#SkiTheBig3 — Ski The AK Big Three — Post Number One


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
 Aaron checking out the fire red sky in western Alberta.  Photo: Anton

Aaron checking out the fire red sky in western Alberta. Photo: Anton

(WildSnow Editor’s note: I’ve been speaking about this with these guys for months, but we didn’t want to start blogging about it until they were actually on the road. A mission of ours here at WildSnow is to encourage humility with ourselves and our bloggers. Too many expeditions over-hype months before they actually step on the plane or fill up with fuel and roll tires. A goal as big as these guys have set requires chutzpah — but doesn’t need the hype that’s all too common these days. So here is their first post as the tires heat up and they roll to Alaska.)

About 48 hours into the grind.

About 48 hours into the grind.

Ambitious. That is the word I continuously hear when describing this trip to people. “You are trying to ski Mount Hunter, Foraker AND Denali? In one trip? Wow. That’s ambitious.”

We know this will not be easy. A lot of hard work will be needed. And a lot of luck. But why not go for something big? Even if we are only end up skiing off one of the peaks, that is a proud accomplishment. If we get lucky and get all three though, we will have done something amazing. We’ll do it by working together, planning with care, pushing hard when we should and holding steady when things don’t stack up. We’ll have enough food and supplies for almost two months on the ice — the hardest part might be the waiting. Perhaps it’ll come together in weeks instead of months…but who knows?

Guess where these guys were? They were having a better time than we were, that's for sure.

Guess where these guys were? They were possibly having a better time than us guys crammed in a little Toyota pickup.

The Team:

Big Three team.

Big Three team. From left: Anton Sponar, Jordan White, Aaron Diamond, Evan Pletcher.

Jordan White was with Lou on the 2010 Wildsnow Denali trip. He is a regular contributor here at Wildsnow. He lives in Aspen where he is a ski guide and bartender.

Evan Pletcher worked on Denali as a guide with Mountain Trip two years ago. While working he only got as high as 17 camp, never summiting. He is excited to go for the top of the mountain he spent so much time on. He also lives in Aspen where he guides and is a patroller.

Aaron Diamond spends his winters in Jackson and the Grand Teton National Park. He spends the rest of his time either working at home in Pennsylvania, or as a ski guide at Ski Arpa in Chile.

And I, Anton Sponar, also live in Aspen where I ski guide and work in a restaurant to make money for trips like this. This will be my first time on the Kahiltna Glacier. I am excited to test myself on the biggest peaks of North America.

The idea for this trip came simultaneously to three of us. Aaron and I hatched the idea while at Ski Arpa last summer. When I got back to Aspen Jordan came to me and said he had this idea to ski the “Big Three” of the Alaska Range. Shortly after, we had Evan hooked after telling him of the idea while sitting around a campfire in Moab.

Then the work began. Permits were acquired for the beginning of May. All of us have been on lengthy expeditions before, so we had a lot of our own gear. Luckily we got some help for things we needed. Dynafit outfitted all of us with sized-up boots. Intuition got us some nice warm liners. Honey Stinger helped with energy foods. BD filled in the gaps for tents. Bern got us some shiny new helmets. Thermacell heated footbeds will be keeping our feet warm (thanks Mike Marolt!). Benzinger sent us a case of wine, just to keep it classy out there. Oh, and Lou spent a day trying to rebuild one of his pulk sleds so we wouldn’t destroy it, and set us up with the WildSnow Iridium satphone so we can blog the trip from anywhere, especially Hotel Kahiltna!

At WildSnow HQ testing the satphone system.

At WildSnow HQ testing the satphone system. Once we’ve got this refined we’ll blog about how we set it up.

After all the gear was amassed and tested, we were ready. Everything (including the four of us) just barely fit into Jordan’s Tacoma with two big ski boxes on top, and we started north. I am now writing this from the very small back seat of the truck somewhere in Alberta, Canada. For the next six weeks or so we will be blogging via Wildsnow from the Kalhitna. So make sure to check back to see how we are faring. For all you Instagram users make sure to follow us for more pretty pictures. @asponar @jaywsss @evan_pletcher @mustache_man13 and of course @wildsnow.

Wish us luck. We will check in soon!

(WildSnow.com guest blogger Anton Sponar spends winters enjoying the skiing ambiance of the Aspen area, while summers are taken up with slave labor doing snowcat powder guiding at Ski Arpa in Chile. If Anton didn’t ski every month of the year, skiing would cease to exist as we know it. He sometimes spells Nunataq as Nunatag.)

Comments

29 Responses to “#SkiTheBig3 — Ski The AK Big Three — Post Number One”

  1. John Young April 28th, 2014 3:48 pm

    Sweet! Keep the pics and vids coming!

  2. Joe RIsi April 28th, 2014 4:57 pm

    Safe Travels boys.

  3. Louie April 28th, 2014 5:11 pm

    Cool! Psyched to follow it.

  4. Blake April 28th, 2014 5:22 pm

    best of luck!!

  5. Lou Dawson April 28th, 2014 7:23 pm

    I’m really excited for these guys, and also honored that they’d blog on Wildsnow! I of course know Anton and Jordan fairly well, dont’ know the other guys having just met. The crew seems understated yet committed, perfect mindset for what they’re undertaking. My hope is that beyond mere curiosity or entertainment, they’ll share some inspiration. We’ll do our best to produce their blog posts, and we’ll keep them in our prayers.

  6. Lisa April 28th, 2014 7:51 pm

    Looking forward to your trip reports. Safe travels!

  7. wfinley April 28th, 2014 11:22 pm

    Denali, Foraker and Hunter from a team that has one dude who’s been up Denali? Ummm yeah…. Forgive my snark but every year guys like this show up. Post after you get the job done.

  8. Lou Dawson April 29th, 2014 5:31 am

    Finley, I understand your feelings but please, this is a journey, an adventure, if the guys want to share it let’s enjoy it, success or failure. I didn’t see any excessive hubris in this post. Their bios are modest compared to what I know their qualifications to actually be. They set a goal. Bar is high. More power to them.

    But in deference to your feelings, as we alluded to above I’m as burned out as anyone by pre-hyped expeditions that overdo the hype. I’m not going to let that happen here. Yes, part of the reason they’re blogging this is sponsorships, but that’s a small part. They are doing a grand adventure, enjoy sharing it, and the opportunity to do so is provided by modern technology. So be it.

    Just enjoy reading about what these guys do. If they were total masters of the universe, it would be boring.

    Lou

  9. akguy April 29th, 2014 5:58 am

    With due respect to everyone here (I love the mellow tone of this forum), when Lou and Jordan led their Denali trip in 2010 it was 7 guys, only one of whom had been to the summit, Lou about 35 years previously! Despite the lack of experience they were pretty successful, all summiting and all skiing from the summit. I know that their lack of experience along with efforts to do things right made the trip all that much more of an adventure. It was one of the best things ever here at WildSnow. This trip probably can’t compete (sorry Jordan), but it’s still going to be excellent to read about and I thank these guys for the effort I hope they’ll make to keep the blog posts coming. Mainly please be safe guys. Be mellow if things don’t seem right. Let the mountains do the talking.

  10. Jack April 29th, 2014 7:59 am

    I love the opportunity to view an intimate, smart expedition blog up close. I trust these guys to climb smartly, strongly, and with sound decision making. Godspeed.

  11. Joe RIsi April 29th, 2014 8:13 am

    Lou, I totally agree. (yes I’m a bit biased) but I think I can speak for much of the Aspen community that these guys are some of the strongest skiers around.
    @wfinley I dare you to keep pace with these guys.
    Not only that they all have great respect for their surroundings. I’m sure this will echo in AK.

  12. Marcos Vallone April 29th, 2014 8:41 am

    Felicitaciones Anton!! Manejen con cuidado.Subí muchas fotos y videos! Abrazo desde Mendoza, Argentina.

  13. Matt Kinney April 29th, 2014 9:44 am

    Good luck! Just getting there is an adventure. The visiting Dynafit team totally tamed Valdez (Dimond, Tusk and Meteorite) “from the road” a few weeks ago and hopefully you all will have the same successes.

  14. Mike Marolt April 29th, 2014 10:22 am

    For 25 years I have been a “guys like this” and what I still can’t figure out is why people take this stuff so seriously that they find it in their hearts to belittle guys out having a great adventure. In this case over a freaking blog! Are you serious?? And the more you stick with this stuff the worse it gets. If you don’t appreciate what someone is doing or has done, don’t follow it, but why belittle them? And for the record, I know a couple of those “guys like this” and what I appreciate is their passion to take on things that people think they can’t do. True adventure is taking on objectives that you have a greater chance of not succeeding than succeeding and going back until you either finish or know for fact that you can’t. That’s what makes it great. And if you don’t take your experience and push it bit by bit beyond what you are comfortable, you don’t grow and increase your experience. I will follow these guys and throw them a few Hail Mary’s for safety and enjoy living for a few weeks vicariously through their photos, blogs, and “hype”. I will really get a kick out of it in the process. Good luck “guys like this”! Whish I was there but the blogs will be a great alternative.

  15. Mike Marolt April 29th, 2014 10:31 am

    PS make that what some people think they can’t do. I think they can……and won’t think any lesser of them if they don’t…..

  16. Michael Kennedy April 29th, 2014 10:51 am

    Well said, Mike Marolt. Psyched to see the “guys like this” have fun and get after it!

  17. Mike Soucy April 29th, 2014 12:37 pm

    I guess they now have a great expedition name for the NPS, thanks to finley.
    What a great idea; way to think big and go for it.
    Be safe and have fun!

  18. wfinley April 29th, 2014 1:46 pm

    OK – so my snark was a little over the top. Apologies for that. I’ve no doubts that these guys are great alpinists and skiers – but one thing the Alaska Range teaches you is humility. I’m all for reading about people going in an having a great time however when people announce big plans before even reaching Talkeetna I’m prone to rolling my eyes.
    That said – if these guys can pull off ski descents of all 3 I’ll eat my socks and buy them beers and offer an Anchorage basement, shower and washing machine.

  19. Lou Dawson April 29th, 2014 2:42 pm

    Good on you Finley!

    I totally agree about the humility factor. Important to always keep that in mind, even if we do publish “announce” plans before hand.

    You know, when you think about it, keeping plans secret could be just as selfish as over baked announcing. Again, it’s about balance.

    Lou

  20. Mike Marolt April 29th, 2014 9:18 pm

    Finley way to man up. Great response! Peace.

  21. AK Jack April 30th, 2014 12:04 am

    More power to ‘em if they meet their ambitions, or not. Billy, yo snark ain’t lost on me. I like to read about trips in the past tense, too.

    We live, perhaps vicariosly, in the ‘now world’. And to this Alaskan, Marolt was over the top.

  22. Tatsuno April 30th, 2014 9:18 am

    Yeah Boys! Be safe, climb high, ski smart. Can’t wait to buy y’all some beers when you get back and hear the stories from this great adventure. I guess this blog will have to suffice in the mean time… ;)

  23. Mike Marolt April 30th, 2014 9:29 am

    Having done battle on the beastly giants in the Wrangells for 7 years, I understand the AK hard man mentality………I get it.

  24. Lou Dawson April 30th, 2014 9:55 am

    Jordan et al, when you guys get to Talkeetna, let me know if that crazed guy is still driving his ATV up and down main street every 10 minutes all “night.” Oh, and be sure to look up that guy who took you on the ATV adventure (grin). Though perhaps that’s best done after you get back from the glacier. Lou

  25. Jordan April 30th, 2014 11:13 am

    Yukon Don!

  26. Tom April 30th, 2014 12:55 pm

    “I love the mellow tone of this forum”

    X2!

    Sometimes when I “pre-announce” it’s because I need a cheering/heckling section for motivation. So… get on it or get off it! No excuses!

  27. Caleb Wray May 2nd, 2014 2:29 pm

    Underestimating Jordan and Anton made me laugh on many levels. Those guys are my brothers and I think the outcome will be something special. Good luck up there and remember my key advice, no 2am ATV rides in Talkeetna.

  28. Caleb Wray May 2nd, 2014 2:47 pm

    And for the record, Mike Marolt’s first post is gospel in my book.

  29. Grant Alexander May 2nd, 2014 3:40 pm

    This trip sounds absolutely epic. I can’t wait to read the follow ups. You guys are truly inspirational. Good Luck!

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