How to Shoot a Documentary on North America’s Highest Peak
Our trip to Denali National Park in Alaska was definitely a highlight in our filming.
I was excited, and a little worried about how I’d fare squeezed into a tiny tent, in the cold on one of the world’s highest peaks. Granted, we weren’t heading for the summit as dozens around us were, but there were definitely challenges ahead. First of all, there was the sheer effort in getting there. We flew into base camp, which sits at an elevation of 7000 feet. We squeezed into a small 5-seater plane. With all our gear we couldn’t have fit any more than our 3-person film crew in!
When you finally arrive at base camp you know you’re a long way from anywhere. Denali is far more than just a mountain, it’s 6 million acres of wild land that has the distinction of being the world’s first national park. And – no surprise – it’s COLD! What was a surprise is that it doesn’t stay cold enough, for long enough anymore, if you’re a wannabe climber. We caught Ranger Rodger Robinson setting up his camp for his 34th season up here as mountaineering ranger. He has seen the changes in climate first-hand.
Filming up here was a challenge. Cameraman, Ian Kerr would stay bundled up, then take his fingers out and adjust camera settings and lenses as quickly as possible. Our gear is finicky and doesn’t much like cold temperatures. Everything is complicated to do here – everything from using the toilet to making dinner. When it’s really cold, and the oxygen in the air is lower, fuel for cooking doesn’t burn the same. The hot food froze on our plate if we didn’t chow down right away. Soundman, Simon Doucet won my gold star for getting hot tea ready for us while Ian filmed some of the amazing mountain scenery. It was perfect weather while we were here – sunny in the day, and not too windy.
It actually made me think I’d come back to enjoy base camp… until I found out the week before, a storm had come in and no one could leave their tents for a week. Maybe not my idea of a relaxing holiday after all.
– Melanie Wood, director, To The Rescue
TO THE RESCUE airs Thursday, Jan 16 at 9pm/9:30 NT on CBC TV’s Doc Zone. Watch the Trailer: