In a pocket of the blustery, lofty region of Nepal sits the Khumbu Climbing School, where Nepali climbers, sherpas and high-altitude workers are trained in safe climbing practices and protocols. Students—many of whom have already reached the summits of Everest and K2 and worked in the Himalayas for years—learn proper techniques for knot-tying, belaying and ice climbing from Conrad Anker (star of The Wildest Dream) and other top-flight mountaineers. The school, which is part of the Alex Lowe foundation, aims to increase the safety margin in a region where many work—and risk their lives—in the craggy peaks that surround them. As this gorgeous film by Renan Ozturk (As It Happens) unfolds, it becomes obvious that more than just training takes place here—there’s also connection, community and growth. —KK
Jonno Durant and Stefan Hunt (the duo behind Surfing 50 States, which won the Student Award last year at Mountainfilm) are back with another surfing film. This year’s effort is decidedly different than their madcap 2009 romp across the U.S. Somewhere Near Tapachula is about Mission Mexico—an orphanage set up by an Australian couple, Pam and Alan Scuse, who have helped nearly 200 kids in Mexico find their way out of gangs, drug addiction and a variety of other Dickensian nightmares. One activity that has made a difference is surfing. After a volunteer left a surfboard behind in 2004, the sport has taken hold, and various surf companies and pro surfers offer gear and guidance so that these disadvantaged youth can take advantage of the fine swells outside their back door. —DH
This film about the O’Neill brothers, Timmy and Sean, profiles an unusual pair of siblings. Timmy is, of course, a familiar face to Mountainfilm audiences with his brilliant climbing and comedy. Sean, however, is new to the festival and is equally unforgettable for his own achievements. Sean is confined to a wheelchair because of an accident that happened when he was younger, but being an O’Neill, this doesn’t stop him from climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan or attempting Peak 6000 in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge. This short piece, part of the First Ascent series by Sender Films, is the kind of climbing film that keeps the genre alive and well.