The scenes we see on the silver screen have long served as inspiration for where we choose to travel. Movies like Sideways put California’s Santa Ynez Valley wine country on the map; Lost in Translation made us want to see Tokyo; and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach took unknown Ko Phi Phi Le island and made it so popular that the Thai government had to close it for three years to allow its collapsing environment time to recover. But for travel inspiration that goes beyond staying in the same hotel or walking on the same stretch of sand as a famous actor, why not try documentaries?
From any David Attenborough-narrated film that makes you want to see and save our planet’s wildest places, to a music doc like Sigur Rós’s Heima that’s sure to prompt a trip to the far-flung corners of Iceland, to an adventure film like 180° South that’ll leave you eager to explore untrodden paths in Patagonia, documentaries can create a desire to not just visit a place and snap a selfie, but to live and be a part of the actual adventures seen on screen. But recreating this magic? That’s the hard part.
Enter world-renowned alpinists Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson, their new white-knuckle climbing documentary The Sanctity of Space, and the mad scientists of next-level luxury adventure travel at Pelorus. Inspired by the film, in which Ozturk and Wilkinson take on the first lateral ascent of Denali’s Moose’s Tooth massif, travelers can now spend five days traveling with the pro climbers, watch the film alongside them in the shadow of Denali, then join the duo on a glacial expedition through the part of Moose’s Tooth that won’t kill you.
To put this into perspective, it’d be like watching Free Solo then going climbing in Yosemite with Alex Honnold, or like watching 14 Peaks then getting to trek with Nimsdai Purja in Nepal. For those who want a taste of the mountaineering lifestyle, it’s an unparalleled opportunity. However, breaking new ground comes at a price — $130,000, to be exact. But really, can you put a price tag on the chance to experience Denali with athletes of this caliber? (Well, Pelorus did, but that was a rhetorical question.)
If you’ve yet to hear of their escapades, Ozturk is one of the planet’s preeminent climbers and most prolific mountain film directors and cinematographers; Wilkinson is a renowned alpinist known for his lightweight, low-impact style and exploratory first ascents (including the first ascent of India’s Saser Kangri II, the second-highest unclimbed mountain in the world at the time). They’ve made their names not only by defying death, but also in capturing and telling stories. On Ozturk’s end, he’s perhaps best known as the cinematographer and one of the stars of Meru, the Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary from Academy Award-winning director and climber Jimmy Chin, the cinematographer and co-director of Sherpa, and a recipient of National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. As for Wilkinson, he’s a journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic and The New York Times, in addition to serving as co-director and co-writer of The Sanctity of Space.
The journey for this new documentary, now available in the U.S. on Apple TV, began when Ozturk saw a decades-old aerial photo of the Moose’s Tooth (a foreboding stretch of jagged peaks) taken by legendary photographer, mountaineer and cartographer Bradford Washburn. From there, the climbers began the filming process which would ultimately span five years, include two attempts at pioneering the route, and result in Ozturk suffering a near-fatal brain injury. Along the way, the movie weaves in unbelievable footage from the climb with the fascinating story of Washburn, whose maps of Denali and the greater Alaska Range have served as guides to finding the region’s last remaining first ascents and lifesaving resources for climbers who risk it all to experience this terrain up close.
The chain of inspiration continued from Washburn to Ozturk and Wilkinson on to Pelorus and its two ex-British Army captain founders to create something amateur mountain-climbing travelers could experience first-hand.
“The exclusive, five-day experience extends to a screening of The Sanctity of Space alongside the directors, a photography masterclass with Ozturk, guided glacier exploration with Ozturk and Wilkinson, and backcountry skiing and rappelling into jaw-dropping ice caverns,” Jimmy Carroll, cofounder of Pelorus, tells InsideHook. It is, as he says, “a never-before-seen opportunity to discover Denali National Park alongside the experts.” The trip also includes helicopter transfers, all the top-notch gear you’ll need, plus the camera equipment and drones required to leave with the most impressive vacation photos and videos you’ve ever posted to Instagram (think dramatic snaps of the 20,310-foot Denali and the Northern Lights).
The basecamp for this adventure, and a chunk of the trip’s $130K price tag, will go towards a private buyout of Sheldon Chalet. Deep in Denali National Park, 55 air miles from the closest town and accessible only by helicopter, the luxury lodge is perched atop a rocky pinnacle, surrounded by a glacier, in the middle of the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. It’s a location that your new travel buddy Wilkinson describes as “a one-of-a-kind place that deserves to be considered with the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest as one of the great natural wonders of the world.”
But Sheldon Chalet isn’t just a convenient and comfortable setting from which to launch this adventure, it’s closely tied to the history of the film’s inspiration, Brad Washburn. Don Sheldon, skilled pilot and pioneer of what would one day become Sheldon Chalet, flew Washburn thousands of miles over eight years around Denali and the surrounding Alaskan backcountry, aiding in his aerial photography and cartography endeavors.
All told, $130,000 might not seem so steep after all.
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