By Bruce Reitherman, Producer
It is 40
degrees below zero and I am buried in my
expedition-weight sleeping bag so deep that only my nose
and frost-caked mustache protrude from the face opening.
The thin walls of my tent glow in the eerie green
fluorescence of the northern lights, and I sense the
muffled breathing of my three sleeping companions. A few
yards outside, an automatic time lapse camera points up
at the sky, clicking over every few seconds in a lonesome
labor that will last the long, cold night.
The extremes we would face throughout production were as vast as the wilderness we hoped to portray, and eventually our work would spread through Denali's milder seasons. We began the project, however, in a winter tent-camp pitched on the surface of the Ruth Glacier, at the very base of Mt. Denali, North America's tallest mountain. Only a few degrees south of the Arctic circle, Denali is notorious among mountaineers for being one of the coldest peaks on the planet, and even though we had planned our trip for the relatively balmy days of mid-March, the temperatures had turned brutal.
We had no intention of trekking to the top, but we were determined to spend a week shooting landscapes, weather and the northern lights amongst the lower peaks of the range. Even at these moderate elevations, no animals survive, and we shuddered to imagine how cold it might be thousands of feet up at the summit in December and January when darkness is 18 hours long.