Audiences at the 2014 Banff Mountain Film Festival cheered loudest for a short feature that was nothing short of painful. SufferFest 2: Desert Alpine starring climbers Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold pulled off a stunning victory to win the Radical Reels People’s Choice Award. By pegging the needle on the ol’ Applause-o-Meter they earned another coveted spot on BMFF World Tour and the enthusiastic delight of an inspired crowd. SufferFest 2 is now available for download at Vimeo-on-Demand.
The second in a series of hilarious adventure films produced and directed by Wright, SF took the Rad Reels prize two years in a row. And in a nod to the new flick’s credibility as a solid mountain movie it also received the award for best climbing film at the 2014 Kendal Mountain Film Festival in the United Kingdom. Wright and Honnold mix their remarkable alpine skills and willingness to take a beating in order to make a wonderfully accessible and compelling narrative of adventure that makes the hard-knock life of rock climbing seem like a lot of fun.
“My ultimate goal is to entertain and maybe even inspire people to get out there and have their own little SufferFest,” Wright said in a phone conversation. “To say that it is accessible is the highest compliment I can get because that’s my intention. Yeah we’re professional climbers but anyone can put together an audacious journey.”
The two buddies made their way by hybrid bicycle through the southwestern states of Colorado and Arizona in order to climb 45 desert spires over the course of three weeks. Under horrendous conditions as they battled loose rocks and raging storms Wright and Honnold slugged it out against the elements. But every step of the way they laughed and joked with one another making the best of a truly bad situation.
“It was about as heinous as it seemed,” Wright said. “We left out things that were really terrible. We biked into 60 mile-an-hour headwinds and it was miserable. I’m actually grateful that we had such bad weather because it really added to the suffering. It was awesome!”
Bicycles add a subtle twist to the story to make their experience just a bit more difficult. Though both Wright and Honnold excel at rock climbing they wanted to expose themselves to an unfamiliar element that would leave them vulnerable and open to a different kind of adventure.
“We’re always looking for new challenges. As much as we love climbing we like new things and getting back to being a beginner,” Wright said. “It’s important that we add something we suck at into the mix.”
Long days in the saddle peddling from one climb to the next they often covered 80 miles or more at a stretch. As they struggle against fatigue and inexperience on the bikes the audience is given a unique view into the personalities of two favorite athletes to reveal elements of these characters they likely have never seen before.
“You’ve seen all these films with Honnold in them, but you never actually got to know the guy. He’s such a character. He’s such a quirky, interesting person,” Wright said. “I just wanted to show our essential selves.”
In a lot of adventure films characters are portrayed not as people but personas. They project an image of the bad ass who preservers against impossible odd. “For me that lacks honesty,” Wright said. “The most entertaining thing to me in life is people and their personalities.”
It’s been said that adversity doesn’t build character but rather reveals it. SufferFest 2 offers viewers the chance to see these climbers they admire as they truly are, tired, dirty, flawed and loving every minute of it. Be on the lookout for SufferFest 3!
Photographs by Samuel Crossley
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