Forty years ago a young Japanese man named Yuichiro Miura led an expedition and failed an attempt to ski Mount Everest. Four decades later Freeride Entertainment and the Red Bull Media house decided to pay homage to the "The Man Who Skied Down Everest" and trace the roots of canopy assisted flying in the mountains. A lot has changed with human flight in the mountains in these four decades. For everyone that has past, there has been a significant breakthrough by someone who said "no" to the impossible.
The Unrideables "The Alaska Range" follows human flight specialist, professional stunt man and all around adrenaline junkie Jon DeVore and a hand picked team of speedriders to challenge some of the most remote mountains in North America.
Speedriding is a sport barely a decade old. Where skiers use a small but very acrobatic paragliding wing to gain access in the mountains to places people never thought of skiing before. Many of the forefathers of the sport passed away while pioneering the new and various forms of what has now become speedriding. In this 45 minute documentary, Jon DeVore goes on a vision quest to trace back the early days of one of his biggest influences, his good friend Antoine Montant, the first world champion speedrider who passed away in 2011. Antoine had made significant first descents in Europe, including the world famous Eiger, that him and another one of the films stars, Francois Bon, completed in 2006.
Every time we prepare to go into the mountains, whether it is for fun, or to film, there is a comprehensive safety plan in case something goes wrong. These plans are extensively laid out in order to assure that if something unexpected occurs, there is no question what happens next. This project came with a unique set of hurdles compared to a standard ski or snowboard film. Although always prepared for medical, avalanche and crevasse rescue, the higher level of exposure that these athletes put themselves in demanded a new look on the plan and assessment of the standard equipment generally carried by Guides.
"For this production, I elected to bring on a third Guide to the team. It was a very complex assault on the mountains, and I wanted extra back-up. Beyond the number of Guides, I also hand selected the best team I could ever make." - Clark Fyans, Producer & Safety Coordinator
Greg Harms: Harms has been a Professional Heli-Ski Guide all over the world for well over two decades. He has spent thousands of hours in helicopters pioneering big mountains around the world, and is also a partial owner of the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, so he knows the terrain like no one else.
Dave Shuman: Shuman has recently retired as Senior Master Sargent from the United States Air Force Pararescue Team, based in Alaska. These guys are used to going and rescuing downed pilots, behind enemy lines. In 2004, Fyans worked along side Shuman during a rescue on Denali/Mt. McKinley after a massive rockfall hit a climbing team. Dave was the Incident Site Commander for the rescue bringing a new unique skill-set to this Safety Team in Alaska.
Jeff Hoke: Jeff is a native to Alaska and is no stranger to the big mountains. A veteran Helicopter Ski Guide of well over 10 years, but that is just what he does in his off time. His real job is the Captain of the Fire Department Special Rescues Team in Anchorage, Alaska. He is no stranger to arriving to complex scenes and executing rescues in tough situations.
Left to Right: Andy Farrington, Greg Harms, Steve Reska, Dave Shuman, Brad McGregor, Cory Horton, Derek Westerlund, Ian Beer, Shin Campos, Pat Reddish, Axl Fostvedt, Darryl Palmer, Jon DeVore, Claude Merkel, Greg Picard
The whole concept behind speedriding is to access terrain, otherwise impossible to snowboarders and skiers. When we look at terrain for skiers and snowboarders, there has to be a consistent line down the mountain with no major cliffs or ice falls above 40'-100'. In addition, glaciated terrain riddled with crevasses can also limit what one can do on standard equipment. The canopy/wing above the speedriders head allows the rider to select terrain to ride that would otherwise never be looked at. Lines that were forever "off-limits" are now possible. That opens up a huge amount of terrain in mountains all over the world.
The "sky is the limit" with this sport. Just like every other sport, as the equipment develops, and the skill level gets higher, who knows what these guys are going to be doing. The sport has progressed immensely in only 1.5 years. Imagine what it's going to be in 10 years from now. Speedriders will be free to explore the mountains of the world on a whole new level.
Photos: Scott Serfas