Through-hiking the length of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail is no easy task. Among other things, hikers yearn for food beyond the trail mix, dehydrated apricots and beef jerky that fills their backpacks. Seemingly from heaven, but literally out of the woods, comes “Ponytail Paul,” a trail angel. Cookies, donuts, potato salad and a little peace of mind is what he brings to the symbiotic relationship between hiker and Good Samaritan.
In April 2015, ultrarunner Kilian Jornet was about to travel to Nepal on an expedition to Everest as part of his Summits of My Life project, an endeavor through which he has been shattering speed records on some of the most imposing mountains on the planet (Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Denali, Aconcagua and others) in a minimalistic, fast-and-light style. Two days before his departure, a 7.8 earthquake rocked the country. Rather than cancel his trip, Jornet traveled to Nepal to help on the front lines of disaster recovery. Alongside fellow alpinist Jordi Tosas and filmmaker Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, Jornet traveled to remote villages that were most impacted to help emergency responders unearth bodies from the rubble, distribute food and reopen routes connecting the villages to supplies from Kathmandu. Jornet will return to Nepal in 2016 to attempt his Everest speed record and support the mountaineering and tourist business upon which the country depends.
Sarah Marquis likes to walk. And walk and walk. She stopped counting the miles after circumnavigating the globe on foot once — when she walked through the Andes, the Australian outback and the Pacific Crest of the U.S., among other places. Still, she kept walking. In 2010, the National Geographic Explorer of the Year embarked on a three-year solo walk from Siberia to the southern Australian coast, a journey of almost 12,500 miles that entailed walking through the arid Gobi desert and the jungles of Laos and Thailand before boarding a cargo boat to Australia, where she walked across the forbidding continent. Along the way, she starved, overheated, froze, was held hostage and explored her own limits of self-reliance. As she explains, “After six months of an expedition, the noise stops in my head. I just go back to a basic animal connection. I’m hunting sometimes. I’m surviving, basically. Being with nature for 1,000 days in a tent, with no water, no wash — my idea in doing this is to be a voice for nature.” Marquis documented the journey in her international bestseller Wild By Nature. At Mountainfilm, she’ll talk about the rewards, and drawbacks, of her incurable wanderlust. “For me, walking is more than walking. I’m like a little bridge between humans and nature. I’m just there to try to communicate this connection that we’ve all got. It takes determination, a lot of courage and a lot of perseverance. It takes a lot, but anybody can do it,” she says.In Person:
Deep in the Yucatan rainforest, densely inhabited for 1,500 years by the Maya, University of Mexico Professor of Ecology Rodrigo Medellin and National Geographic Photographer Anand Varma work together to research and photograph two rare species of Vampire bat, “the jaguars of the bat world.” These large, elusive, carnivorous bats — called “Zotz” in the Mayan language — evoke a deep sense of mystery, not least because they now inhabit the ruins of the lost Mayan civilization.