Heavy light

By on October 8, 2014
Jeremy Jones navigates a Nepali spine in a scene from ‘Higher.’ TETON GRAVITY RESEARCH

Jeremy Jones navigates a Nepali spine in a scene from ‘Higher.’ TETON GRAVITY RESEARCH

Jeremy Jones completes massive mountain trilogy with ‘Higher’

It takes a special kind of deftness to make a movie where everybody knows the end but is still held riveted, as if any outcome is possible. There are so many moments in Higher that pin you to the chair, breath held, eyes wide, with the kind of anticipation that hurts. It is a beautiful trek through physical and emotional terrain, the kind of quest that makes careers, takes lives, and pushes back on everything that we know about adventure. The scope of this movie is further and deeper than you may have bargained for.  While he is mic’d, Jones gets sloughed off a never before ridden spine in Nepal after multiple scenes endearing viewers to his family. It is brutal, stark and merciless. His dust-it-off-and-get-back-in-the-game mentality returning to the hike at hand is nothing short of heroic. Teton Gravity Research fills in so many blanks about what it means to be a true big mountain rider that there is no way to walk away unmoved, unchanged, or without insane stoke.

Higher does something very unique in the action sports genre. It builds a mission that is virtually impossible to complete, then, in a blink, turns around and makes you see that it is your right to stand at the highest peak in your life, holding the dream of greatness with both hands. This movie offers everyone a way into this place on the edge. It gives a quiet but unmistakable permission to live, to “drink up life.”  These guys exist in a way that shows by example how we are all a bit under gunned in the face of our ambition. The difference between a full life, the joyful kind, and death, is picking a line that challenges you and committing yourself completely to it, heart and soul. That’s what Higher is about, the heaviness of living in the light.

The film was built around boot-powered, never or rarely attempted ascents and descents of the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park, Mt. Timlin in the Eastern Alaska Range, and Shangra La in Nepal’s Khumba Valley. Two of those peaks may seem unfamiliar, and they should. They received their names by the crew, one to honor the fallen and the other in reference to the delights that the summit held. The film is peppered with stories about Jones, his family, and the genesis that would culminate in the Further, Deeper, Higher trilogy. For the final piece in the puzzle Jones tapped an illustrious and fitting team to join him: Ryland Bell, Bryan Iguchi, and Luca Pandolfi, all legends and mountaineers.

Behind the scenes he had the renowned TGR filmers, as well as Jeff Curley and Andrew Miller, ripping snowboarders with serious camera habits. Higher will mean different things to its viewers. Some will hear the call to physically overcome fear, others will understand that it is a reminder to live life as fully as possible.

Planet Jackson Hole Weekly tracked down Jones just long enough for him to answer a few questions about what Higher means to him.

Planet Jackson Hole: What is it that drives you to spend the better part of your life on the edge?

Jeremy Jones: It’s not that I need to go to the super sharp edge to feel good about myself, I do a lot of low-angle riding and feel really good about it. I just see these lines and mountains and they just consume me. What I am doing and when I do it makes sense to me; I am looking at it going, ‘that’s awesome.’ I’m always looking for reasons to turn around but if things look good and feel good, I go for it.

PJH: Higher is the culmination of a very full and groundbreaking body of work. What does that mean to you? What’s next?

Jones: It is overwhelming, but I just focused on one trip at time. I never knew that I was really going to do three films over six years. One film just led into the next. Higher got started when I just got fired up to get into the Tetons, on a whim. Conditions were good, TGR was on board and we did it. Same with Alaska and Nepal – it’s all so present-moment. That makes it difficult from a production point of view but I find that that is how I work the best at this point in my life. The mountains have their days and it needs to come from within.

PJH: Is there a dream peak/project that eludes you?

Jones: My home range [the Sierra Nevada] is what I am most excited about. It’s where I make my decisions. There are a lot of places I’d like to go. I am as excited about snowboarding as I have ever been. What’s really pulled me the most – it’s always come from within – happens in the mountains.

PJH: How do you prepare for a boot-powered trip?

Jones: I get outside consistently no matter what and push myself on the snow. I have no real gym program; I just try to be on snow as much as possible.

PJH: The nonprofit you founded to engage the snow sports community in climate change issues, Protect Our Winters (POW), just participated in the largest climate change march in history. What did you take from that experience?

Jones: [POW] is a rallying point for the winter sports community – those who are on the front lines and share the urgency that we need to do something about climate change. We’ve been able to make progress because of our support but the reality is we still have less than 1 percent of the sports community on board. We are grateful but we need more. Enough is enough.

 PJH: You field a lot of questions. What do you want to tell me?

Jones: I look at Higher as a complete story of what I am, what I believe in, and where I am going.

Jeremy Jones presents ‘Higher’ at 5:30 and 9 p.m, Saturday at the Center for the Arts. $15 tickets, with portions to benefit Protect Our Winters.Purchase tickets at www.jhcenterforthearts.org.

About Josi Stephens

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