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Photo: Rita Taylor

Banff Mountain Film and book Festival

It glows like a campfire radiating its charm into the Bow River Valley. Giant snow-clad peaks huddle around it, their precipitous faces pushed in tightly, trying to capture a little of its warmth and light. The small community of Banff, Alberta is a blazing symbol of the Canadian Rockies and is a fitting place for the world-class mountain film and book festival I attended last week.

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival showcases the best of mountain culture in a 9-day event that brings together writers, filmmakers, climbers and adventurers from around the world to share ideas and swap stories.

"Banff is kind of like speed dating with the outdoor world's most inspirational minds and talent. It's an amazing opportunity to pull away from our computers and cameras and discuss in person the shared challenges, joys, and dreams we have as filmmakers and mountain enthusiasts. I always leave with concrete ideas and ways to improve my own filmmaking." - Jordan Manley

I had the opportunity to present my book Rowing the Northwest Passage: Adventure, Fear, and Awe in a Rising Sea at this year’s festival and was delighted by the receptiveness of the sold-out crowd of 350. This was an audience keen on adventure.

I opened with the story of Frank Wolf and I rowing our 4-man ocean rowing boat, the Arctic Joule, around Cape Parry on the Amundsen Gulf of the Northwest Passage. Conditions deteriorated dramatically as we rounded the cape and we were blown out to the gulf where dense pack ice laid in wait. It was terrifying ordeal that we escaped only by the skin of our teeth.

My strategy was to capture the audience early with a compelling story and then, once engaged, share with them important information I learned on the voyage about climate change. I used the same strategy for my book and found it to be an effective tool for conveying information in a captivating way.

Over the course of my stay at the festival I was thrilled to meet high-altitude alpinist Greg Child and was honoured to share a book-signing table with legendary author and climber David Roberts who I’ve admired for years. I’ve read several of Roberts’ books and listened to his audiobook Four Against the Arctic while rowing on the Northwest Passage.

Time spent in the mountains has proved to be a quintessential ‘reboot’ for me. It only took five days but my mind is now swimming with ideas for another big adventure. Damn you Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival!  :)