Weekend Warm-Up: Zabardast

So why bother with a nearly one hour-long film about snowboarding a peak that no one has ever heard of? Just take a chance and check out the first 30 secs. That’ll be enough.

Have you ever felt the strain as the climb gets tougher and the top of the wall is still far away? The void yawning between your feet, the anxiety of knowing that the only way is up (and then down on skis), the trembling hands barely able to hold an ice-axe? Okay, so we know what we’re talking about. Go on. Enjoy the suffering.

Subtitled A high-altitude travel diary, it is actually so much more. The film was released just a couple of weeks ago and it’s already viral. Offered for free by Picture Organic Clothing and Almo Films, the movie features Chamonix guides Yannick Graziani (Piolet d’Or winner) and Helias Milleiroux, snowboarders Thomas Delfino and Zak Mills and skiers Jerome Tannon and Leo Taillefer in a roller-coaster of deep thoughts and nerve-wrecking footage: mainly, drone-filmed scenes of riders plunging down vertical snow spines, barely avoiding the avalanches they trigger — or not avoiding them at all — while Go-Pros record their POV. The climbers/skiers take turns narrating the details in French and English (subtitles available).

On a self-supported tour in the heart of the Karakorum, the  team hauls their gear on pulks towards the north tower of Biacherahi, a “shark fin-shaped mountain whose picture Thomas had once seen in a library book,” they explain, blithely adding, “Vertical, never skied.” The plan is then to keep hauling across isolated Skam La Pass to return via the Biafo Glacier, on the far side of the mountain.

Just getting to the area took over two weeks and most of the team’s health and high spirits. But they made it to the so-called Two Towers for a warm-up and then to 5,880m Biacherahi, with its breaking cornices, icy vertical slopes and total commitment.

Overall, it’s a story about fear and how to manage it, about tackling a challenge bigger than we are and about the sheer joy of survival and achievement. Beyond that, words are superfluous. While Zabardast is longer than the short movies we usually showcase, it is well worth it. Make yourself comfortable and get ready for the ride of a lifetime.