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What Makes a Tahoe Ten?

An exclusive interview with Josh Daiek and Abram Greenspan about what goes into a 10,000 foot day in the backcountry.
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Most people think of 10,000 feet as the altitude they can pretend to turn their electronics back on at during a long flight, but for professional athletes Josh Daiek and Abe Greenspan, it's a full day in the Tahoe backcountry and the second installment of their Tahoe Ten series.

In coordination with the launch of their new ski film, Tahoe Ten – Kirkwood to Hope Valley, we decided to interview with Daiek and Greenspan about what it takes to link some of Tahoe’s rowdiest lines into a five peak, 20-mile, 10,000 foot, single day push.

How did the idea for Tahoe Ten first come about? JOSH: Abe and I were hiking Mt. Tallac last season chatting up ideas for different link ups and how we could connect multiple ski tours into a single day. It didn't actually start as "let's go hike 10,000 vertical feet," it was more or less “let's see how far we can go.”

How do you choose the peaks and routes that go into these tours? ABE: The first Tahoe Ten was pretty easy as far as a plan goes. We had been able to ski Tallac and things around town with lower starts. There were four classic lines that seemed doable all in the same day: Flagpole, Hall of the Gods, the Cross, and Treth’s Chute. They lined up in a way that doing them all in a row seemed feasible. We tried and it worked better than we could have imagined.

JOSH: We dubbed our series the "Tahoe Ten," so we had to find a route that was going to give us 10,000 vert of hiking. We scoured over Google Earth punching in different routes trying to devise a plan that would not only satisfy our goal of 10,000 vert, but would also offer exciting lines for us to ski.

ABE: This last Tahoe Ten was a bit more of a challenge. We didn't have a lot of snow in late December but Dane and Bligh called and said they were available so Josh and I had to come up with something. It is rare that the four of us are in Tahoe at the same time. I kind of just freestyled the idea of Kirkwood to Hope Valley to everyone, they bit, and two days later we were at it.

What was it like to work with a third party filmmaker this time, while still trying to make the sunlight deadline? ABE: We actually had three filmers on this project. Each one of them is unbelievably pro. Dane Henry was the director of sorts and was in charge of all of the angles. Bligh Gillies was on the ground with us the entire way. It was unbelievable to watch him move through the mountains at a pace just as fast or faster than we were going. He did such a great job getting shots and not complaining or asking us to redo stuff. We really barely had enough light as it was, actually we ran out of light. Sean Haverstock flew the drone and was able to capture some amazing scenery and also some amazing riding shots.

JOSH: I gotta give it up to the boys Dane Henry, Bligh Gillies, and Sean Haverstock worked their asses off on this, in all actuality they didn't slow us down at all. Bligh nearly completed the entire tour with us, lugging around heavy camera gear the whole way and catching those extra shots to really pull the edit together. He's the true hero of this story! With Dane's wizardry on the edit I'm really stoked on how everything turned out.

How do you train for a 20 mile, 10,000 vertical feet day? ABE: Josh and I spend a lot of time hiking in the backcountry, but I think the only way to prepare is to bring a lot of food and a good attitude and go. The coordination with Josh and all of the filmers was definitely the hardest part.

JOSH: It's funny you ask that. When Abe proposed the idea to me, I said "Man, I'm not in that good of shape right now. Are you feeling fit enough to pull it off?" He replied "I'm an off the couch kind of guy Josh. We got the film crew lined up so we might as well go for it!" Go for it we did, and it all worked out. We just had to finish in the dark.

Can you tell us a little bit about the “hippie lines” as well as the rowdy exposed lines in these runs? ABE: We don't like hippie lines! They are just to get us from point A to point B. Sometimes I skied down them with my split board detached.

JOSH: Honestly when you're traversing 20 miles through the mountains you're going to encounter all types of terrain. If we had the choice every line would be nasty and have us on our toes. When we choose our tours we try to line up steep exposed faces because that’s the type of terrain that's excites us. Sometimes there are mellower lines we have to ski to access the next "rowdy" line though.

Is this purely a South Lake project or do you have plans to ski all around the lake? JOSH: Definitely not, we are open to any ideas or recommendations. I personally don't know of a tour on the North Shore that could fulfill our goals for a "Tahoe Ten" but we are looking into other options on the West Shore and Desolation area.

ABE: This has been primarily a South Lake project because all of the amazing link ups we can think of are down here. If any North Lake folks have ideas we are open.

What is the most difficult logistical part of these trips? JOSH: At this point finding realistic routes that satisfy our goals; 10,000 vertical feet of climbing with steep exposed skiing that motivates us to push on to the next peak.

Any wild, funny, terrifying moments from these last couple projects? ABE: During both projects there have been moments where Josh and I question snow safety. You are out in avalanche terrain all day and you're bound to run into some dangerous situations. We do our best to mitigate our risk and make the decisions that keep us safe. There are always funny moments mostly due to how tired Josh and I become towards the end of these tours.

JOSH: It's always funny with Abe, we are constantly talking shit and making fun of each other. When it does get serious though, it's serious. We've had to mitigate some serious avalanche terrain these last two projects. There have been some scary moments of whumphing in the snow around us. We constantly voice our concerns and respect each others’ opinions. It's important to our safety out there.

What’s next? ABE: More powder skiing and hopefully a new project in the near future. You never know with Josh and I.

JOSH: We are looking into more local tours, but also excited to get into some bigger lines further south in the Sierra Nevada. We'll be getting after it in one way or another so keep your eyes peeled!

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June 14, 2018