Great films, Banff Mountain Festival 

Great films, kindred souls dominate agenda at Banff Mountain Festival

Banff was abuzz again last week with various events from The Banff Summit, to the Banff Mountain Book Festival and the Banff Mountain Film Festival, all spearheaded by the prestigious Centre For Mountain Culture.

Something made me realize, though, that perhaps the most valuable experience was not really the films, as I had seen a great deal at Banff over the years, but the quality of the people and kindred souls who attend Banff, making it a vortex of outdoor-related filmmakers and mountaineering enthusiasts from around the globe. This year was even more important than usual as the United Nations has declared 2002 the "Year of the Mountains."

I drove out to Banff with Ivan Hughes and his "Fringette" or lady producer friend (still wishing to be the mystery or anonymous producer). Ivan is directing an incredible film called In the Shadow of The Chief, which he has laboured on for the last several years. I immediately felt a kindred spirit, as my own Goldenrush film is now crawling through its third year in post-production.

Ivan has gathered about 50 hours of footage for his film, which examines the May 1961 first successful ascent of the Squamish Chief by Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper. The climb dumfounded the public, including the 12,000 people who gathered at the base of the granite monolith to watch the seemingly un-climbable face yield to man. The film will be a clever combination of re-enacted drama, coupled with quirky interviews, some of which were to be taken at the Mountain Fest in Banff this year.

The drive went quickly as we excitedly gabbed, comparing notes, contacts and hardships which our under funded productions have endured along the way. The Cinematographer for Hughes’ project is none other than award winning Colorado native, recently turned Vancouver resident, Dan Mannix, a great cameraman as well as incredible rock and ice climber himself. For more info on this film contact

After a 10-hour drive we arrived rather zombie-like at the Mountain Culture press room in Banff. I immediately ran into more interesting people. Sitting at the computer next to mine was Chris J. McGeough. Some time last year a good friend, Troy Jungen, mentioned in passing something about Canadians doing avalanche control in Afghanistan for the UN convoys on the high passes. I actually dismissed the seemingly ludicrous idea of ski touring around a war zone doing avy work, but how wrong I was.

It turns out that Chamonix-based McGeough, who heads Mountain Air Production Ltd. and commands the Banff Mountain Film tour of Europe, happens to be the lad who was called on by a French comrade to do just that – head an avalanche control ski touring program for the UN. His work in Afghanistan is co-funded by CIDA. Is heli skiing in Tora Bora next?

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