Banff Mountain Film Festival 2017

Skiing, trail running, extreme kayaking… no, this wasn’t what we spent our evening doing, unfortunately. However, we did get to see some amazing films of these activities done on a crazy scale, which is pretty much the next best thing, right?

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival takes place in Canada every November, and then the very best of the submitted films are chosen to go on a global tour. This week they were in London, and on Wednesday the Unit was lucky enough to go to the event for the second year. Featuring six films taking place all over the world, the evening was a true expression of what makes outdoor adventure so great!

We could rave about these incredible films for hours, but instead we’ve picked a few of the highlights…

Perhaps one of the most hard-hitting films was ‘Doing It Scared’, the story of climber Paul Pritchard, who returned to the site of an accident that had left him partially paralysed 18 years earlier, to complete the climb. Putting our little climbing wall at Scout Park to shame, Tasmania’s ‘Totem Pole’ is a 60m tower of rock, rising dramatically out of the sea. Paul’s inspiring attitude and determination enabled him to reach the top of the climb, proving without doubt his point that “disabled people are not unable. It’s society that is disabled around them.”

Another film that saw people venturing to dizzying heights was ‘La Liste’. The film documents Jérémie Heitz’s attempt to ski 15 of the most spectacular mountains in the Alps. With the majority of the mountains reaching over 4,000m, combined with gradients of 50-55 degrees, the footage had some members of the Unit peeking through their fingers in a combination of terror and awe. Jérémie reinvents the freeriding style, completing hair-raising descents in a matter of minutes, while the original descents would have taken hours. It’s certainly an important reminder of what can be achieved when you really put your mind to it!

From the summit of towering heights, to the bottom – ‘Locked In’ tells the story of a group of kayakers as they attempt a first descent of Papua New Guinea’s Beriman River, a stretch of water imprisoned on either side by sheer faces of rock, meaning that once you’re in, there’s no getting out! We watched in amazement as they navigated the almost continuous rapids along the river, and portaged their kayaks up steep cliffs and through forest in order to bypass some of the unrunnable gorges. In contrast, our Duke of Edinburgh expeditions on the River Wye seem pretty tame!

As Wednesday was International Women’s Day, it seems particularly apt to celebrate the achievements of Mira Rai, one of the world’s top trail runners, with the film ‘Mira’. The film illustrates her journey from growing up in a Nepalese mountain village, to competing in renowned competitions all over the world. It culminates in her incredible 110km run across the Spanish Pyrenees, achieving the position of second place in the 2015 Skyrunning World Championships, despite it only being her first year of international racing. If that’s not inspirational, then I don’t know what is.

The event showcased some truly incredible films, and we left with heads full of thrilling adventures from all over the world, and a burning desire to get out there and take on our own adventures – which, after all, is what Banff is all about!

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