A few days before his disappearance while on expedition in China, climber and filmmaker Jonny Copp wrote a poem he called Border Country. Rich with vivid imagery of a headlong journey into an uncertain future the lyric may well have foreshadowed the tragic avalanche that claimed his life and those of friends Micah Dash and Wade Johnson.
A new film of the same title produced by multi-media artist and fellow climber Jeremy Collins pays tribute to his fallen comrades in a style well suited to the way in which they lived their lives. Border Country draws upon the complete spectrum of audio/visual tools to excellent affect coupled with the skilled application of mountaineering technique. With Collins’ handcrafted illustrations and music by Brad Barr, Oriole Post and Rue Royale the film is a requiem that doesn’t memorialize so much as celebrate those who live to climb.
Video footage records the creation of a new route set on Middle Cathedral in Yosemite. Though often overlooked in the limelight of better-known El Capitan across the valley, this high granite wall posed a new challenge. Collins joined partner Mikey Schaefer to ascend the 2,000-foot granite cliff to the summit with no idea of what to expect.
“This is the way we chose to do it,” Collins said. “The way Jonny and Micah do it, just starting from the ground and going up and seeing what happens.”
It was through the course of their ongoing route setting project that Jonny Micah and Wade perished in China. Casting aside previous failures and all doubt Collins and Schaefer rallied to give their climb a solid push forward to its completion.
“We knew we had to finish our route. And now the vision was clear,” Collins said. “We had to finish the route in their memory.”
On the summit Collins and Schaefer scattered a handful of Jonny Copp’s ashes, casting them out into the wind. In a sea of granite they ascended a new route as unique and inspiring as their lost friend. “Here we were on this huge wall in Yosemite that no one had climbed on really,” Schaefer said. “It was just hard enough for us and just hard enough to be worthy of a modern classic.”
They called the new route Border Country.
By Jonny Copp
Here it comes to take me down, take me down with a thunderin’ sound.
Here she comes with arms spread wide, calling me back from border country.
Inch by inch, step by step, shadows are runnin’ in both directions.
Cowerin’ down from the echoing sounds bring us face to face.
Tighten my boots, make a run, turn to see that my thoughts untied,
standing still in the blazing sun, nowhere to hide in Border Country.
Grabbin’ at the earth, holding on tight, wishin’ for my momma and my sweetheart’s delight.
Pull out a pennywhistle, let the old man dance, buying my ticket outta border country.
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