Banff Mountain Film Festival

Last night we attended the third night of the Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour at the historic Paramount Theater in Denver. I didn’t really know much about the festival until Colorado Mountain Club invited members to purchase tickets, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

BANFF Mountain Film Fest

The Films

Flying Surfers

The first film they showed was just a few minutes long, and left me wondering, “where do they think of these things?” It was a bunch of wack-a-doodles basically riding a surfboard across a tight-wire, counterweighted by another person sitting on the bars that hung below the board – no one roped in. To dismount, they jumped and released their parachutes. One fellow was often wearing face paint, wigs, and funny costumes. It was short but it really packed a punch. It was equal parts goofy and intriguing.

Loved By All

I’ll start by saying this was my second favorite film of the night. Set in the Himalayan Mountains, vibrant Nepalese music paired with stunning visuals and a desperate story moved me deeply.

It opened with on-screen text informing the viewers that, in Nepal, children of sherpas are almost always named for the day of the week they are born. Apa, the narrator, was originally named Lhakpa, meaning Wednesday. But when he was found alive hours after being caught in an avalanche with his mother as a baby, he was taken to the lama to be blessed, and was renamed Apa, which means “loved by all.” He reached the summit of Everest 21 times before he retired in 2011.

Apa Sherpa was forced to forego his education and begin porting on Everest to support his family after his father’s death when he was 12 years old.  This film parallels his experience to a current Nepalese boy who walks 6 hours to go to school every day. Let me say that again – 6 hours! His father died while porting on Everest, so he lives alone with his mother in a stone hut in the mountains. His mother explains to him that with an education, he will have more opportunities, and won’t have to do the dangerous job of porting on Everest. This what every day life is like for many – living in poverty without access to basic necessities or education – forced to start working the most dangerous jobs at a young age to support their families.

And that is why Apa started the Apa Sherpa Foundation, which “believes everyone deserves access to education and basic necessities.”

The film closed with a powerful statement.

“The beauty of Nepal isn’t the mountains. It is the people that live in their shadows.”

Dream Ride II

To be quite honest, I didn’t pay much attention during this super short film about mountain biking because my mind was still with Apa in the Himalayas. What I do remember was seeing some impressive biking though a forest, across ice, and over a lava field.

Into Twin Galaxies

Into Twin Galaxies is a captivating story of a trio’s quest to cross Greenland (travel from coast to coast) across 1,000 km of unknown, isolated and frozen terrain. Their planned course takes them across a crevasse-scarred glacier to a lake, that spilled out into a river which they planned to kayak down to the coast. They start the journey across the glacier hauling their gear in sleds and kayaks behind them on foot, eventually getting to a terrain flat enough to kite across on skis, and eventually, to some running water. They are met with unexpected challenges; such as an injured back and frozen ice where they were expecting water.

I think this might be tied with Kilian as my third favorite of the night.

Planet Earth II – Mountains – Ibex

Next, we saw a segment of the “Mountains” episode of Planet Earth II about Ibex. I’ve already seen this whole episode a handful of times, but seeing the Ibex segment again was no less interesting than the first time.

Ibex, a relative to the mountain goats we have here in North America, are impressive mountaineers. They can scale very steep mountain sides without breaking a sweat, making it easy, even for the kids, to escape predators at low altitudes.

Planet Earth II is out on Netflix, so you can watch it for yourself.

The Space Within

The space within is an action-shot-packed short film shot in northern Japan, where they get so much snow every year that it is sometimes referred to as “Japow.” We watched two skiers plow through fluffy powder and perform impressive jump stunts to the tune of “Family and Genus” by Shakey Graves. It was beautifully shot and really made me want to be sliding through the snow with them – just no jumping for this girl.

La Cacita WIP

WIP stands for “Women in Power.” This film interviews Suka and Julia, two badass mountain bikers in Ecuador that started by building their own dirt track jumps with nothing but shovels, a hose, and girl power. Now, they teach young girls in their community about biking and how to do stunt jumps. Through their work, they are redefining what it means to be feminine.


Kilian Jornet is a freak of nature.

Since Kyle took up trail running, I’ve heard quite a bit about Kilian Jornet. Everyone in the mountain running community knows who he is. This man has shattered every record, including fastest time to summit Everest, and has even done it twice in one week. But he doesn’t even consider himself as a runner – he just runs when he can’t be skiing or climbing in the winter. I’m not entirely sure he’s an actual human.

This film is about Kilian’s first attempt on his quest to ski and run the Seven Summits of Romsdalen in a single day. While we don’t actually see him do it in the film (he stopped when he encountered conditions that could be dangerous), he did actually summit all 7 about a month after this was filmed. What does he pack to fuel his body on what he predicts could be a 20-hour excursion? 4 Snickers bars. Again – not sure he’s a mortal.

My favorite line of the film:

“I like it, to suffer. I really love it, to be out many hours suffering.”

You can watch it here.


This was far and away my favorite film of the night. The film is about Maureen Beck, an adaptive climber with a great sense of humor, an affinity for junk food – especially cupcakes, a love of animals, and insists that she’s not inspiring.

The first few second of the film set the comedic tone straight away… Maureen poses several possible ways that she lost her hand…

“Someone took the guard off the wood chipper…”

“Alligators don’t belong in petting zoos…”

“I reached into the shark tank for 1 second!”

But Maureen was just born that way… and refers to the area where her hand would have been as her “stump.” ( I told you she was funny)

We follow Maureen on her quest to conquer her first 5.12 in Boulder Canyon. We saw Maureen fall over and over and over again, each time getting back up, trying to get past the crux over the course of several months. Throughout the entirety of the film, she and her climbing partner, also an adaptive climber, poke fun at how the media, and the public in general, label them as “inspiring” for climbing with missing limbs. She keeps it real. She’s just doing what she loves, like any other “able-bodied” climber. And will make you laugh along the way.

Would I Attend Again?

Oh yeah! We kind of decided to attend at the last minute and didn’t really know what to expect… but I’m so glad we did and will definitely go next year!

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