Climbing Advocacy Conference Welcomes Mountainfilm on Tour

Access Fund is excited to showcase a special selection of Mountainfilm on Tour films curated for our Climbing Advocacy Conference on November 14 and 15. Films featured in the playlist are a throwback to Mountainfilm’s roots in climbing and mountaineering that also highlight a new era of climbing films that embrace equity, stewardship and activism. Thanks to the Mountainfilm team for this perspective on the festival's legacy and history in climbing adventure.

The Mountainfilm team displaying their indomitable spirit, Telluride, CO

Mountainfilm was born on June 1, 1979, when a group of world-class climbers headed into the heart of the San Juan mountains for an immersive three-day event celebrating mountains, climbing and mountaineering. Attendees at the inaugural festival in Telluride spent their days exploring the surrounding mountains, paddling the San Miguel River, and participating in conversations about the importance of wild spaces and places. By nightfall, they gathered together at the historic Sheridan Opera House to watch films that featured mountain sports, mountain cultures and mountain issues. The whole scrappy effort, spearheaded by climber Bill Kees and filmmaker Lito Tejada-Flores, was pulled off with little money, donated pies from a local church, admittedly loose planning and a lot of help from a group of climbers nicknamed the Ophir Wall Bums.

The first festivals attracted leading names in mountaineering and climbing: Yvon Chouinard, Royal Robbins, Reinhold Messner, Sir Edmund Hillary, Charlie Fowler (10-year Mountainfilm board member), Lynn Hill, Norman Vaughn and Martin Litton, to name a few. Forty years later, Mountainfilm has established itself as one of Telluride’s best-loved festivals. From three days, 27 films and one theater, we have grown into a four-day international gathering featuring more than 150 films in eight theaters, and an array of special guests spanning from beloved environmental activist Katie Lee to award-winning author Cheryl Strayed and climate advocate and mountaineering legend Conrad Anker. And while we still celebrate mountain culture with adventure films and climbing pioneers, Mountainfilm’s programming now also encompasses documentaries about social justice, environmental battles and political game-changers – all themes that highlight our guiding principle of celebrating indomitable spirit.

Over the years our organization has expanded to include programs that reach greater audiences beyond Telluride. We offer inspirational free programming for students in K-12 public schools through our Mountainfilm for Students initiative. Mountainfilm on Tour travels around the globe with a collection of culturally rich, adventure-packed and enlightening documentary short films. And, in the interest of helping filmmakers tell important stories — and helping those stories be heard — we award $30,000 in grants annually.

Our mission is to use the power of film, art and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world. Over the years we’ve heard countless stories from Mountainfilm audiences who were inspired to take action toward positive change. A middle school student in Florida who saw Blackfish at the festival, worked to cancel her school’s annual field trip to SeaWorld. In Baltimore, LGBTQIA students had an opportunity to connect and share their challenges with Changing the Game subject and transgender student Andraya Yearwood. We’ve followed the extraordinary career of Kai Lightner, who first came to Mountainfilm in 2015 as a budding 11-year old climber in 14.c and is now using his voice to inspire a new generation of young climbers.

It takes a dedicated team of staff and volunteers to create the lightning in a bottle that the Mountainfilm festival is today. From our staff, thank you for being a part of Mountainfilm and for your support of Access Fund. We hope you’re inspired to take action.

–The Mountainfilm Team

Climbing Advocacy Conference, November 14-15, 2020