Nick Kalisz moves so quietly in the mountains, it’s sometimes easy to forget he’s there. I met him on cold, wind-kissed powder morning in a little gem of a drainage running in steep benches down to Lake Tahoe. It was an easy (ish) climb and the riding was fantastic. The snow was good.
Nick sat quietly in the pickup truck as we sped around the big corners formed by the wants of the lake on the way to the trailhead. When we parked, he got out and loaded his pack with a camera setup, tripod and maybe a couple of drones (I’m not sure). Then he skinned off into the mountains, riding and filming and climbing all day while silently packing 60 pounds or so on his back.
That skill alone is why he’s made pictures for some of the best backcountry mountaineering athletes in the world. He’s filmed Jeremy Jones – who’s publicly complimented Kalisz on his tough approach – on the gnarliest of Himalayan faces and Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison making the first descent of the Lhotse couloir across from Everest. When one gets a reputation for good work in the mountains, that work continues to come in.
In a recent instagram post Kalisz revealed the details of a high-stakes, heart pounding Himalayan rescue from back in May (the incident seemingly flying under the radar, mine anyway). The snowboarder many refer to as ‘a ninja,’ says he nearly died from Pulmonary embolisms during work on another film in the Everest region.
After Lhotse I got asked to take a trip to climb Chomolungma (Mt. Everest.) I’ve been very quiet about this trip to Tibet. I was there with a team I had once only dreamt about being surrounded by. It consisted of @renan_ozturk @irving_matthew @m_synnott @thom.dharma.pollard, @jimhurst and @jamie8848 It’s been hard for me to take it all in. After getting diagnosed I had Pulmonary embolism’s – three blood clots in my lungs.
Pulmonary embolism is blood clotting that often starts in the legs. A little research and you’ll find Pulmonary embolism (PE) at high altitude apparently rarely occurs but when it does it can hide or “masquerade,” or happen in conjunction with, high altitude pulmonary edema. Which makes the diagnosis a bitch.
Long story short and after getting rushed off to CIWEC hospital in Kathmandu in a 3 day fury of driving and a heli evacuation at the China-Nepal border, Kalisz continued, I am very happy to still be here in all honestly…. I want to give a big thanks to the crew on this trip for realizing that life was far more important. It was hard to leave this expedition. We were climbing Everest from the north side of Tibet. In a trip to help solve some deep history in the mountaineering world. I couldn’t have been more stoked and excited for help tell this story. Well this is how it played out for me. Screaming in my sleep. The worst pains I’ve ever felt body create. We had no idea what it was at first. We didn’t truly know till I got to the hospital. It’s been a ton to take in. And it’s still happening everyday. I’ll talk more about this trip soon. – This expedition will be shown in a few different mediums including a book by the great @m_synnott and a @natgeo doc and a standalone @sonyalpha film! Keep on eye out.
Kalisz, who grew up in Chicago but lives in Salt Lake, has done some heavy lifting in recent years on pieces like Jeremy Jones’ Further and Higher, filming Nelson’s and Morrison’s audacious Lhotse project, a number of TGR productions, as well as his own projects (like this cool bit).
We reached out and Nick tells us he’s on another film project in Nepal, happy to have survived this ordeal, which for now, has become a good tale of survival from one of the best snowboarding cameramen in the world.
You can follow Nick on Instagram, here.