There are those who seek the thrill of adventure and those who love to watch others seek the thrill of adventure. For the latter, UCSB’s Arts & Lectures offers up two nights of nature-fueled exploits via the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which will take you around the globe without ever having to leave your seat. This year’s cinematic slate is, as usual, a delightful, exciting, varied lineup.
One standout is the National Geographic–produced Into Twin Galaxies, a 52-minute film chronicling Sarah McNair-Landry, Erik Boomer, and Ben Stookesberry’s often harrowing trek across a Greenland glacier to where two arctic rivers converge. After locating the rivers — which have never been explored and which the trio named Twin Galaxies — via Google Earth, the three pros set out to kite ski across the ice sheet and then kayak the wild rivers for a total of 1,000 km. Hauling approximately 200 pounds of gear — including kites, kayaks, tents, gear, and food — the entirety of the trip, it took the them 46 days to complete the journey, during which they experienced spectacular scenery, frustrating setbacks, serious injuries, and exhilarating successes.
Via email, McNair-Landry gave some insight into the expedition and her life of adventure.
Into Twin Galaxies looked like an amazing, harrowing adventure. How did you keep the mental energy up when the conditions were bad, such as after you broke your back? Training is a key to successful expeditions, and important to build skills, physical endurance, and also mental endurance. We always train and prepare a lot before expeditions, and I also see every expedition as training for the next. When the conditions are bad, it’s really important to stay positive, as it’s so easy to focus on the negative. When I broke my back in a kite skiing accident, I tried to really focus on getting through the day, knowing (and hoping) that every day I would feel a little better and stronger (plus I am also very stubborn, which helps).
How did the Greenland crossing compare to the Northwest Passage exploration you did with your brother, Eric? Was it more, less, or differently difficult? Both expeditions were really tough in their own way. The Northwest Passage trip I did with my brother, Eric McNair-Landry, was 3,500 km over 85 days — we had a serious distance to cover before summer came and all the snow melted away. We also had some very difficult sections — open water forced us on a 550 km detour, a polar bear ripped through our tent in the middle of the night, to mention a few.
The Greenland trip was also difficult — crevasses posed a huge risk, not to mention the ice canyon and huge waterfalls on the river. And I was seriously injured early on in the expedition in a kite skiing accident, which made the expedition very challenging. The similarity between both trips is the teams were both amazing.
Your father, Paul Landry, is a famous explorer. When did you know that you wanted to follow in his footsteps? Both my parents, Paul Landry and Matty McNair, are bad-ass explorers and polar guides, and have been to both the North and South poles numerous times, among other epic expeditions. Everything I learned was from them dragging me out camping on weekends when I was young, and eventually on longer and longer trips. I never really set out to follow in their footsteps; it just kind of happened. And a couple years ago I took over their guiding company base in Baffin Island, called NorthWinds Expeditions.
How many expeditions have you done? Are you planning your next one? I’ve done over 15 multi-month expeditions, mostly in the arctic, but also some desert expeditions, too. I am always planning the next expedition. This winter we have a backcountry ski mission we are planning on the east coast of Baffin — exploring some new terrain. And in the future we are planning a kite skiing expedition in Russia. —Michelle Drown
The Banff Film Festival runs Tuesday-Wednesday, February 27-28, 7:30 p.m., at The Arlington Theatre (1317 State St.). Call (805) 893-3535 or see artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.