Ascending an 8,000-meter peak is never easy. In winter, with temperatures plummeting to 30 below and colder and with snowstorms raging, it is nearly unthinkable. In fact, of the 17 efforts to ascend an 8,000-meter peak in Pakistan in winter only one has been successful. That winter ascent of Gasherbrum II by Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards is the subject of Cold. Filmed by Richards and written from his perspective, this is a very personal and frank portrayal of the risks and rigors of high-altitude mountaineering, in this case intensified by the choice of calendar date—fully three months ahead of the standard Himalayan season. There’s crazy; and then there’s cold crazy. Moro, Urubko and Richards clearly pitch their tents in the latter camp. Of the three, only Richards—the first American to ever achieve an 8,000-meter winter ascent anywhere—seems concerned by the madness.
Renan Ozturk (Mountainfilm 2009, Samsara, which won the Charlie Fowler Award) now heads to the remote and sun-flattened landscape of the Ennedi Desert in northeastern Chad. It’s a hot, sand-scoured and unfriendly place, but from its vast belly rise clusters of spires, towers and rock formations that are breathtakingly lovely. In Towers of the Ennedi, Ozturk and veteran climber Mark Synnott—known more for his far-flung adventures than his technical accomplishments—bring young climbing stars Alex Honnold and James Pearson to the Ennedi to explore its untouched landscapes. Together, Synnott, Honnold and Pearson endure a long, bumpy drive across the sand flats of a godforsaken country to reach an incredible destination: gardens of towers filled with graceful fingers of rock, bottle-shaped formations and lithe arches. With its stark and poetic footage of camels and rock, as well as jarring images of unpleasant travels, this film shows that sometimes you can have just as many adventures trying to reach your destination as you can have once you get there.
Surf photographer Mickey Smith artfully crafts and narrates an immensely powerful and brooding glimpse at some of Ireland’s heaviest, and coldest, waves.
"Kadoma" was a nickname for Hendri Coetzee, a legendary South African kayaker who had explored some of Africa’s wildest rivers. In December of 2010, American pro kayakers Chris Korbulic and Ben Stookesbury followed Coetzee into the Democratic Republic of Congo for a first descent of the dangerous Lukuga River. Seven weeks into the expedition, tragedy struck. Coetzee was paddling tip to tail in between the other two men when a fifteen-foot crocodile surfaced silently and swiftly pulled him underwater. He was never seen again. The cover story for Outside magazine in February, the horrific story is now recounted in this tense documentary that was directed by Stookesbury and premiered at Mountainfilm 2011. Korbulic’s photos of the ill-fated expedition were also featured at the festival.