The Night Of:
The perfect storm rolled in starting warm and ending cool —everything felt right. My sights were set to ride Medusa’s Face at 8 am on February 23. It wouldn’t be a film thing or even a friend thing – this was a personal project. I had to try. If I didn’t, it would taunt me. So I told my roommates I was going solo. I’d be done by noon. That was that.
Knowing the snow in the past, knowing exactly what was on Medusa’s Face, knowing my line to a T, falling once before, I went up knowing it would work out. I climbed Zeus’s chute in an hour and fifteen minutes, checking snow conditions every fifty feet along the way. Everything was perfect. Everything was lining up. The whole experience was meditative.
At The Peak:
I got to the top of Olympus very relaxed, but when you’re up there, nerves find their way in: “Are you sure you want to do this?” My racing mind calmed the second I strapped in. That’s the thing—I’ve been snowboarding for so long that it just feels right to be in those boots and bindings. I turned my GoPro on, grabbed my ice axe, and dropped in.
The Ride Down:
I took it in. The whole time. My line was steep as hell but I stuck to it—one spine the whole way down. I was flowing nicely and everything felt perfect until the last 250 feet. Snow for the last quarter was not good—only 6 inches deep. My intended line was not where I wanted to go anymore and instead of sticking to a sketchy line, I diverted. I had no idea where I was going anymore, but that’s the adventure I wanted. I had prepared for this—years of thought, research, snow fact-finding—now I was feeling the ride. There’s nothing like that feeling. That’s the pay-off. I was dialed in.
At the base:
Still taking it in. My goal ever since I got sponsored has been to inspire up-and-coming snowboarders to get outside of their comfort zones and go for something huge, while being smart. Medusa’s Face was way outside of my comfort zone five years ago. I never thought I would be the first known person to ride this line on a splitboard without ropes. At the bottom, I felt accomplished—I achieved my personal goal. Yes I celebrated, yes I breathed sighs of relief, but I also felt a weight of responsibility. Once the news got out, people would try it. I don’t want the story of my line to gloss over the preparation that went into it. Medusa’s Face is not for everyone. It’s not even for most. Somehow it was for me.
James Buehler is creating a film about splitboard mountaineering using his GoPro footage on Medusa’s Face, material from his traverse of Chiochetti’s Ribbon on Devil’s Castle and shots of boarding iconic Cottonwood lines like Diving Board and Rampage. When he is not snowboarding or touring, James is likely researching the next big line.