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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.



This is how I found myself just three days into the first shooting trip of a project that would stretch ahead for more than a year-and-a-half. Profiling the natural world of Denali National Park in Alaska the program was scheduled to kick-off a series called Living Edens, an ABC/Kane Production for PBS. I would be both producer and lead cameraman, and in these early days, the shooting script I had agreed to undertake now seemed foolishly ambitious.

 

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.




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