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Cool As Ice Banff Mountain Film Festival puts grueling survival – and high-flying stunts – on the big screen.

Cool As Ice

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Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 9:20 am, Thu May 16, 2013.

While attempting to be the first people to walk from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole unassisted, Australian adventurers James “Cas” Castrission and Justin “Jonesy” Jones had to deal with whipping wind, white-out snow blizzards, hidden crevasses, insufficient rations, skin infections and a furry Norwegian eccentric they nicknamed “The Terminator.” In the 44 minute-long film Crossing the Ice, one of nine movies playing at the Banff Mountain Film Festival this Friday at the Golden State Theatre, Castrission and Jones are surprised to discover that a Norwegian named Aleksander Gamme happens to be attempting the same feat at the same time as they strike for their 1,100 kilometer trip into the lonely Antarctic environment.

Responding to questions via e-mail from Sydney, Australia, Jones explains how the Australian duo’s attitude toward Gamme changed during their expedition. “Initially, I think we approached it as a bit of a race, but as the trip went on, we became allies,” Jones says. “We were both going through the same ordeal and we started to use each other as inspiration.”

According to Jones, the two Australians have kept in touch with the Norwegian since their Antarctic adventure. “We’ve definitely made a friend for life in Gamme,” Jones says. “We’ve talked on Skype and over email.”


Through most of the film, which racked up the festival’s Grand Prize, People’s Choice Award and Best Film awards, Gamme is out of sight, as Castrission and Jones resemble tiny inkblots on a huge white sheet of paper as they attempt to trek across the snowy landscape. The movie includes some graphic depictions of what this harsh environment does to the human body. 

“The physical hardship borne of the elements was definitely the toughest aspect of the journey,” Jones says. “The snow slowed down our sleds by a huge amount, put us behind schedule… we had to cut rations, infections spread; we lost an extraordinary amount of weight. It just went on and on.”

What gets Castrission and Jones through the many difficult moments seems to be their impressive motivation and incredible friendship. The two, who also pulled off the first unsupported kayak journey from Australia to New Zealand in 2007 and 2008 before going out on the Antarctic expedition in 2011, are still going on short journeys, but plans for a bigger outing have been put on hold due to Castrission’s latest adventure: fatherhood.

A brief rundown of the other films at this year’s festival follows:

• The 16-minute long The Denali Experiment finds a varied crew of snowboarders and skiers including Burning Man devotee Sage Cattabriga-Alosa attempting to ascend and then descend the 20,320-foot high Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. Less grueling than Jones and Castrission’s expedition, the conditions still force individuals to come together as a team.

Flow Hunters, a nine-minute film about paddlers tackling serious whitewater in a New Zealand river, has impressive footage of kayakers launching themselves off waterfalls. But the short movie gets tense when one paddler gets trapped under a rock, which forces a few of the other kayakers to reexamine their relationship with the sport.

• An inspired mash-up, the six-minute Unicorn Sashimi intersperses footage of snowboarders and skiers plowing through oceans of powder with sequences of intense Taiko drumming. The intensity of the athletes and the musicians play off each other well.

• You know that The Gimp Monkeys is not your standard climbing film when one of the climbers who is prepping his gear asks for someone to hand him his leg. The eight-minute movie follows three disabled climbers on what becomes the first all disabled team ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan. 

Industrial Revolutions depicts the poetic way that Danny MacAskill transforms an abandoned ironworks into a freestyle bike course. The five-minute film finds MacAskill pulling off feats that would make Cirque du Soleil jealous.

• Short but gripping, the four-minute Moonwalk has Dean Potter attempting to tightrope walk on a rope set up between two rock spires in Yosemite. What makes the film so visually arresting is the full moon rising slowly in the background like a giant helium balloon.

• Some local folks might have caught Reel Rock 7: Honnold 3.0 when it played this summer at the Reel Rock Film Tour’s stop at Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library. For those who missed it, this 33-minute long offering captures climber Alex Honnold as his profile blows up due to coverage by 60 Minutes, National Geographic Magazine and, even, People Magazine after he summits Half Dome without ropes. This film has him preparing to climb Mount Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome consecutively.

• The 15-minute mountain biking film Strength In Numbers features a segment on a place local riders might know about: the Aptos Post Office Jump Park, a vacant lot in nearby Aptos studded with dirt jumps that toss the riders high up into the air. 

THE BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL screens nine films starting at 7pm Friday, March 1, at the Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $17/REI members; $20/non-members. 883-8048. All net proceeds benefit Return of the Natives.


• It’s the voice, as modulated as a tuning fork, combined with an extra-expressive face, that together professional storyteller Jim Weiss has been employing to conjure vivid narratives – from the Bible and Egypt to Twain and Lincoln – in the mind for more than 25 years. Oral storytelling is an old artform made fresh again as evidenced in TED Talks, Steinbeck Center’s Our American Story project (, open mic nights, and in documentaries, not to mention storytelling events like those hosted by the Monterey Public Library, that bring in folks like Weiss. Give a listen to his ode to Greek mythology 7pm Tuesday, March 5, at the library’s Community Room, for ages 6 and up.

• The Carl Cherry Center for the Arts is accepting poetry submissions from Monterey County high school students for its annual Poetry Awards, to be held April 27, paired with the center’s Thinking Out Loud art exhibit. Up to three submissions no longer than 40 lines each, must be original work typed in English, Spanish or both, from students enrolled in a county school. Otherwise, there are “no restrictions as to content, style, form or metrical device.” See details at Mail poems by March 20 to Cherry Center for the Arts, P.O. Box 863, Carmel, CA 93921. “Poems, everybody! The laddie reckons himself a poet!” Damn right. Hey, “no restrictions.”

• Maybe spoken word and poetry isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re more of a cinephile. Maybe you should think about submitting a short film to the Henry Miller Library’s 8th annual Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series. For the purposes of the BSISFSS (which phonetically sounds like “be Sisyphus,” though the submission process is really easier than that implies), a short film is less than 40 minutes. Go to for submission guidelines.

• The Monterey County Film Commission threw an Oscar viewing party at Cannery Row Brewing Company that was not too expensive ($175 per at the Inn at Spanish Bay in 2008), not too puzzling (last year’s “party” asked invitees to stay home to watch, but donate anyway), but was juuust right. For $10 ($60 for VIP booth with dinner) attendees got plenty of flatscreens, auction items, a logo-backdropped photo shoot and red carpet, contest and prizes, a full restaurant dishing out drinks and food, and an afterparty with music from DJ Hanif Wondir. It seemed a pitch-perfect blend of TV gazing, food grazing and people mingling. 

• Last week we told you about the precarious “home” life of Arts Habitat, which had vacated the Community Media Center building near the airport in anticipation that the lease that Access Monterey Peninsula has with building owner Clear Channel may be ending soon. AMP executive director Paul Congo, a technical whiz, is happy (to a degree) to report that Clear Channel’s real estate agent has “now offered AMP a new lease for [an] undefined term with [a] six month requirement for termination.”

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