Mountaineering film fest in Aspen will help Marolts’ Nepal relief effort |

Mountaineering film fest in Aspen will help Marolts’ Nepal relief effort

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
An American team makes a historic ascent of the Northeast Ridge of K2 in 1978. John Roskelley, a member of the team, will make a presentation about the journey at the Hard Snow mountaineering film festival in Aspen.
John Roskelley courtesy image |


If you cannot attend the Hard Snow film festival, you can still contribute to Aspen Alpine Club’s Nepal relief effort. Checks can be written to Aspen Alpine Club Inc. and sent to P.O. Box 10671, 230 S. Mill St., Aspen, CO 81612. Make sure a return address is included and a receipt for the tax-deductible donation will be sent. Anyone with questions about the effort can contact Steve Marolt at 970-300-2603.

A new mountaineering film festival will be held Nov. 13 to 15 in Aspen to get skiing enthusiasts fired up about the winter and to raise money for an Aspen-based relief fund for Nepal.

A highlight of the Hard Snow film festival will be a rare presentation by John Roskelley, a member of the first American team to ascend K2 in September 1978. He will close out the festival on Sunday.

Aspenites Mike and Steve Marolt are teaming with organizer Tom Winter to present the event at the Limelight Hotel. Tickets will be $5 per evening at the door. All proceeds will benefit the Aspen Alpine Club’s Nepal Relief Fund, a nonprofit operated by the Marolts and currently focused on getting solar-powered battery chargers to Nepal as part of relief from the devastating earthquake and aftershocks in the spring.

Mike Marolt said the film festival is a low-key event that won’t include any judging of films.

“We’ll throw out some films, drink beer and eat pizza,” he said. “It’s to get people fired up about ski season.”

The Marolts met Roskelley during a climb of Mount Everest in 2007 and “hit it off” with him, Marolt said. They have stayed in touch and will climb with him in Peru next spring. They were thrilled that he accepted an invitation to make a presentation about his team’s climb of K2. Roskelley and his three companions were not only the first American team to ascend K2; they also picked a route that apparently hasn’t been climbed again, according to Marolt.

“It’s never been repeated,” he said. “It’s been attempted, but not repeated.”

“It was a very monumental accomplishment,” Marolt added.

Other highlights will include a screening of the 20-minute film “Tien Shan” on Friday and a screening of “The Edge of Never” on Saturday.

“Tien Shan” is an award-winning film that features the journey of four friends who venture deep into the remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

“The Edge of Never” is a coming-of-age saga featuring Kye Petersen. His dad, Trevor Petersen, was the embodiment of a big-mountain skier in the 1980s and ’90s. He was killed in an avalanche while skiing in Chamonix, France, in February 1996.

A decade later, 15-year-old Kye Petersen skied the run where his father lost his life. With the aid of some of the top ski mountaineers, Kye Petersen becomes a member of skiing’s big-mountain tribe, the festival program said. The film is 100 minutes long.

The lineup will be rounded out with short films, including Mike Marolt’s “7K” about an ascent and first known ski descent of Noijin Kansang, a Tibet peak that soars to 7,206 meters.

The Marolts made the trip to the remote peak with Aspenites John Callahan, John Gibbons and Mike Maple in 2009. It was the sixth ski descent over 7,000 meters for the Marolts at the time. Callahan and Gibbons had each done a big peak or two. It was the first for Maple.

“It’s a film that just sat on the shelf,” Marolt said. He dusted it off recently, realized it was “pretty good” and decided it would be appropriate for what will be an Aspen-dominated crowd at the Hard Snow festival. “It’s got a real local feel to it.”

But the real purpose of the film festival is to keep up the momentum of the Aspen Alpine Club. The Marolts launched their unique relief effort last spring. They knew from mountaineering trips to Nepal that the battery chargers were needed and would be welcomed. They worked with a company called AspectSolar, a supplier that helps sponsor their ski-mountaineering expeditions.

AspectSolar sold the chargers at a discounted rate for the relief effort. Each charger is about 15 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches tall. They weigh between 20 and 25 pounds. They use solar panels to produce the power that can be used for everything from providing electricity to charging batteries in devices such as cellphones.

The nonprofit has raised about $80,000 to date and delivered about 200 units to Nepal, according to Steve Marolt. The next phase of the relief effort is to deliver larger PoweRacks to Nepal. The larger units use solar panels to track the sun. The photovoltaic cells convert the energy into electricity and store it in a battery. That stored energy can power or charge electronic devices.

Each PoweRack 1500 can power a small house in the West. If they are daisy chained, they could power an entire village or facilities such as schools or hospitals in Nepal, the Marolts said.

They have placed an order for five of the units, which weigh 63 pounds each and are about the size of a desktop computer. The Marolts are working with contacts from the mountaineering world to identify where to place the first five PoweRacks. AspectSolar will provide the engineering necessary to get them in use, Steve Marolt said.

The Marolts see the pilot project as a way to benefit not only Nepal, but also any place where it is difficult to provide electricity.

“This is not just an effort to help people in Nepal,” he said.

For that reason, the Aspen Alpine Club will continue its fundraising in hopes of providing more of the larger power units to Nepal and, once a model is established, to other places.

“I’d like to raise another $100,000 to complete the installation of these things,” Steve Marolt said.

Mike Marolt noted that it takes a long time for construction projects under the best of circumstances in Nepal because of lack of labor and materials.

“Everything is just stunted,” he said.

The earthquake has magnified the situation.

“There’s still just a huge need,”Mike Marolt said.