BD athlete Johnny Collinson reports on his filming trip to Greenland with Rocky Mountain Sherpas
Black Diamond athlete Johnny Collinson recently headed over to Greenland with fellow BD athlete Callum Pettit and other skiers to film with the Rocky Mountain Sherpas crew for next year’s film. Below is Johnny’s report and photos from the adventure.
Stirring from a jetlag-induced coma, I blinked my eyes against the bright flare in the planes windows. Past the frosted panes I could pick out a landscape that was far different than any I had ever seen. Circular chunks of pack ice were crowded together amongst giant icebergs as the tide swelled against the mountains of eastern Greenland. Sitting next to me was Dana Flahr, and behind us was the rest of the athletes and crew: Ingrid Backstrom, Callum Pettit, Sherpas Cinemas filmers Dave Mossop and Eric Crossland, photog Adam Clark, and, rounding it to an even eight, was guide man Geoff Osler. We were off to the land of polar bears to do nothing else but camp and ski. Could a 19-year-old ask for anything else?
We landed on the dirt tarmac of Kulusuk International Airport, dragged our gear off the plane and onto a dog sled. Geo (our local man) came to pick us up with his dog team, probably not realizing how much gear an eight-man filming mission would have. After three trips the gear was gone and a few of us walked the mile across the sea ice into town. Upon arrival we were greeted by barking dogs everywhere, the stench of fish and seal meat drying, and vividly colored huts perched upon the rocky coastline. The first night we spent in Geo’s “tourist hunting house,” a blue plywood shack with a kitchen/common room, a 10x10 bedroom, and a small room with a bucket. Didn’t take much for eight people to fill that bucket.
Day two we woke up early and packed our gear for a camping mission further inland. The local heli-op gave us some beta on possible zones, and by mid-afternoon we were loading gear into a Greenland Air helicopter, ready for a week of MSR stoves and shredding. It took three trips to get us all there, me being on the last haul. Pulling into the zone made everyone’s stoke level skyrocket. The gear was piled on a flat glacier nestled underneath a plethora of mini-golf lines and big peaks, with more lines lurking around every corner. Twenty minutes after the unload I found myself on top of a powdery line with a fiery sunset lighting up my world. Eight o’clock at night and we were skiing lines right into camp… pretty sick. This set the mood for the rest of the week. Early starts, fueled by Ingrid and Adams special coffee, leading to all day shralp missions. Could it get better? Apparently yes. Within one down day, a foot of new snow fell, giving birth to refilled lines and new chances. Everybody was skiing hot and the motivation was high. Callum was running up everything in sight, from huge couloirs to steep rock shelves barely covered in snow. Ingrid was crushing every line she skied, sending doubles left and right, and always willing to give a little advice to the new guy. Dana was laid back as usual. “Yeah, I think I’ll ski this” is all you would hear before seeing him effortlessly rip high-speed lines peppered with airs.
Being around all this good energy made it easy to stay in a good and motivated mood. The film crew was always working hard, ready to get the shot whenever the athletes were. After a week of logging footage out of a tent, bad weather rolled in and we retreated back to village. We were hoping to romp out on some day missions from there, either by dogsled or foot, but only once did the opportunity present itself. This gave us more than enough time to recover—probably too much. We spent all day eating Pringles, chocolate and waiting for dinner. Day after day until the time came to pack up and head home. Problem was, the weather wasn’t quite ready for us to go. Twice we were fully packed and the flights got canceled. The first try was an insane snowstorm, which they told us was the only weather they couldn’t fly in. Three days later, on go number two, a thick fog bank was settled over the airport. Turns out they can’t fly in that either. But, third time’s the charm, and there we were, airborne and headed out. Flying off, I felt a little incomplete. Yeah, everyone logged great footage and the whole time was a blast, but something felt amiss to be leaving… like I didn’t get to learn everything I wanted to learn, see everything I hoped I would see. Hopefully someday I make it back there to the land of ice and snow, and see what is actually happening up there in the Arctic with our changing planet.