Mountainfilm Blogs: March 2012

Cows, Conflict, dZi: Update from Nepal

The Awareness into Action series of blog posts originated in 2011 as a way to document ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. We began by following a pair of Mountainfilm in Telluride staffers through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible in Ghana. Now the series continues as we follow another former Mountainfilm staffer, Lexi Tuddenham, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

DamNation Update: The Momentum of River Restoration

The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant was created to help ensure that important stories are not only told, but also heard. What follows is an update from Ben Knight, one of the recipients of a 2011 grant.

Ninety-nine years after Olympic National Park’s Elwha River was illegally dammed, wild Chinook salmon still instinctively gather at the foot of the lower dam as if they sense a change in the current. Upstream, the usual low rumble of antique turbines generating electricity has faded, and the piercing sound of an excavator-mounted jackhammer reverberates off the 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam. De-construction crews have begun the painstaking process of chipping away at its mossy, con-caved facade. This moment marks the beginning of the largest dam removal in U.S. history, unveiling the best opportunity for wild salmon recovery in the country.

Official Notification: Prepare to Mountainfilm

There are two months until Mountainfilm in Telluride’s 34th annual festival. Consider yourself duly notified.

Ten Simple Steps for the Best Memorial Day Weekend…Ever

Mountainfilm in Telluride Announces Full Roster of Symposium Speakers

Moving Mountains Symposium Theme is Population

Telluride, Colorado (March 27, 2012) –Mountainfilm in Telluride will launch its 34th annual festival on Friday, May 25, with a close look at the complicated subject of population. Over a dozen speakers, each focusing on a different area of expertise, will address the subject during the daylong Moving Mountains Symposium.

“This theme synthesizes many issues Mountainfilm has examined in recent years, such as energy, water, food and extinction,” explained David Holbrooke, Mountainfilm in Telluride’s festival director. “The population was at 4 billion in 1974, and when that number is compared to estimates of 9 billion, or sometimes even 11, by 2050, it’s hard to look at any issue we face — such as food shortages, water depletion, energy consumption or disappearance of wildlife — without factoring in population."

Throwing Away Gorillas: Food Waste

We screened the premiere of Bag It in 2009, and artist Chris Jordan has appeared with his “Running the Numbers” series at the festival, so Mountainfilm in Telluride audiences are no stranger to the concept of waste in its many forms, but it’s a topic worth revisiting periodically, especially with mind-boggling statistics.

The Nat Geo People’s 2012 Adventurers: Jon Turk and Erik Boomer Don’t Scare the Wind

Nearly 72,000 people voted for National Geographic Adventure's People's Choice Adventurer of The Year for 2012. The winners are Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa, who with second-hand equipment, a tiny budget and no corporate sponsors, climbed Everest, descended with paragliders and paddled to the sea — an adventure they called “The Ultimate Descent.”

Some other finalists are familiar to Mountainfilm in Telluride audiences: Nick Waggoner of Sweetgrass Films with Solitaire, bike rider Danny MacAskill from Way Back Home and Cory Richards from the Charlie Fowler Award-winning film Cold.

Moving Mountains Prize: The Wampanoag Language

The 2011 Moving Mountains Prize at Mountainfilmin Telluride was awarded to a film by Anne Makepeace, called We Still Live Here, which is about Jessie Little Doe and her community’s effort to bring back what was, essentially, the lost language of her tribe, the Wampanoag. This important work was supported by a prestigious MacArthur Genius Award, but the $3,000 award from Mountainfilm’s Moving Mountains Prize enabled the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project to launch their first Children's Language Immersion Camp, a successful three-week event.

Conrad Anker: From One Summit to the Next

Mountainfilm in Telluride invited Conrad Anker to town in mid-March, and he spoke to a packed room about his recent summit of Meru, a highly technical peak in India that has eluded many top-notch climbers for decades. Anker had been "obsessed" with the peak for 20 years, and his last unsuccessful attempt in 2008 with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk was chronicled in Samsara, which won Mountainfilmin in Telluride's 2009 Charlie Fowler Award. The three men went back last fall, an effort that will be the subject of a new film, called House of Cards, that will premiere at Mountainfilm May 2012.

Film about the Top Ascent of 2011 to Premiere at Mountainfilm in Telluride

Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk Bring House of Cards to Festival

Telluride, Colorado (March 13, 2012) –On October 2, 2011, world-renowned climbers Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk summited the Shark’s Fin, a granite buttress on the northeast side of 6,310-meter Meru Central in the Gangotri mountains of India. Their feat was ranked first in a list of “Top 10 Ascents of 2011” in Rock and Ice and is now the subject of a documentary called House of Cards, which will premiere at Mountainfilm in Telluride’s annual festival May 25-28.

Mountainfilm Commitment Grant: Helping Fund Documentary about Grande Dame of the Himalaya

The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant was created to help ensure that important stories are not only told, but also heard. Allision Otto and Carole Snow were recipients of one of the 2011 grants for their documentary project, titled Keeper of the Mountains, which is about the Grande Dame of the Himalaya, Elizabeth Hawley, who is now in her late 80s. This legendary Everest historian was a journalist and chronicler of Himalayan expeditions. Because she traveled to Nepal in September 1960 and never left, her unique vantage on mountaineering history has put her in a position to decide who has earned a summit in the Himalaya, and she’s helped resolve many mountaineering controversies.

Not Just Pretty Pictures: Photographers Aid Conservation Issues

Mountainfilm in Telluride has long celebrated the work of some of the world's leading outdoor and nature photographers, many of whom have taken part in the festival’s Gallery Walk. A recent Washington Post article examines the impact that National Geographic photographers have had on conservation issues, and it features several photographers who’ve displayed their work at the festival

Geoff Tabin: Working to End Preventable Blindness

While in medical school at Harvard, Geoff Tabin applied for a leave of absence because he wanted to join a climbing expedition for a first ascent up the east face of Mount Everest. For this career-arresting request, an ophthalmologist called him a “moron” and steered him, instead, toward a high-altitude ophthalmologist research project in Nepal. Thus, by merging climbing with ophthalmology, Tabin managed to complete medical school and discover his two callings (curing people with preventable blindness and being the fourth person in the world to climb all seven summits).

Free Mountainfilm in Telluride Presentation and Screening

Mountains and Passion Converge with Conrad Anker and Jenni Lowe-Anker

Telluride, Colorado –Join mountaineering legend Conrad Anker and his wife, author, artist and adventurer, Jenni Lowe-Anker for a free Mountainfilm in Telluride presentation. Anker will share stories from his historic first ascent of Mount Meru – one of India’s most defiant peaks — a tale that is intertwined with the couple’s extraordinary love affair.

Lowe-Anker’s husband, Alex Lowe, was one of the world’s greatest mountaineers, and he was Anker’s best friend. After Lowe died tragically during a Himalaya expedition with Anker, Anker married his widow and adopted their three children. Lowe-Anker tells her unusual story of love, loss and courage in her memoir, Forget Me Not and will share her perspective in conjunction with Anker.

Self Immolation: Tibet’s Desperate Fight

Spooked by the wave of regime change around the world, the Chinese government is cracking down hard on the Tibetan people. Inspired by Time magazine’s 2011 recognition of the power of “The Protestor,” Tibetans — mostly monks — have been fighting back in the most desperate way: by setting themselves on fire. According to an Associated Press report, “Monasteries, which for Tibetans are akin to universities, have become occupied ground, with police and officials moving in alongside monks.”

Slaves to Our Cars: Americans Work Two Hours a Day to Own a Car

Spring is in the air, and unmet New Year’s resolutions are nagging in the back of many of our minds. What better time to walk more? We’re not just talking about walking for the sake of exercise. No, we mean actually walking to get somewhere. It’s antiquated. It’s charming. Thankfully, it’s also the new black.

Many cities are battling sprawl with new urban design that promotes walking. Denver, Colorado, was recently recognized for making progress on this front in The New York Times. In 2010, the Huffington Post selected its picks for the most walkable cities in the world, which, incidentally, didn’t include Denver.

Avalanche Airbags: Gear is No Guarantee

Historically dangerous avalanche conditions persist in the Mountain West this winter because of a variable snowpack. This degree of instability hasn’t been seen, according to many, in roughly 30 years. For better or worse, it’s been a year for some unfortunate backcountry riders to test avalanche airbags in the field.

Three recent accidents involved skiers and snowboarders wearing back packs with avalanche airbags, which, as described by Doug Abromeit (former director of the Forest Services National Avalanche Center) on NPR, protect skiers and riders because it has “a ripcord…and they pull that and then it inflates an airbag that goes around the person's head, which protects their head and their neck, and then it provides floatation so the person stays on top of the avalanche debris.”

You can watch Meesh Hytner— a 21-year-old pro snowboarder — as her airbag deploys, and she survives a slab avalanche that ripped lose in January near Montezuma, Colorado.