The Mendenhall Glacier in southeast Alaska offers an otherworldly landscape — fields of crumpled ice, massive hunks of blue, glassy caves and all manner of frozen water. It’s beautiful, but it’s also ephemeral: The glacier is in a state of retreat. Climber Alan Gordon has been exploring the glacier for years, watching as old features melt away and new ones are revealed, and now he’s determined to document its stunning but fleeting scenery before it disappears forever. Blue Obsession, a film about his mission, offers a short and gorgeous portrait of a landscape in flux.
It was a good idea in theory. Climbers Hazel Findlay, Alex Honnold, James Pearson and Mark Synnott struck out for a remote bay in Newfoundland to establish new trad routes on a massive granite wall that juts 1,200 feet out of the ocean. After who knows how much planning and an arduous five-day journey, they arrived to find spectacular scenery, but climbing was swiftly shut down by relentless, cold rainfall. They were so close. And then they were stuck in their cell-like tents to wait out the rain and wonder whether it was all worth it. Tent Bound in Devil’s Bay, a short film by Camp 4 Collective, highlights what happens when a trip challenges expectations and spirit — until the clouds break.
A desert can be stark, arid and inhospitable, but it’s also a place of elemental beauty and compelling vitality that reveals its richness to the dedicated, patient observer. To say that inveterate climber and social dropout Alf Randell has a “desert life” is a perfect metaphor: Outwardly, living in a remote beaten-up camper and earning a subsistence living might well seem a little barren. But measured by the actual texture of that life — the splendor of his dawns and dusks, the depth of his relationship with his natural surroundings, especially the red rock walls and people who share in his enjoyment of them — it’s anything but inhospitable.
“Higher, harder, stronger, lighter. Need less, do more. Pull, kick, shatter.” This is the mantra of Steve House as he contemplates and then free solos a prodigious wall of ice in this incisive and lyrically filmed short. Hailed by mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner as “the best high-altitude climber in the world,” House is known for his minimalist approach, using as little gear as possible, a style that he says yields the richest results. After a near-fatal climbing accident in 2010, House adjusted his priorities to focus less on his own climbing goals and more on his roles as husband, mentor, writer and advocate for mountain environments. It is this more developed character that shines through in Shattered — but the ice climbing is no less impressive.
There’s no doubt that traditional ice climbing is a beautiful sport for hardy mountain souls. But because of the physics of ice, it’s virtually impossible to find super hard, overhanging ice routes on natural walls — until now. Welcome to Helmcken Falls, British Columbia, a surreal and frozen place that defies the rules that have long governed the sport. Here, a violent cascade pours some 500 feet to the ground, throwing spray onto a nearby overhanging cave wall, which freezes to create an otherworldly canvas of icicles and frozen features — a dream come true for climbers Will Gadd and Tim Emmett. Ice Revolution follows the two dynamic partners as they pioneer a new and radical form of ice climbing in the cave, dodging massive exploding icicles, finding incredible routes and having a blast on the hardest pure ice climb in the world.
By 2010, only two of the world’s 50 highest mountains remained unclimbed. In The Old Breed, veteran climbers Mark Richey and Steve Swenson — who are both in their 50s — set their sights on the taller of the two, Saser Kangri II, which rises from the Indian Ocean to 7,518 meters. Along with climbing partner Freddie Wilkinson, they head into the thin air and rugged peaks of the Karakoram. But when sickness flares up, the climbers push the limits of physical health and will power to the point of extreme, exploring firsthand the monumental risks climbers are willing to take to be the first to stand atop a mountain.