Choosing To Live (Film)
Salsa’s new short film, Choosing To Live, follows Sarah Hornby’s bikepacking journey through the Canadian Rockies as a way to connect to her late husband’s greatest passion. As she pedaled, her story transformed. Watch the full film here, followed by an interview with Sarah to learn more about the project…
Salsa’s latest short film, Choosing To Live, follows Sarah Hornby’s powerful journey of bikepacking 10 different routes that her late husband researched for his Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies guidebook. From sadness and loss to a profound celebration of his life and her own unique journey, she was choosing to live.
Choosing To Live was produced and directed by Jeff Bartlett (Jeff Bartlett Media) and Matthew Clark (Stirl and Rae Media Haus), with music by Kevin Horton. Watch the film below, followed by photos and a Q&A with Sarah.
I’ve really felt him here. In the mountain views we’ve shared, the passes we’ve climbed, and the same characters we’ve met along the way.
What sparked the idea to work with Salsa on this project?
It was actually photographer/filmmaker Jeff Bartlett’s idea. Knowing I was planning to ride Ryan’s guidebook routes, Jeff had approached me about making a film. When he got Salsa’s support on the project, we were both really excited! We couldn’t have dreamed of a better partner to be involved – from Salsa’s values to their bikes to the people behind the scenes – and I wouldn’t have wanted to share this deeply personal journey with any other company. Not only did Salsa’s involvement allow me to enjoy these rides on the seat of some beautiful dream bikes, but working on the film and blogging about my adventures also gave me a chance to really reflect upon the experience of retracing Ryan’s routes. This came at a time when I was trying to find a way to honour Ryan’s life while also moving forward with my own. With the right people involved, this project really helped me do that. I am very thankful for Salsa’s support, and to Matt and Jeff for capturing such a meaningful time in my life.
Ryan was an ultra-endurance athlete; did his routes reflect that level of difficulty?
I’d say so! In fact, the lack of “easy” was an ongoing joke with my friends as we rode the routes. Whether in terms of the mileage travelled per day or the sort of terrain covered, Ryan wasn’t phased by a challenge and that was definitely reflected in his routes. I don’t think he purposely set out to make these routes particularly challenging – he categorized them as Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced – but his years of ultra-endurance riding and racing naturally caused him to set the bar high for himself and others. He would often say, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun” and was of the mindset that you just do what you have to do to get from A to B, whether that meant hike-a-biking for hours, bushwhacking through overgrown trails, or pushing on through a very long day. A little suffering was just part of the process and not something he steered clear of.
Having said that, one liberty I took in editing Ryan’s book with his publisher was omitting any reference to Beginner routes to more accurately reflect the challenge of them.
Which route was your favourite?
In terms of beauty and scenery, my favourite route was one that travelled through the Castle-Waterton region, an area of Southern Alberta that skirts the US border near Glacier National Park. Though only a few hours from my home, it was an area I hadn’t explored much. I was blown away by its beauty and surprising diversity, from big mountains to panoramic prairies. The route itself is mostly gravel with some nice long climbs that lead to expansive views, made all the more magical by the peak autumn colours of our September ride. Some areas also felt really mysterious, with its scarred landscape from massive wildfires that had burned through in the two summers prior.
Each route was beautiful in its own way, but it really was the company and memories forged with friends that made these rides so great. We had so much fun, a ton of laughs, and I made some new riding buddies who I can’t wait to adventure with again. That said, I also really cherished a ride I did solo, so I guess each route holds a special place in my heart.
Were there any big “aha” moments when you were learning about bikepacking?
Instead of a big “aha” moment, I think it was more like a series of small “ahas.” Though I hadn’t done much bikepacking leading up to this project (only a couple of overnighters) I had been exposed to the bikepacking world for quite some time. Ryan first did the Tour Divide in 2012 and from that point on, bikepacking was a huge part of his life, and consequently, mine too. I had also completed a solo thru-hike the summer before these rides, which taught me a lot about gear, planning, and traveling light. This really helped me prepare for my rides.
More of what I learned was about Ryan. In some ways, by experiencing bikepacking through the routes he created, I feel that I can relate to and understand him more now. Of course, I also learned a lot about myself, the kind of riding I enjoy most, and what skills I need to develop more.
What makes the Canadian Rockies so special for you?
Their beauty. The area is so grand. Each area within the Canadian Rockies is unique and the opportunity for adventure is endless.
Tell us a bit more about the guidebook and where people can find it.
Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies includes ten ambitious routes in the mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, complete with directional cues, maps, a Bikepacking 101 section, rich photography, and some personal stories from Ryan. He started the book in 2016 shortly after we moved to the mountains, and worked really hard on it that year and into 2017. Ryan was diagnosed with cancer just as he was finishing up his scouting missions for the routes, but was able to complete the guidebook shortly before he passed in 2018. Together with the publisher Rocky Mountain Books, we are working to get the book out this summer. It will be available at Bikepack.ca, as well as in local bookshops and online retailers.
Any big plans for this summer?
Well, like most of us, I had lots! But, with the pandemic, time will tell. I have a few missing pieces from the guidebook routes that I was hoping to ride this summer, and I’d still like to do that whenever the world opens up again. That said, I’d be happy just to get out for some longer day rides and overnighters in and around Canmore if that’s all that’s possible this year!
In loving memory of Ryan Correy.