The mountain had likely never been climbed, let alone snowboarded. But when Jeremy Jones saw a photo of the peak – a sharp, angulated ridge flanked by an array of steep, snow-covered spines – he knew it was the one. Last summer, Jones was looking for his next remote mission, a summit to climb under his own power for his new snowboarding film, Higher, which debuts this fall. In mid-July, one of his cinematographers, Chris Figenshau, texted Jones a photo of an unnamed peak in Nepal from a library book on Himalayan culture. All Jones could text in response was, “Holy crap. Will call tomorrow.”
Through extensive online research and speaking with climbers who’d spent time in the area, Jones and Figenshau pieced together the details. The peak, which lay in the shadows of the popular climbing route Ama Dablam, faced north and stood at an elevation of around 21,000ft. Fall would be their best chance of getting decent snow on the face, which meant the crew had only two months to plan the trip.
In September, Jones and Figenshau, plus two other filmers, a photographer, and another snowboarder, flew to Kathmandu and took a small propeller plane to Lukla, the launching point for the trek to Everest base camp.
For 12 days they hiked by foot to reach the snowline. They set up base camp at 16,500ft and began to orient themselves after getting their first in-person glimpse of their objective. “It was one of the most beautiful peaks I’ve ever seen,” Jones says.
They spent the next five weeks attempting to climb and snowboard the unnamed peak. The locals who heard their plan told them they were crazy and their goal was impossible.
But after more than a month, Jones finally stood on the summit ridge, overlooking the highest mountains in the world. Time seemed to stand still in that moment. The journey to this point, he thought to himself, has been the biggest reward. Then he stepped into his snowboard and dropped over the edge, descending into the unknown.
One week later, Jones is wearing a button-up shirt in a stuffy conference room in San Francisco. He’s been invited to speak on a panel at an event called Mountain Meltdown, hosted by Climate One, a Bay Area public-affairs forum that brings together innovators and leaders to discuss climate change and the planet’s future.
Jones, age 39, has the disheveled, shaggy-haired look of a guy who just crawled out of a tent. At the front of the room, he appears out of place alongside a clean-cut, New York–based writer and a respected scientist, both of whom are advocates for climate change.
Turns out he’s not as out of place as he seems. In recent years, Jones, a 10-time Snowboarder magazine Big Mountain Rider of the Year, has become his sport’s most outspoken – and unlikeliest – advocate for climate-change policy. To Jones, the logic was quite simple: To keep snowboarding for the rest of his life, he’s got to figure out a way to save winter first…
Read the rest of this feature in the February 2014 issue of The Red Bulletin, the global monthly magazine. For access to the international issue, download the free app for iOS or Android now.