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Squamish Mountain Festival: It’s about the journey

The Squamish Mountain Festival, presented by Arc’teryx, is taking place on Canada’s West Coast this weekend. Lauren Watson has been covering the event for Gripped and she reports that the event is a combination of inspirational talks mixed with hilarious presentations.

By Lauren Watson

Night One 

Last night the ninth annual Squamish Mountain Festival kicked off with local’s night. It featured presentations from long-time Squamish local Jeremy Smith and the young alpine phenom Marc-Andre Leclerc. Eager ticket holders lined up at the door, hoping to be one of the first 50 to receive a free Arc’teryx mug and to sample some of Whistler Brewing Company’s finest brews.

The films took the audience on a wild and cold ride through the Antarctic’s Ulvetanna Peak in The Last Great Climb and deep into the heart of Patagonian wilds with both The Lost Valley and Patagonia Dreamin.

Smith, having made the pilgrimage west over 13 years ago, shared stories of local first ascents, high line adventures and even some alpine bouldering. He has watched the Squamish climbing scene develop. Smith is the president of the grassroots initiative known for its climbing advocacy; the Squamish Access Society (SAS). SAS is responsible for a recent re-bolting initiative, trail maintenance and being a liaison between the municipality, B.C. Parks and the climbers. He is also one of the founding members of the Grand Wall Bouldering Co-operative.

Marc- Andre Leclerc regaled the crowd with his recent adventures in the mountains. With his detailed story-telling paired with his nearly unimaginable psych for every aspect of adventure, it would have been hard for anyone in the room not to be inspired.

The live presentations ended with a Q&A with three of the climbers featured in The Lost Valley: Paul McSorley, Marc Van Bien and Leclerc, who demonstrated for the audience the “Mariposa shuffle,” a dance guaranteed to warm the soul if not the body.

Night Two

The Squamish Mountain Film festival continued with the MEC sponsored Night of Adventure. The evening involved live presentations from Josh Lavigne and Chris Christie who presented their latest trips from across Canada and Alaska. As well, three films were played.

The first of the films was called The Water Tower; a 28-minute film by Peter McBride that explores Kenya’s relationship with Ngai, the water god that lives on mount Kenya. McBride returned, after having climbed in the Kenyan mountains with his family when he was a child, only to find that the Glaciers were all but gone and the landscape had changed drastically. This Socio-enviro adventure documentary is grounded by every explorer’s obligation to really understand the impacts we can have on a landscape, following McBride as he attempted to reach the true summit of Mount Kenya.

Next, Lavigne presented footage from an expedition with Ines Papert and Jon Walsh to the northern edges of Auyuittuq on Baffin Island. Lavigne explored the sobering question of why climbers risk their lives, away from their families and friends to explore these vast reaches of the earth, and what is really worth risking our lives for. One of his take home messages still rings clear, “Don’t be afraid of cold water, dark nights and naked men.”

Chris Christie then presented a slideshow with a mixed with photo and video footage of his alpine ski and mountaineering expeditions. He started his presentation with a strong message that “The journey starts when you leave your front door.” His taste for visual and audio aesthetics delivered the audience to a place that allowed true appreciation for both the risks we take, and the beauty of the natural world we play in.

The last film of the evening was a Sender Films production that documented the recent big-news encounter between Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and the Sherpas on Mount Everest. Once again, it gave a reality check on the risks and culture that are evolving within mountaineering. The film starts a conversation on access and respect within foreign lands.

Each of the presentations carried a similar message, asking the question of why we do what we do. Each expedition faced challenges that forced climbers and alpinists to really examine what the summit means to them. The resounding theme was that journey itself was most important, never the summit.

The Chief in Squamish Photo Jason Kruk's Blog
The Chief in Squamish Photo Jason Kruk’s Blog

2013 Squamish Mountain Festival from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for more of Watson’s words from the Squamish Mountain Festival.