The Living Present

In the rare moments when Matt Hunter is not doing something outdoors, he’s usually wondering what he might be missing. Here, he plots his plan of attack from the inside of a fire lookout tower near Bralorne, British Columbia. Photo: Paris Gore

The Living Present Matt Hunter's Modest Gift to Mountain Biking

Thick sheets of snow are whipped sideways by a stiff wind sweeping across a rocky mountainside. Little can be heard above the howling gusts that have driven a dispirited team of adventurers into tents barricaded by windbreaks of stacked granite slabs. It’s June of 2013, and the riders are 11 days into what they hope will be a world-first mountain bike traverse of Afghanistan’s otherworldly Wakhan Corridor.

With several 16,000-plus-foot passes remaining to be crossed, the unrelenting whiteout conditions have some questioning whether the mission will be possible. Morale is ebbing toward the lowest point of the expedition. Suddenly, a lighthearted chuckle echoes through the camp, followed by the hasty unzipping of a tent fly. Barely visible through the blizzard, Matt Hunter emerges, beaming with the contentment of a monk who has just achieved another level of enlightenment.

“Whoa, dudes, it’s coming down!” he laughs excitedly, pointing at the dark clouds obscuring the 16,416-foot-high Karabel Pass the crew had hoped to negotiate by late afternoon. “It’s like 2 p.m. and we’re just hangin’ out in the tents!”

It might surprise some that a rider renowned for stomping some of the most imaginative jumps in freeride history could be so cheerful while snowbound in one of Earth’s most inhospitable environments. But to those who know him, it makes perfect sense. There are few places where Hunter feels more at home than in the hinterlands, far from the strictures and superficiality of society. Here, sandwiched between the Pamirs of Tajikistan, the Tian Shan of Northwest China, and Pakistan’s towering Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, he could scarcely be happier.

Seamlessly melding work and play, Hunter is on the job, serving as an easy protagonist in “Forgotten Dirt,” an adventure movie by Anthill Films. And though he doesn’t yet know it, he’s on the way to nabbing another cover of Bike magazine. Most importantly, he’s with good friends, riding his bike in a far-flung region he’d never dreamed of exploring.

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