Bring the outdoors indoors, with some inspirational documentaries

Top 10 documentaries blog image


For the second blog of the series I’m taking a look at documentaries and have quite a mix for you to enjoy, some of them are climbing focused, but I feel they relate to our joint love of the outdoors and pushing your limits from time to time to realise your capabilities.

Some are documentaries I watched a while ago, whilst others are suggestions from friends, so sit back and prepare yourselves for some beautifully shot scenery, inspirational determination and a lot of soul searching:

Brân's top 10 walking, climbing and outdoor adventure documentaries

1. Loved By All: The Story of Apa Sherpa

I would like to start with Loved By All: The story of Apa Sherpa, a short, but stunningly shot documentary recounts the life of Apa Sherpa who grew up in the shadow of Mount Everest in the Khumbu Valley. He has scaled Everest climbed Everest 21 times. Pulled away at the age of 12 to work as a high-altitude porter, like so many others, he would leave his family for months, risking his life on the mountain. He now aims to create a different future for his people. An insight into the realities faced by many who make climbing the world’s highest peak possible.

2. Distant North - Hiking the Kungsleden

It’s hard to follow up such a beautiful shot documentary, so I have gone for something different Distant North - Hiking the Kungsleden a simply shot and easy to follow account of four friends hiking the entirety of the Kungsleden - a historic trail through Arctic Sweden as autumn descends. No flashy scenic shots, but a down to earth account of hiking a trail that would be feasible for many of us.

3. Dawn Wall

The next set of documentaries are about extreme explorers, people at the very pinnacle of their abilities and striving to push the limits. Dawn Wall featuring two climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson who in January 2015 captivated the world with their effort to climb the Dawn Wall, a seemingly impossible 3,000 ft rock face in Yosemite National Park, California. The pair lived on the sheer vertical cliff for weeks, igniting a frenzy of global media attention. The backstory of the climb is as enthralling as the actual climb and is well worth a watch.

4. Free Solo 

If you enjoyed Dawn Wall, then watching Free Solo is for you, a far more nail-biting documentary with a lot of suspense and more of a direct focus on the climbing. This National Geographic Documentary is a stunningly shot, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world's most famous rock... the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park....without a rope. 

5. Meru

Shot by the same team as those who did Free Solo, Meru is a different kind of documentary that follows the lives of three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan climbing. As expected, it’s well shot and put together, but what really brings it to the fore is the stories behind the climbers and their personal motivations and determination to succeed where, so few have manged. For me this documentary is more mountaineering than raw climbing due to the nature of the challenge they face.

6. Liv Along the Way

As the previous documentaries are heavily male focused, there are also some incredible, talented female explorers who are equally as successful, determined and inspirational, Liv Sansoz is a prime example. Liv Along The Way is her story, since she first summited Mont Blanc as a teen knew she would make her life in the mountains. She was twice crowned World Champion in sport climbing, and eventually expanded her professional horizons to mixed climbing, ski mountaineering, and base jumping. In 2017, at 40 years old, Liv set out from her base in Chamonix, France to attempt to climb all 82 4000m peaks in the European Alps in a single year. As she’s learned several times throughout her life, things don’t always go as planned.

7. Home

Another inspiration is UK adventurer Sarah Outen, who between 2011 and 2015 traversed the globe by bike, kayak and rowing boat, travelling over 20,000 miles by human power alone. Her voyage was followed by thousands, hooked on her infectious humour and love of life. But travelling solo, the trip took its toll and a violent storm on the Pacific Ocean took Sarah to the physical and mental brink. Woven out of hundreds of hours of footage, Home intimately and unflinchingly captures Sarah’s journey, telling a story of heart and soul, struggle and joy. 

8. Mountain

A far less intense option is the beautifully shot Mountain, an exploration of our obsessions with high places and how they have come to capture our imagination. Only three centuries ago, climbing a mountain would have been considered close to lunacy. The idea scarcely existed that wild landscapes might hold any sort of attraction. Peaks were places of peril, not beauty.

9. National Parks Adventure

Crossing the Atlantic, National Parks Adventure follows a team of modern-day explorers as they take an off-trail adventure, through the national parks of the USA, showing the beauty of the parks that is awe inspiring. It also looks back at the last one hundred years when these areas of great natural beauty were declared protected for eternity. 

10. Evelyn

The final choice is a powerful moving and simple documentary tackling deep seated emotion, pain and remembrance from Oscar-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga, The White Helmets) In his latest feature documentary he turns the camera on himself to document the journey he, his parents and siblings embarked upon in remembrance of their brother and son, who took his own life over a decade ago.

We hope you enjoy Brân's outdoor documentary selection. If you have any recommendations to share, why not let us know on our social media channels. #RoamSweetHome

Keep up to date with all the ways you can get involved in the Ramblers #RoamSweetHome campaign over the coming weeks.