Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (CNN) - When wintertime hits rugged Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, roads close and fair-weather hikers and campers go home.
But for a couple of adventurous backcountry skiers, the adrenaline-filled fun is just beginning.
A year and a half ago, skiers Austin Porzak and Dan Sohner set out to ski and photograph the 50 highest peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, an adventure they describe as surreal and religious. To be clear, we’re not talking resort skiing with convenient high-speed chairlifts zipping to the summits with long, groomed ski runs down.
Many of these peaks have never been skied before.
These adventure addicts are climbing peaks sometimes topping 14,000 feet with ice axes and ropes.
Expeditions that involve staying overnight on the slopes require them to carry 50-pound packs on their backs filled with food and tents in addition to climbing and avalanche safety equipment, skis, boots and camera gear.
You “must be 100% in the moment” because of all the unknowns and the constantly changing conditions, said Sohner, 28, who’s a professional photographer when he’s not tackling mountains.
Fear is essential to this risk-taking pursuit, Sohner said. ”If you aren’t scared about something every single day, you’re probably not being safe.”
After reaching the summit, Sohner and Porzak strap on their skis and head down, making their own fresh paths through unpredictable terrain that often involves deep snow, ice and jagged rocks.
The climb up takes anywhere from 10 to 22 hours, and the ski down can be as fast as 30 minutes.