This month we reached out to storytellers pushing adventure storytelling in interesting directions through mediums - some from the Adventure Uncovered community, and some whose work we’ve so far admired from afar - with a series of prompts.
Beyond the prompts themselves, we imposed no parameters. We have collected the responses to each prompt into crowdsourced articles. The second prompt, with responses collected here, was: What is an adventure story that has impacted you?
I’ve followed Renan Ozturk for many years since I came into filming. As a climber first I related to the simplicity of his vision and stories that said something about the feelings and soul of climbing. His approach has always stuck with me over the years.
I was invited to interview ocean rower Lia Ditton back in 2016 when I was running Sportsister.com and, we hit it off straight away. I’ve interviewed a great many women in sport and adventure over the years and I’ve loved being able to share their stories through articles, but getting into filmmaking has given me the opportunity to explore the visual alongside the narrative. Lia’s story is one that really benefits from both.
Films by Nomad - A creative collective specialising in moving-image storytelling
One of my favourite adventure storytellers is U.S. writer and mountaineer John Krakauer. Into Thin Air was one the most exhilarating stories I’ve ever read. He somehow manages to make you feel like you’re there in the ‘death zone’, gasping for air alongside him. Then there are documentary films like Free Solo, Touching the Void, The Dawn Wall, Art of Flight and many more. These are fascinating stories being told by incredible storytellers.
Jazz Austin - Watercolour Artist focusing on landscape
Whilst taking part in a tree-planting volunteer week with Trees for Life in Scotland, I was introduced to the concept of a 'sit spot'. To start with, I found the concept odd and uncomfortable, but after a few days I was excited for an opportunity to look at and feel closer to nature, which can often be missed on a fast-paced adventure.
Jen Larkin - Contemporary Artist whose work centres around walking, travel, wilderness and nature
For me, the most impactful adventure stories are always tales of triumph over adversity. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a true story of a contemporary pilgrimage, all to do with pressing the reset button, scratching right back to what we truly need and what we really are, the power of beauty, regaining control of our situation, carrying less baggage, all wrapped up in one.
Jen Randall - Filmmaker, Photographer, Writer and Climber
Gwen Moffat's first autobiography, Space Below my Feet, was a bit of a revelation. She lives her life unapologetically, take her or leave her - that struck me immediately. And reading about someone who often ventured into the mountains just to be there, to get to know them rather than to achieve an objective every time was very refreshing to me. Claire Carter and I based our whole film, Operation Moffat, on Gwen and that book, trying to follow Gwen's lead, exploring parts of the UK we'd never been to before, and I still feel the influence of those experiences five years later.
'Reading about someone who often ventured into the mountains just to be there, to get to know them rather than to achieve an objective every time was very refreshing to me.'
I'm often inspired by the hyper-local and the modest when it comes to adventure: not so much peak bagging as really getting to know a landscape intimately. Nan Shepherd's book, The Living Mountain, does this beautifully. She explores the Cairngorms in a deeply sensory way, but with such grit and sustained attention that it absolutely ought to be considered adventure! She was a woman walking the mountains alone during the Second World War, which in its own way is awe-inspiring.
If we’re talking books, so many. Off the top of my head? Let’s see, I can remember Robyn Davidson’s Tracks way back, and loving it. Also Felicity Aston’s Alone in Antarctica and Call of the White: Taking the World to the South Pole (Felicity led a team from places as diverse as Jamaica, India, Singapore and Cyprus to the South Pole.) And I loved Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Someone recently recommended An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie. As a teenager in Togo, he’d read a book on Greenland and longed to travel there. It took him a decade, apparently, to get there but eventually he made it and the book is about his adventures among the Inuit. I really want to read it.
I’ve read some brilliant travel literature by women and men from more diverse backgrounds – Monisha Rajesh’s 80 Trains Around the World springs to mind, Eddy L. Harris’ Native Stranger, Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, for example, but I think publishers are only just waking up to the idea of commissioning books on outdoor exploration, whatever the focus, by women and men who are Asian, Black or from another marginalised background. Equally those organisations who offer expedition funding, need to reach out to a wider demographic and make it clear that they’re looking to support potential explorers who might have previously felt unheard, unseen, or unwanted. Diverse perspectives and ways of experiencing and engaging with the outdoors are enriching for all of us. Established, high-profile explorers are in a position to raise up others too, so hopefully that will begin to happen.
'I think publishers are only just waking up to the idea of commissioning books on outdoor exploration, whatever the focus, by women and men who are Asian, Black or from another marginalised background.'
When the podcast was still in its infancy, and I was still learning what I was doing and feeling my way, I got the opportunity to speak to Beth French. I’d just been to see Against the Tides and came out of the cinema blown away, with so many questions, but convinced that I shouldn’t approach her to speak to her as she was far too important to be on my little podcast. Then the weirdest thing happened – she responded to a shout out I put on Instagram for new guests. I was blown away. Talking to her gave me so much really.
The human spirit is a wild thing. It really is an honour to enter people's lives for a few hours or days or weeks and get an understanding of who they are, how they work and what makes them keep going. If you don’t feel gratitude after finishing a project then I think you’re doing the wrong thing. I leave each project having gained a new viewpoint on the world, often one that I hadn’t ever thought about. I probably had more meaningful conversations during the interviews than I had in weeks prior and to it. For me, that’s one of the biggest benefits of doing what I do.
'It really is an honour to enter people's lives for a few hours or days or weeks and get an understanding of who they are, how they work and what makes them keep going. If you don’t feel gratitude after finishing a project then I think you’re doing the wrong thing.'
Chaz Powel, The Wildest Journey. He goes on these walks - around Africa and England - and he just walks along rivers. It’s no big thing where he’s trying to climb a massive mountain. It’s hugely impressive, but it just cuts it right back to basics, and I think that’s really important. And just spending a lot of time in a place. It’s an inward adventure as well, but it’s just really simple: it’s just walking. Seeing what he was doing there was incredible, and I think it’s important to think about those as adventures, and the simplicity of walking.
I am reluctant to call theirs an adventure, but my grandfather and his younger brother escaping from a prisoner of war camp in the Soviet Union in 1945 was the one that got me into combining visual arts with an element of adventure. It has opened many doors in my way of thinking about storytelling.
Keith Partridge and Michael Brown. They teach the Banff Adventure Film Workshop every year. I met Keith on a BBC shooting… asked him how I could improve… He told me that I lack a lot in storytelling. So I went to Canada for the workshop… and this started it all.
If I think back, I’ve not quite been as inspired by a story as I was when I watched The Important Places directed by Forest Woodward from Gnarly Bay. It’s a film, in my opinion, that was clearly led by the story. The visual was brought in after to fuse it together. Just the way I love to work.