‘Infinite Storm’ True Story, Explained: Who Is Pam Bales? Where Is She Now?


Infinite Storm is the story of a woman named Pam Bales who showed kindness and courage when it mattered the most and told society that sometimes it is necessary to be selfless and do things for others. Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska and Michelle Englert, the film is based on absolutely true events that happened on October 17, 2010. Obviously, a few creative liberties have been taken by the makers to dramatize the narrative, but the horrifying developments of that day are not tampered with, and the screenplay remains true to the facts. Naomi Watts plays Pam Bales, and she does an excellent job of bringing out the various conflicting emotions that Pam would have felt when she was stuck in that perilous situation. Pam had hiked on the Jewell Trail in New Hampshire a lot of times before, and she was well aware of the terrain.

Pam worked as a nurse and was also a part of the Pemigewasset Search and Rescue Team, which guided the mountaineers coming to hike in that area. As shown in Infinite Storm, Pam knew that the weather was going to get worse, but she still went for a hike. Somewhere, the grief that was subdued inside her core became the driving force, and though she didn’t intend to hurt herself in any manner, she wasn’t scared of death. As shown in the film, Pam had lost two daughters in an accident, and she was never able to get over the loss. The thought that she could have done something different to save them often haunted her, and Pam blamed herself for that accident though in reality, she couldn’t have done anything about it.

For Pam, staying around nature was in itself very therapeutic, and often when days seemed dark, and it felt like there was no hope left, she used to climb the white mountains so that she realized that life was a gift that shouldn’t be wasted. On October 17, 2010, she found another man who was probably going through a similar situation, but unlike Pam, he had lost the will to live. That man had surrendered to his circumstances, and he felt that instead of bearing the pain and grief, it was better to end one’s life. When we watched Infinite Storm, we felt the part where Pam notices sneaker footprints couldn’t have been true, as who would be foolish enough to come so unprepared on a mountaintop when the weather was so bad? But we realized that it had actually happened in real life, and even Pam was shocked when she first noticed them during her hike.

Pam called him John, as the man never told her his name, and even after his story came out in the public, he decided to keep his identity anonymous. Pam had to really convince the guy to come down with her, and more than once, he tried running or asking Pam to leave him to his fate. At that point, Pam had no clue what he was going through in his life, though she sensed that he was suffering from depression and had suicidal tendencies. Pam always had a contingency plan in place, which is why she was carrying an extra pair of clothes and socks, which she gave to John. If she hadn’t had those extra pairs, John would have definitely died because he didn’t have anything warm on his body. According to our research, we came to know that John’s ankle was severely bruised in real life as well. He was barely able to walk, and Pam had to lift him on her shoulders for most of the journey.

Pam was resilient, and no matter how hard it got, she made sure that she didn’t leave John behind. There comes a time in situations like these when the thought of leaving the person behind always crosses the mind of the rescuers, and because it is one of the most common internal conflicts experienced, the rescuers are also given training so that they know what is the right thing to do. It becomes a choice between morality and survival, as it is not easy to leave someone behind knowing that you are their only hope. Pam had seen death very closely; she had been traumatized by it for a prolonged period of time, but she was not going to let it dictate terms now. The part where Pam asks John to sing a song towards the end of Infinite Storm actually happened in real life. She wanted him to stay awake and not lose consciousness. She knew that if he fainted, it would be impossible for her to drag him. John did get irritated at times and started acting out as if he were hallucinating, but Pam was stubborn, and she had made up her mind that she was not going to let him waste his life when there was so much more that he could do.

Pam made sure that John came back safely, though she accepted that he was quite lucky to have survived the excruciating cold and even after so many injuries, it was a miracle that he was able to stand on his own two feet. John was embarrassed, as he later revealed in a letter he sent to tell the world about the heroics of the brave women he met in New Hampshire. He did run away in his car and abstained from reaching out to her for a long time. The real-life John started taking therapy after that, and he felt the need to tell everybody how the acts of a brave and compassionate woman gave him the will to fight again and see the silver lining amidst all the chaos.

Pam Bales left New Hampshire at the age of 67 and currently, she volunteers to patrol the national parks located in the western part of the United States of America. Pam realized that life had to move on, and she went on to raise four beautiful children. Pam and John found hope in the most unlikely place and time, and the encounter changed their perspective on life. They realized maybe it is not easy, but still, one needs to cherish every moment here as you never know how long this beautiful journey is going to last.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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