Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone). Team Dark Star: An eccentric, eclectic ensemble of 31 world-class cavers and scientists. Our expedition team was comprised mostly of Russians, but also included a few Italians, Israeli’s and one German. Most of the Russians hail from the Ural Mountains north of Moscow, and I was impressed when I met them in the capital city Tashkent and discovered they had driven to Uzbekistan—a 26 hour trip. Many on the team had been to Dark Star before, but Evgeny “Zhenya” Tsurikhin, 55, (pictured here) was the expedition’s elder statesman. This was his tenth caving expedition to the Baisun-Tau Mountains. “They say he knows where the new passages will lead before they are explored,” one of the younger cavers told me. Zhenya makes his living breeding fish for a Russian research institute, but his true passion is exploring underground. His dream is to one day find the passageway that will lead him deeper into the earth than any person has ever gone. @natgeo@thenorthface#darkstar#neverstopexploring
What do I love most about Downeast Maine? There is always something new to discover. Like this beach that hadn't seen any in a while.
It is finally time for the first annual Mt. Washington Backcountry Ski Festival (@mwbcskifest March 11-12, 2017) and so I wanted to tell you a bit about our guest of honor @emilyaharrington. Emily will be speaking on Saturday night at our party @wildcatmountain about her recent complete ski descent of Cho Oyu in Tibet (26,864 ft.), the world's sixth tallest peak. She completed this stupendous feat alongside her boyfriend @adrianballinger, who took this photo on summit day at 25,500 feet. I am not sure how this is possible, but they completed the entire expedition in two weeks door to door from their home in Lake Tahoe. Perhaps what's most impressive is that Emily is not just one of the most accomplished female ski mountaineers in the world, she is also a cutting edge rock climber who has freed El Capitan and climbed numerous 5.14s. Most importantly, she is a humble, all around quality human being and someone I feel privileged to call a friend. Amazingly, there is still room in her woman's only Intro to Backcountry skiing clinic on both Saturday and Sunday. If you want to spend time on the hill with one of the strongest and most badass women on the planet, follow the link in my bio. And finally a special thanks to @thenorthface, the festival's title sponsor, for sending us Emily- we could not have asked for a more special guest.
Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone). Udlyana admiring the ice crystals that cover the walls and ceiling of Dark Star's Full Moon Hall. Surface Hoar is the winter equivalent of morning dew; water vapor in the air condenses and freezes when it comes in contact with the cold walls of the cave. I’ve seen tiny feathers of surface hoar on top of snow on cold mornings in the mountains, but I’ve never seen anything like this—some of these ice crystals are two feet long, their surfaces etched with striated geometric patterns. Why this hoar forms inside of Dark Star is one of the cave’s many mysteries. The Russians still don’t understand Dark Star’s ventilation system, but they do know that some entrances inhale and other’s exhale, and that this respiration reverses during high and low pressure. More evidence of what the Russians told me back in camp—that Dark Star is a living, breathing creature.
Please stay tuned for more photos and stories from our feature article Into The Deep, which you can find in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine. @natgeo@thenorthface#darkstar
Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone) I duck under an arch of translucent blue ice and enter the Full Moon Hall—the largest chamber yet discovered in Dark Star. It’s 820 feet long and 100 feet tall. The walls are covered in feathers of hoar frost that scintillate like millions of tiny mirrors on a disco ball, scattering the beams from my headlamp around the room. Rationally, I know it’s an illusion, but I’d swear the light is emanating from within the walls, like stars in a crystal-clear night sky.
Please stay tuned for more photos and stories from my feature article Into The Deep, which you can find in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine. @natgeo@thenorthface@petzl_official#neverstopexploring#darkstar
Happy birthday to my new best buddy. You make the world a brighter place Tommy Synnott.
Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone). The Russians have identified more than 100 cave openings in the 21-mile-long southeast face of Hodja Gur Gur Ata, but to date, only 22 have been explored. Seven of them lead into the subterranean labyrinth known as Dark Star. Look carefully, and in the top right center of this image you can see one of these entrances. Caving exploration in this isolated corner of Central Asia began in the early 1980s after members of the USSR’s Sverdlosk Speleological Club identified this region’s vast limestone topography from geologic maps. The club had been searching for a place to pursue the Holy Grail of caving—to go deeper into the earth than anyone had gone before—and the Baisun-Tau Mountains, at least on paper, appeared to have all the right ingredients. Mountaineers will never find a peak higher than Everest, but the potential to find new and deeper caves is virtually unlimited. The crux is finding them, and as any caver will tell you: we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about what lies hidden beneath the ground here on earth.
Over the next few weeks I will be uploading photos and stories from Into the Deep my feature article about Dark Star, which can be found in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Stay tuned to see more. @natgeo@thenorthface#neverstopexploring#darkstar
Lilla in 45-50 knots apparent at the bow of Carnival Breeze halfway between the Yucatán and Galveston. Our Synnott/Kew crew of 13, from age one to 80, has had an unforgettable week with 2500 of our new best friends aboard this behemoth of a vessel. #NeverSayNever
Photo by @shonephoto "Misha p-l-e-a-s-e l-i-s-t-e-n c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y,” I say, holding up the old frayed rope to which we are tied. “I don’t want to climb any higher. If you won’t go down with me, I will untie and solo to the bottom.” With his brawny arms crossed over his chest, Misha locks me in an icy stare and mutters something in Russian. We’ve been arguing on this tiny ledge for nearly an hour, which, considering we don’t share a common language, is becoming ridiculous. What’s clear is that he adamantly refuses to bail. Earlier in the day, when we surveyed this 1200-foot cliff from the base, I realized there was no way we could safely climb it with the motley assortment of old Russian caving gear we had scrounged up in camp. I said as much to Misha and thought he had agreed, but somehow he has cajoled me halfway up the cliff. Peering down at the hundreds of feet of crumbling limestone we’ve already scaled, it dawns on me that I’m bluffing—and Misha knows it. My only option is to give in and go for the top. Though Misha is a world-class caver (and more stubborn than the donkeys that carried our gear into these mountains), he has little climbing experience. This leaves the dangerous job of leading the upper headwall to me, but I’m here to go caving not climbing, so I don’t even have sticky-soled rock shoes. When we finally top out late in the day—not far from where this photo was taken—Misha just shrugs and gives me a look as if to say, “See, I told you it was no problem.” And that’s how I accidentally made the first ascent of Hodga Gur Gur Ata, in a remote corner of Uzbekistan—on the very first day of our expedition to Dark Star. I haven’t discussed it with Misha, but I was thinking we could call our route Russian Roulette. Stay tuned for more stories and photos from our Dark Star article in the March issue of @natgeo Magazine. @thenorthface#neverstopexploring
The Synnott homestead this morning. The boxed shaped snowy thing on the right is Hampton's truck. Will and I still managed to get sixth chair @wildcatmountain . Thank you thank you thank you @hamptonkew for supporting our powder skiing addiction and holding down the fort with Tommy-San. You took one for the team today.
Will Synnott @skitheeastcoast -- "Dad, I think that was the best run of my life." True enough I don't think I've ever had face shots like that in New Hampshire before. Thanks @wildcatmountain
A big thanks to @thethacherschool and my old high school friend Jason Carney for hosting me this weekend. It was a rare pleasure to spend time with such a passionate and inspired group of young people. And wow - it's hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for learning than the hills of Ojai, California and the @lospadresnationalforest. @thenorthface#neverstopexploring
Petit Manan selfie with my two buds Shaun Pinkham and Tommy-dawg.
Tommy Synnott sampling his first clam - of the fried variety. You might think they're out of season, but apparently they dig them up all year round here in Milbridge, Maine #tommylikesit
Yesterday we skied from the summit of one of the most beautiful mountains I have ever climbed. I've always made sure to appreciate and give thanks when life offers a peak experience -- this was one of those moments. The clouds in the background are made of steam from volcanic fumaroles. Skiing past these bubbling steam vents through untracked powder, as the sun set over the Tokachi Range, was an experience unlike any other I've ever had. And we all owe a huge thanks to Al Mandell, our lead guide, for creating this opportunity. For more photos from the day, please check out the new account I recently set up for Synnott Mountain Guides - @smguides. @thenorthface@kaestleski#kaestlesmile#kaestle#neverstopexploring#japow
One of our crew, David Aller, is reading a book called Trees. As we've been skiing through these magical Japanese forests he's been educating us about the trees that call these hills home. I had always known that a grove of birch trees is actually one organism connected underground by its root system. What I didn't know is that the roots can detect electromagnetic pulses given off by other birches, which helps direct the roots as they navigate underground to find other members of their species. Apparently these pulses have been measured and they are similar to the ones given off by our own brains. Yet more evidence of the mysterious fabric, still to be fully discovered and understood, that connects all living things. As David finished his lesson, the group spontaneously broke into a rendition of "the hills are alive with the sound of music." Special thanks to Joel Bard for the beautiful photo. @thenorthface@kaestleski#kaestlesmile#kaestle#neverstopexploring@edurand13@mdurand2028@smguides
I had built up Japan skiing to monumental proportions in my mind over the years, and somehow the first day of the @smguides Ski Safari lived up to those expectations. Joel Bard (pictured here) and I disagreed though -- he thought it was thigh deep in Furano today, but I'm pretty sure I was up to my waist at times. #japow#kaestlesmile@kaestle@thenorthface
It took 27 hours to get from Jackson, NH to Sapporo, Japan. And I can't lie -- there were moments along the way when I questioned the wisdom of traveling to the other side of the planet with a baby. But now that I'm drinking sake out of a jar I got at a gas station, I've quickly forgotten about the endless shuffling it took to get here -- and my thoughts turn to finding the perfect turn in places I have only dreamed about until now.
What are you doing today? Tommy dawg @hamptonkew and I will be riding in this pressurized tin can for the next 13 hours. The guy sitting next to us paid extra for a bulkhead seat. I'm pretty sure he is questioning that decision right now. #japow@thenorthface@kaestleski@smguides
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