Pakistan Winter Sport - 1 of 6

Sa'eeda from Marrakech!

I just got down from an incredible ski traverse of the High Atlas Mountains.

My team was an international group of friends working on two different film projects. Representing the States we had Kim Havell and myself, from Canada we had Chris Rubens and Dave Mossop and from France Jordi Montserrat. Dave was the lead filmer for our group covering a segment for next years Salomon Freeski.tv and for the next film put out from the Rocky Mountain Sherpas. We spent 10 days linking six 4,000 meter peaks with some great ski runs across several valley miles of terrain. We finished the odyssey in the village of Zawiyat Ahansal where I said goodbye to my friends and I stayed in the village with my wife Cloe and my daughter Noor. We are now back in Marrakech enjoying our time together taking in the incredible history and culture of this ancient crossroads city.

Unfortunately we have little time to sight-see as Cloe is finishing this season's work on the igherm restoration project in Zawiyat Ahansal in the Central High Atlas. And me? Well I'm loving every second with Cloe and Noor before headed in early May to Norway's Svalbard Islands at over 80 degrees north in the Arctic Ocean. EmiloPrevitali, Jamie Laidlaw and I will explore the fjords of this northern arctic land of 24 hr sunlight in search of first descents! Our only hope now is that the prevailing continental winds pick up and clear out the ash plume from the Ejfjallajokul volcano. Inshallah!

I'm in the middle of editing the photos and will be posting more on the High Atlas traverse but first I wanted to share some stories from my recent North Face winter climbing and ski trip to Shishmal, Pakistan with Herve Barmasse from Valle de Aosta in Italy and Eneko Pou from the Basque country of Spain, and two other friends Oscar Gogorza also from Spain and Marco Cavana from Italy. 

Visiting this remote northern village, near China and surprisingly close to Afghanistan, was a rare opportunity to travel back in time to a community and culture that remains largely untouched by the political chaos surrounding them. Shimshal is one of the great mountain towns of the world and home to many of the high altitude porters that are so critical to every expedition throughout the Karakorum. We were fortunate to be able to spend time teaching advanced climbing and mountain rescue techniques at the local climbing school to not only men but women as well!

The trip was complicated by a tremendous landslide that completely blocked the Hunza River, cutting off our village from the rest of the world. At the end of the trip, as the weather deteriorated, the helicopters provided by the Aga Khan foundation couldn't fly and we waited and waited and even tried in vain to forge an alternative path around the lake and over what proven to be impassable terrain. As I write this, engineers are trying to find a way to release the waters that are rising over 2 feet per day in order to avert what could be a natural disaster of tremendous magnitude for tens of thousands of residents downstream.

Being the one behind the camera most of the time, I'll leave the words to Herve along with some video clips from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. This short clip is the first of several I'll be posting from the Shimshal experience as I can find the bandwidth to get them uploaded from here in northern Africa.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!


1. Arrival - 2010 Pakistan Winter Expedition from Kristoffer Erickson on Vimeo.


Ma'a Salaama for now,

Kris, Cloe and Noor


Departure: Shimshal Valley, Pakistan

Along with The North Face Athletes Herve Barmasse and Eneko Pou I will travel to the Shimshal Valley of Pakistan on January 17 where we will spend three weeks exploring this region's virgin ice climbing and ski mountaineering potential.  I will be documenting the trip for The North Face in both still photo and video format.

My cameras are in hand and ready for another adventure...

The North Face Expedition Press Release

“Every stone, every possible ice line and snow descent will be the aim of the North Face athletes,” says expedition leader Herve Barmasse, of this winter-sports exploration of the Shimshal Valley and it’s surrounding peaks in the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan. Few climbers have visited this region of Baltistan in the cold season, but those who have trekked there in summer report spectacular waterfalls gushing down from the high peaks. In winter, these waterfalls will be frozen, offering enormous potential for first ascents on ice and mixed terrain. Equally untapped is the opportunity for exploration by ski and snowboard, in powder-filled couloirs and on the flanks of peaks as high as 7000 meters. They’ll even be on the lookout for bouldering around their glacier-based camps.

Integral to this quest for pushing the limits of alpine sports is the desire to interact with the Balti villagers who inhabit these mountains. A hamlets of subsistence farmers, the Shimshal valleyis a place where people exist  as close as one can to the earth and have lived this way of life for centuries. These Islamic folk have mastered the art of surviving the sub-zero Karakoram winters, and Herve’s team hope to learn from them. The team intends to offer something in return as well, by resuming the work of the Shimshal Climbing School, which North Face athlete Simone Moro started in 2008. This school teaches modern mountaineering skills to the local villagers who frequently work as high-altitude porters on climbing expeditions, and Herve and team will provide a training course during their visit.

This international team presents a unique array of talents. Herve Barmasse is a famous guide and alpinist from Italy, whose ascents in Patagonia are legendary; Kris Erickson, from the US state of Montana, is an alpinist, ice climber and big-mountain skier whose documentary work has appeared in publications worldwide; and, Eneko Pou is one of Spain’s top sport climbers, recently completed a quest to free climb a big wall on each of the seven continents.


Skiing in the Far, Far, West of Nepal

I recently returned from six weeks traveling in one of the most remote corners of Nepal with skiers Jamie Laidlaw and Kip Garre, and freelance writer Devon O’Neil. Our plan was to attempt an alpine style ascent and premier ski mountaineering descent of our permitted virgin peak. I was looking for an experience that would take everything I had learned during my past trips to Nepal but I had no idea of the challenges that were ahead of us.


The Bajhang District is located in what Nepali people call the “far, far, west” and borders India and Tibet. We had very limited and rough information about what mountains were in the area and what had been explored previously was even less known. Less than half a dozen expeditions had visited the region in the forty years since the highest peak Mt. Saipal was climbed. The mountains we visited were lower and more obscure, 5-6000m mountains that were mostly unnamed on maps. When the Nepalese ministry issued us our expedition permit they asked us for our caravan route showing that they also knew very little about this group of peaks within the region and had no idea of how we were suppose to arrive to the permitted mountain.


In the past few years Bajhang has recently returned to peaceful times after enduring ten long years of continuous conflict with Maoists. Despite the Maoists’ hostilities against the government’s military, many people in this poor region supported their cause to bring more equality to the poor. It goes without saying that tourism in the region is something that doesn’t exist. 


Saipal, Nepal

Kip Garre, Jamie Laidlaw, Devon O'Neil and myself are setting off to explore the Saipal region of Nepal.  Thanks to The North Face for sponsoring our adventure.  We plan to explore and ski some of the many unclimbed mountains of this remote region of Nepal.  Stay tuned for updates...


Mt. Rainier and Adams Link-ups

On July 11th my partner Jamie Laidlaw and I ascended the north facing Adams Glacier route on Mt. Adams in Washington.

We had originally planned to ski one route but found ourselves on the summit with hours to burn before conditions softened on the northern aspect. Instead of waiting, we chose to descend the southwest chutes furthering our skiing enjoyment for the day. Conditions were mixed on the southwest chutes with sections of fun skiing where the bumps had been beaten down by other skiers. At approximately 7000ft we stopped, re-hydrated and started back up to the summit. Upon reaching the summit it was nearly 6 pm and by now the conditions on the northern aspects had softened to what we had hoped for.

Descending the Adams Glacier we skied all but one small section (30m), which required down climbing to bypass a 70 degree ice section. The lower aspect of the face was a bit dirty but still soft and provided enjoyable turns. We walked back into our camp 13 hours after leaving having made a descent of both the SW Chutes and the Adams Glacier that day. Spectacular experience.

The next day we hiked out and jumped in the car heading north for Rainier. Inspired by a post of Sky's on turns-all-year.com from the 3rd of July about the Mowich Face we drove to the northern side of the peak where we found the road to Mowich Lake still closed. On the afternoon of the 13th we hiked into the Spray Park area and bivied for our first night. The next day we continued higher on the Mowich Glacier where we found a nice bivi at approx 8000ft.

The morning of the 15th we woke at 4 am to start what would become our second two-fer of the tour. Conditions were perfect for cramponing up the Edmunds Headwall and everything seemed to be going as planned until we reached the upper plateau of the Liberty Cap where our pace began to crawl due to horrendous penitentes that stood nearly three feet tall in places. Eventually the terrain gave way to smooth conditions and we ramped up to the true summit.

With brisk winds blowing across the summit, we quickly made the call to give the second two-fer a go with a descent of the Emmons Glacier to start things off. Conditions began to soften at nearly 13,500ft and the Corridor provided the best skiing of the day. Sherman Flats has suffered in the summer sun and conditions are a bit bumpy but until that point the skiing on the Emmons was great. Around 2:30pm we started climbing back up the Emmons Glacier, reaching the summit of Liberty Cap at approximately 6:30pm. It was blowing hard and creating freezing conditions and due to our lightweight efforts we needed to keep moving in order to stay warm. Again we battled the massive penitentes on the summit plateau that leads to the top of the Edmunds Headwall.  Walking down this section wasn’t what we had planned to do but skiing was out of the question. Eventually reaching the top of the shoulder we could begin the ski descent of the Edmunds Headwall. There was only one small chute still skiable on far lookers right side. The chute was mostly soft ice by the time we descended with incredible exposure falling away to the Edmunds Headwall. Once through the small chute the terrain opened up to the large headwall but the skiing remained steep with more of a crushed ice layered over the hard glacial ice below.

The majority of the main headwall was in great condition providing fun turns down to what we deemed the “quad schrund.” Four Bergschrunds provided an interesting exit to the headwall, still skiable but requiring special avoidance to the recent rocks laying on top of the snow. They weren’t the best turns of the trip but the experience of skiing in summer isn’t typically about the best snow . Once back on the glacier we quickly descended with sweeping turns on the lightly browned surface back to our high camp arriving again approximately 13 hours after leaving. Looking back at the Mowich Face we were knackered to say the least. Skiing two features in a day on Rainier had pushed us over 22,000ft of vertical in two days of skiing, not bad for the middle of July without having to lap the same feature.

The next morning we lounged long and hard enjoying numerous cups of strong coffee before skiing 2000ft down to the base of the Mowich Glacier and Ptarmigan Ridge. We ascended back to the volcano monitoring station on top of the ridge were the Flett Glacier provided our last turns of the tour. 2000 more feet and we were in the flowered meadows of Spray Park. Over 25,000 ft of skiing left us tired but the experience couldn’t have been better, who would have thought July skiing could have been so great!

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