Anne-Marie Flammersfeld is considered the fastest desert woman on the planet. She broke all the records in 2012 by running 1000km in the 4 Desserts competition - Atacama, Gobi, Sahara, Antarctica - everything in one year. Then she came up with this new project, to run from the lowest point in Switzerland (Ascona 193m) to the highest point (Dufourspitz 4634m), all in 5 days. A total distance of 220km with 9500m of vertical altitude. As if this was not enough, we decided to film the venture and that meant going with her.
For this mission I had to try and get fit in 3 weeks. I am normally not an unfit person, but compared to Anne-Marie, I am a fat guy. Therefore an intense fitness training program started. It contained of running, swimming, biking, push-ups, sit-ups and all sorts of back exercises. There was not a day in the 3 weeks that I did not feel pain and some form of complaint about a new pain somewhere in my body. It's astonishing what you can achieve in 3 weeks if you really put your mind to it.
Running and filming is a skill that takes years to master. I knew that this was not going to be my strong point and therefore I hired renowned running filmmaker Andrew King from South Africa. I was impressed with the way he could keep up with the top runners. Especially when you see the camera point of view slowly circling around the runner while they are at full speed down some sketchy little path. Andrew were super keen to jump on board and was up for the Alp challenge. What started out to be a cool little project turned into a monster.
Anne-Marie started in Ascona and Andrew and myself had our hands full to keep up with the desert queen. I was shooting on the Red Epic and needed to do a basic assembly every time I wanted to shoot. It was all about building some distance between Anne-Marie and lining it up with something visually interesting. Then jump off the bike, assemble the Epic, get the shot, pack everything back in the 28kg backpack and speeding across to catch up with Anne.
Andrew focused on running with a small Stedicam Merlin, Nikon 800 and a 24-70mm lens. Just fantastic the results that he got running with her through the Alps. One thing is sure.. there is no way anything can prepare you for this adventure. All the training in the world cannot prepare you for the heavy equipment, the long days and short sleeps. From the 35+ humid Ascona to the freezing temperature on the ice Glacier. As a total inexperienced mountaineer it was the first time I had a pair of proper hiking boots on my feet. Wearing crampons I now know what it must be like for women to wear high heels. But all of these are minor. More than anything, nothing could prepare you for Anne-Marie Flammersfeld. I don't think I know any man who can keep up with her. She is by far the strongest person I know. One example. . . as we tracked cross the Glacier at 4500 meter altitude struggling to breathe as the heavy backpack is dragging the last bit of energy out of me, Anne-Marie was talking nonstop, like a chatterbox, to one of our mountain guides as if she was at a tea party in Hyde Park. I could not even take a sip of water without getting the feeling that I would get sick. It's definitely a humbling experience.
After 5 hardcore days, Anne-Marie reached the summit. Andrew and I had the privilege to circle around the summit with an adrenaline junky CEO Gerold Biner from Air Zermatt. Was just magic hanging out the heli while Anne-Marie was making the last 100 meter to the top. We have such good material that I am hoping to take this project further and eventually to showcase it in cinemas around the globe. Thanks very much to a
huge team of people for making it happen.
For more on Anne-Marie Flammersfeld visit her blog at http://annemarieflammersfeld.blogspot.ch/
For the best running filmmaker that I know visit Andrew King at https://vimeo.com/d4productions