For Jim Whittaker, the first American to stand atop Mt. Everest, a life well lived means stepping outside of his comfort zone regularly. “Trials, tribulations and a few scars,” he says, are all parts of learning the real meaning of life. And what taking risks didn’t teach, he learned from the natural world — from the awe and humility it inspired. This short film is long on wise words from a great American hero who has participated in Mountainfilm twice (2009 and 2013).
Ostensibly, Walled In is the story of a first descent of the rowdy Marble Fork of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park by kayakers Ben Stookesbury and Chris Korbulic, but this film poses bigger questions than whether the pair can send a river that flows from above 12,000 feet in elevation to near sea level in less than 30 miles. It asks why they choose to engage in a sport that carries the threat of death, which they witnessed when their partner Hendri Coetzee was eaten by a crocodile in the Congo in 2010 (Kadoma, Mountainfilm 2011).
Mountain rescue is always a risky proposition, so those who are attracted to the job tend to be strapping, young and full of verve — and nerve. This was definitely the case in 1967, when a group of seven national park rangers in the Grand Tetons risked their lives to save an injured climber. On August 22, Gaylord Campbell was climbing the north face of the Grand Teton with a friend when a boulder broke free and showered them with rocks, leaving Campbell with compound fractures. During the rescue attempt, which took three days, Campbell was critical of the methods and decisions made by his saviors every turn of the way. The Grand Rescue tells this legendary story for the first time in film. Several park rangers from the rescue will speak after the screening.