In April of 2008 I drove from Lake Tahoe to Haines, Alaska up the Al-Can highway through British Columbia and the Yukon with an enclosed 4-snowmobile trailer and a ton of gear. I told myself the year before after a few years of getting "shut out" with heli time, that I wouldn't come back up without snowmobiles....instead of sitting around drinking myself into oblivion on a "down day."
Well thank God we did that because we definitely had down days again right from the get-go. The sledding up at Haines Pass is out of control good. Even staying closer to town like below Old Faithful is great. Can't say enough about how much fun it is to ride snowmobiles up there with no trees.
So the first legit day after that main snow storm cycle, we still went out snowmobiling one more time wanting to let the snow set up a bit more....while another part of our group went up in the bird. Actually two groups went up in the bird, and the first group did all the normal day-after-storm-cycle snow pit and snow quality tests.
The first group decided that while the dangers remained elevated, that it was good to go. They all made some of the sickest pow turns in their lives I was told. The next group then - a couple hundred meters or so over - set up for their descent.
The guy in the video was the first one to drop from their group and while not a guide, he had a lot of Utah and AK backcountry experience. He had a Black Diamond Avalung on, but as you can tell from the video while he's talking as he's dropping in, it wasn't in his mouth to start. He tried to shove it in the instant of starting to get sucked down, but it didn't stay in fully during his ragdoll descent. It was just off to the corner of his mouth he said, and he definitely got some snow / ice in his mouth still.
So as he drops in you can also see the sluff to the skier's right immediately start building....and that's actually the chute that was the intended route down. For whatever reason - well pure, unadulterated powder will do it to you - he didn't go make some strong "skier cuts" into the upper pack to do one final snow check as instructed by the main guide who was doing the "tail gunner" work.
Instead he just sent it. And it didn't take more than a few turns out on this big shoulder above this cliff band to break loose.
This was a decent sized avalanche. 1,500 feet the dude fell in a little over 20 seconds. The crown was about 1 - 1.5m. The chute that he got sucked through to the skier's right was flanked on either side by cliff bands that were about 30m tall. He luckily didn't break any bones and obviously didn't hit anything on the run out.
He was only buried for 4 and a half minutes which is incredibly short. I cannot stress these next sentences enough; that in and of itself to be unburied in ONLY 4:28 is miraculous if you have any understanding of being caught in an avalanche and what it takes to be found. It could literally be some kind of "world record" just on how good the guide and supporting cast of other skiers was in getting to him. It also shows why you should ALWAYS be going with people trained in avalanche rescue / first aid....as well as why you'd want to be going with a guided heli operation. Sure this was terrifying for him, but he would've probably been dead if not for going with a guide.
He also got very lucky to be honest. In the time that he's buried, you can hear his breathing already accelerate. The ruffling noise back and forth is his chest rising and falling and the noise that his jacket makes. The intermittent whimpering noise you hear is him trying to swallow and get some air since the avalung wasn't fully in his mouth and instead just to the corner of his mouth. Still sends chills up the back of my neck. Oh...the luck? They located him so fast because his right glove came off just before he came completley to rest and there was an excellent visual of course.
And then the digging out is utterly amazing. I don't think that you could've paid a Hollywood crew to stage something better. The fact that he could've been facing any 360 direction and yet he's looking right up into the sun-filled blue sky with that first full scoop away of the shovel is borderline spiritual.
This is simply a very sobering and unbelievable video. However, you should take away from this video all the positive things that you can learn from it. Yes there are risks to the backcountry - but with proper gear, training, and guide(s) with avalanche and EMT training - you can greatly lower your chances of getting caught in an avalanche in the first place.....and coming back alive if you ever were to get caught in a slide.
Respect Mother Nature for sure. Learn from this. But just like a Craig Kelly in the snowboard world or a Shane McConkey in the ski world who died out in the backcountry (Craig via avalanche and Shane via ski B.A.S.E. jumping), they left this earth while doing the things that they were truly passionate about. And while they would stress the need for the proper gear and training....neither one would want backcountry enthusiasts to curtail their adventures because of their accidents....or this video.
Please check with your local resort for classes on backcountry training, or try starting with a place like AIARE - the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Training. Their website is avtraining.org.
BEST VIEWED IN HD AND FULLSCREEN (with scaling off)
Midnight Sun: A natural phenomenon occurring in the summer months north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle where the sun never fully sets and remains visible 24 hours a day.
Shot entirely in Ultra HD 4K resolution, this short time lapse film was shot during the Icelandic Midnight Sun in June of 2011.
For 17 days I traveled solo around the entire island shooting almost 24 hours, sleeping in the car, and eating whenever I had the time. During my days shooting this film I shot 38,000 images, traveled some 2900 miles, and saw some of the most amazing, beautiful, and indescribable landscapes on the planet. Iceland is absolutely one of the most beautiful and unusual places you could ever imagine. Especially during the Midnight Sun when the quality of light hitting the landscape is very unusual, and very spectacular.
Iceland is a landscape photographers paradise and playground, and should be number 1 on every photographers must visit list. Iceland during the Midnight Sun is in sort of a permanent state of sunset. The sun never full sets and travels horizontally across the horizon throughout the night, as can be seen in the opening shot and at the :51 second mark in the video.
During the Arctic summer, sunset was at midnight and sunrise was at 3am. The Arctic summer sun provided 24 hours a day of light, with as much as 6 hours daily of "Golden light". Once the sun had set it wouldn't even get dark enough for the stars to come out, and they don't start to reappear until August.
My advice to everyone out there, photographer or not, is simple... You MUST visit Iceland sometime during your lifetime. You will never regret it.
For the fifth year Astronomical Society of Albury Woodonga organised a spectacular star party - Border Stargaze. This year's stargaze was exceptional in many ways including clear weather for the whole week.
Everyone was busy observing the sky with telescopes small and large at night and I had two cameras clicking away. The result is this three minute (my longest yet!) time lapse animation. There are four galaxies - The Milky Way, Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, Andromeda Galaxy and many many stars. The changing sky colour from natural Oxygen glow in the upper atmosphere is quite startling.
Live gum trees in the water are rather special. Lake Hume got very dry and shallow during the severe drought which ended in 2009 and the lake is now full covering the trees.
At a star party in August 2009 I took my first long exposure photograph of the night sky. I was so thrilled with the results that I dedicated most moonless weekends since then to photographing two things I love the most in nature - the night sky and the Ocean.
Taking a series of images and combining them into a time lapse video sequence made it even more interesting. I have since experimented with all-night time lapses, panning motion, etc. But most importantly I've enjoyed the journey immensely.
This time lapse video is the result of almost 1.5 years of work, 31 hours of taking images during six nights on Southern Ocean Coast in Australia.