North of Nightfall sets the (handle)bar higher than ever


North of Nightfall isn’t just a sports documentary — though it may be one of the best in the genre. It’s also an urgent wake-up call to protect the landscapes that make mountain biking possible at all.

The terrain had never been walked, let alone ridden by mountain bike.

The population of Canada’s Axel Heiberg island, located just shy of the north pole, is zero.

It’s not far from where Captain Sir John Franklin led a doomed expedition from England in 1845 aboard two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror — a locale fans of the Dan Simmons novel and the AMC show of the same name know well.

Axel Heiberg is home to almost 2,000 glaciers and, as it turns out, some of the most irresistible big mountain lines in the world.

How’s 2,700 feet sound?

Sounds like three-to-four times the size of normal mountain biking lines.

That’s how this remote island became the setting for Freeride Entertainment and Red Bull Media House’s new sports documentary North of Nightfall, a one-hour-and-change film chronicling the efforts of four professional riders — Darren “The Claw” Berrecloth, Cam Zink, Carson Storch and Tom van Steenbergen — as they set out to see just what a bike could do in this terrain.

And, moreover, just what they could do.

In conjunction with North of Nightfall‘s worldwide release this month, I sat down with Berrecloth — a veteran of the sport — and Storch — a gamechanging up-and-comer — to learn more about their once-in-a-lifetime experience on the island.


Berrecloth, 36, has been leading the charge in the sport of freeride for the last 16 years — and he has almost as many broken bones to show for it.

Born in Parksville, British Columbia, Berrecloth went pro at 20 and became a household name when he placed third at the 2002 Red Bull Rampage, the sport’s invitation-only annual competition, with an impossibly technical line.

Back in those days, Berrecloth was still listed as a BMX biker, the discipline in which he got his start.

“I was always drawn to the mountains,” Berrecloth tells FanSided. “Now, with all this technology with the bikes, we’re able to ride anywhere we want to. The sky’s the limit for our creativity and how far we want to push these bikes. For me, that’s what brought me to mountain biking, the freedom you have. There’s no rules. There’s no right or wrong.

“Well,” he pauses, chuckles. “There’s wrong when you crash.”

“But it’s basically yourself interpreting the landscape any way you want. BMX is all about tricks. Mountain biking, there’s so many facets of it. Dropping in big mountain lines is what we truly love to do most. It’s a dream job.”

On the set, Berrecloth’s veteran experience found its match in Cam Zink, 32, who has been mountain biking since he was nine years old and, in 2013, won best trick at Red Bull Rampage for a 78-foot backflip. This, after a doctor had forbid him from riding.

To round out the team that would film North of Nightfall, Berrecloth and Zink wanted to choose two riders who represented the next generation of freeride. That’s how they landed on van Steenbergen and Storch.

The latter may only be 25 years old, but he’s got an impressive riding resume under his belt already.

Storch earned his first Bike magazine cover at 20 years old in 2013, and the following year, he qualified for finals at Red Bull Rampage and landed in the top 10 of other major competitions such as GoPro Mountain Games, Swatch Prime Line, Red Bull Joyride and Red Bull District Ride.

“It was definitely an honor to be chosen,” Storch tells FanSided. “I came onto the scene in 2010 when I started competing, and [Berrecloth and Zink] were well into their careers. I’ve been following both of them almost my whole life. It’s kind of crazy to think that I’m part of this movie that’s pretty prestigious in our sport.

“The big mountain side of things, I never thought it would be my main goal and focus into the coming years. My first year competing in Red Bull Rampage was 2014, so three years after my first big mountain event I’m part of this film. It’s pretty trippy to think back on.”

With the four riders assembled, it was time to head off to start filming


Blake Jorgenson/Red Bull Content Pool
The landscape during the filming North of Nightfall on Axel Heiberg Island, Canada in July of 2017. /

Axel Heiberg is so remote that it is reachable only by private plane. It’s also, as it turns out, 12 hours (by air) from the nearest hospital — an eyebrow-raising choice for a film chronicling one of the world’s most dangerous extreme sports on terrain that had never before been ridden.

“It’s pretty far out and desolate,” says Storch.

The challenges the island presented the riders were numerous. The terrain, composed of slippery fragments of shale and clay that were ever-shifting under the riders’ bike tires, is unlike anything in either of the bikers’ hometowns in Oregon and British Columbia.

“I’ve ridden shale in Utah, and a lot of the stuff up in the Arctic was clay,” says Storch. “Kind of similar, but definitely its own beast. I’ve never ridden terrain like that. We had to adapt the whole time. It was super fun riding, probably some of the most fun big mountain lines I’ve ever ridden.”

For Berrecloth, the terrain was less a challenge — more so, the sheer size of these big mountain lines.

“Personally, I’ve definitely ridden a lot of terrain that is similar but never as big in terms of the height,” he said.

One of the defining characteristics of North of Nightfall that viewers will notice right away is that the film spends almost as much time panning the landscape and explaining the ecology of the island as it does following the riders’ attempts to conquer the lines and land tricks.

I asked Berrecloth and Storch how the crew balanced what could have been a more traditional montage of extreme tricks with what ends up being a very insightful film about climate change and ecology — and if they worried about alienating an audience, whether it be extreme sports aficionados or traditional documentary consumers.

“The director, Jeremy Grant, put a lot of research into reading books, trying to get enlightened on the history of the island, and had a couple sit-downs with Dr. Laura Thompson,” Storch says.

Thompson is a glaciologist who oversees research on the island to study the glaciers and what climate change is doing to the landscape.

“She helped us learn about the glaciology that she studies,” Storch continued.

“Beforehand we had a good talk with her to learn about what’s going on up there with glacier melt. Being up there, we were able to go over to their research huts and check it out firsthand. That was pretty cool. The film crew and Jeremy really killed it and made it more of a documentary and shed some light on what’s going on up there.”

The riders and crew didn’t set out to do an environmental film with that message, but over time filming, from what they learned and what they saw, “it was almost a shame not to tell people what we saw and what we felt,” Storch said, noting that it came together organically.

“There’s still a lot to be explored in the world.” — Carson Storch

For all four riders, these were some of — if not the — biggest lines they’ve ever ridden in their careers. It begs the question of whether there ever be a line as appealing as these to ride again — not to mention which locations stand out from their other explorations to date.

This is an area in which the 11-year age difference between Berrecloth and Storch actually becomes relevant, contrasting the former’s experience against the latter’s goals.

“Darren has travelled the world and ridden the best desert and big mountain zones and explored the whole world, and I haven’t yet,” says Storch. “Some of the big lines in the arctic [on the island] were the dream; the run-outs were the best that I’ve ever seen. You get the biggest potential with that terrain. As far as exploring, there’s still a lot to be explored in the world.”

And as for Berrecloth? Has he really done all there is to do in his decorated mountain biking career?

“There’s always another mountain out there to be ridden,” he says. “In my career I’ve definitely conquered a lot of my goals, and I’m super stoked to look back at all the amazing places I’ve ridden.”


Blake Jorgenson/Red Bull Content Pool
Cam Zink and Tom van Steenbergen perform while filming North of Nightfall on Axel Heiberg Island, Canada in July of 2017. /

Documentaries — especially adventure sports documentaries — have the unique ability of being able to broadcast something bad is about to happen even when, in the moment, filming, no one could have had any idea.

A little more than halfway through North of Nightfall, when the score turns ominous before van Steenbergen and Zink attempt simultaneous backflips, it’s the first clue that someone’s trick isn’t going to end well.

Given that the filming location was 12 hours from the nearest hospital, if any of the riders had needed trauma care, it could have been a big problem — even a deadly one.

Berrecloth notes that the crew had a helicopter nearby with a medical evacuation system — but even with that, reaching the hospital in 12 hours would have been the best case scenario. The difficulty, he explains, is the weather — it wasn’t always guaranteed, and it changed constantly.

But just because the athletes didn’t need to take advantage of the medevac doesn’t mean the endeavor was spared of any serious injuries.

“My shoulder’s out.” — Cam Zink

During the tense scene, we see van Steenbergen land his backflip and continue down his line…and we quickly realize Zink isn’t going to land his. It’s enough to cause anyone’s palms to get sweaty, even from an armchair.

After van Steenbergen finishes his run, he turns around, triumphant, to celebrate with Zink, only to spot him lying on the ground back on the mountain.

“Oh, f—,” says van Steenbergen.

“My shoulder’s out,” says Zink, matter-of-fact, like this happens all the time.

(Well, actually, it kind of does.)

“We had a doctor there, Dr. Clark, who was able to pop Cameron’s shoulder back in on the spot,” says Berrecloth. “It could have been a lot worse; that was probably the best case scenario. We were in good hands.”

Oh, and, touché to director Jeremy Grant — we get to see Dr. Clark do the honors.

“It’s just going to feel intense for a second as it slides back in,” Dr. Clark says in the film.

We hear the pop, and then…relieved, nervous laughter all around.

“Oh my god. That was disgusting, dude.”

Documentaries, where anything can — and does — happen.


Blake Jorgenson/Red Bull Content Pool
The scenary from the filming North of Nightfall on Axel Heiberg Island, Canada in July of 2017. /

The film shows four mountain bikers having the time of their lives — and Berrecloth and Storch assure me that was the case.

But remember that, in the Arctic Circle, in the summer, the sun never sets. It’s a filmmaker’s dream — but it contributed to a strange sense of the passage of time for the riders.

Did the experience — all the hiking the bike up the mountains, all the falls, all the takes — feel like one brutal continuous day?

“Pretty much, yeah,” Storch laughs.

“It wasn’t brutal — it was a great time,” he clarifies. “But the living conditions were a little rough and sleeping was difficult. But on top of it all, we’re at a place where nobody’s ridden bikes before and the lines and terrain were amazing.

“Sleeping was rough, but it was really cool to realize it’s 4 a.m. and we’re riding nonstop. We had no real sense for what time it was, especially the first week. It was a trip. We didn’t use phones, there was no Internet. I made one satellite phone call. It’s so nice to escape.”

And what an escape it was. Three weeks in uninhabited territory, walking landscapes only ever traversed by an Inuit settlement, the Thule people, 900 years ago.

Berrecloth, Storch, Zink and van Steenbergen encountered animals who had in all likelihood never seen a human before — though everybody gave each other their space.

“It was cool to see the muskoxen,” says Storch. “We didn’t really get too close, but it was amazing to see the life up there. It’s so desolate, traveling so far. It was crazy to see arctic hares and white wolves.”

In all, the crew spotted one polar bear, four Arctic wolves, 10 muskox, 20 beluga whales, two narwhals, and one family of Arctic foxes while filming.

As with other areas in the Arctic, however, the wildlife and glaciers that make Axel Heiberg so incredible aren’t immune from the effects of human life, even if no humans inhabit the island.

The film ends with a sobering message displayed in white text on black background. Among the information presented is that in February 2018, scientists estimate that the North Pole reached temperatures several degrees above freezing.

This year, the Arctic Ocean could set a new record for the smallest amount of winter sea ice ever recorded.

The filmmakers are attempting to educate viewers about Axel Heiberg and the effects of glacial melt at

I asked Berrecloth and Storch how they would respond if I were to say that they and the crew have created what might possibly be the most epic mountain biking footage ever recorded — and while the prospect certainly amped them, they couldn’t stress enough how much of an impact the environment had on them.

“It’s brought out the adventure in me.” — Carson Storch

“I was and am super grateful to be a part of it, and it’s definitely opened my eyes to what’s possible,” says Storch.

“It’s brought out the adventure in me and I just want to do more of it and see more of the world. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s hopefully going to reach out to a mainstream audience as a place that no one’s ever really heard of — it’ll enlighten the world on more of what’s going on up there and the impact our every day life has on a harsh but vulnerable place like the Arctic.”

Adds Berrecloth, “The boys at Freeride Entertainment have always been top-notch in terms of their capability, and they definitely stepped it up for this one and created a visual masterpiece. We’re all pretty stoked that we could create that and have a very interesting message at the same time that organically came to be. It was pretty rad to bring those two elements together.”


Blake Jorgenson/Red Bull Content Pool
Darren Berreloth performs while filming North of Nightfall on Axel Heiberg Island, Canada in July of 2017. /

Now that North of Nightfall has been officially released to the world, all four of the riders will look to pursue their next projects.

“Who knows what’s in store for me?” says Berrecloth, who lives with his wife and two-year-old daughter. As he indicated, there’s always another mountain to explore — but he sure has explored a lot of them in his long mountain biking career.

Storch, meanwhile, is only just getting started– and it’s clear that he’s fallen in love with the filming aspect of the sport.

“Red Bull Rampage is a huge focus for the coming years,” says Storch. “I’m taking a step back from the slopestyle world tour, but I have a few videos and a few movies that I’m working on being a part of. I’m just trying to keep filming and go down that route of making my career all about filming.”

Storch is currently working on a movie with Clay Porter, one of the most talented directors in the action sports film industry. “Freeriding is the pinnacle of where I want to be,” he adds.

For his part, Berrecloth is handling the role of being a torchbearer beautifully.

It’s clear that he couldn’t be more proud of what both Storch and van Steenbergen, the talented movers and shakers in the freeride industry whom he and Zink hand-selected for North of Nightfall, have already accomplished in their young careers.

“There’s this element in the film that talks about bringing up the next generation and handing off the torch,” Berrecloth says. “There’s a lot of discussion of who to bring on trips like this. Carson and Tom were our top picks because they represent the next generation of free mountain riding.

“It’s not like everywhere has this type of terrain. It’s definitely a niche sport within mountain biking. There aren’t a lot of guys out there that are willing to do this, to hike your bike up the mountain.”

And certainly, as freeriders get older and life happens, it can be harder to find the time to disappear to a remote Arctic island for three weeks at a time.

“For Tom and me, it’s a little easier to leave the girlfriend and the parents behind, but Darren and Cam have children and spouses at home, so it’s more difficult for them,” says Storch.

He acknowledges that dropping into the unknown for three weeks was a little heavy, “but probably a little heavier for Darren and Cam, and guys on the film crew, leaving behind families of their own.”

It’s the perfect opportunity to ask Berrecloth how having a child has changed his approach to riding, if at all. It’s something that anyone in extreme sports, whether they’re biking down 2,500 mountains or hiking Everest, has to weigh.

“I always wondered before having kids, is having a child going to change the way I look at riding? After having a kid, I’ll definitely say that you do take things into consideration a little big longer than I normally would,” Berrecloth says thoughtfully.

“When I was younger I’d think, Oh, sweet, I’ll go hit that jump. Now, being older and having injuries under my belt, and now I want to come home and I want to pick my kid up and carry her around.”

And what about for Zink?

“I’ll speak for myself on that, but if I could speak for Cam, it doesn’t seem like it has stopped him one bit whatsoever,” Berrecloth laughs. To wit, Zink is currently trying to set the new world record for the longest backflip.

“For me it was different than for him. So it’s an individual answer to that question and each athlete has a different way of looking at things. Cam says it makes him more motivated to push his limits, and in the back of my head I’m like, Yeah, but, don’t you wanna be around? He’s got this innate ability to push his fears so that they’re nonexistent.”

Berrecloth isn’t going anywhere just yet, but he can consider the torch successfully passed.

“I want to inspire generations to come just like Darren and Cam have for me,” Storch says.

North of Nightfall is a fantastic start. Whether you’re a freeride junkie or uninitiated into the world of action sports, this is something special — an exhilarating, weighty, funny and, above all, absolutely gorgeous window into an extreme sport in an extreme part of the world.

Now out worldwide, North of Nightfall is currently the No. 1 sports movie on iTunes. You can catch it there or buy a digital download — but be sure to run it through your TV, because the footage is too beautiful to watch on a laptop. There are also screenings scheduled across the United States through the summer.

Relish the tricks and the camaraderie between these four riders — but absorb the film’s message about this fragile part of the world. If we want to see the next generation of freeriders get to film in areas like this, we need to make sure they still exist.