Kroger’s Canteen | Behind the Scenes

Kroger’s Canteen, a short film directed by Dean Leslie and produced by Greg Fell from The African Attachment as part of Salomon’s Running TV, highlights one of the most extreme and famous aid stations found on an organized trail run. Kroger’s Canteen, an aid station on one of the world’s toughest 100 milers, the Hard Rock, is situated on the small exposed ledge of Virginius Pass (think space for about seven adults), roughly 13 000ft high in the Rocky Mountains. Roch Horton, the aid station’s captain, spent ten years running the Hard Rock before taking over Kroger’s and only employs Hard Rock finishers to crew due to the extreme and unpredictable nature of the location and job!

The short film provides insight to the 2014 Kroger’s crew and race, the impact the station has on runner’s (especially when they are expected to take a sip of the mandatory tequila or mezcal the crew provide) and the passion and dedication to trail running that Roch and his team emanate some 13000ft up! Between days filming on location in Switzerland for another Salomon TV show, Dean Leslie found time for a Q&A to help put into perspective what it takes to shoot and make trail films of this extreme stature, why it’s important to share these stories and what it was like to work on such an extreme location!

Dean Leslie Medium Res

Photo | The African Attachment

Trails In Motion Film Festival [TIMFF]: How did you settle on a story like Kroger’s Canteen?

Dean Leslie [DL]: “I wanted to showcase the heart, spirit and values of the trail and mountain running community that is embodied by this special race. The story of Roch Horton and the Kroger's Canteen aid station was the perfect choice of subject to do that. When I first started producing films with Salomon (in 2011), I heard stories about this crazy aid station on an exposed ledge on the Hard Rock route, and I felt like there was something special there, and on meeting Roch I knew that this was a great little story with a powerful and emotive message.”

TIMFF: What goes into setting up the aid station?

DL: “The crew do multiple loads up to the "notch". Roch bases himself out there a week before the race and sets about hauling stuff up. The rest of the crew (including our cinematographer Dale Hunt) began taking up the bulk of the gear on the Thursday (the race starts Friday morning). Roch returned to Silverton for the pre-race briefing on the Thursday, which was the only opportunity for me to film the narrative interview with him. The Kroger’s Team slept at basecamp on the Thursday night before hauling the remainder of the gear and supplies up on the Friday to be ready for the runners on Friday. In short, it’s a week long process involving a lot of back and forths.”

KrogersCanteen Medium Res 3

Photo | The African Attachment

TIMFF: How did you go about shooting and setting up a team?

DL: “Because of the access to Kroger's and the fact that it was our key story element, I needed a team to be able to tell the story of both the race and the aid station. With these types of films a large part of it is planning and filming for the unexpected, so we usually spend a large portion of our shoots getting safe content and only get creative after that, or allow room for creativity in post. For this reason, we needed a minimum of two people to tell the story of both sides of the race, the aid station and the race, and then hopefully bring those stories together when Kilian went through Kroger’s Canteen aid station. So the shoot crew for this was myself and cinematographer Dale Hunt, and Hannah Slezacek was also with us as Producer.”

TIMFF: So Dale shot at Kroger’s, and you followed Killian. How important is it for you both to be physically able and flexible within crews?

DL: “It was a pretty solid climb for Dale. If my memory serves me correctly I think it was around three miles from the base camp, and depending on the loads, the times up can vary. I needed someone that would blend in seamlessly with the crew and Dale was perfect. The line between filmmaker and subject is often blurred on projects like this. Dale is a solid cinematographer and more than competent in adverse conditions so he was a perfect fit. I know Dale hauled gear for them and they also assisted him with camera gear so it was a solid team effort from the get go. He carried his own Canon 5D3 running Magic Lantern and a BMCC with a small selection of lenses and a tripod. I followed the front of the pack trying to keep up with Kilian (Jornet) through a combination of hurtling around the mountains on the various 4x4 tracks and hiking in to spots, so being fit and capable is mandatory for this job”

KrogersCanteen Medium Res 1

Photo | The African Attachment

TIMFF: And the conditions and environment up there for Dale –was that challenging?

DL: “I think in an environment like that everyone is very considerate to each other and that was why it was so important to have the buy in and acceptance from Roch and his crew. There were safety precautions of helmets, crampons and fixed ropes, but largely it is just about being aware and responsible.”

TIMFF: Did you run into any trouble up there, with gear, weather, etc?

DL: “It all went relatively smoothly. The main concern is usually batteries and card space but we had calculated this fairly carefully and when Dale was rolling loose b-roll content we just made sure he dropped resolution to save on data sizes. They were pretty lucky with the weather. A thunderstorm rolled past fairly close which can be hairy as you don’t really want to be caught up that high in those mountains in the middle of an electric storm.”

KrogersCanteen Medium Res 2

Photo | The African Attachment

TIMFF: In the movie Roch says a line, “it’s what the mountains bring to our lives”. What do the mountains bring to your life?

DL: I grew up surfing but being in the mountains so much over the last few years has felt like a natural transition. I was taught to have a respect for the power of the ocean at an early age and the mountains are no different. There is no substitute for experience and what they have given me has largely been new experience which is a wonderful thing. I have been to places and met people I never would have is I hadn't fallen into the world of trail running. It has also expanded my playground in a sense.

TIMFF: And filming – was that love born out of the outdoors too?

DL: ” I love documentary film. You get granted access into the most amazing communities and you get to meet the most wonderful people. With all the intolerance, ignorance and apathy in the world today... Stories, and people, like Roch are important in order to remind us of what is important. I am constantly inspired and uplifted to be a better a human by the people I meet through these films.

TIMFF: Lastly, what sets the Hard Rock apart from other 100 milers?

DL: There are a lot of amazing races out there but I think the Hard Rock 100 is special in that it represents an alternative way or a different way in an ever more commercial world. It's a great model as it seems as if the more the race resists change the more popular it becomes. It almost as if people are craving authenticity and integrity which you can find in abundance at Hard Rock. They have stayed true to their roots and they resist change or progress for the sake thereof, which has created an almost brotherhood of sorts. You can feel it when you are there. It just feels like you are part of something unique and special.


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