By James Speakman and Beth Gleave
This is the moment a skier managed to keep his cool as he watched one of his skis hurtle hundreds of metres down a near-vertical 5,000-foot mountain – then had to precariously climb down to retrieve it.
Aaron Swain, 35, was tackling the Beartooth Mountains in Montana, US, when his ski became unattached from his boot and began to somersault down the mountain.
Terrifying footage shows Aaron perched on the steep slope, helplessly watching the sky as it plummets down the cliff face as he clings on using his ice axes.
But rather than panic, the daredevil simply sighs and begins the hazardous 30-minute descent to salvage the item – despite knowing that a fall could be deadly.
Aaron, from Billings, Montana, said: “When I saw the ski come off I immediately rolled over onto a small hump in the snow to get my other ski edge downhill and dug my ice tool in.
“I knew the conditions weren’t that great as I was climbing the second couloir where my ski popped off. I knew a fall could be a bad deal if I didn’t self-arrest immediately.
“I just watched my ski cruise down the couloir, bouncing off rocks and finally out of sight. I kept pretty cool and all I said was ‘huh’ and ‘well that’s the sh**s.’
“I never felt scared or panicked. I was wondering how far it went down.
“There was a chance it could have slid 5,000-feet down to the bottom, in which case it would be best to just start climbing out.
“I figured it probably stopped somewhere down there so I decided to continue down to hopefully find it.
“I started to slowly slide down while digging my ice tools into the snow to prevent an uncontrolled descent.
“After about 20 – 30 minutes of this I eventually saw the ski stopped on a hump around the corner.
“I was thrilled to see it. When I came up on it I made sure to be careful that I didn’t bump it with my other ski or something and send it cruising down the remaining few thousand feet.
“I finally grabbed it, said ‘well hello f***er,’ put it back on and continued to ski the couloir.
“My plan the day I lost my ski was to just go out, climb a couple couloirs, ski them and go back to work before the lunch rush at the restaurant.
“I left my house around 5am and was climbing my first couloir by 6:30am. I skied it great and was climbing the second couloir probably around 8am.
“When I finally got to the bottom after finding my ski I transitioned to crampons and climbed out.
“I was skiing off the Beartooth Pass so you typically park at the top, ski down and climb out if you’re by yourself, which I was.”
The restaurant and bar owner believes that he managed to stay so calm because he knew he was fully kitted out and prepared for the worst and claims it isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to him.
Aaron said: “I’ve had much worse encounters in the mountains and this did not affect my desire to ski. All I want to do is ski.
“If I didn’t have crampons or ice tools it could have been really, really bad.
“I always try to keep my cool, analyse the situation and do what I need to do to get out safe.
“Apart from skiing I enjoy climbing of all sorts, hiking, running, biking, hunting and fishing.
“I have just got back from a pretty large trip to Peru so at the moment I just have some rock climbs planned for the future.
“I have a couple mountain races coming up and I’ll be surfing in Hawaii next week but other than that no large trips on the calendar.”