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Two Alumni Complete Arctic Expedition, Produce Short Film “AREA 11”

May 12, 2020

by Yancee Gordon BA ’21

Thor and Stein Retzlaff at Atomfjella.Thor and Stein Retzlaff at Atomfjella. Credit: Thor and Stein Retzlaff for Intrepid Media

Truckee, California natives Stein Retzlaff BA ’16 and Thor Retzlaff BA ’18 recently completed an expedition to climb and ski the peaks in Atomfjella, the northernmost mountain range in the world. Located only a few hundred miles from the North Pole in Norway, surviving in this terrain took extreme skill and preparation.

“I wanted to put my expedition leadership and management abilities to the test in one of the most remote environments on Earth,” said Stein, who played both football and baseball during his time at Lewis & Clark. “My mentor Doug Stoup, professional explorer and guide, recommended this as the most incredible place to ski, and I was instantly infatuated with finding and skiing this mountain range.”

Credit: Photos by Stein and Thor Retzlaff for Intrepid MediaMaking it to Atomfjella was not an easy task. To reach the mountain range, the Retzlaff brothers navigated 140 miles of glaciers and crevasse fields while battling -40-degree Fahrenheit winds. The next two weeks were spent weathering arctic storms and skiing as much as possible. Being so close to the North Pole afforded the opportunity to explore in 24 hours of sunlight.

“The time of day really made no difference to us. We purely made our decisions to climb and ski couloirs (steep mountainside gorges) based on sun exposure,” continued Stein. “In one day, we skied three of the most amazing couloirs and built a jump in the middle of the Arctic where we proceeded to throw backflips.”

The expedition culminated with their short film, “AREA 11.” As cofounders of Intrepid, the Retzlaffs are adventurers and entrepreneurs dedicated to producing inspiring stories about expeditions with a greater purpose. In line with their beliefs, the entire expedition was carbon-neutral with the help of World Tree’s Eco-Tree program. Together, they planted an acre of Empress Trees—a noninvasive, nonGMO tree that regrows after harvest without replanting, and is the fastest-growing hardwood tree in the world.

“More than just telling an inspiring adventure story of perseverance, we have the opportunity to do more. We actively sought the partnerships that we believed in to give our story another level of investment, and we hope to inspire people to make important choices that go beyond the individual level,” said Thor, who was active in entrepreneurship studies and programming while at L&C. “When hiking these peaks, you can feel the cold air scratching the inside of your lungs while the 24-hour sun glares at you from every direction. I would turn around and examine the landscape we were standing on, only to feel overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to experience it.”

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