In the spring of 2009, four friends had a dream: to sail from the coast of Washington State to Alaska’s Icy Bay and the foot of Mount St Elias. Rising 18,000 feet from the ocean, it is the longest unbroken ski and snowboard descent in the world. Working with zero budget, they would climb from the sea to the top of North America. From sail to near summit, they would experience first descents, near death experiences, and prove that all it takes is strong-willed determination to live your mountaineering dreams.

Evening came quickly and Steve’s descriptions seemed ever further away—we suspected they were on the wrong ridge. Then came Tauru’s panicked shouts from above: “Steve, I don’t want to die. I can’t die here!” Every few minutes he would scream again, more desperate than the previous episode. We were completely useless in camp, unable to ascend into the rapidly approaching night. The clouds began to lift and I ran up with the spotting scope, finding them horrendously off course and exposed, perched above an ice cliff, trying to move away from the broken-up slope. They traversed for two hours above God-awful rock spines back onto route, finally finding the proper ridge and taking a bivy on the prow. As darkness set in, we could see their headlamps darting about, dwarfed by the sheer, 10,000-foot walls of Yaas’éit’aa Shaa—The Mountain Behind Icy Bay…

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