In his youth, Sean O’Neill suffered an injury that left him paralyzed. However confined the accident rendered his body, he retained a vigorous spirit that pushes him to fight against self-pity and surrender. This past winter, that spirit lured O’Neill to attempt a daunting achievement: an ice ascent of Bridal Veil Falls, right here in Telluride and considered by many to be the most difficult waterfall ice climb in North America. Directed by O’Neill’s brother — Timmy O’Neill, one of the world’s premiere climbers and a perennial Mountainfilm guest — Prevail is beautifully shot and touchingly told.
The Karsts of China
Sprinkled across the vast country of China are pockets of geologic wonder: surreal forests of limestone fins, monumental arches and slender towers that reach into the sky. In The Karsts of China, climbers Cedar Wright, Emily Harrington and Matt Segal and National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter spend a month roaming the country, seeking otherworldly formations and unclimbed routes in an exploration of wild and incredible landscapes.
In a sport that is not for the weak or easily discouraged, Pamela Shanti Pack excels. One of the most accomplished off-width climbers in the world, male or female, Pack seeks out North America’s most challenging inverted and vertical cracks with what she describes as “masochistic fervor.” Off-Width Outlaw follows her quest to establish new routes in the desert climbing mecca of Indian Creek in southeastern Utah.
With its towering sandstone walls, scurrying lizards and desert sun, Zion National Park isn’t a famed ice climbing destination. But during winter’s coldest days, if the conditions are right, ice can form inside its deep, shadowy slot canyons, creating frozen pitches amid incredible red rock formations. In Desert Ice, ice climbers Scott Adamson and Jesse Huey set out in search of Zion ice. What they discover is a rowdy adventure of bushwacking and runouts, ice runnels and sandstone, snowfall and chimneys and, in the end, glorious ice.
Climbers all have a story about how they got started, and 14-year-old Kai Lighter’s introduction is particularly striking — and not only because he’s a brilliant climber. Much like Tiger Woods in golf or the Williams sisters in tennis, he could change the demographics of climbing. This film, directed by Telluride’s George Knowles, isn’t about race, however, it’s about family. His single mother has become his regular belay partner, one who also makes sure that he maintains straight A’s in school. It’s clear that she wants what’s best for her son, and if that means spending hours with her hands on a belay device and her neck craned upward, so be it.
When Dogs Fly
Dean Potter has pushed the boundaries of what can be done in the climbing world for years. He has repeatedly set the speed record for climbing The Nose in Yosemite, and he caused great controversy in 2006 by climbing Delicate Arch in Utah. Recently, he’s funneled much of his considerable energy into being in air instead of on rock. When Dogs Fly is Potter’s latest venture into uncharted territory as it follows his efforts to wingsuit BASE jump off the North Face of the Eiger with his dog – Whisper, a mini cattledog – on his back. Yes, his dog. Potter will attempt another first for the sport when he jumps out of a plane and flies over the town of Telluride in a wingsuit, which is scheduled to happen – weather and wind permitting – during Saturday’s Ice Cream Social.
With breathtaking free solo feats, blistering speed records and ascents of rock faces around the planet, Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright are at the top of their game in the world of professional climbing. But when they decide to link all of California’s 14,000-foot peaks via an ambitious human-powered bike tour, they find themselves out of their element. New to the sport of biking, and having underestimated the scope of the challenge, Honnold and Wright grapple with sunburned thighs, sore asses, 80-mile slogs on dirt roads, sketchy ridge traverses and, somewhere in the mix, fun. Welcome to Sufferfest, a lighthearted short film by Wright that follows the mishaps and triumphs of the pair’s epic adventure and proves that there are some types of fun that can only be achieved with a grand dose of suffering.