Lessons from the Edge – a film by Wandering Fever on Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s GHT

“LESSONS FROM THE EDGE” –  a film by Wandering Fever

*****

A film documenting Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s epic adventures traversing the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT).
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Dropping globally on Red Bull TV and Red Bull’s YouTube Channel on Tuesday 04 December 2018.

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FILM REVEW

Many thanks to Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever for the advanced preview of the film.

All images are screenshots from the movie and are ©wanderingfever/ Red Bull

Lessons from the Edge is not your ordinary running film and it is all the better for it. I would even go as far to say, that the film is not about running. It’s about friendship, survival, pushing to the limit, not giving in and adventure.

The film documents, South African runners, Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s attempt on the ‘GHT’ – The Great Himalayan Trail. We need to be clear here, that it is ‘their’ FKT (fastest known time) attempt on trying to beat a mark set by fellow South African, *Andrew Potter – a journey of some 1400km in 28-days.

*Lizzy Hawker and others have done other journeys on the GHT.

Sandes and Griesel know each other well and often team up for adventures; their record-breaking Drakensberg Traverse a prime example. I hope they both will forgive me, but Sandes is often the star and the media draw, while Griesel is the brains and brawn behind. I myself always fall into this trap – post the Drakensberg and GHT records, I interviewed Sandes for my podcast Talk Ultra.

Tune into the Talk Ultra Great Himalayan Trail special released Friday 7th December 2018Episode 165 –  it includes an in-depth interview with Ryan Sandes conducted just after the GHT FKT and two post film interviews with Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever and Ryno Griesel.

Podcast HERE

I seriously think that ‘Lessons from the Edge’ is finally going to give Griesel the long overdue credit he finally deserves. The guy really is a legend.

The film is made by Sandes and Griesel’s long-term friend, and good buddy of mine, Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever. I first met Dean in 2012 on the island of La Palma at Transvulcania and it is fair to say, our careers in the world of trail, ultra and mountain running have moved alongside each other ever since.

Let me be clear, I think Dean is one of the best filmmakers out there! He always manages to look beyond running and find metaphors for life, in this movie, he excels himself. 

Listen to a full and in-depth interview with Dean Leslie below:

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The Film

(Review contains spoilers)

WATCH THE FILM HERE

The words of Dean Leslie give an indication of the film and its story, “When Ryan and Ryno started the Great Himalaya Trail they knew it would be physically tough. But no one ever thought this run would be life-threatening.”

I love Nepal, so, I was hooked from the start with the amazing vistas, the beautiful Nepali people and the forever wonderful sound of ‘Namaste!’

While this journey started as an FKT, I think it’s fair to say that as the film unfolds, any FKT becomes irrelevant as one witnesses the danger, pain and discomfort both runners have to go through to achieve their finish. In a conversation with Sandes, he confirmed, “This attempt is more about an experience and amazing adventure, it is a once-in-a-lifetime type experience‚ not just a record attempt and something that I have been able to share with a true friend.”

Leslie narrates, and he has a silky-smooth calm voice that kicks off the movie and its pace. We instantly go to Sandes describing the ‘why’ of the GHT and then we see Griesel.

“Did you push it too far?” Leslie asks Griesel.

 

“No, not at all,” the answer.

Their journey would take them from the Tibetan border all the way to the Indian border in the east. Fast and light was the ethos and they carried no sleeping bags or tents, reliant on the hospitality of the Nepali people.

“If you plan an adventure with no risk, you are way too much inside your comfort zone,” says Griesel.

And from here, the story unfolds. 

Before the FKT started, they had already risked their lives on snow and ice and I was immediately thinking that they were unprepared for the challenge ahead! The film does not shy away from this and the duo explain the danger.

“It was really dangerous, a little stupid,” said Griesel and Sandes admits his lack of experience in this environment.

From the outset, one realizes that Griesel is along not only for the comradeship but for mainly for his navigation and mountain experience. Very quickly they are in extreme snow and ice that visibly shakes them up.

All the time, Leslie’s drone footage provides some amazing shots to Sande’s and Griesel’s GoPro footage.

Kids join them, and the ‘Namaste’ sounds provide a wonderful soundtrack to Sandes and Griesel’s footsteps. Leslie, correctly says in his narration, “Although the Himalaya has the most breathtaking landscape, it is the Nepali people that captures the heart.”

The conditions, the fast and light travel without doubt take a toll on the runners. The Dolpa region approaches and without doubt, fear takes hold. They manage to obtain ice axes and rope borrowed from the locals. They had to change route and with a late winter and poor conditions, the area was desolate. The duo was struggling and seriously worried.

Griesel trying to maximize his time with navigation makes a school boy error and removes his gloves.

From that point, Griesel knew his fingers had frostbite.

From here on in, the story changes.

With only 9 day’s covered, there was a long way to go and everything was looking in jeopardy. All the time, Leslie provides a narrative to the ‘real time’ narrative of Griesel and Sandes. 

Griesel sits with his hands in a bowl – it makes for gruesome viewing, but the will to carry on existed though. Some good running, a change of clothes, some sun and suddenly all was looking good. 

Annapurna region and Sandes turns 36 – what a way to spend a birthday!

Much of what follows is good and you feel a page has turned and then suddenly screams. Griesel falls and is injured. The story unfolds, and one begins to feel the pressure on the two of them and in particular, Griesel. He has feelings on failure and inadequacy in comparisons to Sandes natural running ability.

Let’s be clear hear, Griesel is turning into a hero.

 “It is not an option to quit… If I have committed to go from A to B, that is what I am going to do,” says Griesel. “Whatever we do out there is an extension of our daily lives, if you get in the habit of quitting, if that is an option, that translates to daily life…” And it is here that you really begin to understand the character of the man – his strength, his courage and some would say, his vulnerability?

The film mixes narrative and footage from Griesel and Sandes and constantly the film is interspersed with post GHT interviews to provide perspective.  

It is here that we start to ask, what are the Lessons from the Edge? 

The dilemma of Leslie and Sandes is obvious. 

“Do you pull the plug… It seems silly at this stage, it is just a run!” says Leslie.

The final third of the film explores many questions, one is quite haunting, “Are you prepared to go out and do one of these things and die?” Asks Leslie.

 

“Yes, pretty much,” responds Griesel.

To not push life to the full is a slow death anyway they say and as the footage rolls on, you are left pondering your own life questions as well as the questions that Griesel, Sandes and Leslie had to ask.

 Two mates, crossing a country and drinking tea – they live life to the full and it is these endearing moments that concludes the film with Leslie’s thoughtful narrative.

What would you do, what are your Lessons from the Edge?

 *****

Wandering Fever HERE 

Many thanks to

Dean Leslie

Ryan Sandes

Ryno Griesel

Watch the movie on Red Bull TV and Red Bull’s YouTube Channel on Tuesday 04 December 2018.

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