“Mountains in Motion” Set to Hit the Big Screen in Banff

Back in November 2011, I posted an update from Pokhara, Nepal, about the trailer release for a film I was working on called Mountains in Motion: The Canadian RockiesFor a year and a half I had the pleasure of working alongside my husband (and photographer), Paul Zizka; “creative genius,” Doug Urquhart; and an inspiring team of artists and contributors to create a 13 minute time-lapse film that we completed in August 2012.

Never having written for the screen before, this project presented some interesting challenges to me as a writer. But, our team had a goal in mind: to screen the film at the 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival (BMFF). And this past month we learned that we were accepted to this festival and are opening up the November 3 film screenings! To date, the film has also been accepted to the Dixie Film Festival (in Athens, Georgia), where it won “Best Cinematogaphy,” the Atlanta Shortsfest, where it won “Best Documentary” and the Asheville Cinema Festival, which runs the same weekend as the BMFF.

Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies is not your traditional time-lapse film. Our goal was to push the limits of this form of photography and include a storyline. Coordinating the text with the images and music was one of the hardest creative projects I have ever worked on, particularly since our team was working in two different countries, but the final product has made it well worth all of our efforts.

If you’ll be in Banff for the festival, check out the film festival schedule for screenings (we’re part of Program A on the second weekend). I’ll also be milling around all week writing dispatches for Highline Magazine, so come say hi if you see me!

The new official trailer for the film is below. For more information, check out this article by Lynn Martel in the Rocky Mountain Outlook: Local film to open Nov. 3 BMFF screenings

Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies | Official Trailer from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Interview with Where.ca

Where.ca recently contacted me about participating in their Travel Tuesday Q&A. I promptly agreed. A chance to talk about my favourite place on the planet (The Canadian Rockies)? You bet I will!

They asked me lots of questions about my favourite spots in the Canadian Rockies, my life as a writer, and my own travel habits. My favourite question: Are there any common misconceptions about the Rockies region that you’d like to dispel? You’ll have to read the article to find out!

Highline Magazine: In Print and Online!

The New HighlineOnline.ca!

I’m pretty stoked to announce that the Summer 2011 issue of Highline Magazine has now hit the stands! I joined the team at Highline as the new Editor back in the Spring, and have been thoroughly enjoying my even deeper immersion into mountain culture of the Canadian Rockies (you can always go deeper!) You can pick up a copy of the latest issue at a variety of locations in Banff, Canmore and Calgary or read our digital edition on issuu.com!

This latest issue features two articles I wrote: a feature, Growing Up Green at the Plain of Six Glaciers (pages 8-10), and short update about a recent book launch, Famous Canadian Rockies Guide Turns 40 (page 29.)

As well, we recently launched a brand new website at highlineonline.ca, which is set to be the new hub for all things Canadian Rockies. The new site features blog posts written by writers in Canmore, Banff, Jasper, Edmonton and the Calgary area, as well as links to local conditions (trail, climbing, road, animal sightings), a business listing, photos, and more! I’ve been editing all of the blog posts and writing a few myself, which has been a wonderful experience. I feel so privileged to be working with such a talented team.

Enjoy and all feedback is welcome!


Mount Assiniboine – South West Face

If you are using this information for your own trip, please read this disclaimer and description of my abilities. Additionally, for this particular entry, I don’t have many photos of the route itself and therefore cannot describe our route with a lot of accuracy.

from wikipedia.com

Somehow I went from writing about Sundance Canyon to writing about Mount Assiniboine (11,870 ft), the highest peak in Banff National Park (though at 11,850 ft, Mount Forbes, is the highest peak entirely in the park). Mount Assiniboine sits on the Great Divide (the Alberta/British Columbia border)  and can be accessed a number of ways. Fortunately for our party, we accessed the mountain via an 7-8 km trail located along Assiniboine Creek, which you can access by logging roads that march their way through Assiniboine Provincial Park (see GemTrek map “Banff & Mount Assiniboine”). Unfortunately, this meant that we never viewed Mount Assiniboine from its more iconic side that gave it the name, Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies. Instead, we bivied at a small plateau located on its ‘uglier’ backside, also known as its South West Face. Otherwise, you can access the mountain via Bryant Creek (Spray Valley Provincial Park) or Sunshine Meadows (Banff National Park).

Headed up into the mist on Day 2.

Shortly after reaching our bivy site on July 22, the skies unleashed some hail and rain that never really relented until about 8 a.m. the following day. Our forecast seemed to be about 24 hours late – we were expecting a bluebird day on July 23, but woke up at 1am to the pitter-patter of rain hitting the tent and no sign of a break in the clouds. Our crew eventually woke up and started up the mountain for a day of reconnaissance and perhaps an ascent of the nearby Lunette Peak (also known as ‘Lost Peak’ thanks to James Outram’s accidental ascent).

Now, if I’ve ever heard anything about Assiniboine it is “go when it’s dry.” Trudging up the mountain in low clouds and snow made us second guess at times whether our sojourn into this part of the Rockies was worth our precious summer days. Surely the weather was better somewhere else…

Overall, the South West face was very snowy, which at times helped our ascent and at other times made us think about what it would be like to be scrambling on the loose rock underneath like those who had climbed the mountain before us (and whose beta and notes we were using). For the most part, we used the snow as a ramp and kick-stepped our way up so long as it wasn’t too soft. Thankfully, the more exposed scrambling wasn’t too snowy or icy and where we encountered some menacing verglas, we put faith in the old crampons. We stopped to rest at a particularly odd rock formation which we called The Bus Stop – a title that will forever stick amongst this group of friends and mountaineers.

The Bus Stop

So, on our reconnaissance day we managed to kick steps about half way up the peak and do some important route finding. When the ceiling showed no sign of lifting and the snow got steeper, however, we decided to turn back for the comforts of camp, aborting our attempt on Lunette Peak as well. Thankfully, the sun eventually came out and we were able to dry out our gear…and tent…and enjoy the bivy site.

Day 3, July 24, we woke up at 1 a.m. to a star-filled sky and high hopes. By 2 a.m. we had started up the peak under the most memorable sparkle of stars and retraced our steps very quickly to where we had left off. Within two hours we had reached our turn-around point and the sky started to get lighter. We travelled through mixed terrain, kick-stepping our way up a series of snow slopes and scrambling up rocky outcroppings and chimneys to arrive at ‘The Eyebrow,’ a horizontal outcropping of rock (or orange tinted block, as it is described in the books) that can be circumvented via its right-hand most side.

Night sky over Mounts Aye and Eon.

Eventually we met some steeper, more exposed areas, some angling about 50 degrees, and decided to belay our way across and up, sometimes pulling some surprise mix climbing moves as snow, ice and rock reunited under our feet. All you could do was go up and think about the scare factor later (which I did in the car on the way home….) Upon reaching the top of the ridge to the summit, we were quite the joyful bunch. The hardest climbing was behind us and now we just had to kick-step our way to the very top on crusty snow that had been hardened by wind and sun.

Upon reaching the summit, we learned that another group had been there only 10 minutes before us (otherwise we would have been the first party to reach the summit this season). And only a few minutes after we arrived, a guide and his client arrived to join us on the summit. Seems everyone decided to make their push for the summit on this bluebird day. While the views were spectacular, I must admit I didn’t take them in as much as I had hoped. A strong wind battered us on the summit and, fully aware that it was 9am and that was ‘late’ by alpine standards, we began our descent for fear of softening snow and avalanche conditions.

The snowy summit ridge.

Sure enough, our descent involved some rappels on less-than-ideal anchors and panicked downclimbing on softening snow underneath imposing gullies that loomed with heaps of snow just waiting to come down on this sunny day. Still, the descent went off without issue despite the potential danger. Dave kissed the rock at The Bus Stop upon arriving back there, thankful that nothing had gone wrong.  It is amazing how quickly conditions can turn from perfect, to reasonable, to deteriorating. More downclimbing and slushing our way through snow eventually brought us to familiar grassy ledges just above our bivy site. Upon arriving, we lay on the grass and stared up at the mighty peak. Backpackers Pantry has never tasted so good.

We concluded the trip by hiking back out to the car that very same day – fairly elated, and surprised, that we had just climbed Mount Assiniboine, a large peak that has been on the list for a number of years. For me, it wasn’t an item on a ‘To Climb’ list – it was an item on my Life List, and personally an amazing experience and accomplishment. Despite the warnings of climbing in snow, we proved that it can be done. You just have to go check it out for yourself.

I’ll try to post a topo soon.

Marvel Lake from the summit.

Downclimbing some of the trickier rock. Photo by http://www.zizka.ca.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.

First 10km Race Ever

At the Finish Line

At the Finish Line

A month ago I had the chance for a spot in a road race that is usually sold out the day registration open. Melissa’s Road Race is a popular Banff road race and has been awarded as one of the best road races in Alberta. Sponsored by the famous Melissa’s Restaurant (a place my parents used to take us to at a very young age), the race is an exciting gathering of locals and runners from all over the province.

So I had my chance to run. I always wanted to sign up for Melissa’s Road Race with the intention of having a goal to work towards. I also wanted to overcome a major fear of mine that I’d developed from bad experiences running track in elementary school: racing of any kind… especially among a large group of people.

Anyways, I had only a month to ‘train’ and I had to just trust that the hiking and climbing I had been doing all summer would help me out. Still, I hadn’t been for a run since May and sprained my ankle in August, so I was feeling a bit skeptical. All I managed to do before the race was run a 9.25 km route and a 4 km route.

Showing up on the race day, I felt a little bit silly… that is until I saw the kind of ‘racers’ that were there. Being a popular road race celebrating its 30th year, there must have been years that some of these people ran, but as time wore on, it turns out they were now settling to walk the whole way. This gave me a bit of a boost of confidence despite the super-runners that were stretching in unimaginable ways beside me.

My iPod pumping tunes in my ears, I was surprised by how fast I was going, but some unseen force was definitely driving me onwards (even up the hill on Tunnel Mountain). I crossed the finish line with a time of 58 minutes and a  pace of 5:48 per kilometre. Is that good? I don’t know.

All I know is that I had a blast and overcome one of my major fears. Amazing.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2009.