowcat picked us up and drove to 4200m where we’ve already done aclimatisation ascents twice before. And nothing feels more special than warm up 6 hours hike on pure ice with crampons and axe and ofcourse heavy backpack with skis. The focus in the first 2,5 hours is vitally important. If you slip and fall, you are going to slide all the way towards the rocks. You probably get what that means. And here, the mountain showed different face. Suddenly I started to feel like climbing in Chamonix or Triglav north face, even thought it was far from steep and fully exposed. Cold breeze numbing my forehead covered in 2 layers and saliva freezing on my lips was another factor. I just heard sound of Davo’s instructions and warnings and ice squeeching bellow crampons. Once or twice my axe slipped, because the tip just did not grip. Literally, it was a concrete under our feet, and than the sun started to rise. It became colder as well. But very beautiful. Blue. Purple. Orange. And finally yellow warmth. All of this in just 100 short steps. We reached the traverse and the altitude started to hit on some. I experienced it before and I knew I had to just move slowly without stopping and focusing on every step. Technically a really easy hike, but with a heart beat of a sprinter and breath of an apneist coming to surface. I started to focus on everything nice that happened in my life before. Diving over the coral reef and seeking fish, than skydiving over Nanos, than remembering all the cool moments with friends we had just before this trip. Sounds like a farewell dream, but that’s how I need to set my head to be able to get over the crisis. And this crisis went on until I reached the saddle on 5300m. I took a break and waited for Andrej and Rok who were also really tired. Andrej and I even considered of turning back. At that phase the summit didn’t mean anything to me. All I was thinking were icy conditions everywhere. But It was so beautifly vast and open. I took couple of steps and felt my head will explode. Than Rok made a motivational speech and we decided to make intervals. Which is not ok, because it sucks the energy out of your body even more. But it sounded like a great plan. 20 small steps and 6 breath ins. After and hour it came to a 16 breath ins. But suddenly. The pain was gone. Last soccer field until the summit. All I felt was the beauty of that cold, sunny, icy day in the middle of Caucas. Maybe all of this sounds cheesy. You should all try it! You should try summit the roof of the Europe and remember all of those bad days at work, hangovers after lousy parties, piles of unpaid bills, etc. What came after that, was a strike back to reality. We made it! Until the half, ofcourse. Rok, Andrej, Damijan and I. Strong group has already left half an hour ago. Respect to Ido Karničar who only finished elementary school and other Izidor Karničar who is 65 years old and is strong as I only hope I will be one day. Soon as I put my skis on I literally felt no pain in my body except for the headache. So that means only one thing. I should not climb any high mountains without skis.
Davo Karničar, Ido Karničar, Benjamin Brence
Made it with Ripsticks 106/180cm
I filmed my descent on skis from Mount Elbrus. By that I got marked by being virtually obsessed. But all I can say in my defence is that I used the camera only when i reached the summit and I set my Garmin POV on the descent. Yes i pressed the button couple of times and yes i stopped on some places to change the angle. But that did not affect my focus on skiing and focus on completing the task safely. So i pretty much don’t mind the hate. It’s a modern world and i don’t blame anyone. Just keep it safe, real and unique and most importantly achieve your goals.