I was born in Alaska. I grew up here. A measurable portion of my youth was spent looking out the window of my parent’s car at the mountains of the Western Chugach rising straight out of the water en route to our small family cabin in Girdwood – the only place I truly wanted to be. So familiar, yet so imposing.
Now, as an adult, I’m still blown away. I’ve never been able to shake the awe that comes with exposure to the scale and intensity of the mountains here. I have been incredibly fortunate. I’ve had the opportunity to make a living by diving deep into summer and winter backcountry of Alaska in a way that most people only dream of. I’ve owned two heli-skiing operations. I’ve worked as an outfitter. I’ve worked with a hundred different film and photo crews and figured out how to make things happen in really difficult and remote places. I’ve lived well in the mountains and on the rivers here.
But here’s the thing… I know that even with the unparalleled access that I’ve been lucky enough to have, I’ve barely scratched the surface. This place still humbles the living hell out of me. It’s huge. Looking at the Chugach or the Alaska Range from the air is like looking at the ocean. There are peaks and walls as far as the eye can see, until the Earth curves away, and most of those peaks are unnamed and untouched. Every ridge reveals a whole new world. You quickly understand that it would take months to make your way out on foot, but more likely, your life would end in the effort.
At some point, I started pointing a camera at mountain faces of the Chugach, the Tordrillos, the Neacolas, the Alaska Range proper, the Brooks Range and anywhere else I could access. Like human faces, every line, furrow, crease and feature is part of their life story. In the case of mountains, much of that story is rooted in power. Power you can feel in your bones. Immense power of formation, staying power against time and elements, latent and potential energy in the form of snow and ice loading, waiting to come down with unfathomable kinetic energy, and the eventual release of water that powers all of our lives. Every one of these faces has its own story and its own mystery. I’m eternally fascinated. And small. Very small. When I stop feeling small, it’s time to hang it up. — Chris Owens