There is snow on the ground, snow in the air, snow covering the chicken-headed spiky rocks that compose the slag heaps of Colorado’s San Juan mountains and thankfully in spots, there have been fleeting moments where that snow was waist deep and billowing over my smiling face.
Be thankful my friends, very thankful. I returned home to Tennessee this week to do the same, finding that many blessings in my past did not go unnoticed — if not delayed a bit by gratification. Thanksgiving was neither a holiday for vegans or the gluten free set in the Clark household, circumstances I prayed for on some pretty high perches with that foreign sense of adventure I crave equally forcing me to look toward the heavens.
When all you have is Clif bars, Mom’s cranberry apple dish and my brothers deep fried Cajun infused turkey beckons like a belly sized siren. With this singular and unsustainable venture into the cardio “Death Zone”, I replaced pounds I seem to have lost somewhere and restored brain functions that a high altitude explorer sometimes forgoes in the pursuit of lightness. Oddly I felt the same outcome, I was tired and satisfied… at only 500 feet above sea level.
Holidays at home are fun and every culture has a ritual, and in these rituals, no matter how foreign, we can observe each other and bond in the experience. In this episode of Ski The Himalayas, our team participated in a Buddhist Puja ceremony at a local nunnery in Muktinath, Nepal. Our goal: to have fun and pay respect to the mountains… what really happened is unforgettable and resulted in Jon Miller’s most memorable moment of the season.
Some days, actually many days, I wake up with nothing more than a hint of what may be possible. Seeing new things all the time motivates me — it’s my routine, a gig for life. At some point, after lots of plane tickets, duct tape fixes and miscommunications, Darwinian principles begin to crest. I call it “dumb luck”, it’s saved some great times from becoming total losses. This one in particular.
As our expedition to ski in the region of Mustang fails when horses can’t negotiate landslides that have pummeled the approaching hillsides, we’re stuck in a location I have hung in three other times on three other expeditions. The location is Jomosom, it’s like the Denver of Nepal. In this episode we reorganize our gear for the next leg of our journey to ski powder in the Himalayas and visit a village that not too long ago was a hallowed spot on the Annapurna Circuit trekking route. Today fewer visitors explore the town of Marpha, known for it’s apple brandy, and steps leading to 26,795-foot Dahaulagiri, as vehicles carrying time sensitive travelers pass by.
Life is pretty short and sharing a Himalayan summit with good friends is rare — coveted even. Especially when an avalanche expedites your descent as the series ending reveals in Season 3 of Ski The Himalayas. Such is the nature of adventure sometimes. I grew up listening as GI Joe said “knowing was half the battle”… well, sometimes we see the other half, and we learn more from that “knowing”.
For me, it’s how you get there, how you get back and what you experience in between. That’s why I like sharing these videos — so that others can learn from our mistakes! In this dialogue-driven episode, the outcome of our original plans becomes murky as we figure out that this will be no routine expedition. As the team stages for trekking to the region of Mustang from Jomosom, Nepal, we see how too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough translation can change travel direction quickly when you leave Kathmandu in the trekking high season.
I ran in the dark hollow coolness of the Telluride valley this morning, winter’s bite is slowly settling in and the shadows of dawn are arriving much later now. Thumping foot after foot on frosted pavement, I ran with my wife and at the mercy of our galloping Tibetan Terrier, Blitz. I’m happy to call this place home. It’s a transitional season and a pleasure to watch time pass this way — as the mountains change form and winter takes shape.
I’m still loaded with anticipation of adventure — my endorphins sizzle as I gaze up valley and see Bridal Veil falls freezing and windy chutes filling. I expect to take my skis up into the mountains this weekend for the first time since July, It’s nice to spend a fall in the home mountain range and enjoying time with my family. Mountaineering in the San Juans can be really great training any time of year.
A year ago this week, I found myself at the mouth of the second deepest gorge in the world, my next three weeks in the hands of a horseman’s bridle. Ski The Himalayas Season 3, Episode 2 chronicles the day that occurred, this episode tops my list on most shocking cultural misunderstandings I’ve ever had!
This week was pretty awesome. Snow is falling and the trees still bear the last colors of summer. Jon Miller and I found ourselves atop a crag in the desert and it was nothing short of Alpine conditions. It’s a big reason to live in Telluride, Colorado, being able to leave town on a questionable day and reach sunny desert sandstone. Sometimes, the weather is a little more widespread than we think and we jammed our hands into splitter cracks while rain pelted down and wind made it impossible to hear… all this on a 40 foot, 5.10a route before the rain really set in. Oh boy, it’s no wonder the Himalayan slopes have never felt like much of a jump from here, it’s a wild country and no matter what you want to do, something is always “in”.
Please enjoy Ski The Himalayas Season 3 premiere episode and follow along with us this winter as we prepare for a spicy Himalyan ski traverse in spring.
I was just sitting on the ski area in Telluride watching the leaves change today in a drizzly meadow. I love living in the mountains in the fall. There is snow on the ground in the high country and looking west to the desert a blanket of clouds peter out and lead to splitter cracks baking in sunshine. Transitions between seasons are always so dynamic here—you can see from mountaintops to arid sandstone plateaus, summer’s orange alpenglow fades into blazing Aspens and ominous grey clouds. I’m glad to slow things down, return to the desert and rope up for a little while, this year has been a fast ride with speedy ascents and a lot of great downhill filled with giggles and whoops.
This time last year, I was gearing up for a trip with friends that challenged me in many ways but brought the team a rewarding lesson that I wanted to share. One that gave me the best winter of my life after that expedition and a lesson that I hope inspires others in how we approach back country avalanche terrain. Leading into ski season, I hope you’ll view the Ski the Himalayas Season 3 episodes here over the next 13 weeks and learn a little bit about the culture, terrain and risks that make ski mountaineering so important to us. A trailer is below, I’ll be posting each week and I look forward to sharing the adventure!
Ski the Himalayas is now in it’s third season of online “making of” podcast episodes born out of Ski the Himalayas first two feature length documentary films available this year on Dish Network and Comcast Xfinity VOD and Pay Per View. Look for Ski the Himalayas 2 on Dish and Comcast Xfinity on May 1st. We climbed a peak and survived an avalanche, those were just two instances along the way…
We made it, we skied it, we are done in under two weeks with one ascent and one amazing descent. Our goal, to follow our noses to some of the best snow in Nepal has been a success. Our summit day on Thorung peak occurred four days ago and we now sit in the comfort of Pokhara Nepal, 19,000’ lower.
Ben Clark and Jon Miller are on a ski expedition to return to 23,390′ Baruntse, their second attempt.
Ski The Himalayas Season 2, Episode 4 leads viewers on the Mera La trail to Baruntse. Miller and Clark share the adventure as the pair view the expedition footage often sharing a story “not for air”. In this episode the trail winds through high mountain passes and into remote villages.