Infinite Storm: Is John Based on a Real Hiker?

The drama adventure film ‘Infinite Storm’ is a Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert directorial that takes us on a thrilling escapade to Mount Washington, New Hampshire, following the footsteps of veteran climber Pam Bales. The 2022 film centers around the search and rescue volunteer venturing toward Mount Washington’s summit when a brutal blizzard intercepts her climb. She decides to return down the mountain when she comes across a man named John stranded in the snow.

With courage, selflessness, and determination, Pam takes it upon herself to help John get back down the mountain before anything severe happens to either of them. The film illustrates the iron will of Pam, who never once gives up on the rescue. With an acute display of the overwhelming environmental effects around the two leads, the film doesn’t wander too far from its incidents. This, in turn, could birth a number of queries about Bill Howle’s enigmatic character of John. Spoilers Ahead.

The Real-Life John Has Chosen a Life of Anonymity

‘Infinite Storm’ has been adapted from a 2019 report by Ty Gagne for New Hampshire Union Leader titled ‘High Places: Footprints in the Snow Lead to an Emotional Rescue.’ It retains most of the events from the real-life story that occurred in October 2010. In the film, Pam and John meet, but in reality, that never happened. John, to this day, is still anonymous, and the only reason this story came to light was because of a letter he had sent to the President of The Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team (PVSART). In the letter, he wrote, “I hope this reaches the right group of rescuers. This is hard to do but must try, part of my therapy. I want to remain anonymous, but I was called John.”

John further added, “On Sunday, Oct. 17, I went up my favorite trail, Jewell, to end my life. Weather was to be bad. Thought no one else would be there, I was dressed to go quickly. Next thing I knew this lady was talking to me, changing my clothes, talking to me, giving me food, talking to me, making me warmer, and she just kept talking and calling me John and I let her. Finally learned her name was Pam.” In the film, after the miraculous and determined rescue, John hops into his car and drives off, leaving a confused Pam on the sidelines, wondering what had happened. Later, John meets Pam and describes his pain of losing someone he loved.

He speaks about his unwillingness to live and the overwhelming grief he felt, which led him to do what he did. In reality, the letter John had sent to the search and rescue department didn’t reveal any personal information, but he did mention that he went up the mountain intending not to return. He further recounted, “Conditions were horrible and I said to leave me and get going, but she wouldn’t. Got me up and had me stay right behind her, still talking. I followed, but I did think about running off, she couldn’t see me. But I wanted to only take my life, not anybody else and I think she would’ve tried to find me.”

Many elements in the film were added to make it more dramatically robust, such as Pam falling into a 20-foot deep snow ditch, some other elemental and physical effects giving the impression of frostbite, and a bit of backstory. The reason for adding the backstory and the scene between Pam and John at the end of the film is to resolve the few unanswered questions that remain, but in reality, they are yet to be answered. John opted to be unidentified; thus, we do not even know what his real name is.

Additionally, John’s backstory is shielded from the public eye because of his anonymity. The only bit of information we know about John’s state is from his letter, wherein he mentioned he is seeking help and is in a much better place now, thanking Pam and the people at the rescue organization for his newfound direction. He added, “I am getting help with my mental needs, they will also help me find a job and I have temporary housing. I have a new direction thanks to wonderful people like yourselves.” Due to his anonymity, we presently do not know where John could be.

John’s story may reflect what many individuals feel during hardships. The sense of reaching rock bottom can lead one to think that they do not matter. The fleeting feeling of helplessness in an overburdening world filled with loss, heartbreak, and without meaning is a catalyst for the actions John committed. However, the unwavering support and reprieve of people like Pam can make one push through even the direst of situations, akin to the likes seen in ‘Infinite Storm.’ John continued in the letter, writing, “Maybe I wasn’t meant to die yet, I somehow still mattered in life.”

Bales expressed her appreciation of John and his words and was moved to hear he felt “mattered” after what they had been through in the icy wilderness. Her genuine act of selflessness saved more than just one soul, as it inspired and touched the lives of many others. Towards the end of the article, author Gagne discussed his own interpretation of John’s anonymity, writing, “Some people have asked me if I tried to find John. The thought of searching for him felt wrong. As I’ve reflected more on this story and its relation to the issue of mental health, my response to the question about finding John has evolved. I have, in fact, found John, and he is very close by me. John is my neighbor, he is my good friend, a close colleague, a family member. John could be me.”

Read More: Pam Bales: Where is Infinite Storm Hiker Now?