Local mountaineer wins grand prize at film fest 

Local ski patroller and mountain guide, Dave Sarkany was so convinced the competition was too fierce at this year’s Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, that he didn’t even attend the final awards ceremony.

He partly blames not arranging a day off from work in time but the reality is he honestly didn’t think he had a chance.

But it seemed the judges had other ideas. Sarkany’s adventure documentary, Chilko Lake On Ice, took top honours at the prestigious mountain industry event, beating out 14 other entries from around the world for the grand prize. It tells the story of a ski traverse on the glaciers and ice caps at the south end of Chilko Lake. Sarkany and friend, Tom Wolfe, kayaked out of Nemaia Valley and paddled through stormy weather to reach Farrow Creek and the surrounding ice cap. After crossing the ice and skiing peaks for two weeks, the storm grew menacing and the duo just had to get home, however the trip was not as easy as they had hoped.

When Sarkany received the congratulatory phone call from the VIMFF director about 30 minutes before the awards show, Sarkany couldn’t believe it.

"I was in such a shock, I honestly never expected to win. I went down there on the Friday and showed my film but pretty much came back after that thinking that was the end of it."

More like just the beginning by the sounds of it. The mountain enthusiast has only been using a DV camera for two years and already he’s scooping the prize pool. Quick, get this guy an agent!

Sarkany turned to the wonderful world of motion pictures after 15 years honing a hobby with photos.

"Once the prices started to come down for DV cameras and editing equipment I was all over it," said Sarkany. "It’s such an amazing media to be able to pull together a description of your trip with sounds, live footage and actual emotions. It has so much more impact. The software for editing too has just become so much more user friendly, it’s been great."

For those who may not be from around these parts, Chilko Lake is about 250 km north of Whistler. It’s about 70 km long and 5 km wide. Sarkany and Wolfe paddled up and across the lake, leaving their boats on the shoreline. From there they skied for a couple of weeks down around the south end of the lake.

"It’s really pretty in there with one fairly large ice cap and a bunch of glaciated ridges that go around. We ended up down on the east shore of the lake about two weeks later with our inflatable boat but it started to storm so we couldn’t cross. Luckily we had a satellite phone on us and we ended up getting picked up by a water taxi," Sarkany recalled.

So what’s the secret formula behind his win?

"From what people tell me, the film is entertaining. It takes people along and doesn’t lose momentum. You don’t have to be a climber or mountaineer to follow the process of what’s going on either, so I guess that’s what rung the bell with the filmmakers and actors who judged it," Sarkany offered.

The momentous win has spurred the laid-back 34-year-old’s interest in film-making. He definitely thinks it has boosted his attitude to take it a little more seriously.

"There’s not always work as a guide so I do sometimes use my gear a little bit in the professional sense. Last summer I had a contract with Outward Bound filming their groups in the mountains for a month but the whole editing thing has just been a hobby until now," he said. "But I’ll take it to a few more mountain festivals and see what happens from there."

Look for Chilko Lake On Ice at Telluride, Banff, and the U.K.’s Kendall Mountain Film festivals, and in the not too distant future, a special screening in Whistler.

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