“Conquerors of the Useless, That’s what we were.” -Yvon Chouinard.
Yvon Chouinard’s 1968 trip to Patagonia inspired countless others. After reading Climbing Fitz Roy 1968, I was motivated to check out “180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless.” In this movie, Jeff Johnson, surfer-climber, effects a quasi recreation of that 1968 journey.
Johnson catches a ride on a boat to Patagonia, stopping in at Rapa-Nui when the mast on their ketch suffers a freak mishap. Spending a few months surfing and exploring the island, he finally makes it to mainland Chile, where he meets up with some locals and explores the Conservacion Patagonica, vast tracts of land owned by Doug and Kris Tompkins (Doug started The North Face after his 1968 trip to Patagonia with Chouinard).
The Tompkinses and Yvon are all there and the movie veers off from inner journey to a discussion on dams to be built on many of Chile’s biggest rivers. Ultimately, after further exploration, the group disbands, short of their goal of a second ascent of Corcovado.
The movie is relatively deftly made, with scenes from the first trek interspersed with Jeff’s, along with travel montages, and interviews with Yvon, Doug, and locals. The only clunkiness is the insertion of the dam discussion, though in some ways it’s necessary to keep this from being just a travelogue.
I’d heard good things about the soundtrack and, while the music is quite good, seems so interwoven into the video that I can’t imagine listening to it on its own.
My time for road trips is both past and, luckily, in the future. Watching movies like this get me inspired to plan things with my kids – once they’re old enough, traipsing far and wide can be a bigger part of our program.
Other outdoor movies: