North of Nightfall: Cam Zink takes on Axel Heiberg Island
Hidden among the glaciers high in the Arctic Circle are mountain bike lines too incredible to ignore. Harsh temperatures, volatile weather and nine-month-long winters mean that the area is normally devoid of human life. But each summer, this frozen landscape flourishes under endless daylight, revealing a spectacular ecosystem. Join Darren Berrecloth, Carson Storch, Cam Zink and Tom Van Steenbergen as they embark on an expedition to the top of the world to explore this relatively unknown land. In doing so, they discover a changing environment steeped in history along with challenging terrain unlike anything anyone’s ridden to date.
We checked in with Cam Zink to get some insight into the adventure of a lifetime on Axel Heiberg Island.
Stan's NoTubes: Cameron, what was going through your head the first time you landed on Axel Heiberg Island? After all the time you had spent scouting lines on Google Earth, were you immediately confident in your decision?
Cam Zink: Claw and I were there the year prior for the initial scouting trip, and it was deflating, but also ended up creating the perfect narrative - it felt like we were in a scripted movie. We are used to looking at zones from a lower flying and hover-able helicopter and covering a much smaller area. By flying around in a Twin Otter plane, over hundreds of miles and multiple islands - some covered in glaciers, some covered in rock - we kept getting skunked. After a few sketchy landings and literally getting stuck for hours on top of a mesa on Devon Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island, we finally stumbled on a few zones that looked promising on Axel Heiberg.
The hardest part is that once you find a place to land the plane, it is usually a few hours of hiking to get to the bottom of whatever face you were looking at. Through freezing rivers, over boulder fields and up we went to finally find some of the coveted soil we were looking for on a rideable peak. We rode a couple laps on a few lines, took note of what other areas had the same soil and then went home and stewed on it for the next year.
SNT: Spending nearly three weeks entirely off the grid, what did you bring with you to occupy your time while not riding your bike?
CZ: It was pretty peaceful actually. We played horseshoes, bocci ball, read some books and kept building when not eating, riding or scouting. One morning I was out by myself with my headphones and dug a slalom track from about 2:00 am to 6:00 am in broad daylight. It’s up there if anyone wants to go ride it.
SNT: What was the first meal you enjoyed after eating dehydrated food for the entire length of your stay on Axel Heiberg?
CZ: I think it was a beer and a burger! We didn’t pack any beer up there because of the weight restrictions on the plane, so that was nice.
SNT: After the crash that separated your shoulder, you seemed to take on mentoring type of role with younger riders Carson Storch and Tom Van Steenbergen. With a career as long and successful as yours, what is one piece of advice you wish a seasoned rider had shared with you as young professional?
CZ: I have always loved helping the next generation of kids and offering advice whenever and wherever it is accepted. It’s a privilege and an honor to have Carson and Tom actually want to listen to me passing on my past experiences. They say nostalgia is a way of wiping the slate clean and reflecting on the past; passing on a lifetime of experience finding, building, hiking and riding big mountain lines makes the bad decisions, injuries and time wasted that much more worth it.
North Of Nightfall is now available for rent here.
All photos courtesy of Blake Jorgenson, Red Bull Media House