This past winter, Eddie Bauer skier Lexi DuPont joined a goodwill mission to Central Asia spearheaded by globe-trotting splitboarder, dreamer, and documentary filmmaker Nayla Tawa to the landlocked but mountainous former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Donating fifteen hundred of pounds of ski gear, providing guide and rescue training, and connecting with the locals through basic ski and snowboard instruction, their crew landed deep in a cultural exchange between two very different snow sports cultures. The impact they made, and the connections they experienced, left both the locals and the visitors forever changed. In the story below, we excerpt duPont’s powerful journal entries from the journey and discover Tawa’s very personal motivation behind the Return to Krygyzstan expedition.
Each month we’ve been highlighting specific conservation projects we’ve backed with American Forests that focus on reforestation and recovery efforts as part of our greater One Tree Initiative. We’ve profiled efforts in Southern California to Florida and last month we shined a spotlight on a longleaf pine recovery effort in Alabama. But this month, as another long, hot summer approaches in the Sierra, our focus is on an effort in the Tahoe National Forest to reforest areas burned by a 2014 wildfire. While all the American Forests projects are worthy, this effort resonates even more deeply with Eddie Bauer guide Lel Tone, who calls the Tahoe area home.
This year was a big year for American Forests, with the planting of the organization’s 50 millionth tree. So this year we are celebrating our longstanding partnership with the conservation nonprofit by profiling twelve projects that we’ve backed with our efforts. So far we’ve shined a spotlight on worthy reforestation undertakings in a fire damaged area of the San Bernardino Mountains, a replanting effort of Longleaf Pine in Florida and a spruce beetle epidemic in Colorado—all in some way connected to the ecological impact of climate change. This month we travel to the deep south, profiling an effort to bring back a longleaf pine savannah ecosystem in Alabama.
From the top of Taaw Hill, you can see Alaska. Every Haida Gwaii local you meet will tell you this. Like the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, you will be directed to Taaw Hill upon arrival. And yes, you can see Alaska from the top… sometimes. The storms that steamroll off the Pacific Ocean are the reason many travelers make the pilgrimage to this mythical group of islands and see very little beyond the lush, green forest they’re cloaked in. Brandon and I have lucked out, landing at Masset Airport on a barely overcast day in early April, a season not associated with clear weather. The sun broke through as we drove the gravel road into Naikoon Provincial Park. Passing by the empty surf and endless views of North Beach, we are soon encompassed by a mystical emerald forest. The giant hemlocks and cedars tower over the road, dripping with thick moss. Soggy, boggy wetlands fill the spaces between these ancient forests. It’s a natural welcome unlike any other. When we arrive at Taaw Hill, we park the rental van and hike the short-but-steep trail through parkland. At the small summit we peer out at the horizon, looking for a hint of Alaska’s shores. We can’t see it but it doesn’t bother us. We’ve come for Haida Gwaii, not Alaska. And if there’s any place that deserves the title of “The Last Frontier,” it’s this fascinating place.
Words and Images by Mike Berard
Today, at 6:34 local time on May 24th in Tibet, Eddie Bauer Athlete and adventure photojournalist Cory Richards made his first successful ascent to the peak of Mt. Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.
The alpinist shared his journey with the world in real time through a continually updated “Snap”umentary series, #EverestNoFilter, alongside Everest veteran and founder of Alpenglow Expeditions Adrian Ballinger, also a member of the Eddie Bauer Guide and Athlete Team, who made the decision to turn back at the 8,480 meter mark Monday. Though difficult, Ballinger’s decision was a courageous one that demonstrates his astute knowledge and respect for the power of the mountain and the risks associated with this climb.The team reunited at 8,300 meters to descend together and have since returned safely to Advanced Base Camp at 6,400 meters.
A huge congratulations goes out to Eddie Bauer Guide Melissa Arnot, who summited Mt. Everest for the sixth time yesterday, breaking the world record for the most summits completed by an American woman in history, a record she has held since 2013. Arnot, a professional mountain guide and high-altitude climber, is also the first American woman to successfully complete the climb on the world’s highest peak without using supplemental oxygen. While her previous summits have been made via the South Col route from the Nepal side, this year was her first successful summit traveling the North side, from China.
“This has been an emotional journey, to say the least,” said Arnot. “Everest is an incredible mountain that continues to challenge and intrigue me. I never anticipated that I would be lucky enough to summit once, let alone six times. Climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen has been a goal of mine for a long time. When you succeed at reaching your goal, it makes you reflect on the hard days, the work, and lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m incredibly fortunate to have this experience.”
Few expeditions to the world’s tallest peak have generated the social media traction and following of Everest No Filter. And for those who have been following along on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, the unfiltered good, funny and brutal realities of attempting the climb without supplemental oxygen are both personally engaging and strangely compelling. We’re rooting for the pair and tracking their daily progress. The latest update from Richards and Ballinger is that they rotated back down to base camp earlier this week to recover for a few days and celebrate Cory’s birthday—but are now back on the move, at advanced base camp and targeting a summit attempt in the next five days. Yesterday, the pair appeared via the miracle of satellite technology on CBS This Morning. Today, for a recap of their first ascension to 26,000 feet, we are reposting their best shots from the past few week that they sent us via What’s Ap.