Each year, I — and apparently many others — look forward to the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s arrival in Sheridan. The Wyoming Wilderness Association has hosted the event for nearly a decade at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.
I’ve been critical of some films in the past — too political, too geared toward adrenaline junkies, just not my style. I’ve fallen in love with other films — the characters within them and the triumph of their spirits.
Every year, I leave the festival inspired and ready to take on my next adventure. Sometimes that means taking a hike along the city pathways (spring weather in Wyoming always poses a challenge). Other years, the temperatures have warmed enough for snow to melt and for adventurers to head into the Bighorn Mountains.
I’ve had my favorite films over the years, but one included Tuesday night in Sheridan — “Into Twin Galaxies” — really caught my attention. It was the last film of the night and it lasted almost an hour.
The film follows three National Geographic Adventurers of the Year as they embark on a ski and kayak mission across Greenland. Using kite skis, they tow their whitewater kayaks over 1,000 kilometers of the Greenland ice sheet to reach the most northern river ever paddled.
They encounter a number of challenges — uneven surfaces to haul their gear, a kite-skiing accident that injured one member of the team. Then, they get to the river and find… there’s no river. It’s frozen. To trek that far and be that disappointed had to have been a big hit to morale. The trek continued and the group weaved their way through and under snow bridges, eventually reaching flowing water.
They hit some big rapids, celebrating the adventure. The trek proved to be quite an achievement. Each of the three discussed the excitement they felt to complete the route. They pointed out how difficult it was and said they likely would never take the same route again. They developed memories, experience and camaraderie all by experiencing “mutual suffering.”
I attended the event with some hiking pals, and that comment forced all of us to chuckle and exchange knowing looks.
We’ve never crossed a sheet of ice. We’ve never looked for a river, only to find it frozen. We’ve trekked from west to east over the Bighorns for three years now. We’ve already planned this year’s adventure.
We have formed bonds over mutual suffering — trekking up steep mountain sides, conquering fears, bundling up against the elements. We’ve also helped each other through minor injuries — a sprained ankle and lots of blisters.
We’ve shown our true selves and have come out as even stronger friends on the other side. Who are your adventuring friends? What do you admire most about them or other outdoor enthusiasts?
For me, it’s the triumph of spirit. It’s the willingness to “embrace the suck” and to suffer together, knowing it will be worth it in the end.
A big thanks to WWA and the WYO for another amazing year of Banff.