Living in Los Angeles the past 15 years, the mental picture of home for Jonathan Perkins has included a scar on the mountain.
"Like a zipper," he said of the Manitou Incline, the grueling stretch of railroad ties gaining 2,000 feet in less than a mile.
The filmmaker and 1998 Coronado High School graduate had always wanted to feature the iconic trail somehow. On a visit home last December, he found his subject.
Greg Cummings was on his way to a record 1,825 ascents on the Incline in 365 days. In January, the finish came with another head-turning claim: a total 3.65 million vertical feet gained in a calendar year.
The endeavor is chronicled in the 10-minute documentary "Incline," premiering Oct. 23 at Denver Film Festival, which is hosting virtual screenings this year.
"There's no better place to showcase it," Perkins said. "Because it really is a Colorado film."
It'll resonate with the Incline's bustling fan base; Perkins captures Cummings alone on the snow-covered steps, with wide, soaring aerial footage of the sparkling forest and Pikes Peak beyond. Perkins expects it'll resonate, too, with viewers unfamiliar with the fitness challenge.
"It's not necessarily (about) the accomplishment, but about the battles we all have to go through," Perkins said. "I think that's the universal thing that connects us all."
He found something allegorical about Cummings' pursuit — a man using the mountain to overcome his long battle with Type 1 diabetes.
"Incline" begins in the morning dark at Cummings' home. He straps on the gear that came to be recognizable during his long hours on the trail, averaging five ascents a day. Cummings, 62, gets ready while narrating his previous plans to climb the world's highest summits.
"But when I found out I had diabetes, it was just a major hit," he says. "It just changed my whole life."
He explains "the beastliness" of the disease on the Incline. On the way up and down, Cummings constantly checks his blood glucose levels. Too high or too low, and the results could've been fatal. The mission "took a toll" on his relationships as well, Cummings explains.
It was a passion project for him, as the film was for Perkins.
"What an honor to get to tell other people what the Incline is," he said. "Especially when it's centered around this location where a world record gets set."
Book a viewing of the film here: https://bit.ly/3iIjk0X