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TGR’s Fantasy Camp: Skiing the Neacolas

Several years ago, I was on a trip with the TGR crew in the Tordrillo Mountains of Alaska when we noticed a whole untapped mountain range, called the Neacolas, to the south.  As a crew, we knew the only way we’d ever get a chance to explore the range would be to set up camp.

So, after a few years of great success exploring new spots all over the state of Alaska, we finally decided to make the fantasy of heli camping in the Neacolas a reality.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we had faith that the Neacolas would hold the goods.

The trip didn’t start off the way we’d hoped, the snow was windblown hardpack, it was freezing cold, and there was no snow in the forecast. But it was truly a fantasy to have all the comforts of home, a heli, and a whole range of first descents right in our backyard, and our crew understood the patience needed to get the goods. Instead of getting stressed about the weather and snow conditions, we used these days to enjoy our amazing camp, and group bonding ensued.  After several down days, a storm moved in and brought with it 2 feet of blower pow. The big questions now were: “Did the snow stick?” and “What will the avalanche danger be like?”

On our first day out after the storm, I was reminded why I come to AK and why this place is truly the motherland of big mountain skiing.  The snow was stable and had for the most part stuck to the steep faces. Game on.

Tordrillo Mountain RangeThe crew scoping some heavy 1700ft spines. Breakfast is served!

This was the first time I’d pushed myself since I’d broken my femur in AK with TGR two years prior. For me, the trip was about an internal struggle to get back to my pre-injury state. Physically, I was stronger than ever, but mentally, I was dealing with a lot of fear of getting hurt again.

I started off slow, and as the days passed, my fear started to fade away, and I began to feel like my old self. The sun was out, and it didn’t go away for the rest of the trip.

Sage and I have spent a lot of time on ridge tops together. Truly stoked and blessed to be back up there with him again.
Sage and I have spent a lot of time on ridge tops together. Truly stoked and blessed to be back up there with him again.

 After long days in the mountains, we’d come back to camp to a hot, delicious dinner, the sauna would be fired up (yes, I said sauna) and before bed, we’d hang out around the fire.
After long days in the mountains, we’d come back to camp to a hot, delicious dinner, the sauna would be fired up (yes, I said sauna) and before bed, we’d hang out around the fire. 

My Fantasy Camp shred posse. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Angel Collinson, and Todd Ligare. Such a great crew to explore the mountains with, and the trip was like something out of a dream. Everyday we woke up to blue skies and headed out to shred lines that had never been skied.
My Fantasy Camp shred posse. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Angel Collinson, and Todd Ligare. Such a great crew to explore the mountains with, and the trip was like something out of a dream. Everyday we woke up to blue skies and headed out to shred lines that had never been skied.

Not a bad view on our commute home after another great day.Not a bad view on our commute home after another great day.

I’d told myself that no matter what, my only goal on this trip would be to go home in one piece. I was intensely motivated to prove to myself that an amazing, successful, injury-free trip was possible. On my last day of the trip, Sage and I had made a plan to try to ski some beautiful spines we’d spotted days earlier.  The lines were super north-facing and only got light at the very end of the day. I knew this would be the last line of my trip, and that it was one of the heavier lines of the trip.

Ian MacIntosh - TGR Fantasy6

We had our eyes on the two spines just catching the light in the middle of the face.  Sage took the one on the left, and I took the one on the right.  They were about 1500ft long, and we knew that the super-fast sluff would make it a gripping ride.

I went first and had an awesome run.  As I watched Sage charge out the bottom over the bergschrund with his sluff right behind him, a feeling came over me that I can’t explain. I live for moments like this; never do I feel more alive and present. Normally, we’re all high fives at the bottom, but for whatever reason, Sage and I felt compelled to hug this one out, something that we don’t do often at all.

This trip was a fantasy come true, and I couldn’t think of a better way to finish it then charging a sweet line with a good friend.  Everyone skied tons of great lines, and we were all still in one piece. Success!  Back to camp to celebrate!

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