Trek coloured by northern wilderness

Vancouver filmmakers documented 10-day expedition in Talhtan territory

To witness the jagged red ridges, dense Alpine forests and glaciers Mike and Chantal Schauch have traversed, you would have to fly to Terrace or Smithers, drive eight hours north, take a float plane into the Sacred Headwaters region and then hike with your only means of survival on your back.

To allow people to share in that experience, the Schauchs documented their expedition and are raising money to complete their film Colours of Edziza through an Indiegogo campaign. They have until Dec. 10 to reach their goal of $25,000. As of Thursday morning they had nearly $12,000 to go.

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Climbing the Himalayas in 2012, the Schauchs saw no area there had been untouched by humans.

That got the couple wondering about the Tahltan First Nations territory in Northern B.C., with so much talk about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, Site C dam and fracking in northeastern B.C.

Mike, a finance executive and mountaineer of 17 years, and Chantal, a social entrepreneur and brand strategist, travelled to the region in 2013 and hiked with Curtis Rattray of the Tahltan.

Their fireside conversations spanned economics, geopolitics, business, resource development and leadership.

“And we started to think, who is this guy?” Mike said.

It turns out Rattray was a former president of the Tahltan Central Council and led negotiations on mining proposals and revenue sharing. Mike said Rattray holds a degree from the University of Victoria in political science and environmental studies, had hoped to create change through politics, but hit roadblocks.

The Schauchs suggested they make a film together to reach a broader audience and stimulate discussions about the value of the land.

The Schauchs had previously documented their Nepal trip with a film called Beyond the Gates of Phu that screened at festivals including the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.

The Schauchs, Rattray, up-and-coming Tahltan artist Tamara Skubovius and Bodean Williams, an 18-year-old Tahltan youth, traversed 110 kilometres of pristine land in August, route-finding and bushwhacking. They gained 22,000 vertical feet, crossed nine ridges and valleys and forded dozens of glacial rivers while carrying 65-pound backpacks on a 10-day expedition. A film director and cinematographer and a photographer rounded out their team, which was intentionally multicultural and multigenerational. It was an intensely personal journey for Skubovius who hadn’t walked on this section of the territory where his great uncle and cousin perished in an avalanche.

Navigating the flame-hued Spectrum Range and the sooty stratovolcano Mount Edziza was “visually spectacular,” according to Mike.

It was also rich with minerals, something Colours of Edziza underscores.

“There’s a disconnect from the natural land in the way we live our lives,” Mike said. “We as a society have lost touch with value of things. For example, I’ll pay $2 for a bottle of water and that’s the face value of it. But how do you put value on a stream that has been heavily mineralized by volcanic minerals that have been created over billions of years?”

While it highlights a need to respect the land, Colours of Edziza ultimately shares what the Schauchs call an urgent message: that we must respect the land by respecting ourselves and each other.

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