Meru is a mountaineering documentary featuring three of the worlds best climbers tackling one of the most challenging peaks. It is a true and real glimpse into the sometimes grim reality of alpinism. Nothing is sugar-coated in this documentary and sometimes things go wrong. Perhaps because of this it is one of the most inspiring films I’ve watched to date.
Meru is a 6660m high peak in the Indian Himalayas at the headwaters of the Ganges. A spiritually important place to the local culture, you can feel the significance of it through this film.
The Sufferfest 1 & 2
Next up, something a bit more light-hearted. Professional rock climbers Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold film 2 extreme bike adventures, climbing all the 14,000-feet peaks in California in Sufferfest 1 and climbing 45 desert towers in Sufferfest 2. While frequently hilarious, the film also hits home the value in pushing yourself to do things that you may think you can’t. Totally inspirational and also just a badass adventure.
Now for something a bit left-of-field. Join Vice correspondent Hamilton Morris as he explores the world in search of naturally occurring hallucinogenic flora and fauna. Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia has many good adventures, is pretty informative and grounded in science. Best episodes are the longer, travel ones such as the Fish n Trips where he searches islands off the coast of Africa for a rumored toxic fish, or traveling deep into the Amazon in search of a special kind of frog.
Back to rock climbing again, Valley Uprising is the documentary to watch for the history of big wall climbing in Yosemite valley – and the rise of rock climbing as a sport. El Capitan (one of the granite walls in Yosemite) is 900m tall and climbers would frequently spend days and weeks tied in halfway up in attempting to summit it. It is adventure over a short distance, but the spirit is there fully in reliving the stories of the trail-blazers who first tied a piece of rope around the waist and climbed.
Produced by Sender Films, it’s made by guys in the climbing scene, who have been gathering footage and producing climbing movies for years.
The Barkley Marathons (2014)
Perhaps a little less adventurous than others on this list, the Barkley Marathons is a documentary about a feat of endurance. The course is an ultra-marathon of 100 miles, with about 16 500m of vertical gain (to put that in perspective the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc has about 9600m of vertical gain). What makes this documentary interesting are the many quirks about the race – such as not actually knowing when it is going to start…
Grizzly Man (2005)
A classic. This documentary seems at first to be about what happens when a man starts living in the wild with a group of bears in Southern Alaska – how they take to him and whether they grow to see him as one of their own. What noted filmmaker Werner Herzog presents, however, is an intimate portrait of the man himself. A questioning of his motivations.
We’ll keep adding more to this list so check back often. In the meantime we’d love to hear some of your favorites…