A year’s worth of blood, sweat and hard work went into the making of Chris Benchetler’s latest film project, Chasing Advanture. The Mammoth Lakes-native spent the entirety of the season living in his custom built Sprinter van—The Stealthy Marmot—with his filmer Matt Cook aka Ski Chef. The duo chased the snow, embraced bad weather, immersed themselves in other sports with other elite athletes, and learned a lot about themselves in the process. Without further ado, watch Chasing Advanture and get hyped for winter.
Normally summers are reserved for relaxation: some book time, summer office hours, and maybe a hike up to the lake. Well our big mountain badass Lucas Wachs spent a good chunk of his climbing, sometimes summiting, and skiing volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. We chatted with Lucas about this aptly named Volcano Voyage, but you’ll want to take a look at his incredible 12-minute mini-movie
Dragon: What is Volcano Voyage? Give us the elevator pitch. Lucas Wachs: Volcano Voyage is a visual representation of hiking and skiing in the Cascade’s volcanoes. I have always wanted to get out climb and ski the volcanoes of the my home state of Oregon.
DR: What was the idea behind it? What were the ultimate goals? LW: The idea behind it was to climb and ski as many volcanoes as we could. The ultimate goal was to see how many we could do and to just experience something different than the annual Mt. Hood park skiing migration. We wanted to switch up the program and dip our toes into some mountaineering.
DR: How many volcanoes did you end up summiting and skiing? LW: We ended up skiing 10 volcanoes. Not every volcano was summited.
DR: What was the feeling when you finished? I’m sure it’s easy to get lost in the grind of climbing and skiing these mountains. LW: A feeling of general fulfillment in the mind and body was certainly common. Our crew was always on point so it made it easy on the grind up. When climbing a mountain you are very present and mindful of your surroundings, making sure each step counts and working together with the group to make smart decisions. That camaraderie in itself is a very fulfilling feeling as well as being in such beautiful locations.
DR: Which one or ones were your favorite and why? LW: Mt. Jefferson. Because my father was the guide on the trip and I got to spend some quality time with the pops, which we haven’t been able to do often enough over the past couple years. We camped out for three days and soaked in the beautiful wilderness that Mt. Jefferson has to offer. We got great weather to accommodate the steep and rugged terrain, too, so that was a major bonus. It was a super fun trip!
DR: On the Vimeo it says it took you about 2 months. Was that straight through or more weekend warrior style? LW: It was from the end of May ’til the beginning of July… a little over a month. We were doing it in somewhat the weekend warrior style to cooperate with peoples’ work schedules and also trying to time it to get the best weather.
DR: Does there have to be heavy snowfall the preceding winter to allow you to do a project like this? And does it mean you kind of had to go when it was accessible? LW: Not necessarily, it definitely helps with the approaches to some mountains easier as well as the skiing itself. The PNW is known for a gracious amount of snowfall each year, so these peaks are filled in at high elevations, it’s just a matter of freezing levels.
DR: What are some of the dangers? We know that traditional backcountry has avalanche danger, but were there other dangers like crevasses or exposure that you were worried about? LW: The dangers are different than in the winter but there definitely is risk involved. It comes in the forms of rock,s and yes, crevasses opening up, and possible wet slides. The avy danger is definitely mellower due to the somewhat regular freeze and thaw cycles. You want to wear a helmet for sure to keep your head safe from rock and icefall. Early morning starts are a must to mitigate the risk of rock, icefall and wet slides. Exposure is a thing as well, make every step count!
DR: How were the conditions skiing overall? Looked like a combo of crust and slush… LW: The conditions where slushy and yeah, some crust at times. If your timing was on point then the corn was usually phenomenal. Fast, carvy, and soft. Just a smooth ride when everything lines up!
DR: Can you give a little backstory on the jumping at Mt. Jefferson? It’s a departure from the rest of the traditional hiking/skiing that happens on all the other mins. LW: That was actually in the Three Sisters wilderness. [laughs] I should have clarified the location there. These volcanoes have excellent jump spots and many times you walk by them on your way to the objective, but we wanted to take the time to stop, build, and session.
DR: Now that your big summer project is over, what’s up for the fall? Anything you’d like to plug? LW: I’m going to be hanging in Bend, OR. Doing some mountain biking and skateboarding until the snow starts flying, then back on the grind filming with Good Company for the next movie!
DR: Any big projects/plans this upcoming winter? Or just going to go powder chasing? LW: There are some plans that are in the works for sure. Nothing finalized yet, so I can’t really say anything, but keep your eyes peeled! Powder chasing will definitely be on the agenda, too.
Our big mountain aficianado Lucas Wachs is on the forefront of exploratory big mountain skiing and adventuring. For his latest effort—Volcano Voyage—Lucas and friends set out to climb and ski a number of the volcanoes on the US side of the Pacific Rim. What he and his friends came out the other side with is nothing short of astonishing. Watch now.
From Lucas: “From the end of May to the beginning of June, my friends and I set forth to take the time to ski, and explore the volcanoes in [Oregon] and neighboring states. It was a time that was very well spent with friends in the mountains. Who do you bring on an adventure like this? None other than your buds who help bring you to the top of the mountain and smell your rotten feet at the end of the day (jt’s okay, you are smelling their feet, too). This voyage is one that is made by many each spring to reach the top of these eroding crumbly mountain tops. For reasons that I suggest you go and find out for yourself, for each time you get out and spend time on these mountains it gives a chance to tap in to the beauty of the world along with yourself and your partners. I hope that this voyage of ours can inspire to sculpt one of your own.”