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Taking on a large ski mountaineering traverse can be a massive endeavor, and despite all of the planning and preparation, things rarely go exactly as planned. And when skiers Janina Kuzma, Anna Smoothy, and Ayako Kuroda crossed New Zealand’s Southern Alps over the Main Divide from east to west, things definitely did not go as planned.
Starting at the Liebigs, the crew faced very difficult snow conditions, nasty weather, and technical terrain that is becoming increasingly difficult to travel through due to climate change. It becomes apparent as the film goes on that this part of the world is changing extremely quickly, which makes for harder and harder travel by ski, on foot, and by any means necessary.
EAST WEST Photo Gallery
Skier Anna Smoothy starting out on the traverse.
Janina Kuzma, Anna Smoothy, Ayako Kuroda, and their guide at the beginning.
Ayako Kuroda all smiles while stuck in a hut.
Kuzma, Smooth, and Kuroda enjoying a hard descent.
The group touring on a glacier.
Smoothy aces another turn.
Making the traverse happen by any means necessary.
Smoothy and Kuzma almost off the ice.
Kuzma happy to be off the ice.
Smoothy and Kuzma embrace after the hardest part.
Related: Brody Leven’s ‘Lost’
“In ‘EAST WEST,’ we took on a mammoth ski tour from the Liebig Range, across the main divide of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and out to the West Coast,” says Smoothy in an email. “Traveling through tough, but spectacular terrain, we skied lines when the weather permitted and sheltered from storms in rusty alpine huts when Mother Nature insisted.”
Part of the skiers’ preparation came from “The Conquest of Mount Cook,” written by Freda Du Faur. The Australian mountaineer was the first woman to climb Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, in 1910. Among the many challenges Du Faur faced in her expeditions, the incorrect belief that women can’t handle big mountains was certainly one of them.
“Seeing that book and seeing all the photos…really gave me the inspiration and motivation to do the trip with Ayako and Anna,” says Kuzma in the film.
Presented by The North Face, the film has been screened around the world, from the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, the Women’s Adventure Film Tour in Australia, IF3, the High Five Festival, and the Shades of Winter Festival. ‘EAST WEST’ is a Jase Hancox film.
Watch: A Winter Affair’s ‘EAST WEST’
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