When I first started making films about my adventures I used to idly think, "I wonder if someday I'll make a film that gets accepted into Banff." I've always seen the Banff Mountain Film Festival as the high point of adventure storytelling; the benchmark by which all expedition filmmaking should be marked against.
Unsurprisingly then, it was an unreal experience to have Into The Empty Quarter screened there last year - I still can't quite believe that my silly desert trek with Alastair made the cut, but I'm extremely proud that it did!
The festival is now underway with its World Tour, taking a select pick of films to a ridiculously comprehensive range of locations around the globe. Having been to the Banff Centre last November and seen some of this year's programme, I can happily vouch for the fact that it's a suitably impressive, inspiring and (if I'm really honest) balls-out awesome line-up of films.
Wherever you are in the world, check it out. You won't regret it. If you're in the UK and Ireland, then you're in luck. Brighten up those dark winter nights with a visit to one of the screenings around the country. You can seen the full list here. While I recommend going to either programme, it would be remiss of me not to point out that my film is showing in the RED programme. Just in case that's a dealbreaker for you...
You can book tickets for all the UK venues here. Enjoy!
In late September last year, I saw the chance to squeeze in one last big journey before 2014 drew to a close. Within a few weeks had I put together the logistics, roped in a couple of friends and we were off with barely time to catch our breath and question what was going on...just the way adventures should be!
Our destination was the Rio Santa Cruz, the last free-flowing glacial river in Patagonia. It begins life in Lago Argentino, at the foothills of the Andes in the west of Argentina, then winds and meanders its way across the country to the Atlantic Ocean. We hoped to begin there, at its terminus in the east, and follow it upstream to the source just as the first explorers had tried to do.
Our journey was inspired by the story of that first comprehensive European expedition along the river, undertaken by Captain FitzRoy in 1834. FitzRoy had been charged with charting the coastline of South America, and his crew included a very young and very impressionable Charles Darwin who fancied himself as a bit of a geologist and amateur explorer. Both FitzRoy and Darwin left detailed writings of their journey along the river which, unfortunately, ultimately ended in their failure to reach the source (though they came heartbreakingly close.) Together with Tom Allen (who I travelled to Iran with earlier in the year) and an Argentinian friend, Jose, we hoped to use these diaries to make a journey in the footsteps of FitzRoy and Darwin. Patagonia is a land than can only be truly traversed on horseback, so we prepared for the expedition by acquiring five horses which we hoped would carry us all the way to the Andes.
There was another reason for our trip, too - in February 2015, construction is due to begin on two dams, which will flood huge sections of the valley and change the ecosystem and landscape completely. Somewhat sadly, it seemed we would not just be following in the footsteps of the first explorers; we would perhaps simultaneously be the last explorers ever to see the Rio Santa Cruz before it changes forever.
Below are a few pictures to give a hint of the journey. Watch out for more writing, and news on the film, coming soon. Enjoy!