Weekend Warm-Up: North of Known

Gavin McClurg over the Alaskan Range. Photo: Gavin McClurg

The first paragliding expedition across the Alaskan Mountain Range took six years of preparation for Gavin McClurg and Dave Turner. Ignoring the dangerous and unfavourable Alaskan weather, the pair soared past the three main peaks in Alaska — Mounts Hunter, Foraker and Denali. The film, North of Known, documents the pioneering achievement.

Apart from a test flight by plane and helicopter, McClurg and Turner had almost no information about their route. Apart from the extreme weather, they found few thermals to gain lift. Rivers and dense forests obstructed them as they thrashed to their food caches, stored in wooden crates 120km apart and placed strategically on mountaintops.

Gavin McClurg and Dave Turner during the Alaskan paragliding traverse.

Gliding at a maximum 20kph over the vast Alaskan landscape gave them some darker days of hunger, exhaustion and acute mental stress. Occasional bouts of good luck kept their spirits up. They found a cabin with canned food and hot cocoa that sustained them during a difficult section. But eventually, they were grounded for six days without food, and Turner quit. While tempted to do the same, Gavin persisted. His so-called “selfish endeavour” turned into a magnificent expedition captured in this film.