the history of the silent solo hiking film (SSH) is rather short. Not even five years old. Yet, with the ascent of Harmen Hoek, have we reached the pinnacle already? Time will tell.
Here are three filmmakers that I think represent distinct eras of SSH.
prehistory: erik normark
In the prehistory or protohistory of SSH, there was (and still is) Erik Normark.
For over 5 years, Erik Normark has been publishing videos exploring nature. He travels slowly and silently, and only the sounds of the forest are audible. The videos convey the calm and spaciousness of the natural world.
For example this one, where here he explores Tjeggelvas in northern Sweden via kayak (click on the image):
ascension: kraig adams
But it wasn’t until 2019 when the SSH “genre” was defined, after Kraig Adams posted several travel documentaries of walking and camping alone for several days in the mountains.
Looking at his YouTube channel, the first SSH video he released was in Iceland, on a four-day hike of nearly 100 kilometers in Hornstrandir. Click on the image below.
(Note: There is an earlier video that takes place in Peru and promised to be the origin of SSH, “Solo Hiking the Choquequirao Trek Peru”, but it unfortunately fails on the “silent” part.)
There are extraordinary videos in Alaska, the Grand Canyon, Peru, and Nepal.
In Kraig’s own words, the idea of filming without opening his mouth was simply to capture things as they are: because when you hike alone, you walk in silence and at a slow pace.
“I want some inspiration and less forced happiness and forced positivity. It just doesn’t really make sense if you’re out there hiking to fake it and make it not what it is. Hiking alone is kinda boring when you think about it.”
apogee: harmen hoek
In 2022 I stumbled upon who I believe has taken SSH films to their maximum expression: Harmen Hoek. And fortunately for all of us, today in February 2023, Hoek’s energy to create documentaries is still intact.
Hoek is the most talented creator, in my opinion. The composition of his scenes, his astrophotography, his time lapses, the use of drones, and the art of silent narration come close to perfection.
On YouTube, someone comments: “This is pure art like music, poetry, writing, and painting, an indescribable connection to the collective soul.”
Here we steal an image from his film Solo Hiking 150km in Los Picos de Europa. Click on the image for an epic trip.
Hoek is also the most tenacious. His expeditions tend to be longer and he often has to endure and prevail against the inclemency of the weather. And not to mention the effort and patience to frame a scene, assemble the filming equipment, and walk back many times miles to film himself…over and over again. It not only is solo hiking, but also solo filming.
We don’t know if we’ve already reached the peak of SSH. We also don’t know if Kraig Adams will regain the lead. It seems unlikely, especially because he has been distracted. He’s no longer single and apparently has been forced to post videos of his wife and daily errands. All very nice, but who cares.
Hoek then survives to be crowned King. Just as the historian Steven Runciman wrote about Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem:
“But Baldwin had bided his time and had snatched at his opportunities. Of them all he had proved himself the ablest, the most patient and the most far-sighted. He had won his reward; and the future was to show that he deserved it. His coronation was a glorious one and a hopeful ending to the story of the First Crusade.”
If you agree or disagree or have any recommendations of other filmmakers of SSH, send me a note to email@example.com or via Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the link to Harmen Hoek’s channel: https://www.youtube.com/@HarmenHoek Here is Steven Runciman’s The Crusades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_History_of_the_Crusades