“It’s like Utah… but five times bigger.”
In Where the Trail Ends, we saw freeriding’s finest fly around the world searching for the ultimate terrain. Now, five years on, the big mountain cohort has shrunk but the search for a zone outside of Utah continues.
Zink and Berrecloth have been exploring in secret and now are back with a zone they think could be a winner - Axel Heiberg. Named after the brewer who funded the first expedition there, the island is deep within the Arctic circle and pretty much unspoilt by humans. There’s an abundance of the all-important gypsum dirt but it’s also barren, frigid and inhospitable for all but a month in the height of summer - a location that perfectly marries beauty and brutality.
In North of Nightfall, Zink and Berrecloth collar the young hopes of freeriding, Storch and Van Steenbergen, and set off on the three day journey up to the Arctic for a month-long recce of this new promised land.
It’s a Red Bull Media House Production so you know what to expect - crispy HD, sumptuous slow-mo and epic, rousing music. When it comes together it’s stunning. The scale of this place is off the chart and the chutes seem endless. Mixing the classic, big-mountain style with the slope influenced new school works really well too as you see the quartet quickly get to grips with the terrain. With the 24 hour daylight on offer, the riding is around the clock and it feels like a near-constant operation for the time the boys are up there.
North of nightfall gallery
This film doesn’t bombard you with bangers though. It’s far more about appreciating the adventure and the difficulty of what these guys are attempting. There’s possibly ten minutes of free flowing action in this whole film, but you won’t be yearning for more. If anything, the most interesting bits of the film come from the introspection a month in the wilderness brings.
"Zink and Berrecloth seem to genuinely be worried about the future of the sport"
With minimal contact with families, the constant threat of polar bear attack and having to poo in plastic bags, this is no glamorous, all-expenses paid blowout. Three days from the nearest hospital, the talk of injuries and risk vs reward is constant. No spoilers here but in particular there’s a conversation between Zink and Van Steenbergen that is truly fascinating, including a quote from Zink that will make your head spin.
There’s a global warming thread running through the film that does feel crowbarred in though. Yes, it’s important, but is flying four mountain bikers to the Arctic Circle to shred a fragile landscape the best way to convey that message? I’m not sure. It does form a nice parallel with big-mountain freeriding itself though - a delicate ecosystem, gradually being eroded and unlikely to survive unless drastic action is taken. This isn’t us over reaching either, there are times when Zink and Berrecloth seem to genuinely be worried about the future of the sport - again, it’s all fascinating stuff and a totally fresh insight.
In a year that’s ended the drought on long form content, North of Nightfall stands out as something totally original and unique. If you’re after an hour of bangers, look elsewhere but for a chronicling of the most ambitious mountain bike shoot ever, this is where to place your pounds.