Jaw-dropping action, unforeseen antics, and intellectual dialogue rolled on-and-off screen for day two of Mountainfilm in Telluride. In typical Colorado style, the end-of-May rainfall turned into a forecast of skiing. The snowfall put a slight damper on the night’s adrenaline-focused film series in Town Park, but only momentarily. The festival directors seamlessly shifted the show indoors to the next available screening hour: 11:30 p.m. Despite the late start, the Palm Theatre buzzed with an enormous turn out, and no one seemed frazzled—especially those that stayed until the grand finale when a group of filmmakers and producers announced the nude ski-scene from Valhalla, bare-naked. And, for those of you waiting for an update, BASE jumper Dean Potter did successfully jump out of a plane in a wingsuit and fly over Telluride during the ice cream social.
Coffee and Conversation sessions commenced the day: Every year, the casual gatherings feature awesome panelists that spearhead a chosen topic, and are open to the public. In a “Wilderness and Radicalism,” discussion, Earth First founder Dave Foreman and Living Wild School founder Lynx Vilden joined environmental activist Tim DeChristopher at the Ah Haa School for the Arts. Known for his act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher strolled into a BLM auction in 2008 and bid $1.8 million on drilling rights to public lands near Utah’s national parks—an illegitimate voucher that ultimately landed him two years in prison. DeChristopher talked about his “disgruntled” teen years and societal discontent. In reference to Edward Abbey’s words: “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul,” DeChristopher explained that his indictment, as well as his choice to be proactive, actually helped him to become more peaceful. For the time being, DeChristopher is attending Harvard Divinity School, which he shared, “Isn’t as bad as prison—most days.”
Duke and the Buffalo was one of many films that caught the crowd’s attention. Filmed on the 100,000-acre Medano-Zapata Ranch in Colorado, the story spotlights the challenges faced by ranch manager Duke Phillips, who oversees one of the largest conservation herds of wild bison in the United States. Historically, an estimated 20 to 30 million bison roamed across North American. Today that number has dwindled to approximately 500,000. However, the majority is not genetically pure; many have been crossbred with cattle or become semi-domesticated. In actuality, less than 30,000 wild bison exist and are preserved in conservation herds. Of those, even fewer—less than 5,000—are unfenced and disease-free.
On Duke’s ranch, a unique partnership takes place between The Nature Conservancy and Ranchlands, a private ranching organization. Every year, Duke and his crew of horsemen herd up the bison in an effort to monitor the population and help maintain the land’s ecosystem, which has finite natural resources. Simultaneously, the bison have no existing predators. Ultimately, the balance and protection of the herd requires the help of the ranchers. For the cowboys, rounding up these enormous animals is a dangerous gig that poses high risk. Plus, there’s constant insecurity about succeeding a round-up that delivers the needed number of bison—but the herd, the land, and the ranch depend on it.
On another front: For seat-gripping action, one of the top films included in the adrenaline series was Spice Girl. Directed by Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer, and Nick Rosen the film takes us into the U.K. climbing scene—a subculture of the world’s climbing that’s known for its somewhat-insane intensity and danger—with female climber Hazel Findlay, a woman who is making strides in this extremely rugged, male-dominated arena. The film shows Hazel climb—and become the first woman to complete—an extremely scrappy route with the British grade of E9. Then, shows her own a 16-pitch big wall in Morocco with climber Emily Harrington.
With as much inspiration as rowdiness and as many surprises as queues, Mountainfilm is a turn-out that’s everything you’d expect it to be. And then more. Check back tomorrow for the final update.