Review: The High Sierra Trail – A Documentary

The High Sierra Trail (HST; not to be confused with the Sierra High Route!) is a 72-mile trail with 13k feet elevation gain. Older and lesser known than the John Muir Trail, the HST encompasses what NPS naturalist, historian,  and author Willliam C. Tweed described as some of the most varied scenery and terrain in the High Sierra.

Starting at the redwoods and ending at Mt. Whitney, this trail would seem to be more well-known among those looking for a vacation length thru-hike. Esp if Sierra eye-candy is the main criteria.

Perhaps if more people see the new The High Sierra Trail – A Documentary by Chris Smead of Outmersive Flims, the HST may just be on a backpacker’s radar.

Chris is a talented filmmaker who first came to my attention after watching his short Alcove about the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness Area.  We later met at the GGG this past year.

When he asked me to review his documentary, I gladly agreed. The trail is new to me, and I wanted to see what magic Chris worked on portraying a journey of the trail.

First, Chris indeed showed dedication to the filming the trip. He budgeted only 2400 calories of food a day for the seventy-two miles of hiking.  Why? So he could carry fourteen pounds of camera gear! :O

Chris during a Sierra snow squall.

Also, a friend joined Chris on the journey, and the interaction between the two proved to be hilarious!  I expected magnificent scenery and some info about the High Sierra.  I found the comedy routine between a goofy-wise ass (No, I am not talking about me!) and the deadpan droll of the friend, both extremely tired at many points on the journey, to be quite funny.  Hiking with a partner on the trip added to the overall quality of the film.

Of course, I loved the cinematography quite a bit. The Sierra are among the most inspiring mountains in the United States if not the world.  I have not traveled in the famous Range of Light for many years. Seeing this film, I felt the call to return. Chris captured the majesty and magic of these mountains quite well.

I thoroughly enjoyed William Tweed’s narration during the film and the Ken Burn’s style talking points. The discussion on geology, history, and other natural science aspects gave many contexts to the trail itself and the High Sierra overall.  Tweed comes across as less severe than the voice in his book and more avuncular.

If have I one quibble, it is the music.  The portrayed scenery did not quite gel with the tone set by the music. High energy music that would seem to be in place more for rock climbing documentaries I’ve seen in the past. Admittedly, that is just my taste.

Overall, The High Sierra Trail – A Documentary is well worth the forty minutes of viewing time. See the documentary if you enjoy the High Sierra, want to get in a vacation length thru-hike, or if you enjoy the outdoors at all. The scenery, the background information, and Chris’ directorial voice make for a documentary that will make any outdoor enthusiast happy and want to explore the Sierra even more.

Want to see a screening? Check to see if there is one in your area!

Disclosure: Outmersive Films made the documentary available for my review at no cost.

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