“I’m drawn to open country. It’s where everything becomes clear. Where the world makes the most sense” -Jeff Johnson
First released in 2010, 180 South tells the story of surfer and climber Jeff Johnson as he embarks on a sailing journey to Patagonia to recreate the 1968 journey to Corcovado of Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face.
Jeff encounters sea sickness, a broken mast, weeks on Easter Island, and the city of Santiago, finally arriving at one of the largest land conservation projects in the world, Conservacion Patagonica. At 2 million acres, it’s larger than the size of Yellowstone National Park. It has been decades in the making, through the perseverance of Doug and his wife, Kris, workers and volunteers resulting in the preservation of entire ecosystems in Argentina and Chile. (Sadly, Doug Tompkins died in 2015 in a kayaking accident in Patagonia.)
When they finally arrive at Corcovado, Jeff’s worries are realized, there is no ice left on the summit, with only crumbling rock. Yvon declines to go up, and the rest of the team pushes on. Jeff states,”We are unsafe here at best.” Exhausted and frustrated, climber Timmy O’Neill remarks, “It seems literally like the next pitch above me is the worst unconsolidated nightmare I’ve ever seen.” Will they summit? I let you find out what happens next… (don’t just Google it, watch the movie)
180 South is not a flashy outdoor adventure movie. It’s thoughtful and engaging, and hones in on the environment. It brings to our attention what happened to the society at Easter Island along with the ravaging of Chile: by commercial fishing giants stripping the coast of fish, pulp mills destroying the environment, and 6 hydro-electric dams in the planning. Finally after Corcovado, Jeff spends his last few days working to help restore the Patagonia area to wildlife, as gauchos there fight an impending hydro-electric dam. (Update: Remarkably the dam and 5 others were cancelled due to the controversy)
All in all, a must-see movie for people driven by wanderlust and a love of history, hikers, climbers, surfers, horseback riders, environmentalists, and anyone with a passion for the outdoors.
PS. The music is stirring and perfectly selected throughout the film. I especially love the use of Andrew Bird’s Tenuousness and Vetiver’s Rolling Sea, and songs by Wilco, Mason Jennings, Modest Mouse, and Ugly Casanova.
For more info go to: conservacionpatagonica.org