(Last Updated On: October 25, 2009)
Mount St Elias is the second highest peak in the United States, at 18,008′. The first ascent was made by an expedition led by the Italian Duke of Abruzzi in 1897 and featured porters carrying brass beds to base camp. Rising directly from the ocean on the border of Alaska and the Yukon, the potential of a summit-to-sea ski descent of the entire mountain will always spark the imagination of ski mountaineers. The proximity to the ocean is also the downfall of this goal, however, as the mountain makes its’ own weather like few others in the world. The first ski descent was made in 2000 by Andy Ward, James Bracken, and Lorne Glick down what they dubbed the “Mira Face” (see the American Alpine Journal 2001). This 11,000′ descent did not go to the sea, leaving the summit-to-sea route unclaimed.
In 2002, another group attempted the complete route, but unfortunately 2 members fell after reaching the summit. An excellent article can be found here: Sports Illustrated Article
In 2007 my good friend Jon Johnston joined Axel Naglich and Peter Ressman in a well-funded attempt to make the summit to sea descent. The group encountered difficult climbing conditions, slopes that were blown free of snow down to the ice below, and storm conditions that forced them to hunker down in a snow cave for days. Portions of the route were skied on the initial trip, and Axel returned months later to ski from the summit and claim the first descent to the sea. Needless to say, the route remains for someone to do in a better style than currently accomplished.
Now, 2 years later, the movie will be premiering in November and the trailer is already out. It looks like plenty of money went into the movie, and it also appears that the movie will cover more than just the ’07 expedition, since the trailer shows what looks like scenes from the ill-fated ’02 expedition. I’m not so sure what to think about the obviously staged crevasse fall in the movie trailer, either. Perhaps that’s the kind of thing that will make it more interesting to the average viewer, though, who doesn’t know much about ski mountaineering. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing this movie and giving it a complete review, especially after hearing so much about the trip from Jon. Official site: mountstelias.com
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