Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mussoorie Writers

Experience the Himalaya: A Mountain Festival

One of the highlights of being at Woodstock in the fall has been the Mussoorie Writers Festival. Steve Alter has been curating this amazing event since 2007. This one was a bit different; more about experiences than books.

To begin with there were five attendees who have summited Everest — several more than once. The majority of the presenters are dedicated mountaineers who have lived remarkable lives.

The Festival was opened by Steve, who introduced the Chief Guest, Loveraj Singh Dharmshaktu. He is a member of the Border Security Force, has summited 32 major Himalayan peaks, and climbed Everest six times.

Steve Alter
Loveraj Singh Dharmshaktu
A panoramic 360° view from Mt. Everest was shown on screen. You can see it here:

The first main presenter was Steve Swenson from Seattle. He is one of America’s most accomplished climbers, known for pioneering difficult routes and testing the boundaries of endurance. He has climbed both K2 and Everest without supplemental oxygen, as well as many other peaks in the Karakoram. Swenson is immediate past president of the American Alpine Club.

He showed us his film about climbing Sasar Kangri II, "The Old Breed." He went with two others, one young and another in his 50s, like himself. During the climb, which went up a previously unclimbed route, he became quite ill. In the end he had to be flown out.

K2 in the Karakoram
Steve Swenson
The second film of the morning was "Verticalmente DeMode," by Marizio "Manolo" Zanolla, an Italian rock climber. The film was breathtaking, showing him climbing a sheer rock face near his home. 

Manolo with his Italian translator
Clinging to the rock
Closeup of his hands
You can watch a clip from his movie on YouTube:

The background sounds are wonderful — hammer banging, his breath rasping. This film is artistic and suspenseful, quite amazing.

An auspicious beginning!

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