Epic documentary follows climbers inspired by explorer-photographer Brad Washburn

The Sanctity of Space Documentary
(Image credit: The Sanctity of Space - Dogwoof)

The Sanctity of Space is a new documentary from Dogwoof – a London-based production company responsible for Oscar- and BAFTA-winning film Free Solo, and BAFTA-winning documentaries The Act of Killing and Blackfish

Inspired by the black-and-white photos of American explorer and photographer, Brad Washburn, professional climbers Freddie Wilkinson, Renan Ozturk and Zack Smith attempt to traverse the Denali National Parks uncharted territory The Tooth Traverse – a series of summits including Sugar Tooth, Bear Tooth and Moose's Tooth, which has never been attempted in one go. 

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Known as one of the greatest aerial mountain photographers of all time, Brad Washburn’s work documenting unmapped mountain ranges has helped to outline routes and ascend summits for the first time. Motivated by the photographs and adventures of Washburn found at a ranger station in Talkeetna, Alaska, the climbers set out to climb The Tooth Traverse. 

Despite the Denali National Park mountain range having a relatively low elevation, the climb itself along The Tooth Traverse is extremely demanding and requires highly skilled mountaineers to take on the challenge. The Moose's Tooth is the centerpiece of the Ruth Gorge and is situated on the east side. Competing with avalanches, rockfall and rising temperatures, Wilkinson, Ozturk and Smith were faced with several tough decisions as they endeavored to be the first to complete this unattempted climb. 

The documentary includes a range of beautiful aerial helicopter shots showing the vastness of mountain ranges, self-filmed video diaries from recent adventures as well as audio, photos and videos from Brad Washburn’s expeditions. The mix of archival footage and modern-day recordings just goes to show how advanced and important the work of Washburn was, because more than 80 years on his photos and maps are still being used as a source of inspiration for new expeditions. 

This nail-biting tale of drive, survival and the need for adventure includes life-affirming highs through summit achievements, and devastating lows through the loss of and injury to friends in what is a dangerous and unpredictable environment. The Sanctity of Space reminds us what it is to be human – of how small we are but how big the things are we can achieve, when we put our minds to it. It documents heartbreaking decisions and necessary considerations that are made when planning to climb such a challenging route.

It might not have the same heart-racing moments as in Touching the Void, but what it lacks in tension it makes up for in the climbers' passion and Washburn’s outlook on the importance of inspiring others to challenge themselves. 

In an hour and 40 minutes, directors and climbers Wilkinson and Ozturk manage to summarize the mental and physical strength required to even contemplate taking on The Tooth Traverse while also delving into the sacrifices they’ve made to keep their passion alive. It’s an incredibly enjoyable, insightful watch that would appeal to anyone who has a sense of adventure, a love for photography or adoration for the vastness of mountain regions. 

The Sanctity of Space was released in the US and Canada in October 2021, but it's set to be released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on 04 March 2022. For more information and to watch it on demand, visit the official website.

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.