Must-See Documentaries for the Mountain Life

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If you wear Mountain Khakis, I’m assuming you have an appreciation for adventure, the mountains, and an outdoor-centric lifestyle. You also probably agree that as a general rule, filmmakers and directors have a difficult time capturing the true essence of life in the outdoors. There are, thankfully, a few exceptions to this rule.  Below are a few of my favorite documentaries that capture the true nature of the “Mountain Life.”

Meru – One of the best films of any kind that I’ve seen in years.  It follows three high-altitude mountaineers on their multi-year quest to scale the Shark’s Fin on Mt. Meru, a Himalayan peak that is one of the world’s most challenging climbing objectives. Because of my personal experience on some of the Western Hemisphere’s tallest and coldest mountains, I’m generally very skeptical of “climbing” movies — they are often sensational, cheesy, or unrealistic. Meru is a real as you can get without actually being there. It captures the beauty of the high mountains, the suffering endured at high altitude, and the challenges of training for and completing such a high stakes expedition.

Hanna Ranch – In less than 90 minutes, this documentary manages to effective cover many of the most pressing challenges facing ranchers and ranching in the Rocky Mountain West — increasing development pressure, the importance of land conservation, disappearance of the West’s ranching heritage, multi-generational ranching family dynamics, ranchers’ connection and love for the land, and the list goes on and on. I’ve recommend this film to my friends and family who are interested in learning more about my work and interests in the American West, so I’ll recommend it to you as well. Beautifully shot, at times heartbreaking, but a very meaningful and important film.

In the High Country – Spending time in the big mountains is one of the main reasons that I choose to live out West, and this film captures the spirit of long, hard, fun days of moving quickly through the mountains. The film follows champion ultrarunner Anton Krupicka as he runs, scrambles, and climbs through some of Colorado’s most scenic alpine terrain. For anyone who has spent time exploring Colorado’s big mountains and backcountry, you will surely see some familiar sights. Rather than focus on Krupicka’s competitive running career, this film focuses on his pure love of big mountain landscapes and how he has molded his life to maximize his time spent outdoors, pushing himself hard, doing exactly what he loves.

180 South – It’s as if the directors of this movie read my mind and made a film that hits on every subject and activity that I’m interested in: mountains, climbing, mountaineering, the ocean, surfing, sailing, adventure travel, land conservation, and visionary, sustainable business practices. 180 South follows a crew of adventurers climb, surf, and sail their way through South America to the Patagonia region of Chile. In addition to great adventure scenes, the film explains some of the work that Kristine and the late Doug Tompkins have been doing to create National Parks in Chile, thereby conserving very important land on one of the world’s most special regions.