Monday, January 25, 2010

Real-Time

On January 15, Renan Ozturk and Cory Richards topped out on Tawoche, a 6,500-meter peak in Nepal, after completing a difficult 1,200-meter new route. They had to battle dehydration—no water for 36 hours—and dangerously loose rock to finish the route. It was a major effort. But here's what was really amazing: On January 20, four days after they descended safely to base camp, the two guys posted a creative, heartfelt, beautifully shot video about their climb. One day later, they posted a follow-up covering the final climb to the summit and the descent, thus breaking the news of their own success.

TAWOCHE 2k10 dispatches #4 from renan ozturk on Vimeo.


I think this could be a game-changer for expedition climbing films. In their immediacy and authenticity, these short clips blow many slickly produced expedition films out of the water—I find them infinitely more inspiring than TV-style documentaries. Ironically, the climbers are sponsored in part by the North Face, which led the way in big-media big-walling during the first Internet boom in the late 1990s. I mean absolutely no disrespect to the climbers on those projects in Baffin Island and Pakistan, among other places, but when your game plan includes a multi-person camera crew, it inevitably dictates the terms of the climb, including endless fixed ropes, portaledges, days of hauling and repositioning, and releading pitches. It dictates the choice of route itself.

Ozturk and Richards chose a chossy, dangerous, unclimbed alpine route at high altitude. They had no idea if they would succeed; in fact, the odds were very much against success. They climbed alone and shot their own footage, each carrying a single digital camera; they had a helmet-cam rig and a few extra batteries. They edited these clips in their tents at base camp and uploaded them by satellite modem (except for two clips for which they had to race down to Namche Bazaar after their sat link died). "It is arguable which was harder and took more time: the climb or the dispatches," Richards said.

In the intro to their summit-day clip, on the Vertical Carnival blog, one of them wrote: "As [we] are artists, we are locked in a constant struggle between what we want to capture and the energy our bodies can afford to give. It’s an instinct to reach for the camera, but one that nearly always falls second to the tasks at hand. Often times, I criticize myself for not shooting more…for not nailing the perfect image…but then again, I am fighting just to move. As athletes, we are succeeding, but as creative individuals, we are flailing…it hurts."

They may have been flailing, but they weren't failing. In my view, they succeeded beautifully.

TAWOCHE 2k10 dispatches #5 from renan ozturk on Vimeo.

8 comments:

Narc said...

I would have to agree. The timeliness and creative quality of the updates was simply amazing.

fc said...

Here, here. Those guys did an incredible job. It's also a statement to the technology -- the new slr video camera's are incredible for weight and size...still Renan and Cory deserve a lot of respect for even being able to worry about creative aspects at elevation. Super impressive. This is one of the coolest bar raising bits of media I've seen. I wish it had been my project.

Fitz

Dougald MacDonald said...

I found myself thinking: Yeah, but, they didn't record all that much stuff, so this would never work for a longer film or a TV segment or whatever. Isn't that limiting? And then I thought: Who cares? Didn't we get just what we wanted and needed from these short clips?

Sam Page said...

Interesting article, Dougald. I liked your thought about the game-changing nature of the climb's documentation. On that note, though "they didn't record all that much stuff", I think about how much unique climbing footage there is on, say, Discovery's Everest shows. They tend to show the same footage repeatedly, while beginning each segment after the break with a rehash of what happened before the break. The rest of the space is then filled with interviews.

Incidentally, Dougald, did you interview the climbers for your nice piece in Climbing? I noticed that some of your info was not available on the climber's websites.

Dougald MacDonald said...

Thx for the nice note, Sam. For my Climbing.com story, I was able to get through to Cory and Renan and received one sat-email with some additional info about the climb and their films. I would have liked to ask them more, but they're a bit hard to reach right now...

Kim Graves said...

The first three dispatches are just as beautiful. Don't miss them.

Dougald MacDonald said...

Excellent point, Kim. You can find them all at Vertical Carnival blog, along with some great video clips from other trips by Renan Ozturk and Cedar Wright.

Timb said...

I was just at the Vancouver Mountain International Film Festival last night, and these segments would have easily held their own against the more 'produced' films there. This is not to say the films at the VIMFF were lacking, but the work Renan and Cory have done is amazing. Beautiful stuff.