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A Taste Of The Journey

Behind the Story of Sidetracked Filming in Chamonix
Jamie Bunchuk

There’s a particular moment just at the end of any adventure spent amongst friends. That ill-at-ease morning where you wake up bleary-eyed, stumbling down the stairs with your head throbbing gently, if persistently, from the avarice and excess of the evening just gone by. Your comrades – who it seemed a mere second ago were joking and dancing all around you, right across the small hours of the night – suddenly become their professional selves again, having to catch transfers back to a variety of different countries. Then, without quite comprehending how quickly it all came about, you’re left on your own in an empty house; the journey having ended but yourself still there, wandering through quiet rooms where you’d been laughing so unreservedly only a few hours previously. It’s all enough to make one feel quite melancholy, but then I guess that’s a good thing. After all, how sad one feels at the story’s conclusion surely must serve as some sort of yardstick for how interesting and enjoyable the tale had been in the first place.


Sidetracked was recently out in Chamonix, filming for one of our new and bespoke programs for Sidetracked TV: a wild cooking show, starring our very own tastebud-exploding outdoor chef Kieran Creevy. Those of you who are regularly followers of the site and the magazine will already know of Kieran’s formidable culinary talent through the feature series we’ve run on his amazing cuisine before, beautifully photographed by the ever-charming Claire Burge, who was also out with us. Along for the ride were the talented Sophie Nicholson and Duncan McCallum, the Alps’ most extreme Scottish couple, Sidetracked founder John Summerton, Myles Judd – our development producer for Sidetracked TV – and finally, myself. It was the first time we’d all congregated in the same place, the trip being part of the continually-advancing direction of Sidetracked and our aim of communicating stories of adventure through ever more exciting ways and means.

I’m not going to say a word about what we were cooking and how. No, sorry, not a peep; you’ll have to stay tuned for that article when it appears in Sidetracked Volume Two or when the online TV program is released at the same time. But what I can tell you about is the story behind our filming, because recording an adventure-related video feature is not something I’ve ever had any personal knowledge of before and I can quite truthfully say it was a magnificently interesting experience, one that yielded a myriad of truly weird and wonderful moments. So, without much further ado, here are some lessons learned from our first foray into expanding down a fresh and wonderful new direction for Sidetracked:

Airports in Amsterdam are damn strict

Even if every other EU country lets through your South African friend because she’s married to a British citizen, the good ol’ border patrol at Schiphol International are not so easily swayed. Apparently they’re really sick into their immigration law because, even though you’re only transferring through their country, these guys are quite willing to throw you in detention for over 24 hours regardless. Added to that, the confluences of fate demanded that the delayed flight they finally put our Claire on was so turbulent that she was nearly travelling sideways, covered in the sick of the queasy passenger seated next to her. If that wasn’t enough, the airline then lost all her luggage; no wonder our photographer looked so worn out when she finally made it to Cham at one o’clock in the morning, without any of her kit and smelling vaguely of the contents of somebody else’s stomach, poor girl. Despite all of this, Claire was up and ready for our first day’s shoot at six o’clock that next morning, without any of the previous 48 hours seemingly dampening her enthusiasm and excitement for the hard work that lay ahead.

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Don’t take up firewood to a forest

Seriously, there’s enough wood up there without you hauling a backpack-load of logs up steep and rocky trail for the best part of three hours, just to get to the right spot to start a fire. In fact, you can’t see the wood for the trees, so think sensibly before packing. Likewise, if you intend to shoot a scene about how you’re going to decorate the foraged feast with a selection of beautiful white alpine flowers, then make sure you don’t discard the bloody things as soon as the camera’s stopped rolling. We did just this and it necessitated John, our Executive Producer and Runner, to hoof it back down the path for half an hour just to find them again. A lot of unnecessary marching that could have been easily avoided if we hadn’t been so careless!

Please note, no fires are allowed in the Chamonix valley itself, so go someplace else like we did unless you fancy a helicopter filled with angry French mountain police dropping onto your little camp as soon as the first wafts of smoke go up.

Continuity rules

If you’re going to be shooting a number of sequences over a series of days, then you best make sure your team’s clothing is all in order. Gloves, hats, T-shirts, superlight jackets, nano-puffs and mega-puffs, the lot has to go back on and it doesn’t matter how sticky and sweaty and filthy they got the day before; you’re just going to have to tough that awful smell out. Because if the apparel starts swapping about, people watching the program are going to begin to wonder just how much of a diva you must be that you need four changes in costume just to get through a single day’s hiking.

Gear reviews are best done in under two minutes

Nobody likes to listen to a person ramble on and on and on about the smooth action of a YKK zipper and the fully adjustable toggle system on the latest piece of kit they’re probably not going to buy anyhow. So if you’re going to be critiquing adventure gear like us, it’s probably best practice to keep the video reviews short and punchy, covering the facts, the pros and the cons as succinctly as possible. If you can do them in the snow at 2000m with a backdrop of some of the most recognisable mountains in the world, then that definitely helps.

And Lastly…

The best celebration for a shoot well wrapped up is – without a doubt – concluding with a veritable feast drowned down by a crate of beer, a snifter of whiskey, followed on with an impromptu fashion parade of all the kit you’d been reviewing. If you can add all this to the soundtrack of Nina Simone’s ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.’ then you’re really onto a winner. Just try not to make too much of a mess ahead of an early morning flight, otherwise you’ll be washing dishes at 2am like some of our angelic crew ended up doing, bless them.

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So there you have it, Sidetracked is branching out, with a thrust into the moving image and ever new and interesting ways of sharing stories of adventure with you. We’ve still got a long way to go yet, but judging by the amount of imitation sites that are now springing up all around us, we think we’re on the right path. We love our job, we’ve become a close and utterly devoted team who love adventure and our passion will always be to communicate – in the most innovative and comprehensive ways possible – those amazing stories people continue to share with us, and to always push the limits of beautiful storytelling. I can only hope you’ve taken a slight interest in this little bumbling tale of how we’re going about all this. However one thing’s for sure, it’s your moments, your journeys – not ours – that are the ones that truly inspire people through the site, the magazine and TV. Please keep telling us all about them; everyone here at Sidetracked will be reading eagerly.

Thanks, Jamie


Thanks to Patagonia for the use of their fantastic chalet in Chamonix, and for their support in making this shoot a reality. Thanks also to Lyon Equipment, Mountain Hardwear, Black Diamond and Lowepro being our equipment partners.

Look out for more the reviews, further behind-the-scenes photos and videos and of course our finished cooking wild adventure on Sidetracked soon.


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