Movies and mountains, it turns out, are a winning combination. Just look at the 30-year run of the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, CO. In fact, Mountainfilm has built such a reputation and loyal following that a new spin-off festival was launched this year in Aspen. The first annual MountainSummit Festival debuted August 27-30, 2009. It was a co-production of Mountainfilm in Telluride and the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen.
Like Mountainfilm in Telluride in May, the Aspen festival was also sponsored by First Ascent. The new line of mountaineering gear from Eddie Bauer challenges standard industry practice—it’s the first gear actually designed and built by professional mountain guides. This spring, First Ascent sponsored the Return To Everest Expedition, launching its new line from the top of the world.
Challenging our normal, everyday view of the world was a recurring theme at MountainSummit as well. The four days of films included seven feature-length movies, such as The Cove, an adventurous exposé of hunting whales and dolphins; Rock Prophecies, profiling music photographer Robert Knight; The Farm: 10 Down, with its piercing look inside Louisiana’s Angola State Prison; and Surfing 50 States, an award-winner at Mountainfilm, that tells the story of two Australian surfers and their quixotic road trip across America.
With a goal of inspiring and educating as well as entertaining, MountainSummit also featured structured conversations, a gallery walk, and the Moving Mountains symposium. As it was this spring in Telluride, the subject of the symposium was food—not just the pleasure of it; but also the challenge of producing it sustainably in a changing world.
Guest speakers for MountainSummit included mountaineers Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest, and Ed Viesturs, the only American to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter-plus peaks, without supplemental oxygen. Also on the schedule were Chris Jordan, an artist whose work has strong environmental themes; and Tim DeChristopher, whose rogue actions at a Bureau of Land Management auction saved thousands of acres of Utah land from being drilled for fossil fuels, and may yet land him in jail.
Informal “coffee talks” joined such luminaries as Whittaker and Martin Strel, star of another festival film, Big River Man. Jim and Martin shared stories about their amazing adventures—from the vertical (Jim’s summiting of Everest) and the horizontal (Martin’s swimming the Amazon).
Continuing the tradition of high-mountain art introduced by Mountainfilm in Telluride in 1979, Aspen’s MountainSummit Festival made its debut an impressive one. With its solid film lineup and impressive speakers, MountainSummit lived up to its director’s promise: “There is no fat in the programming. Not even a little bit.”
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