October 30, 2013

Radical Reels at Banff Mtn Film Fest 2013

Chasing Summits from shams on Vimeo.

The paragliding movie Chasing Summits was one of a few great films at Radical Reels. 

It's been a time since I last went to Radical Reels at the Banff Mountain Film Fest. More often then not, travel or apathy are to blame. But this year the stars aligned and I found myself at the show. Josh Dueck, of sit-ski back flip fame, did a great job hosting the event and the line-up of films was awesome. 

Of course, every one is going to have their personal likes, but to me, there were two stand-outs. The first was the paragliding film Chasing Summits. Basically, three Euro guys went to Pakistan's Hunza Valley and flew paragliders amongst some of the highest and most bad-ass mountains on the planet. From a pilot's perspective, this was a really impressive journey and in typical Euro style, they pulled it off with many laughs and a good look in to the local culture. They made the adventure as much about the local people and culture as it was about their flying and I find this style very refreshing after getting bombarded by some of the North American look-at-me-being-rad films. Plus, the soundtrack was pretty good.

Chasing Summits seemed to be well-received by the audience, but I couldn't help but wonder if the film was lost on the crowd as a whole. Do you need to be a paraglider yourself to appreciate how far-out this sort of activity is? I remember watching people fly around before I got into the sport and it just looked like a bunch of fat, old, lazy dudes bobbing around in the sky. Not terribly exciting. But after learning a bit more about the sport, you quickly realize how little there is between you and the ground. 

 The Sensei  - replete with wisdom, laughs, great climbing and a tight narartive.  

The other film that really appealed to me was the climbing film The Sensei. In short, this was the story about the teacher / student relationship between aging Japanese rock-master Yuji Hirayama and the super strong - if not a little unpolished - American climber Daniel Woods. A great look at the contrasting styles between East and West, age and youth.

And if you're looking to eat up a few more minutes of your day, here are two worthy videos from the flying world. 

October 28, 2013

Olu-Deniz Speed Flying

After procrastinating for the past year, I finally edited the mountain of Gopro footage that I took while flying in Turkey last Fall. I went to Olu Deniz for two reasons: 1) to take an SIV course with the renowned Jocky Sanderson and 2) to learn to fly smaller wings. The venue was ideal for both and it was not uncommon to log 4-5 flights / day. In the end, I managed 90 flights during my time there. It's hard to imagine a more idyllic flying / vacation venue. There's even good rock climbing nearby! I hope you enjoy the video. There's a good sand crash at the end if you make it that far.

October 27, 2013

Canadian Alpine Journal 2013 - Baffin Island Base

The back cover of the 2013 Canadian Alpine Journal. I took this photo in May 2012 while working on a film shoot in Baffin Island. The jumpers are Timmy D, Jesse H, and JT Holmes. The location is the Shark's Fin in the Sam Ford Fjord. Thanks to Sean Isaac for editing the journal and using the shot!

We skied three great lines on this trip. Here is Josh H and Josh L in the Polar Star Couloir.

The interminable Jimmy Chin climbing the AC Cobra.

The AC Cobra is the highest line stretching in to the clouds in the center of the shot.

Josh L near the top of the Cobra.

Jesse Hall at the top of the Cobra.

JT Holmes before jumping off the Shark's Fin.

A foreshortened view of Carlyle's Couloir that Josh Lavigne and I skied on the last day of the trip - named in the memory of Carlyle Norman.

October 25, 2013

Flying from Lady Mac

Launching from Lady Mac 8.5 months after going in to the ground from the same spot. Conditions were a little more civilized this time. Thanks to Andy G - The Handy Man - for shooting the academy award winning video on his phone.  If you take the 30 seconds to watch the clip, it's best to do so in HD. Wing: Gin Yeti 19. Harness: Gin Speedrider.

I can't imagine that it's ever easy to revisit the scene of a heinous accident. At the same time, it's amazing how quickly the mind and body can heal and forget. Last winter, I made a painfully bad decision to launch a Firefly 16  from Mount Lady Macdonald in terrible conditions. I crashed after about 2 minutes in the air and wrecked myself. As bad as it was, I dodged a bullet that day. It's crazy to think that I got lucky by only breaking my pelvis, back and sacrum, but it's true. Things could have ended a lot worse.

Post surgery on Feb 16, 2013.

Back in June, four months after the crash, I hobbled back up to the launch site. The hike took forever and I basically crutched my way up and down. The experience was a small victory and wasn't as emotional as I thought it might be - I think I only cried for half of the 4 hour hike. Since then, I've gained a great deal of strength and figure I'm at about 80 %. The recovery curve is still pretty steep and there are significant gains every week. I think a big part of this is due to the time spent working out / looking at girls in the gym. A few months ago, I was lucky to have Cindy Jagger from Own the Podium donate a few hours of her time to put me through the paces. She gave me a comprehensive routine that combines strength, agility, movement, and flexibility and I try to get at it at least four days / week. Hugh Simpson from Active Motion Physio also donated some time and  added some crippling exercises to the mix. A huge thanks to both Cindy and Hugh for the help.

So what's it like to return to a place and a scenario that almost proved fatal in the not so distant past? Well, although the place was the same, the conditions were completely different. In fact, I have never seen it so calm at the launch. If ever there was a time to fly off Lady Mac, it was then. I quickly changed into some warm clothes, unpacked the wing and clipped in. The mental focus that goes in to launching a small paraglider or speed-wing from the side of a mountain is all consuming and I felt myself falling back in to a familiar, trance-like mode that I hadn't experienced in some time. It felt really good.

Limping around at the Lady Macdonald launch back in June.

October 15, 2013

Climbing on the Howser Towers in the Bugaboos

Climbing fixed ropes to the top of the Central Howser Tower with Pigeon Spire in the background.

Well, another summer guiding season has come to an end and the countdown is on until the heli-ski season begins. For this year's final gig, I was lucky to team up again with some of last year's Baffin Island crew for a spectacular film shoot in the Bugaboos. The plan was simple: land a helicopter on the top of the Central Howser Tower, rappel down a few pitches, set up a portaledge, get some footage with the helicopter, jug-up and fly home. But as the saying goes, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Or more aptly, until the weather shits the bed and the helicopter can't get the shot or even pick you up...  On day 1 of the shoot, most of us thought that we would be spending the night shivering on the Tower when the clouds enveloped the peak and the wind started to howl. But with the sun setting in the sky, the convective activity broke up and the pilot was able to pluck us off despite the high winds. It was an impressive piece of flying and we were all grateful to make it back to the lodge. Needless to say, I really appreciated sleeping in a bed that night.

Coming around to the East side of the Towers (lookers right).

The frosty west side of the Howsers (North, Central, South and the Minaret) from left to right.

Jeff R rapping down early on day 1.

Rapping down to the ledge on day 1.

On the final day of shooting, we broke through the clouds and had the best view of the Howsers I've ever seen.

Morning light on the Howsers.

The newest landing in the CMH Tenure.

The call sign says it all - FNOB. Paul Maloney Photo.

Bird's eye view of the landing on the Central Howser Tower. Paul Maloney Photo. The small dug-out circle on the looker's left made for a relaxed perch in an otherwise airy place.

On the final day of shooting, we were forced to haul the ledge above the clouds so the helicopter could get the shot.

Jeff R jugging to the top.

Looking across at the South Howser Tower.

FNOB passing in front of Pigeon Spire.

Shots in the can and going for the top.