Inner-city Memphis is not the likeliest setting for an enormous rock climbing gym. But since it opened in March 2018, Memphis Rox, the nation’s only nonprofit climbing gym — open to all, regardless of ability to pay — has proven that the challenges of technical climbing have strong appeal, and can provide benefits well beyond the traditional outdoor-recreation community.
Cracking Ice Ceilings
The cholita climbers of Bolivia have been subverting the culture of machismo since 2015 by climbing mountains. Not content to stay in their traditional roles as high-mountain cooks, these 11 escaladoras wanted to see for themselves what it felt like to go to the top. Pairing the traditional cholita garb of colorful skirts, shawls, bowler hats and brooches with ice axes and crampons, these women climb for the same reason many others do: that feeling of freedom that comes with standing on the summit.
The Wild Inside
“Saying goodbye to an animal – it’s hard,” says Chris, who is leaving Florence, Ariz. State Prison after serving a six-year sentence. He’s one of 30 minimum-security participants in the prison’s pioneering Wild Horse Inmate Program, working five days a week to “gentle” the wild mustangs, which are saved from slaughter. Training them as saddle horses keeps recidivism at bay in Arizona, where inmates face a 49 percent chance of reincarceration within five years. Since 2012, only three of the prison’s 53 WHIP trainers are back behind bars.
“I didn’t think I had a future,” Will Robinson says of coming home from Iraq with PTSD and injuries. For 12 years, he endured the dead ends of medication-and-alcohol abuse and ineffective therapy. Then inspiration struck. He tackled the Pacific Crest Trail, then the Appalachian Trail, walking 3,800 miles on his own path to recovery. “Hiking gave me the ability to be the person that I always was, the confident person who was capable of doing anything,” says Robinson, whose trail name is Akuna. He’s already eyeing his next objective: The Continental Divide Trail.
Indigenous dancers Sean and Adrian challenge the rulebook of San Manuel’s Native American Sweetheart Special as they attempt to compete in the annual couple’s competition. Dancing not only against the other dancers, but against the drums of oppression and closed-mindedness, this Two-Spirit couple is determined to rewrite the rules of “one man, one woman” with their resplendent charisma, character and resilience.
All In: Alaska Heli Skiing
Tune in for a tutorial on how to absolutely shred Alaskan spines.
There is a force of healing in nature and a power of connection — connection with ourselves, our hopes and dreams, and with the mystery and grandeur of life on our planet. For Nadia Iris Mercado, there is also in nature a connection with her ancestry. And, the connection she makes most strongly, and most tenderly, is with her mother — who sacrificed her own hopes and dreams to give Nadia the best possible chance to realize hers.
Jon Wilson lost a leg to cancer at 23. He found joy some years later by developing a solitary routine of skinning and climbing up a ski mountain on his remaining leg, at night, and skiing back down. Wilson wrote and narrates this tone poem about perseverance and the unexpected gift that came from having been "broken."
Mountainfilm Commitment Grant
“I like the tuba because it reminds me of my life, it’s the underdog.” That’s Dr. Richard Antoine White, whose biography reads like a manual in how to overcome odds. White grew up intermittently homeless on the streets of Baltimore, and went on to become a world-class symphony musician, professor and the first African American in the world to receive a Doctorate in Music for Tuba Performance. He’s got music in him, yes. But he’s also got a drive rarely seen, even in the most competitive artistic circles. As he puts it, “the only thing that will stop me from being successful is death.”
In the high steppe of Little Tibet, a young boy develops an unlikely obsession: ice hockey. He fashions pucks out of stones, trains on homemade skates and worships Czech hockey icon Jaromír Jágr. And he has his heart set on an outsized dream.