Sea to Sky talks mountain adventure at VIMFF 

Climbers, skiers, filmmakers and more show their love of mountain culture and sports

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People are always finding artful ways to come down a mountain in these parts, whether it be skiing or sliding, mountain biking, parasailing or gliding.

Of course, the region is also famous for people who go in the other direction, especially climbers and hikers.

The Sea to Sky region's rock athletes have a big place in this year's Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF), which take place at various venues in the Lower Mainland.

Tom Wright, head of programming for the festival and a Squamish resident, said 21 local, Canadian and international guest speakers are taking part in the festival, which runs from Feb. 7 to 15, and offers 79 films.

"The Sea to Sky is a world-class playground for all of these sports that we promote, skiing, climbing... and we have world-class athletes and filmmakers living in our backyard so naturally we get quite a lot of involvement from them in the festival," he says.

Sea to Sky talent this year includes Pemberton skier Dave Treadway; Whistler's Sue Oakey-Baker, Stuart Andrews and Sherpa Cinema; and Anthill Films, Alex Savage, Sarah Hart, Paul McSorley and Vikki Weldon from Squamish.

Wright adds the festival has more women involved this year than it has ever had, with 12 women and nine men presenting.

"The girls are kicking ass right now," he laughs.

Oakey-Baker will be talking about her book Finding Jim — about the death of her husband Jim Haberl while climbing in Alaska, in a night called Spiritual Journeys on Monday, Feb. 10.

"It's a 45-minute slide show about our adventures together before Jim was killed and also my journey after he was killed. The night looks at how people in the outdoors are used to pushing themselves physically and how we don't look at the emotional component as much," Oakey-Baker says.

"When I was outdoors in the wilderness pushing myself physically and emotionally, those survival skills transferred to when I was grieving and helped with that... it's like those times when you think you cannot take another step but then you do."

Oakey-Baker said her talk is about the resilience of the human spirit, as well as the vulnerability. The positive experience of writing the book has included people telling her their own stories of loss and strangers coming up to her and giving her a hug.

"Showing the painful side, showing risk... I did not know if that would be popular," she says.

Squamish climber Weldon closes the festival with a talk and slideshow on her successful climb in September 2013 of the difficult Blue Jeans route on Mount Yamnuska in the Canadian Rockies, a 5.13.b climb that had only been successfully climbed once before.

"It was outside of my comfort zone and something I'd never really tried before. I'd heard a lot about it and tried it the summer before a little and it was something I really wanted to do," Weldon said of the climb, which is located in Bow Valley Wildlands Park.

"In my talk, I want to share the idea of being able to be outside your comfort zone and achieve something you dream of that you might think is not possible."

Weldon, who is on the Arc'teryx athlete team preparing to do the seven-pitch ascent (climbed in seven sections) of Blue Jeans in one day, had familiarized herself with it in 16 days over two seasons.

"In the end, I did do it all in one push in one day. That was the goal, but it took over two weeks on the wall to try it. I did this in order to get to know the climb and how to do all the pitches in a row. The pitches were quite hard and they progress in difficulty... stacked. I was able to finish it on our last day before the weather crapped out," she says.

Weldon says the skills gained by climbers have applications beyond the rock.

"Climbing is a great metaphor for life, being able to push yourself past what you think you can do and become comfortable in uncomfortable situations," she says.

For more information on speakers and films and locations, visit: www.vimff.org.

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