On Earth Day, I took an after-work hike up Runyon Canyon in West Hollywood, then settled in for the night with an eco-themed movie — to watch the screen show a fellow West Hollywoodian hike up Runyon Canyon!
Who is this neighbor doing the same thing I’m doing but making a film about it? That would be Sebastian Copeland, environmental photographer extraordinaire — except to be fair, he and I don’t exactly hike alike. Unlike me, Sebastian hit the trails wearing a 100-pound vest. Why? Because he was training to trek to the North Pole. On foot.
Sebastian accomplished that cold goal back in 2009 — and documented his journey into an eco-documentary that came out this month called “Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul.” The film begins with Sebastian undergoing an intense training regime in California before moving on to a hardcore winter boot camp in Minnesota — then follows the eco-activist to the arctic — where he, with a fellow traveler called Keith Heger, makes the slow two-month, 400+ mile trek on foot to get to the North Pole.
Why this crazy cold walk? “Into the Cold” seeks to draw attention to the effects of climate change. Sebastian made his trek on the centennial of Admiral Peary’s 1909 trek to the North Pole — capturing gorgeous images of the Arctic for posterity — because by the bicentennial in 2109, the Arctic as we know it will no longer exist, thanks to global warming.
Along the journey, Sebastian and Keith suffer frostbites, dangerous icy adventures, and temperatures below -50 degrees Farenheit. But aside from a few anxious moments, “Into the Cold” is a quiet film. After all, most of Sebastian and Keith’s adventure consists of a painfully steady, near-silent plodding along in a white barren landscape for days on end.
As such, I actually wished for more soul, more introspection in this documentary. When asked about his personal reasons taking the trip at the beginning of the film, Sebastian says he seeks some sense of peace — yet doesn’t go any further into what compels him towards these highly-challenging, painstakingly difficult trips. The end of the film left more questions than answers. Did Sebastian find the peace he was seeking? What, if anything, did he find for himself in this journey of the soul? Is personal peace possible in a melting world?
Mostly, “Into the Cold” left me with a sense of discomfiting wonder — at the beauty of the Arctic (seen in HD, no less), and the restlessness of the human soul. “Into the Cold” is now available on DVD for $24.95.