When the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour rolls into Aspen on Tuesday and Wednesday, two faces familiar to outdoor-adventure junkies will be in unfamiliar places.
Alex Honnold is best known for his free solo climbing, such as the Yosemite Triple Crown. In the film “Sufferfest,” Honnold gets out of his element along with pro climber Cedar Wright. The duo, new to cycling, embarked on a wholly human-powered journey to link all of California’s 14,000-foot peaks, which they then climbed.
An 18-minute film by Wright shows how they endured with the help of their quirky senses of humor. It will show on Tuesday.
Another familiar face in outdoor adventure, Erik Weihenmayer, was renowned for tackling the first ascent of Mount Everest by a blind person in May 2001. More than a decade and several adventures later, Weihenmayer astounds adventure fans again from a kayak. The eight-minute film “Sensory Overload” shows how he turned whitewater into a new form of braille. It will show on Wednesday.
The Ute Mountaineer has hosted the famed mountain film festival’s World Tour stop annually in Aspen since 1997. Nine films will be shown each night of the festival at the Wheeler Opera House. Tickets are $15 each night; a two-night pass is $25. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with screenings beginning at 7 p.m. An intermission will feature awesome prize giveaways, according to Susan Jackson of the Ute.
Tickets are available at Aspen Show Tickets at 970-925-5770 and at www.aspenshowtix.com.
The staff at the Ute Mountaineer gets to select from 35 films eligible for the World Tour. They try to tailor the selections to an audience, but they avoid overloading in any one area of adventure.
“We want to have a little bit of everything,” Jackson said. “The films bring a little bit of adventure, a little bit of perspective.”
“Road warriors” from the film festival staff serve as the masters of ceremony.
One of the latest works by local journalist and filmmaker Pete McBride is part of the World Tour and was selected for screening by the Ute Mountaineer staff.
The four-minute film “I Am Red” was made for the nonprofit organization American Rivers to show the grandeur of the Colorado River and the challenges facing “the American Nile.” The river is considered one of the most endangered in the U.S. by American Rivers.
McBride became enamored with the Colorado River in a previous film called “Chasing Water,” which documents his travels on the Colorado from source to sea. He worked on a book about the adventure and the film became about “inadvertently,” he said.
“I Am Red” always was envisioned as a film project. McBride calls it “more of a visual poem.”
The project is especially important to McBride because he shot about 60 percent of the footage while riding in a helicopter piloted by Doug Sheffer, who died Jan. 28 while flying on power-line inspections.
“He was as much of an artist as anybody,” McBride said, referring to Sheffer’s flying skills as well as his appreciation of photography. McBride said Sheffer knew exactly how to pilot his craft to get the shots that McBride wanted. They spent a lot of time together over the Colorado mountains that feed the river as well as the spectacular red rock canyons carved by it.
The spectacular footage by McBride, Skip Hamilton and others is paired with great effect by narration by two friends of his, one man and one woman. Amy Beatie, an attorney with Colorado Water Trust, has a wonderfully gravelly voice. Duke Beardsley, an artist who draws and paints images of the American West, lends a rural, Western drawl.
McBride said that when he worked on the film he asked himself, “What would the river say — as the voice of the river?”
He imagined it speaking in a tough though feminine voice. His friend Beardsley intervened and insisted the river has a masculine side as well. McBride liked the idea of two voices for the river.
The two narrators take turns describing the river’s accomplishments as eye-catching images pass by. They speak together about the challenges facing the grand river from overuse. It’s one of the few major rivers in the world that doesn’t kiss a sea or ocean.
“I don’t think I can offer any more,” the voices of the river say as images of bluegrass lawns in the desert and massive canals siphon off water. “I am tired, tapped and tied.”
It’s an effort by McBride to get people interested in the river’s plight and to take action — before it’s too late. “I Am Red” shows on Tuesday.