I’ll probably never see the summit of Everest. I’ll likely not pilot a wingsuit from the snow-capped peak of the Eiger through the Swiss Alps. And even on my best day will I ever set a speed record climb to the top of Yosemite’s El Capitan. But I can dream, can’t I?
The 2011 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival has begun in Alberta, Canada to give vision to the dream of high alpine adventure. My own aspirations notwithstanding I’m thrilled with the prospects of baring witness to those writers and filmmakers who have transformed their passion into reality. This gathering over 9 days is an much for me a Banff Mountain Dream Festival.
Disappointed college professors may still regret my having taken time off to “play”before starting my PhD program. But 20 years after graduation at the ripe old age of 45 I still find myself awestruck by the grace and beauty of mountain culture. And over the next week I look forward to sharing a few of the many captivating stories that define the modern world of adventure.
Mountain films and books today are no longer the travel logs of millionaires with too much time on their hands. Though still full of heart-stopping adrenaline-charged action scenes adventure movies now bring significantly more value to audiences as a window into a world of possibilities. Infinitely more accessible with off-the-shelf technology from kayaking, mountain biking and climbing equipment to high definition hand-held camera gear adventure media is an interactive genre where artists, athletes and activists share their ideas on how best to push boundaries and bring back incredible stories.
If I had know that my degree in anthropology would allow me to do groundbreaking work like Wade Davis I might have put in the eight years to finish my dissertation. His new book Sacred Headwaters, written in cooperation with the International League of Conservation Photographers, details the effort to save Canada’s Stikine, Skeena, and Nass rivers from the threat of oil drilling and mining. A National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Davis helps to show the beauty and diversity of a landscape that may one day be destroyed in the interests of industrial development. With amazing photographs shot on location the book gives readers the opportunity see and experience this endangered region in the hope that they might be prompted, despite their need for energy resources, to preserve it.
Davis kicked off the opening weekend at Banff along with filmmaker Dianne Whelan. Her movie 40 Days at Base Camprecounts the stories of the many climbers, medics and support staff who occupy the ascent staging area of Mount Everest. Focusing not on the climb itself but rather its social and ecological impact on the surrounding environment Whelan provides an intimate look into the culture of Everest.
“People from every country of the world turn up with the ambition to climb it, so when it comes to what is happening on the mountain – the garbage, the ecological destruction as a result of climate change, the death rate – there can be no finger pointing,” Whelan said to Banff Center blogger Sam Gibbs. “It’s a collective responsibility.”
The images and stories that Banff reveals will likely make each of us think about adventure in a different way. Mountains as metaphor can help us put into perspective the challenges and ambitions of everyday life to provide the motivation to aspire and achieve our highest ideals, our dreams. And though I’ll not see the summit of a Himalayan peak anytime soon my goal is to bring to you the stories of those who have. Hopefully if you are so inspired there is a dream you may realize for yourself. ~JEM
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