Lucas DeBari was handed a photo 18 months ago that took him on one of the most challenging quests in his professional snowboarding career as a The North Face athlete.
"The photo was from an expedition my friend had done to eastern Greenland about 15 years ago. It wasn't a great picture, really pixellated," DeBari recalls.
"The weather wasn't the best when he went, but he wouldn't stop talking about the potential of those mountains, how captivating they were. Granite spires like the Squamish Chief stacked on top of each other, couloirs coming down in between.
"I had done an expedition to Antarctica the year before and was turned on by that adventure-based snowboarding."
DeBari had never been to Greenland, so he got on the Internet and started doing research on a peak called Rytterknaegten.
"I did every bit of research I could on Google Earth; I looked up at old expeditions, some Brits had been over there. Then I pitched the trip to The North Face and they found it to be a compelling story," he says.
"I spent all of last winter putting a team together, costing it, looking at media partners and on April 15 this year we flew to Greenland. It was the experience of a lifetime, to say the least."
The expedition can be seen in his new film The Greenland Project, being shown as part of The North Face Speaker Series at Millennium Place on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Whistler's Sherpas Cinemas filmed DeBari's quest.
What DeBari and his athlete team — Johnny Collinson, Hilaree O'Neill and Ralph Backstrom — found was "some of the most amazing terrain" he'd ever seen and some enormous challenges.
DeBari says they used dogsleds with guides, skins, two boat rides through icy waters, and enormous avalanches as they passed through expansive valleys on their way to Rytterknaegten.
"Everything was under own power. We were using crampons and ice axes. We had to rappel into one line. It was more snowboard mountaineering than anything else," he says.
It made an immediate impression.
"You'd have these perfect walls of granite with amazing ski and snowboard lines coming down between them... coupled with the worse snow conditions I've ever had in an expedition. We really struggled," he says
Fog rolled in as they arrived at Rytterknaegten, followed by blowing wind and blizzard conditions. They couldn't even see their reference point to exit the region if they wanted to.
To DeBari, the snow "was like being in a candy shop but all the candy is poisonous." It took two weeks for the weather to clear and the peaks to reappear.
But it finally did.
"Towards the end of the trip we had two sunny days that made it all worthwhile. Looking back now, I remember we sat around for a while — but I really remember those two days of snowboarding. They were something special," he says.
The gruelling physical exertion was not a problem for DeBari, since he had been training and snowboarding all winter before leaving for Greenland.
"For a trip like this, it's the mental preparation, dealing with really long periods of being stuck in a tent with no visibility and being so far away from home... but then the sun comes out and you can engage with why you came to this beautiful place," he says.
Tickets for The Greenland Project are $10 and available at www.artswhistler.com.
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