Way back in 2007, filmmaker Dave Ohlson was in Namche Bazaar talking to climber Fabrizzio Zangrilli about Luigi Amedeo di Savoia's 1909 expedition to K2. Savoia, better known as the Duke of Abruzzi, led a team to 20,500 feet, the highest point reached on the mountain up to that time. Ohlson mentioned to Zangrilli that 2009 would be the 100th anniversary of the Duke's expedition, and that it sure would be nice to make a film about it. Zangrilli remembered that conversation and, early in 2009, he called Ohlson. He was guiding a team up K2, and the filmmaker could tag along. While following Zangrilli and crew, Ohlson met other climbers on the mountain, including Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. (No member of Zangrilli's team reached the summit in 2009, but everyone returned home safely.) Ohlson released a short on YouTube about the expedition in 2010, but now he's making a full-length documentary that will go deeper into the history of mountaineering on K2. He's looking for a little help via Kickstarter. I emailed him to find out more.
What was the hardest part of filming this movie? If I could go back and do this again, I would be so much better at it. There are so many difficult aspects. One is that I was on a climbing expedition, not a filming expedition. So on the way in, when I stopped to do some shooting, everyone passed me and I wouldn’t see them again until the evening. Once we were in base camp I realized I wasn't going to get enough sunlight to keep my batteries charged. Then I had some equipment failure that meant I couldn't use more than half my batteries. It was very frustrating and I had to be careful how much I shot because of it.
Once I was on the mountain, I found new obstacles. I had to keep my camera in my backpack so any time I wanted to pull it out it was kind of a hassle. Take off the backpack, anchor it, dig inside the pack, pull it out, etc. Sometimes, I would pull it out to shoot but I'd be breathing so hard it was difficult to keep the camera steady. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have a lighter camera for use on the mountain, but finances were tough and I barely made it happen with my existing equipment.
Part of what makes leading ice so hazardous is the fact that, unlike rock, ice melts. For a scary illustration of that point, watch this viral video of a late-season ice climber on Kennedy's Gully (WI5, six pitches) in Ouray, Colorado, narrowly escaping a massive fall when the ice he's perched on collapses beneath him. The only thing that saves the unknown climber is a last-minute top rope thrown to him by a party preparing to rappel above him.
In May of 2009, climbers Jonny Copp, Micah Dash, and filmmaker Wade Johnson were killed in an avalanche while climbing China's Mount Edgar. Copp frequently shared photos and stories with our magazine and website in the years before he died, and all of the men shared stories with a variety of adventure publications. In honor of Dash and Copp's sharing spirit, a number of organizations came together after their death to create the Copp-Dash Inspire Awards.
When I got pregnant in the summer of 2009, I was shocked at how matter-of-fact people were with their “advice.” Most annoying to me were the comments around my husband’s and my recreational pursuits, specifically climbing: “Kiss all those crazy weekend climbing trips goodbye!” and “I guess you’re not climbing anymore, so what are you guys gonna do for fun instead?” or even “It’s about time you guys settled down and stopped all that climbing business!”
Baby below! Photo: Lloyd Ramsey
I’m sure that most, if not all, of those statements were made out of ignorance rather than cruel intentions. I can brush them off now, but they didn’t sit well with me as a large hormonal pregnant woman, nor did they sound any better when I was a sleep-deprived new parent with cabin fever. Fortuntately, we don’t get those comments anymore. I think we’ve proven that even though we may not fit into the typical mold of most American families, we’re doing what works for us—and, more importantly, having a blast.