February 15, 2012

Trekking the Earth, Popcorn Included

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Need a little excitement in this not-so-Ithacan winter? Maybe your Valentine’s Day was a letdown. Were your grand plans to ice climb in the gorges dashed? Have your ambitions of backcountry powder shots at Greek Peak been ruined due to lack of snowfall? Fear not Cornellians, for the Banff Mountain Film Festival is coming to Cornell and promises to provide a double shot of adrenaline this Friday night.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is among the better-known international film competitions in mountain sports. The festival has been held every fall in Banff, Alberta, since its inception in 1976. The festival features films from across the mountain culture spectrum, including climbing, skiing, mountain biking, base jumping and other high adrenaline pursuits. Every year, 25 films shown at the festival are chosen to be included in the Banff Mountain World Tour.

Having already seen a number of films on the Tour,  this year’s World Tour is the finest set of films assembled in our experience with the festival. In particular COLD, a powerful short film by about Cory Richard’s winter ascent of Gasherbrum II is worth watching. He is the first (and only) American to summit an 8000-meter peak in winter. The film is unique in that it does not attempt to frame his experience; it is rather a snapshot of the requisite pain and suffering of climbing a Himalayan peak and living in the most inhospitable conditions on Earth. It is a must-see, even if you aren’t a fan of mountaineering. At any rate, it might give you some perspective on the winters in Ithaca.

Can you imagine flying? This year, wingsuit B.A.S.E. (short for Building, Antenna, Span, Earth, the surfaces B.A.S.E. participants jump from) takes on a much larger role than in years past. Advancements in wingsuit technology have pushed glide ratios upwards three-to-one, which equates to longer and more exhilarating flights. Banff’s promotional video shows a basejumping duo launching themselves from the “diving board” on Yosemite’s Half Dome. While basejumping is illegal in many places (Yosemite included) due to its danger, B.A.S.E. films usually document what it’s like to skirt the law while jumping off of big things. Smaller HD cameras have allowed for new perspectives on this emergent sport, and hopefully the festival delivers some adrenaline-packed B.A.S.E. action.

In recent years, the Mountain Film Festival has become increasingly focused on the environment. The films take place in some of the last truly unexplored places on earth, from diving underneath the North Pole’s ice cap to kayaking down the Lukuga River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Combine HD cameras with world-class athletes and stir in some extreme terrain, and you have a recipe for the Banff festival’s celebration of the environment.

Chasing Water, which documents the impending water crisis in the American Southwest also seems interesting. Concerned about the steadily declining flow of the Colorado River and its consequences, Pete McBride decides to follow the river from his ranch in Western Colorado to see where it ends. Hope it will be a timely piece, especially with companies like Patagonia promoting Save the Colorado, a movement to un-dam the Colorado River and prevent water diversion. The North Face, one of the festival’s co-sponsors, awarded it Best Short Mountain Film.

Audiences can look forward to the Reel Rock series by the experienced outdoor cinematographers at Sender Films, and All.I.Can, a new film about backcountry skiing that won the festival’s most prestigious prize, the Best Feature-Length Mountain Film. Expect to see lots of powder, but also a focus on what skiers can do to protect the slopes they love.

The Banff Mountain World Tour makes its way to Ithaca this Friday in Kennedy Hall’s Call Auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $15 for the public. Tickets can be purchased online at cornellbigredtickets.universitytickets.com. The event is cosponsored by Cornell Outdoor Education, Eastern Mountain Sports and the Finger Lakes Running Club.

Original Author: Jon Goldsmith

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