Back in Banff!

Up long before dawn this morning for an alpine start. The alarm clock got me up at 3:30 AM with time to spare for a 4:30 check-in at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin. As hurricane Sandy rages along the East Coast I’m grateful to be heading west far into the Canadian Rockies of Alberta.It’s great to be back in Banff!

Technically, the 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival started three days ago. The week-long celebration of the adventure lifestyle is an annual event not to be missed. With flights to Chicago then Calgary I’m psyched to play catch-up the minute I hit the ground. Starting today The Joy Trip Project will be there through the weekend to report on the elegant transition from the end of one mountain movie season to the beginning of the next.

Veteran climber Conrad Anker kicked off the action-packed program on Saturday night with a presentation on his successful summit last year with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk of the Meru Shark’s Fin, a 20,000-foot peak in the Himalaya. The subject of a feature film due out early in 2013 Meru is a modern adventure executed in classic style that sets the pace for an exciting year in film. Anker’s talk was followed by the North American premiere of the new documentary Messner. This story of the first person to climb all of the world’s 8,000 meter peaks reveals the human side of the most accomplished and controversial mountaineers alive today. Unfortunately these are two great programs I’ve missed so far along with National Geographic’s ornithological odyssey Winged Seduction: Bird of Paradise and the live stage performance of Himalaya Song, a narrated multi-media presentation with a film by Mridu Chandra accompanied by composer Ginngger Shankar and jazz pianist Dave Liang.

The thing I love most about Banff is its eclectic mix of art and music to illustrate the excitement and passion behind the spirit of adventure. With advances in digital recording technology and online social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube stories such as Anker’s adventure on Meru unfold in real time as those of us dialed into the feed tune-in and follow along. Events like the Banff Mountain Film Festival gives the audience an opportunity to gather in the real world to share in person our tales through the more traditional media of books, photographs, graphic art, music and of course movies. My role as a journalist and through this blog is to detail the events over the next several days and introduce you to a few of the characters who’ll be there.

I’m very excited to have interviews set up with several of Banff’s presenters. National Geographic Explorer-Residence Wade Davis will be there to discuss his best-selling book Into the Silence, the Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest. Leading environmentalist David Suzuki will lead an on-stage conversation with Dasho Kinley Dorji of Bhutan on the concept of Gross National Happiness. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the only woman to climb all 14 peaks over 8,000 meters without supplemental oxygen will share her career in climbing that culminated with a successful ascent of K2 in 2011. And I’ll also talk with the original dirtbag climber Fred Becky (89) about his book 100 Favorite North American Climbs.

Throughout the week I look forward to connecting with artist and athletes on the cutting edge of adventure. National Geographic will host two seminars for photographers, filmmakers and writers who aspire to become contributors to the prestigious magazine, books, TV programs and other media outlets. On the schedule are several authors like Margo Talbot, a past participant of the Banff Mountain & Wilderness Writing program. She’ll talk about her compelling first book All That Glitters: A Climber’s Journey Through Addiction & Depression, ironically during the Words & Whiskey reading session. And mountain literature experts Harry Vandervlist, Jon Popowich, Bernadette McDonald, Stephen Venables and Geoff Powter will join an interesting discussion on what they think is The Best Mountain Book Ever Written.

I could go on and on, but let’s not forget all the wonderful films that will be presented throughout the week! Among the very best mountain inspired movies of the year these motion pictures will get the new season started in a big a way. But that begs the question, what makes for a truly great outdoor adventure film? I’ve got a few ideas, but I want to hear from you through the week. As you follow along on this blog, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter please share your thoughts. This promises to be another great year at The Banff Mountain Film Festival!

The Joy Trip Project and coverage of the Banff Mountain Film Festival are made possible with the generous support of sponsors Patagonia, Rayovac and the New Belgium Brewing Company


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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.