Mountaineering film fest honors the extreme

Chris Sharma falls off cliffs on purpose. Photo by Adam Clark

It’s not like we don’t have plenty of our own adventurers in these parts. After all, the Canada-based Banff Mountain Film Festival travels all around the world showing its curated batch of extreme-outdoor-sports short documentaries, and Brevard, which has hosted the event to capacity crowds for some 20 years, is one of the smaller stops on the tour. It’s a testament to Transylvania County/Pisgah Forest’s avid mountain-biking and rock-climbing scene.

But those featured in the films are bonafide death defiers, willing to plunge their kayaks over the sides of enormous waterfalls into seas of ice; ski in the back country for 2.5 million miles (as Aaron Rice does, going for a world record); and breach indigenous communities in the Amazon to learn the secrets of making ancient canoes. In Above the Sea, Chris Sharma indulges in “deep-water soloing” in Mallorca. That means scaling rock cliffs with no tethering gear — the climber relies on a big body of water below to absorb the inevitable (and otherwise deadly) fall.

Overcoming odds is exactly the point, and the event increasingly features women competing on these rugged global playgrounds; Stumped is the story of Maureen Beck, who “doesn’t want to be considered a good one-armed climber, or a good female climber … she just wants to be a plain good climber.” Edges honors 90-year-old ice skater Yvonne Dowlen.

Screened at Brevard College, the film festival certainly isn’t for slow movers. The Friday- and Saturday-night screenings typically sell out within 24 hours. But tickets for the Sunday matinee are now held back until a day or two before the show, says local coordinator Clyde Carter, suggesting hope for us all.

Banff Mountain Film Festival is presented March 16-18 by the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education department at Brevard College, benefitting the Brevard Outing Club and Cycling Team. For more information, see

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