Mountaineering mania at MY Place 

What: Best of the Vancouver Int. Mtn Film Fest

Where: MY Place

When: Friday, April 4

Dust off the back pack and dig out the compass, for spring is fast approaching and there’s no better way to reawaken wanderlust then with a good old fashioned film festival, chock full of mountain-based adventures, explorations and a live slide show highlighting local backcountry hot spots.

The sixth annual Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is on its way to Whistler for the first time, sure to attract those hibernating hikers, bikers, climbers and other wilderness-loving types.

A refreshing change to the usual format of a best of fest film showing will be the live presentation from VIMFF’s grand prize winner, W-B ski patroller and mountaineer, Dave Sarkany. His slide show will feature favourite routes from Vancouver to Bella Coola. Following that, you’ll get his movie, Chilko Lake On Ice, which beat out all international competition at the legend-studded event.

"I couldn’t believe I won," said Sarkany.

Chilko is about a ski traverse on the glaciers and ice caps at the south end of Chilko Lake. Sarkany and 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 the two just had to get home, but it was not as easy as they had hoped.

Other films include the full Front Range Freaks movie. If you attended the Banff or Telluride best of fests earlier this year you would have caught a small teaser on this funny film, titled Urban Ape . "Freaks" however, is made up of many other short and unusual climbing vignettes, from the serious and touching to the silly and illegal. See Heidi Wertz climbing a 5.13 crack in Rocky Mountain National Park, Hank Caylor soloing and base-jumping from a 400-ft smokestack, Matt Samet's climbing of the Flatiron’s death routes and a special tribute to late climbing guru and soloist, Derek Hersey.

Also on the list is Into The Thunder Dragon , about extreme mountain unicyclists who make their way through the Himalayas on one wheel. It is Kris Holm and Nathan Hoover's wild journey across the remote kingdom of Bhutan. Dragon is truly a visual treat with beautiful scenery, endearing local reactions and incredible stunts against a mystical backdrop and colourful soundtrack.

"Bring a rare sport into a rare land and you get the recipe for an unbelievable adventure," said director/producer Sean White. "We travelled where few foreigners have ever set foot in search of new riding terrain and found surprises around every corner. It was an adventure experience unlike anything I'd ever seen before."

The road trip encompassed climbing and unicycling the Rodang La trade route in eastern Bhutan, covering 10,000 vertical feet of ancient paths and crumbling rock staircases more than 1,500 years old.

"We rode past ancient Buddhist monasteries built into 3,000 foot cliffs, we went to a festival celebrating Buddhist mythology and we even tried to find a Yeti, which I gotta say, felt pretty damn close to us at times," White chuckled.

Last but not least is Geronimo , a movie about Polish climber Marcin Tomaszewski and his internal and external battles with his chosen profession.

The whole film and slide event will take about two and a half hours "with a beer break in between," said Sarkany. Proceeds from the event will be going to the Jim Haberl Fund, building a hikers hut in the Tantalus Region in conjunction with the Alpine Club of Canada and the late mountaineer’s family and friends.

The Jim Haberl Hut will be built in the Serratus-Dione col, near Tantalus Provincial Park and will be visible from the Sea to Sky highway. It will sleep up to 16 people. From the hut, climbers and skiers will be able to access a range of challenging alpine climbs and ski slopes.

Jim Haberl was one of Canada’s foremost mountaineers and the first Canadian to summit the world’s second highest and perhaps most difficult peak, K2, in Pakistan in 1993. Haberl died in an avalanche in Alaska in 1999. His wife and project chair, Sue Oakey said: "The show of support so far has been incredible. There are so many people who hold Jim in their hearts and who would like to be a part of this tribute to him."

The project organizers hope to raise $60,000 to cover costs of building the hut and to establish a fund to cover annual maintenance and operation expenses. More information on the project and how those interested can help through donating money, construction materials and time can be found on the Web at www.jimhaberlfund.org .

Tickets for the Best of the VIMFF Whistler showcase are $9.95 in advance or $13 at the door via Ticketmaster or the MY Place box office. Ph: 604-935-8418. Show starts at 7 p.m. sharp.

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