The Aurora-Highline: A Life Beyond Fear

Picture this, an athlete walking on a one-inch-wide slack-line, suspended between 2 mountain cliffs, smack in the middle of the winter avalanche season, at night, in freezing temperatures, illuminated only by the rare natural phenomena of the Northern Lights.

PATHFINDER is a Highline and Film project that saw the coming together of a group of accomplished filmmakers and slackline mavericks from around the world to make an Aurora-Highline dream come true on a remote peak in northern Norway. Created by Raised by Wolves, a film production company led by Dan Lior, Adam Rubin and Edden Ram, the film features some of the world’s most innovative highliners: Samuel Volery, Lukas Irmler, Friedi Kühne, Sebastian Gum Chung, Tijmen Vandieren and Louise Lenoble.

While daydreaming over when the country-wide lockdown will be lifted so that I can finally head out and get on a Highline in Lonavala again, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with the creators of the film, about Aurora Hunting, braving snowstorms and the things that inspire them to live a life beyond fear.

°Aurora Explorers

“It was never about the Northern Lights or the coldest winters or the tallest mountains. It’s always about the people. Real stories of passionate people who overcome their fears and struggles to achieve their dreams and goals.” says Adam Rubin, one of the creators of the film, “Walking a thin line between two cliffs illuminated only by the Northern Lights is something that has never been recorded before, and it was a big dream for the slacklining team.”

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions of the world which are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar winds.

The project brief sounds like the most difficult-to-achieve idea someone could cook up. After years of getting to know “crazy” extreme sportspeople, I can tell with certainty that there is a special type of pleasure reserved in all of us, for achieving goals through discomfort and uncertainty. “We knew our mission was going to be challenging. Without that risk being present, there would be nothing special or unique about the film” adds Dan Loir co-creator of PATHFINDER.

The team also secured support from well-known names in the industry like The North Face and Sony, to bring their mission into fruition.

“This is a tale about the human spirit. The film dives into the elemental desire to explore the limits of humankind. The yearning that once drove adventurers and explorers to climb the highest peaks, sail endless oceans, and cross vast deserts in the name of progress, is the same passion that drives a selected few to achieve what has still been unclaimed.”

Adam describes the events of the only night they spent on top of Husfjellet mountain, on Senja Island, in Northern Norway “In the middle of the night, a blizzard took over the entire peak of the mountain. The crew woke up from the intense noise of the wind and snowfall, and eventually had to get out of the tents when the pressure of the new snow started to collapse the tents. The team had to make a run for it. It was night, and there was almost zero visibility. We weren’t sure what the right way down was, while all around us were cliffs. In those moments, we weren’t sure if we would even make it out of there or not. The slackliners had a lot of experience with situations like this, and they brought us down safely from the mountain under their lead. We asked ourselves many times, ‘What the hell are we doing here?’ But the sense of excitement and all of the adrenaline made it all worth it, and it turned out to be a magical place. It felt like another planet sometimes.”

After that, they decided it was too dangerous to sleep on the mountain, which made filming much more difficult owing to the long climb to the filming location.

°Your Comfort Zone is Not Your Friend

While the crew prepared their filming schedule in Norway, there was one thing they couldn’t plan for- the erratic Nordic weather. A huge storm began to cover all of Europe, and without a clearing in the sky, it seemed like the shot they came halfway across the world for, was not going to be possible. The team was now way beyond their comfort zone.

After realising that they couldn’t depend on the weather forecast to guide their shooting schedule, Adam says they decided to be prepared at all times “Capturing the Northern Lights was a mystical moment, we waited for hours up all night in the snow, waiting for a moment that may appear even for just a few seconds. The stars aligned and everything we worked for had suddenly become a reality. We shouted, screamed and jumped in our places and truly found it hard to fall asleep that night. But the mission was still far from over.”

The common narrative of society is to go through life collecting as many comforts as possible but the film suggests something different. “Growth cannot happen if you always walk on the same road of life. It may be easy, but nothing special will come out of it. The real growth begins at the end of your comfort zone, and this is where you get to know your limits, strengths, and who you can become. If you ask yourself what choices I should make to write a better story, they may lead you to a more exciting and fulfilling life.” Adam sums up with a quote from Vincent van Gogh- “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”

The Aurora Highline dream team consisted of filmmakers with a very solid portfolio along with pioneers of the Highline world, some of whom even visited Lonavala (India) to be a part of The Great Indian Highline Gathering in January 2020, a not-for-profit community project that brought together Highliners from all over India to support the team in rigging and walking India’s longest Highline at a whopping length of 750 metres and a height of 200 metres from solid ground, an ambitious feat only attempted a handful of times in the history of slacklining.

°Live, Don’t Just Exist

Grit is a personality trait possessed by individuals who demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions. “Without grit” adds Adam, “Talent may be nothing more than unrealised potential. If something is valuable enough to you, decide that you are willing to experience some amount of failure in order to achieve it.”

“The more you expose yourself to your fears the less fears you have. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I will realise one day it was not the way I should be. But today, It’s totally how I want to be. ” says Louise Lenoble in PATHFINDER.

Raised by Wolves aim to spread a positive message through their stories, whether it’s environmental or spiritual, they feel that they can help make the world a better place by doing what they love. Their next project, ‘Downhill’ which is due to release by the end of 2020, tells the story of three fearless men who skateboard down hills at speeds that reach 90kmph and explores what drives them to put their lives at risk for their passion. Dan reveals, “Whatever it is we are working on, it will be done with the same passion we had while working on PATHFINDER.”

The members of Raised by Wolves are passionately committed to their ideology of seeking out discomfort, a sentiment reflected both in their films and in the way they choose to live their lives. How do they ensure they stay loyal to this mission?

“All of us choose the unknown road in our lives,” concludes Adam. “If you are truly listening to your heart and intuition, it will take you beyond anything you can imagine for yourself in life.”

Dan takes it a step further: he has a necklace inscribed with the words “Live, don’t just exist” that he never takes off, keeping it permanently close to his heart.

If you haven’t experienced PATHFINDER yet, watch it here, and let us know what your “Life Beyond Fear” moment has been in the comments section below!

Navin Devnani Torres started slacklining in 2015, and is a co-organiser of The Great Indian Highline Gathering and the founder of Slack Mitra, an Indian community initiative focused on inspiring young Indians to explore slacklining; through social media, workshops and sale of slackline equipment.

Source: Praveen Jayakaran

All images used in this article are courtesy of Raised By Wolves and Smiley Photography and belong rightfully to their original owners.

©️ 2020 Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.

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