12August 2019

Where Are You Standing? The Thin Line Between Caution and Adventure

Jeff almost went to Alaska this year.

A friend in the adventure filmmaking world was going up for a few days in April to get some ski footage of the epic-ness that is Alaskan steep faces and spines, and he reached out to Jeff to see if he wanted to tag along.

It was a short-notice trip, a short window to get what they needed, and an ever shorter-notice invite.

Everything depended on weather. Alaskan weather, which is famous for being devastatingly fickle.

Timing was crucial, but constantly in flux.

heli-ski guide leaves powder trail while turning through alpine and rocky terrain

Coordinating itineraries is one of my zones of genius, so I got to work trying to figure out how to (as quickly as possible) get Jeff to Whitehorse by air, transfer to Haines by car, meet up with the crew before they left cell service, and get his body on board.

While I figured out what connected where and when sleep could happen in between, Jeff got on and off the phone with Spencer hourly, waiting to hear if it was all gonna get cancelled or not.

I refreshed the page with the flight search results. Only a few seats left.

We got a call leaving Boise. Then another one landing in Juneau.

The weather was still a total gamble, and the window when the heli was available had shrunk down to barely two days, but the crew were going to go for it.

Optimism wasn’t really the mood. More like “shit, I guess here we go… pray for blue skies…”

helicopter flies away into the snowy mountains

Now, from our side: ready to pull the trigger?

Jeff had to be on a plane in under six hours to make it (and we live a three-hour drive from airport, so, you know, chop chop).

I had all my ‘Book Now’ tabs open and finger poised over the mouse, but really, was this a good idea?

The weather could easily tank it. The zone had been having a bad year for snowfall and stability. Maybe they’d get nothing. And he would have spent a bunch of money to rush to Alaska and back in less than four days.

We know this particular debate, and this pressure, inside and out. The uncertainty is inescapable, but so, SO hard to deal with.

What’s the right call?

You already know how it turned out. He ‘almost went’. He didn’t.

He decided it was too much to risk, and too short a window to allow for wiggle room.

skis waiting in the snow

And then we watched, from updates online, how they absolutely SCORED.

Blue skies, some freshies the night before, ridiculous lines.

Jeff was sincerely stoked for them, but wanted to kick himself. Hard.

The forecasts, the local beta, all the googling we could do – it just couldn’t predict the nature of the adventure ahead.

You don’t know if you don’t go.

view of heli-ski pilot from beside the chopper


Fast forward a couple months:

We’re having a beer in the backyard of dear friend and Purcell team member Claire, having a toast and a send-off for her summer project: paddling the entire 2000 kilometres of the Columbia River, from source to sea.

It’s a solo journey and a collaborative art project that will take her a little over three months to complete – time spent in a kayak she built herself, open to the what the landscape and people along the way have to show her.

map of columbia river

The trip is a result of a solid year of planning, from designing and building the boat, to dehydrating meals, planning the route and setting up contact and support caches for grateful discoveries far down the line.

She and I have talked about people’s reactions, and aside from the ‘hell yeahs!’ and ‘good on ya’s!’ the questions circle around this:

Do you know what you’re in for?

There’s an incredible amount of information we have access to now, all within seconds, often in HD.

And she did her due diligence, her research, her scrupulous prep work and her safety backups. There were brutal headwinds to consider, wildlife encounters, fatigue and isolation.

But ultimately, no, she just doesn’t know what’s ahead. She can’t know.

And from the sparkle in her eye, you can tell she’s pretty happy about that.

That’s the thin line between caution and adventure. Because we want caution in the picture, sometimes we’ll get it wrong, and we’ll miss the boat (or the heli).

But if we shoot to stay just on the other side of that line, we’ll remember when to let go of the need to know – so we say yes not just despite of but BECAUSE of the unknowns.

As Claire says herself, we’ll remember to “choose change and novelty and exploration over the constant comforts of home.”

Each paddle stroke she takes says yes to something new.

Every turn down the fall line in the backcountry can feel the same.

You don’t know if you don’t go.


Find out more about Claire’s project, Watershed Moments, here, or follow her eye-catching updates on Instagram.


If the moral of this story (be Claire, don’t be Jeff) inspires you to get planning, you can check out packages and availability here.




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