Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pic Fourcat Snowshoe

Pic Fourcat (1929m) snowshoe from the Col de Marmare (1361m) near Ax les Thermes. The snow was firm enough to walk on without snowshoes for most of the short circuit (9km).

Franck and Cécile on the descent

 Thanks to Franck and Cécile for the excellent company. Best views were on the descent looking towards Pic Tarbésou

Looking towards Pic Tarbésou (far left)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Snow

Out recently investigating the route of a WWII escape route that I read about in 'La Résistance Audoise' that my father in law lent me.

Ernest Zaugg was in charge of a resistance group - the Maquis de Roc Blanc which was named after the peak that overlooks Lake Laurenti. The picture at the top of this blog is of Lake Laurenti and Roc Blanc. Their escape route began at Rouze in France and ended in Soldeu in Andorra.

Tha part of the route I walked began at the  Forestry Refuge where there is a commerative plaque.

'In honour of the French and Allied officers who crossed the Pyrenees on the paths to freedom with the help of the Donezan couriers and the Roc Blanc resistance fighters'

The route then climbs up to the beautiful Lake Laurenti and rather than turn away towards Roc Blanc, carries on up the Laurenti Valley. From the lake onwards the trail is not marked on the map. The weather was overcast and cold and at the head of the valley there was snow which slowed my progress. From the col I followed the trail down to the head of the Galbe Valley and then back up again to the Col de Terrers - the second col of the day. Descending from the col I could make out the faint line of the trail into the distance towards the D'en Beys Refuge, which was the traditional mid way halt.

I had reached my turn around time but decided to climb Pic de Terrers above the col which, from previous visits, I knew offered great views. I wasn't disappointed.

Looking South from Pic de Terrers

Looking North from Pic Terrers

It was very windy on the summit but the sunlight broke through the clouds for the first time that day for just 15 minutes or so, illuminating the ridge line I had crossed and the way I had come. The south facing slopes were without snow but in the other direction, the north facing slopes still held snow.

Two things during the day reinforced how hard the WWII crossings were. The autumn snow around me and the fact that the last hour and a half of the return route from Lake Laurenti back to my car, was finished in the dark because I had not stuck to my turn around time. The couriers and the escapees would have made the WWII crossings in winter and in the dark. Neither  would they have been properly equiped like I was with my modern clothing and boots.

“The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. And that desire cannot be contained forever by prison walls, or martial laws, or secret police. Over time, and across the Earth, freedom will find a way.”  George W. Bush

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top 10 Mushroom Mistakes

Autumn is the best time for mushrooms in the Pyrenees. Those that are edible like the girolle are a great addition to omelettes or sauces. Those that are poisonous, like the Fly Agaric, can cause health problems and sometimes death. It is obviously important to distinguish between the two groups.

There are several falsehoods regarding mushrooms that don't help pick the edible from the poisonous. Here are my top 10.

1. All black mushrooms are poisonous. The Horn of Plenty, which is black and is called The Trumpet of Death in French, is in fact edible.

Horn of Plenty (Photo: Wikipedia)

2. All white mushrooms are edible. The mushroom below which is all white and resembles the commonly eaten button mushroom is in fact poisonous.

Destroying Angel

3. Slugs only eat edible mushrooms. Slugs will eat any mushroom.

4. Cooking a poisonous mushroom will make it edible. Poisonous mushrooms remain poisonous even after cooking.

5. Edibel mushrooms only grow in pine forests. Edible mushrooms grow in a variety of terrain.

6. All edible mushrooms can be eaten raw. Morels are edible but must be cooked first.

Morel (Photo: Wikipedia)

7. Mushrooms that grow in circles are poisonous. Edible mushrooms like the field mushroom also grow in circles.

8. Mushrooms that grow on trees are poisonous. There are several mushrooms that grow on trees that can be eaten.

Ear of Judas (Photo: Wikipedia)

9. Panther Caps and Fly Agarics are only poisonous when the cap is covered with small white growths/marks/specks. The white marks are absent from young specimins and are sometimes washed off by the rain. The mushroom remains toxic.

Fly Agaric

10. 'Magic' mushrooms are poisonous. They are not. According to research in 2006  the active ingredient in 'magic' mushrooms (Psilocybin), can cause 'spiritually significant moments' that lead to sustained 'increases in well being.'

'One-third of the participants reported that the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79% of the participants reported increased well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this. They also reported anxiety and depression symptoms to be decreased or completely gone. Fourteen months after the study 64% of participants said they still experienced an increase in well-being or life satisfaction.'

Although not poisonous, 'magic' mushrooms remain illegal in the US (Class 1) and in the UK  (Class A). In France it is illegal to pick, transport and sell them.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Top Ten Reasons To Snowshoe

Snowshoes help a person to walk when there is snow on the ground. Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person's foot does not sink completely into the snow. 

Perhaps the first people to develop snowshoes looked to nature for inspiration. Several animals, most notably the Snowshoe Hare and the Ptarmigan, have oversized feet enabling them to move more quickly through deep snow.

Walking with snowshoes is not a new idea. In 1991 the frozen body of Otzi the Iceman was found on the Austrian Italian border at 3,210m/10,531 feet. He lived 5,300 years ago and recent analysis suggests that what was previously thought to be part of a backpack, is in fact a snowshoe. The first Europeans to explore North America in the 17th Century found that the Native Americans that lived there wore snowshoes when there was snow on the ground.

The Snowshoe Dance, performed at the first snowfall by the Ojibwa. By George Catlin 1835.

Snowshoes became essential tools for fur traders, trappers and anyone whose life or living depended on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall. Since the 1980's there has been a large growth in the use of snowshoes for recreation.

What's all the fuss about? Here are my Top 10 Reasons to Snowshoe:
1. It's Easy.  The learning curve for skiing and snow boarding is much longer. Anyone who can walk can snowshoe. It is as simple as that. From day 1 you can be enjoying moving about on snow and travelling to your favourite spot to see it in its winter coat.

2. It's Cheap. Compared to skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing is cheaper. The snowshoes are less expensive than skis or a snowboard and with snowshoes you do not have to pay for a ski pass or uplifts.

3. It's Calm and Peaceful. Snowshoeing means you can escape the noise and bustle of the ski resorts. You will be able to enjoy the mountain environment far away from the noisy crowds. Able to hear only natural sounds - the wind in the pine trees, a babbling brook, the call of a bird of prey overhead, the croak of a Ptarmigan. Sometimes, there is no sound -  total silence. The serenity and tranquility will help even the most highly stressed person to relax and unwind.

4. It's Safe. You will snowshoe at a much slower pace than you ski so the chance of collision damage (whether with the ground or another person) is much smaller than on a ski slope. Having said this, if you are without winter experience, it is best to stay on the resort prepared snowshoeing pistes. If you are looking for more of an adventure, hire a mountain professional like an International Mountain Leader to look after you. They will bring the mountain environment alive and show you places you wouldn't find yourself.

5. It's Healthy.  Snowshoeing offers low-impact, aerobic exercise and is a great way to burn calories during the winter and stay healthy.

6. It's Better for Seeing Wildlife. It is much more difficult to identify wildlife or their tracks, while hurtling down a ski slope. Slowing the pace of travel down with snowshoes means you have more time to pay attention to what is around you. What's more, the busy ski resorts will scare wildlife away. Snowshoeing away from the prepared pistes will increase your chances of seeing actual wildlife and the tracks they have made.

Isard (Pyrenean Chamois)

Animal tracks like these left by a squirrel are easy to spot in the snow.

7. It's fun.  Moving at a slower pace than a skier or snowboarder you have time to play in the snow and interact with the people you are with. Making fresh tracks in new powder and the sound of your snowshoes on the snow is great. Feeling the need for speed? It's easy to set up a polybag snow run.

8. It's Gentler on the Environment. You can enjoy the winter lanscape without the need for a ski resort and its prepared pistes, snow canons and uplifts.

9. It's Better for Photographs. Ever tried taking sharp photos of the fantastic mountain scenery as you ski down a hill?

10. It's Great To Help Live the Dream. If you have ever imagined yourself as a trapper like Geremiah Johnson  or The Last Trapper - snowshoeing is a must!

Pyrenees Mountain Adventure offers guided snowshoeing adventures from day walks, through 2 day walks with a night in a staffed mountain refuge to a week long, lodge based holiday.

Friday, October 19, 2012

12/21/12 - Apocalypse Soon

On 21st December this year the doom mongers predict the end of the world (again). What is the prediction based on? The end of the long count Mayan calendar. The current long count ends on 20th December which the Maya  record as On December 21st a new long count begins

The world as we know it is going to end but there is some good news - a small part of the world will escape the death and destruction.  Where? 38km/23 miles south west of Carcassonne in the Aude département (county) you will find the village of Bugarach (200 inhabitants).  The village is dominated by highest peak in the area - Pic Bugarach (1,230 m /4,035 ft). Only here will there be a safe haven.

Pic Bugarach

In many respects the peak is out of the ordinary. It is made up of limestone. Nothing unusual in that except that the highest part of the mountain, where it would be expected to find the youngest rock is where in fact the oldest rock is situated. Geologically the mountain is upside down. The peak is covered in large areas of forest. Again not unusual but  the forest is made of ancient box trees. The trees are very slow growing and the wood so dense it will actually sink rather than float in water.

Rams head in the tree roots

As with many other limestone areas there are numerous caves but Pic Bugarach includes over 30 with the system having been explored to a length of 5.5 km. The system includes an underground river and lake. The lake is dry at the present time. On the summit and elsewhere there are esoteric carvings found on certain rocks. For many reasons the peak is both unusual and remarkable but whether it will offer shelter from the coming storm no one is certain.

One of the esoteric geometric designs found at several sites on the mountain

The French authorities  believe enough people are convinced and are already preparing for a massive influx of those wanting shelter from the Apocalypse. There is talk of access to the peak being denied during the month of December with roads blocked by police and cave entrances sealed with concrete 'plugs' positioned by helicopters - a huge over reaction according to some.

View from the summit of Pic Bugarach

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New Cubs for Pyrenees Bears

The brown  bear population in the Pyrenees has grown by three or four cubs this year. The Pyrenees remains  the last  habitat of brown bears in France.

This is good news for those who are encouraging efforts to maintain a viable bear population in this mountainous region.  Experts on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees told French counterparts they had observed bear cub prints – and then taken a photo of a female bear, “Caramelles”, with two young.
Alain Reynes of Pays de l’Ours-Adet, an organisation which campaigns for  the reintroduction of bears said: “Caramelles was born in 1997 and it’s not the first time she’s had a litter. Prints were also found of a little cub alongside those of another but we lack precise data, we don’t know if there were one or two cubs.”

At the end of 2011 best estimates put the number of brown bears in the Pyrenees at about 21 so the latest births put the number at around 24 or 25. However precise facts about numbers will have to wait.

Supporters of an increase in the number of bears and the return to a viable bear population, are hoping that a different male bear is the father this time. The father of all the young in recent years has been an ageing male called Pyros. This is not good news for the genetic diversity of the bears. To have another male bear fathering cubs would be healthy for the long term health of the population.

“Even with these births the bears remain a species in critical danger of extinction,” Mr Reynes said,  “We have high hopes for the government biodiversity conference next month to find out what the government is planning to do for the bears.”

Supporters say the government has a duty to help the bear population under a European “habitats” directive, and that the conference will be the ideal moment to address the problem. A previous official plan to help the bears expired 3 years ago.

The last government broke promises to introduce a new bear lin 2011 following protests from farmers who say they are dangerous to their livestock and reduce their income.

There have been several succesful reintroductions of bears from Slovenia in the past. Three were introduced in 1996-7 and five in 2006 to boost the native population. The last bear of original Pyrenees stock was shot by a hunter in 2004.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stone Age Animated Art and the Origins of Cinema

As well as the spectacular scenery to walk in during a Pyrenees Mountain Adventure guided holiday, the Eastern Pyrenees are also famous for their caves and cave art. One of the most spectacular caves is at Niaux in the Ariege which includes images of ibex, horses and bison. The cave art as well as being spectacular also records species loss because bison and ibex are no longer found in the Pyrenees.

Drawing of a bison from the Niaux Cave.

Some of the animals at Niaux and in other caves across Europe are depicted with several heads or more legs than is natural which has puzzled researchers.

Some cave art shows animals with multiple heads, legs and tails

Marc Azéma, of the University of Toulouse, is a Palaeolithic researcher and film maker who has spent the past 20 years exploring the representation of animal movement in cave art.  In an article in the June issue of Antiquity,  he suggests that  some cave paintings may amount to the first cartoons. After studying images from 53 caves, according to Azéma, the reason that many have multiple heads and limbs is that the artists were using cartoon like techniques. When images of this sort are viewed using the flickering light from a burning torch, observers get the impression that the animals are moving. Animations include animals running, rearing their heads or swishing their tales.

His co-author, Florent Rivère, an independent artist, discovered that animal movement was also represented in more dynamic ways—with the use of animals drawn on a spinning bone disc. Rivère examined Magdalenian bone discs - objects found in the Pyrenees, the north of Spain and the Dordogne which measure about 1.50 inches in diameter. Because they are round and often have a hole pierced in their centre, the discs have been generally regarded as buttons or pendants. However according to Rivère, "Given that some are decorated on both sides with animals shown in different positions, we realized that another type of use, relating to sequential animation, was possible."

They used a bone disc found in 1868 in the Dordogne. On one side, the disc features a standing doe or a chamois. On the other side, the animal is lying down.

The researchers discovered that if a string was threaded through the central hole and then stretched tight to make the disc rotate about its lateral axis, the result was a superimposition of the two pictures on the retina. "The animal goes down then gets back up in a fraction of a second and vice versa."

“Stone Age artists intended to give life to their images,” Azéma says. “The majority of cave drawings show animals in action.” In these flickering images created by Palaeolithic people, the authors suggest, lie the origins of cinema.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Freedom Trail 2012

Early July 2012 found myself completing the Freedom Trail for the 3rd time. The Freedom Trail is a four day walk that retraces a WWII escape route, used by those escaping Nazi oppression, from France into Spain across the Pyrenees mountains.

On the French Spanish border looking into Spain and 'freedom'.

In 2010 I was solo and the following year I helped a group complete the Trail as their D of E Gold expedition. This year I helped  with the walk that is organised every July to commemorate the escapers, evaders and helpers or 'passeurs' who made the journey during the dark days of the Nazi occupation of France. At various points along the route, including the site of a crashed RAF Halifax bomber,  there are memorials where wreaths are laid and speeches made . There were over 100 participants this year - more than in previous years in part boosted by the publicity from a BBC Radio 4 programme in 2011. Those taking part included a group raising money for the Royal British Legion and a group of soldiers representing NATO. By chance there was also the father of an ex pupil of mine from my days as a teacher in Kent!

The group I  looked after included walkers from Britain, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. One of the only groups to finish the walk as a single unit and singing! A great bunch!

The Four Nations Team

The route between St Girons in France and Esterri in Spain is a test of strength, stamina and character.  Several cols have to be crossed above 2400m with snow still remaining from the winter. In all  50 miles are covered over the four days in awe inspiring scenery.

Looking down on the Refuge des Estagnous

Not all the walkers made it to Spain this year with several dropping out with injuries. There is always next year!

An injured knee for this walker made it too painful to continue

 During WWII the route was taken by Jews fleeing from their German oppressors, by many R.A.F. and American airmen who had either crash-landed or parachuted to safety after being shot down over Nazi-occupied Europe but also by hundreds of Frenchman escaping forced labour in Germany the dreaded STO - Servive du Travail Obligatoire.

Nazi propaganda about the STO. 'The bad days are over. Dad earns money in Germany.'

The helpers or 'passeurs' were local men who knew the mountain paths and tracks by heart and were crucial to helping people escape. Many paid with their lives - caught and shot immediatley. This was sometimes due to betrayal by fellow countrymen who passed on information to La Milice - the feared and hated Vichy-run paramilitary force. More than 100 helpers or 'passeurs', like 19 year old Paul Barreu, were arrested and shot.

The memorial to Paul Barreu

The Freedom Trail escape route remained operational for the duration of the war in part due to it running through such difficult terrain - it was very difficult to police.

I thoroughly enjoyed helping out with the Commemorative Freedom Trail in 2012 which was well organised by Scott Goodall and Paul Debons. Thanks to them, all the helpers and of course all the walkers.

Have you been inspired by what you have read and seen? Are you ready for the challenge? Pyrenees Mountain Adventures can help you organise your Freedom Trail Escape. See the website for more information

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Something Old, Something New and Something Unexpected

The French have an expression 'Que la montagne est belle!' - aren't the mountains beautiful and a recent weekend wild camping demonstrated that perfectly. Some of the beauty was old, in the sense that I already knew about it, some of the beauty was new in that I discovered it during the weekend and some was unexpected........

The 'old beauty' was the Orlu Nature Reserve above the Orlu Valley in the Ariege. I had completed the walk up to the Naguille resevoir and dam before on one of my earliest visits to the Pyrenees back in the early 1990's. Then I was on holiday but now nearly 20 years later I work in the area showing clients the beauty the region has to offer with the the holidays that Pyrenees Mountain Adventure runs.

It was also the scenery that was as spectacular as ever.

The view from Col d'en Beys
It was how peaceful and uncrowded the area remained.

It was the still impressive display of wild flowers - Trumpet Gentian, Pyrenean Squill, Pyrenean Buttercup, Pyrenean Pheasant-Eye, Daffodil, and Marsh Marigold

Moss Campion Silene acaulis
It was the wildlife encounters - a Jay in the beach forest at the start of the walk, a kestrel flying in the valley level with me while at the Col d'en Beys, a ptarmigan not having completely lost its white winter plumage being disturbed from its hiding place among the juniper bushes, an eagle that came to investigate who I was and what I was doing at a col on day 2, a group of isard demonstrating their agility and power while climbing steep ground as I sat and watched in the fading light and a cheeky marmot.


 The 'new beauty' and there is always new beauty to discover, was the Pinet Valley. Little known and rarely visited and better for it - I had it to myself.

At the head of the valley were Pic de Pinet and Pic d'Ouxis and between them a ridge that provided some entertaining scrambling. The clouds began to roll in as I started the ascent of Pic d'Ouxis (2510m) after lunch at the col and by the time I had completed the ridge and descended from Pic de Pinet (2420m), the first drops of rain began to fall.

The 'unexpected beauty' was being able to help two walkers who approached me at my wild camp site near the Peyrisses lakes (2227m) as I ate my evening meal. They wanted to know where the refuge was. The mist that had ghosted in had reduced visibility greatly. There was no refuge here. The Refuge d'en Beys was in the next valley! They had a map but were novices on their first mountain adventure and didn't really know how to use it. I ended up taking them to the correct col and part way down the correct descent path leaving them to continue on their own after the last snow patch had been crossed.

It seemed the correct thing to do and they were generous with their thanks. If I had been in their position I would have wanted someone to do exactly the same for me. It was waiting back at the col to check they made the valley below that I was rewarded with the encounter with the kestrel and the herd of isard. If I had not offered to help, my own weekend mountain adventure would have been much less rich in so many ways.........

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Top 10 Pyrenees Guide Books

There are a range of Pyrenees guide books on offer that I have used, and continue to use, to put together interesting walks and treks for Pyrenees Mountain Adventure that show off the best the Pyrenees has to offer . Here are my Top 10.  

Best For General Information: Rough Guide to the Pyrenees (6th Ed. 2007)

Covering the whole chain in detail and packed full of information. I am still using my 1995 edition. Essential.

"These mountains challenge and invite rather than intimidate."

2. Best For Historical Comparisons: A Guide to the Pyrenees. Charles Packe (1862)
'Especially intended for the use of mountaineers.' The first guide to the Pyrenees in English. Still in print and still of use in terms of ideas about where to walk. Very interesting to read to see what has changed since 1862 and what has stayed the same. The wolf and ibex that Packe mentions are extinct now in the Pyrenees and the shelter on the summit of Pic Canigou has also gone but the Eyne Valley has not lost its world class reputation as a site for alpine flowers.
"Inferior, indeed, to the Alps in height and expanse of barren glacier, but far more picturesque in form as well as colour"

3. Best For the Backpack: Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees. Kev Reynolds (2008)

Covers the High Pyrenees from Pic D'Anie to Pic Carlit - ignoring the parts of the chain closest to the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Includes 170 routes which are mostly day walks but there are several  2 and 3 day treks. Also includes routes along a section of a section of  the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéan (HRP) of 24 days broken down into 3 stages. There are no walking maps.
"For the walker and trekker, the range has just about everything."

Concise. Pocket sIzed. Cover photo is 2001 edition

4. Best For History: The Man Who Married a Mountain. Rosemary Bailey (2005)

Rosemary Bailey takes a journey through the Pyrenees. In the process we learn more about this beautiful region and the lives of some of the colourful characters who explored and popularised the area in the nineteenth century. Foremost among them is Count Henry Russel (a friend of Charles Packe) who had an astonishing relationsip with the highest peak on the French side of the chain – the Vignemale.

‘Of all those that sought the Sublime and the Beautiful in the Pyrenees, it was Henry Russel who found it.’


5. Best For Humour: Backpacks, Boots and Baguettes. Simon Calder and Mick Webb (2004)

A humerous, informative account of completing the GR10 Traverse across the Pyrenees from Atalantic to Mediterranean. A good introduction to the Pyrenees.

 ‘..if there is one thing more exciting than finding your path it has to be the joy of making your own one’

6. Best For Walking: The Pyrenees. Kev Reynolds. (2004)

A more user friendly version of Walks and Climbs with more information, better maps and more photos.

'A magical range of mountains'

'The finest trekking in all Europe is to be found in the Pyrenees'

7. Best For The GR10: Trekking in the Pyrenees. Douglas Streatfeld-James. (1998)

A guide that covers the whole GR10 - one of several long distance paths that traverse the  Pyrenean Chain. 80 detailed maps showing timings, accommodation and points of interest. Good language section and includes some historical and geographical background as well as information on flora and fauna.

'This is an area of awe-inspiring beauty'

8. Best For The Eastern Pyrenees: Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrenees Catalanes

A guide book (in French) that concentrates just on the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Nature Park found in the Eastern Pyrenees closest to the Mediterranean - the sunniest part of the chain. 26 day walks and 2 weekend treks. Route description plus 1:25000 IGN map extract. Includes much useful general information on the geology, history, fauna and architecture of the area.

'A paradise for the walker.....there is something for all tastes and all levels'

9. Best For the GR11: Through The Spanish Pyrenees GR11. Paul Lucia. (2010 4th Ed.)

The GR11 or 'La Senda' (The Track) is the Sapnish equivalent of the GR10 and this is the only English language guide to the route. A coast to coast traverse of the Pyrenees on the Spanish side of the chain.

10. Best For the HRP: The Pyrenean Haute Route. Tom Joosten. (Reprinted 2012)
Unlike the GR10 and GR11 the Haute Route crosses the French-Spanish border many times, exploring both sides of the mountain range and staying as close as possible to the main ridge of the Pyrenees. 
The classic text is by George Veron (Pyrenees High Level Route 1991) the Frenchman who laid the foundations for the hardest of the coast to coast traverse routes but it is out of print. 
Joosten's Cicerone guide is argueably as good. He walked every stage of the Haute Route more than once and all the stages in the high mountains at least three times.
800km broken down into 42 stages including 500 GPS Waypoints to help with navigation..

Want help planning your perfect Pyrenees mountain adventure? Have a look at the Pyrenees Mountain Adventure website: 

The Pyrenees Mountain Adventure team look forward to hearing from you soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top 10 Wilderness Films

Wilderness Matters! Here is my top 10 of wilderness films. Films that show the beauty of  wild places -  whether mountains , desert or the ocean but also encourage reflection on what they have to offer humankind and why they should be protected.

1. Sweetgrass.

Year: 2009. Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor.

This film follows a group of shepherds/modern day cowboys driving a herd of sheep 300 km to summer pastures in the Beartooth Mountains of Montanna for the last time. The area is beautiful but harsh and the flock must be protected from  a variety of natural dangers (storms, wolves and bears). Put together from material shot over 3 summers, the film has no narration and no soundtrack.

2. Into The Wild
Year: 2007. Director: Sean Penn. 
Based on the life of Chris MacCandless. MacCandless grew up in a wealthy family and was gifted intellectually and athletically. He graduated from Emory University with Honours in 1990 and had plans to attend Harvard Law School. Soon afterwards however, he gave 24,000 dollars  that he had saved to Oxfam and went ‘walkabout’, severing all contact with his family and friends, creating a new life for himself tramping around the US. In April 1992 he hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wild. Five months later his decomposed body was found by a hunter. A lost man in a lost world searching for answers.

3. Grizzly Man

Year: 2005. Director: Werner Herzog.

A documentary  about grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard. They were both  killed in October of 2003 by a grizzly bear. Timothy had lived among the grizzlies in Alaska for 13 summers.
" Behind me is Ed and Rowdy, members of an up-and-coming sub-adult gang. They're challenging everything, including me. Goes with the territory. If I show weakness, if I retreat, I may be hurt, I may be killed."

4. The Last Trapper

Year: 2004. Director: Nicolas Vanier.

The film is set in the Yukon in Alaska and is based on the life of a real fur trapper called Norman Winter who plays himself.  Winter, 50, is a modern-day Jeremiah Johnson living off what he hunts and fishes, making most of what he needs with his own two hands, including his log cabin. Not a true documentary - the scenes acted out are based on events in Winter's own life.

5. Alone in the Wilderness.
Year: 2003. Director: Bob Swerer.
This is the first in a series of films that shows how Dick Proenneke lived his dream of being self sufficient in the Alaska Wilderness.
"Thousands have had such dreams, but Dick Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country."  Proenneke filmed his own adventures, and Swerer later turned the footage into a film.

6. Dances With Wolves
Year: 1990. Director: Kevin Costner. An 'eco -western' directed and starring Kevin Costner. The fictional story follows John Dunbar an officer in the US Cavalry who has the choice of any posting he wants and chooses the 'Far West' frontier, because he wants " to see it before it's gone." Dunbar meets and becomes friends with a Sioux tribe of Native North Americans. He discovers their culture and the respect they have for the land.

7. The Big Blue

Year: 1988. Director: Luc Besson.

The fictional story follows the path of two 'free divers' who first meet as children. Both have a deep bond with the ocean.

8. Never Cry Wolf

Year: 1983. Director: Carroll Ballard

This film dramatizes the true story of Farley Mowat, a government researcher sent to the Canadian tundra area to collect data about how the wolf population was allegedly harming the caribou herds. While studying the wolves and  learning more about them and the harsh environment they live in, Mowat has his old beliefs and prejudices about wolves and the threat they pose challenged.

9. Jeremiah Johnson
Year: 1972. Director: Sydney Pollack.  
A war weary veteran of the conflict in Mexico (1846-48), Jeremiah Johnson (played by Robert Redford) seeks to escape from his existing life and find peace and refuge on the frontier of the Western U.S. He becomes a mountain man supporting himself in the Rocky Mountains as a trapper.

10. Walkabout
Year: 1971. Director: Nicolas Roeg. 
Two upper class English children find themselves stranded in the 'alien' Australian outback. They survive with the help of an aboriginal/Native Australian boy on walkabout and finally manage to return to 'civilisation'.