the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

March 24, 2010

A game of 2 halves: sledding vs sledging in Canada’s backcountry.

Filed under: snow — Tags: , , , — danmilner @ 5:12 pm

Right I’m not going to pretend that all photo assignments go according to plan, but the last fortnight of hauling a sack of camera gear around Canada’s British Columbia has got to go down as one of the most, err… schizophrenic shoots I’ve ever done. What was to be a “simple” splitboard story under the guise of Jeremy Jones/TGR’s ongoing Deeper film project (the same that had us camping in Alaska for two weeks last winter), has left me with a camera pack smelling of petrol and a set of clothes reeking of smoke: a combination of odors that will prove more than interesting no doubt when I try to board my plane back to Europe next week. Splitboards and petrol? Let me shed some light.

Deeper is all about getting further into the backcountry, and if you read my last post written aboard a Greyhound bus bound for Pemberton, BC you’ll know that my clutch of commissions was based around this idea, using a couple of remote backcountry cabins as a base for splitboarding into new terrain. Ahem, well, that was the idea. As I say, sometimes not everything goes to plan.

Casting down the fleece gauntlet: sled vs sledge.

Sketchy avalanche conditions induced by a buried hoare-frost layer throughout interior BC rendered our targeted big lines unapproachable (and by “big lines” I mean the kind of stuff in snowboard films that has you inavertently sucking in air between your teeth while uttering expletives in a complimentary but astonished manner) and caused our two A-class riders to pull out at the eleventh hour, understandably turning their attention instead to regions where they were more likely to live to ride again.  As with all snow shoots, it’s the rider’s safety that has to be paramount, and they are usually the best judge of what’s possible. Right, so where does that leave us? well, a 900 Km drive across BC is behind us with little chance of pulling the shoot out of the bag. Not ideal, especially when you’ve racked up $1500 in expenses to get that far. It’s times like this, when you can see costs mounting as rapidly as the clutch of commissions is disappearing before your eyes that you’d rather be doing (almost) anything else instead so long as it has a salaried wage in tow.

So turn around and head home, tail between our legs? However tempting it is at times to just bin it and head out, I usually have a nagging desire to see a job through and salvage what can be rescued from a trip. We might have ‘lost’ our two key witnesses, but lets face it, Canada isn’t short of talent when it comes to snowboarding is it?  Enter Golden’s Justin Baun and Pemberton’s Dave Basterrechia.

Golden boy Baun bangs one out in the backcountry

The end result was a true schizophrenic session: a game of two halves if you like, each being about as diametrically opposed when it comes to approaching snowboarding in the backcountry, and each challenging the photographer’s (hey, thats me) physical and mental strengths, beginning with four days of snowmobile-accessed backcountry riding (read: proper nerve and a test of upper body stamina needed to hang onto a sled as it climbs 30 degree hills at 80 Km/h) and a stay in a genuine fur trappers hut (a true test of my 27-year vegetarian principles). I emerged still vegetarian, smelling of petrol but perhaps with a little more of that broad, pectorally-developed man-chest that befits the sledding community of interior BC.

By contrast part two of this story became a session of towing-our-kit-behind-us-on-sledges splitboard-only purity (read: a real test for leg stamina to reach some of the 40 degree chutes we’d spotted) hiking right into the eye of the storm as it laid down 40cm of new snow. Pungent sweaty base layers. and some candlelit smoky nights sharing a six person tiny backcountry cabin with ten people, cooking over a wood stove with a blocked chimney flue ensured an authentic atmosphere.

With shots nailed at each location, I’m relieved to say that I think we salvaged the assignment. It’ll be an interesting feature when it comes out next winter, if as I say, a little schizophrenic. Petrol and wood smoke anyone? Now where did I put my immigration card?

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1 Comment »

  1. Awesome post, hey I found this story while searching the web for free downloads. Thanks for sharing I’ll tell my friends about this too.2324

    Comment by game — May 25, 2010 @ 3:29 pm


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