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High Sierra Trail (Film) Review

Black Packing Light

The High Sierra Trail (HST) begins in Crescent Meadow, at an elevation of 6,600 ft, on the western fringe of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. From there, it spans 72.2 miles, ending on the peak of Mt. Whitney, the very best level within the continental United States at 14,505 ft.

During the last a number of years, backpacking trails just like the John Muir Trail (JMT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) have elevated considerably in reputation, however few know concerning the path many insiders check with because the JMT’s little brother.

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Most backpackers deal with the High Sierra Trail in 6 to eight days and expertise a complete of 13,303 ft of elevation achieve within the course of. It’s a strenuous hike and, as is true for all Nationwide Parks, canine aren’t allowed. The most effective time to hit the path is between July and September however, as anybody with expertise mountaineering within the Sierra will inform you, the climate is all the time going to be probably the most vital variable.

Fortuitously for these of us but to expertise the High Sierra Trail, Chris Smead, Director, Videographer, and Editor, and his good friend John, frequent hiker and phase PCT backpacker, captured their expertise over the course of six days on the path.

They share their expertise with us in The High Sierra Trail: A Documentary, which is narrated by William C. Tweed, a 30-year Nationwide Park Service veteran. The documentary premiered to a sold-out home on Might fifth, 2018 on the Switchback Showcase in Campbell, CA and is at present being submitted for showings at greater than 30 movie festivals.

I used to be lucky to obtain a personal displaying of the movie and briefly interview Chris, the movie’s director. I’ll share extra info on the movie and the place you will discover it, my assessment of the movie, in addition to excerpts from that interview. However first, I’d wish to share a quick historical past of the HST.

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In 1926, Sequoia Nationwide Park was expanded from simply the western part, which had grow to be well-known for the enormous Sequoia Grove, to incorporate a lot of the Japanese Sierra and Mt. Whitney.

In line with narrator William C. Tweed, the HST is a mirrored image of the imaginative and prescient of a person named John Roberts White. White was the Superintendent of the Park Service at that second in 1926 when Sequoia Nationwide Park was tripled in measurement. His motivation was to tie the previous park to the brand new park with out constructing one other street.

White envisioned a path the place no path had handed earlier than. At the moment in historical past, there was no straightforward route from the enormous Sequoias of the unique park, over the Nice Western Divide, and as much as the crowning jewel of the park’s enlargement, Mt. Whitney.

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As a result of the surveyors and engineers on the path undertaking have been nonetheless not sure of the precise route the path would take over the Sierra, the path that was constructed over the course of the primary two summers was completed at a grade that was barely above completely flat.

In complete, the path required 5 summers to finish and was designed, in response to William C. Tweed, “not just to get over the mountain, but to get over the mountain in the most scenic manner possible.”

A few of the most notable historic options of the High Sierra Trail embrace Precipice Lake, the location of Ansel Adam’s well-known 1932 photograph Frozen Lake and Cliffs, the historic townsite of the utopian-minded Kaweah Colony (which was included in to SNP in 1890), and the Smithsonian-built Mt. Whitney Hut for astronomical analysis, which has been there for over 100 years!

There are lots of challenges to filming a documentary on a distant path within the Sierra wilderness. Luckily, Chris had beforehand logged greater than 60 treks all through numerous elements of the Sierra earlier than enterprise this challenge. He hiked the John Muir Trail again in 2016 and has additionally been on a number of backpacking journeys in Alaska and Colorado.

In response to Chris, nevertheless, his expertise on the John Muir Trail “set the tone” for his ardour of capturing the sweetness we will expertise via ultralight journey and sharing it with the world. “I’m not some pro film dude,” Chris stated. “I’m a backpacking geek who started these little film projects.”

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This specific venture concerned almost a yr’s value of logistics previous to Chris and John even hitting the path. Though Chris admitted that getting backcountry permits for the High Sierra Trail was a lot simpler than for the highly-coveted John Muir Trail, the truth that he deliberate to movie and produce a documentary meant he needed to show to the Nationwide Park Service that your movie will act of their curiosity.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits a “commercial enterprise” in federally-designated Wilderness, together with videography and images that may ultimately be used for any business objective. In consequence, Chris needed to spend greater than a month stating his case to the Park Service to acquire a allow to movie alongside the High Sierra Trail.

For the Park Service, “it’s personal,” Chris stated. One other particular person with a digital camera on the path can find yourself encouraging extra individuals to go, which comes with further considerations from the attitude of the parents tasked with accountable administration of those lands. “One of the biggest threats to that land is people,” stated Chris.

Ultimately, Chris was capable of get hold of permission to movie and he and John hit the path on September 4th. Their packs weighed about 35 kilos, about 14 of which was digital camera gear alone. Their digital camera gear included a Sony SLR2 with 4 totally different lenses, a Sony Handycam, and a gimbal stabilizer. Their audio package included a transportable recorder, a shotgun mic with huge fuzzy to scale back wind noise for the SLR2, and a smaller shotgun mic on the Handycam for “run and gun” functions.

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Chris stated the most important problem of bringing every little thing you’d have to movie for six days is energy. Many multi-day hikers make the most of photo voltaic panels to maintain telephones and smaller cameras charged all through their journeys (not an choice for Chris, as he was burning via three or 4 batteries per day). In the long run, he wound up calculating how a lot battery energy he’d want for your complete journey and carrying an enormous bag of batteries to final all through.

One in every of Chris’ extra vital challenges within the post-production course of concerned the footage he captured utilizing the gimbal stabilizer. Once I interviewed him, Chris admitted he had by no means used this specific mannequin of gimbal earlier than. In consequence, lots of his photographs wound up too bouncy to make use of, which resulted in a extra in depth modifying course of and a number of the nifty animations the viewers will see all through the movie.

For aspiring nature videographers on the market, Chris was adamant about passing alongside the lesson that it is best to all the time know your gear earlier than you go. However with that stated, Chris was additionally astounded by the post-production help he’s acquired from others who’re concerned about backcountry journey.

The audio crew for this movie consists of revered names like Invoice Meadows and Alex Knickerbocker, whose earlier work consists of Mr. Robotic and Quick and Livid. Quickly after the discharge of his first trailer, Bruce Goodman, knowledgeable colorist who has labored a number of Hollywood Movies and who’s answerable for the coloring within the common JMT movie Mile, Mile and a Half, additionally approached Chris.

For his half, Chris appeared sincerely humbled by the help and keenness of those Hollywood names wanting to assist together with his challenge. As he stated in our interview, “previously, and still, my projects are selfish. I like the outdoors, and I like doing them.” However lately, Chris feels that his tasks (he lately began a brand new arts collective referred to as Outmersive Movies) are starting to take a path and that his ardour for the outside and capturing them can perhaps, at some point, serve a better function.

“Our goal is to get people to go outside,” Chris stated in the direction of the top of our interview. He identified that there’s already a well-established infrastructure in place to guard public lands, however that the locations which might be susceptible to dropping federal safety are the “peripheral places where nobody goes.”

The issue, based on Chris and I’d say I’d need to agree, is, “why aren’t people going to these places?” He admits that the objective of this movie is straightforward. It’s simply to “encourage people to get outside.”

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Chris’s movie introduced again some fond reminiscences for me as a backpacker who reduce my tooth within the Sierra. I used to be lucky to backpack the whole thing of the John Muir Trail again in 2014. Being from the Sierra, I used to be shocked that I had by no means heard of the High Sierra Trail earlier than seeing this movie.

Most of the photographs and animations on this movie are astounding. Capturing the majesty of the Sierra is not any straightforward feat, however Chris’s work on this movie will present you the magnitude of the peaks on this area, the crystal readability of the park’s lakes and rivers, and the deep-green density of the Sierra pine forests.

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In my interview, I requested Chris concerning the largest classes he took away from this expertise on the HST. He informed me that he by no means absolutely appreciated how a lot studying the historical past of a path earlier than climbing it provides to the expertise till he met Mr. Tweed and dove into the historical past of the HST.

This thought resonated with me as a result of I’m a agency believer within the significance of understanding the imaginative and prescient and onerous work that went into creating something that we, the general public, have the privilege of having fun with as we speak.

The High Sierra Trail: A Documentary is an inspiring movie that highlights the great thing about Sequoia Nationwide Park and showcases the trouble required to finish a path over the Nice Western Divide.

Maybe my favourite facet of this movie was the truth that the director clearly understands the significance of Depart No Hint backpacking and accountable administration of our nation’s wild locations. The Nationwide Park Service takes this latter duty very significantly, and we should always be thankful for the work they do. In any case, people proceed to be the best menace to the erosion and degradation of those magnificent pure areas.

So, you’re ? As I discussed within the introduction to this text, the documentary has already been submitted to numerous movie festivals. In response to Chris, they’re additionally engaged on establishing distribution of the movie via iTunes. It won’t be out there on YouTube like a few of Chris’s earlier tasks.

One of the best locations so that you can keep up-to-date on current developments with the distribution of the movie and the place you possibly can see it are the movie’s web site, High Sierra Trail. As soon as there, make sure to enter your e-mail tackle to obtain updates on the place you’ll be able to see the film. You may also comply with Outmersive Movies on Fb for the newest information and knowledge!

And naturally, right here’s the trailer:

  • The Backpacking Mild Journey Movie Pageant promotes tales about human-powered journey journey. Submit your movie or attend a web-based or reside pageant occasion!
  • Watch the 4K movie Alcove, additionally by Chris Smead, as Chris and Ryan Jordan discover the rugged canyon nation of the Colorado Plateau.
  • Chris has revealed quite a lot of different movies right here at Backpacking Mild concerning the John Muir Trail, Snowshoeing Yosemite Level, Ultralight Video Gear, and Rae Lakes (winner of the 2017 Backpacking Mild Journey Movie Pageant Members’ Selection Award!).
  3. Interview w/ Director Chris Smead


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