The Golden Dream – The Golden Cage

The Golden Dream, known in Spanish as The Golden Cage is an observational film that follows three teenagers as they travel to Guatemala along railroad tracks north towards the United States. During the journey they need to work to make money, face attacks from the police, immigration police and gangs. When one of the characters finally arrives in the US he works cleaning a slaughterhouse after the workers have finished their shift.

Trump supporters and Brexit voters need to watch these films because the trip from economically less developed countries to economically more developed countries is not an easy one. It requires the taking of risks. In this context they face organised crime, heat and other challenges.

I watched this film at the Graduate Institute yesterday night. It was shown within the context of the Global Migration Film Festival. During the discussion at the end of the screening the panel spoke about some of the other challenges that people face such as human trafficers and more. Two aspects we do not see are the injuries that people sustain falling off of trains and rape is alluded to rather than shown.

The Invisible City [Kakuma] – Trailer (ENG) – Lieven Corthouts from Cassette for timescapes on Vimeo.

People need to watch these documentaries and films. Awareness of these issues needs to be endemic to the Western World. Yesterday they said something to the effect that “This is not a crisis, this is a norm.” They said that because this was a situation that has been going on for decades changes need to be made. Permanent solutions need to be found to improve the lives for all of those that are affected.

It is a shame that rather than see a growth in compassion and cooperation we are seeing people like Trump elected and ideas like Brexit adopted. The trend needs to be reversed and that is where documentaries and films can help open peoples’ eyes. Society needs to move away from populism and fast.

The Global Migration Film Festival
The Global Migration Film Festival

The Third part of the Saillon VF

Yesterday afternoon after two top rope climbs in Dorénaz we drove to the Via Ferrata de Saillon to climb this one. It is a via ferrata that I know well. This time I decided that I wanted to try the third part of the Saillon VF once again. What makes the third part special is that it is marked as TD+, more than very difficult. This is a more technical climb for people who are familiar with the sport.

Looking towards Saillon

The first time I tried this via ferrata I was with a group but climbed it as a solo effort. I went at my speed and I just wanted to complete it as quickly as possible. The challenges were being able to handle the long drop below and the physical demands of the via ferrata. When I climbed it alone I increased my heart rate by a lot and my muscles felt that they were weakening so although it felt excellent it made me skip this portion on two or three subsequent trips.

For a while people would frequently get trapped on the third part and there was a sign reminding people that if they have any doubt they should not do it. If the helicopter is called in it will cost you 3000CHF or more. Imagine all the equipment that you could buy or the holiday that you could enjoy with this money.

Yesterday we climbed the first two parts of the via ferrata with no problems. We went at a comfortable speed and the group stayed as one. When we got to the third part two novices went up and went across to the bridge to watch us climb and we formed an action plan. This time we moved as a team. We went forward and rested frequently. We rested before the overhang and then again after the overhang. We rested before climbing the rope ladder and then again after. Finally we went to the last challenge, the vertical ascent and we rested on a nice slab of rock. We then climbed that final bit and although it is demanding the muscles coped well.

I really like that I found this climb so much easier than the previous climb. I don’t know whether rock climbing, paragliding and the pace helped. I know that in future I will feel confidant about doing part three. My training and this pace paid off.

FIFAD Day 8 – Sylvain Saudan and the winners

Sylvain Saudan was at the FIFAD event on the final day from 11am onwards both to project two of his films and to speak about his experiences as a pioneer of extreme skiing. During the conference he presented his film about the Grandes Jorasses descent as well as his trip to Denali. If you go to his wikipedia page you will find information about all of his first descents with skis. The first film he showed was with music but narrated live as he stood on stage.

Rock Ski from The Snaz on Vimeo.

What I really enjoyed about his first film and his live commentary is that he brings us back to the skiing style that I learned and really enjoyed. In the olden days (within my lifetime) we learned to ski with our feet parallel and close together. We would leap to turn and it was technically demanding. The skis were longer and thinner. The whole of the edge could be used as this skiing style was before the era of carving skis. As a result it meant that skiing extreme slopes was simplified by having a longer edge.

The Denali descent and film were impressive. It took an expedition to get him to the base of the mountain and then up. The cameras were film cameras with three minutes of film before the cartridge had to be replaced. Camera operators had to ascend and wait for him to come back down. It required alpine skills to get to the top and once at the top, in the rarified air he had to change from climbing clothes to skiing clothes, put the boots on and then descend. It took him 7hrs to go from 6200 metres to 1800m. This achievement was never repeated by other skiers. In the Q&A session he said that those who attempted to do the same thing failed.

In the evening films that were awarded prizes were screened once again.

FIFAD – Day 7

When we watch the news and when we read articles from France we often hear about the disadvantaged youth and the mischief that they get up to. Par-Delà les Hauteurs, shown at FIFAD, is a documentary about a team of youths who go to the Alps and experience the mountains for the first time. The aim later in the film is to go to the Himalayas and experience the high mountains.

Bande Démo “Par-delà les hauteurs” from Monsieur Girafe on Vimeo.

This documentary is pleasant because it breaks some of the stereotypes that we have. We see a team of young people who are part of football teams prepare for and then head to the mountains. In the first instance they are introduced to the mountains and then they are given a medical checkup to see whether they are physically sound to go to high altitude for an adventure.

In the medical checkup they cycle at a simulated altitude of 4800 metres before being cleared for the trip. They are then kitted up and head to high altitude. In this trip we see them full of energy when they arrive before feeling the effects of altitude, slowing down and in two cases needing to be put in a hyperbaric chamber of sorts to see whether they can counteract the effects of mild hypoxia. High altitude is much about physical fitness as mental stamina.

In the end these young people have been given a fantastic opportunity to experience a different culture, to see how people react to them and to see a different landscape than they are used to in their ordinary lives.

On this day I had the pleasure of experiencing my first parapente flight and as a result did not watch the other films. One was about wildlife in the Alps and another of the films was Jumbo Wild. They cover topics that I am interested in. By this point in the week I had spent enough time watching documentaries and films.

FIFAD; The day I finally got to experience a Paragliding flight

During the FIFAD event I was invited by one of the people I was working alongside to try paragliding. This is a sport that I have thought about trying for more than a decade by now. Many years ago I bought a book about the theory of flying parapente and I have often watched them take off from places like the peaks near Lucerne, from St Hilaire du Touvet, land close to home and more.

I was invited the previous evening and the next day I went to the zone where they were landing and I watched them fly and then land. Some were novice fliers. Some of them were learning to land within a small circle and others were flying in tandem. I spoke to the person and he told me to come back at 1500 so I had two or three hours to occupy.

The area where we flew
The area where we flew

During the wait I took some pictures of Parapente as they flew around and when I saw the paragliders flying where they are in the image above that is where I wanted to go. I saw them ascend and as their flights were lasting so long I thought that the wait would be longer than anticipated. They had found some rising air and were playing with the backdrop that you see in these images.

A parapente flying near Les Diablerets
A parapente flying near Les Diablerets

When it was finally time to get in to the minibus to go up I was worrying about how the motion of paragliding would affect me and I was thinking about whether I was scared or not. I seemed to be impatient rather than scared. I felt excited and happy to have such an opportunity. Two years ago when someone asked me whether I wanted to go ice diving as there was a space free I had said no, that I did not feel ready. That friend had said that there would always be next time. Before “next time came up he died on a professional dive”. It is for this very reason that I really wanted to grab this opportunity.

The person who took off just before.
The person who took off just before.

The image above shows the zone from which we took off. To the right you have the Tour D’Aï and to the left you have the Diablerets. The fields are near a farm where the farmer processes cow’s milk to make cheese and other products before bringing it down to the valley. At this point I asked about the safety briefing. It was short and to the point. As a climber the thing that surprised me is the notion that you are using a “seat” rather than a harness. You wear the seat without tightening it. You sit in that seat for the flight. I was also told to lean forward and to walk/run forward when I felt the sail go up.

When the sail went up I felt that we were pulled backwards a little before we started moving forward. Within just two or three steps we were flying. We banked right to try to find a thermal but as this failed we banked left towards Les Diablerets towards the trees near the Creux Du Champ to find ascending air. The feeling as you head towards the trees relatively close to the tree tops is a strange feeling. I also noticed that I felt motion sickness at one or two moments but I quickly made sure to look in the direction of travel rather than the other way.

As we flew I could hear some beeping from my right shoulder. I had my gps watch on my wrist tracking the flight out of curiousity but the device I could hear indicated whether we were gaining or loosing altitude. The faster it beeped the faster we were rising.

Finding ascending air was a challenge. The pockets were very small so we had to be patient, turning and travelling until we found the right pockets of air. Eventually we did rise quickly. That was an interesting feeling. You see the ground get further away and you feel as if you are not moving that fast. You look at the chalet and the cliffs. At one moment you are below them and two or three passes later you rise above them and then you see the chalet at eye level and then you are above them. We turn again and we catch another thermal and we rise to the half way point, a picnik table with a view over the Creux de Champ. Eventually we were at 1800m in altitude and I wished I had taken a thicker layer as it started to be colder up there. I didn’t want to interrupt the flight just because I was a little cold though.

Eventually it was time to head back to the landing zone and the festival, for another night of work. On the way back, above the village I was allowed to pilot for a bit. I tried a right turn and then a left turn and then I gave the controls back to the pilot. We did two corkscrews and pulled two and a half g’s. The feeling was fun.

We landed on our feet and it was soft, softer than when you jump. The flight lasted about 45 minutes. Not bad for a first flight. The GPS track from that flight is here. I want to fly again. I enjoyed the sensation. The people I flew with are from paraventure. Flights range in price from 120.- CHF for a discovery flight to 200.- CHF for a thermal flight. They also do via ferrata, canyoning and other sports.

FIFAD Day 4 – Youth and Alpinism

The fourth Day of FIFAD could have had the banner of youth and children of Alpinism. It began with a conference by Swiss university students who had travelled to Siberia for their projects, a short documentary about the actress who played Heidi in the recent film, disadvantaged youth who went to the mountains to help on a farm, The Makers of Dreams about the Geneva CAS branch and how it encourages young people to experiment with Alpinism and trekking. The last documentary of the evening was about Polish and British people going to the base of K2. Their parents were alpinists who went to climb the mountain but never came back.

K2 Touching the Sky

K2 Touching the sky was an interesting documentary because I cannot make up my mind as to whether the documentary is about death or whether it is a documentary about Alpinism and being a parent. The documentary starts with the question “Can I be a mother and an Alpinist” and ends with a shot of that same woman holding a baby next to a river. This documentary explores how children react and feel to the knowledge that their parents died doing what they were passionate about.

Face to Face

Degrees North is different from the other films because it shows nice images of two mountain guides climbing and having a conversation about the difference in attitude between climbers in different parts of the world. They speak of the Japanese climbers who spent one month working to ascend the North Face of the Eiger as well as of other routes and groups of people.

Degrees North

Freeride films are all alike once the people strap on the snowboard and head down the mountain. What makes the documentary or film relevant is how those people get to the mountains, the steep slopes and more. This film is fun because it combines parapentes, a propeller and drop-offs straight on to the mountain. They say “If we were using the parapente now we could be up the mountain in 10 minutes rather than spend four or five hours climbing up. They also speak of the ability for reconnaissance and appreciating the routes that are spotted.

Voyous à L’Alpage

Disadvantaged youth who have been locked up for a number of reasons at a young age are allowed to go up to a farm in the mountains and help with the daily running of the place. This is an opportunity for them to learn new skills in a nice Alpine setting. Imagine misbehaving in this part of the world and being sent up to spend time up in the mountains like this. In theory they can run away and one or two do but overall this is a great way to experience something else than the environment in which they might live or grow up.


The mountains provide a beautiful environment in which for people to grow up and enjoy snowboarding, via ferrata, rock climbing, alpinism and more. There is of course an inherent risk of death which did figure prominently in some of the documentaries. At the same time as the mountains are deadly they provide opportunities for the enjoyment of sports, people and more. Yesterday’s selection of films highlighted this well.



FIFAD Day 2 – a day of introspection about exploration.


FIFAD’s second day’s documentaries were introspective. They looked at mining in Bolivia, Jean Troillet’s life of adventure and the film Sherpa.

The peaks we see from the Festival
The peaks we see from the Festival

Tous Les Jours La Nuit

Tous Les Jours La Nuit is a documentary by Jean-Claude Wicky who passed away recently. The documentary looked at the lives of Bolivian miners who have to work for up to 20 hours a day in mines where the air temperature can reach up to 50°c, where the life expectancy is between 40-45 years and where they barely earn enough to live. In this documentary he looks at some of the pictures he took when down in the mines. He tells us stories about the people who are photographed and tells us about their culture. At the end of the film he comes back to the country once again and meets with some of the miners and their communities. He donates copies of the books to individual miners as well as their community. The aim is to document the hardships faced by these workers.


Sherpa is a beautiful and powerful film because it teaches us about the Sherpa people, the Everest climbing industry and explores the social challenges posed by professions that can lead to accidental death. The documentary looks at the subject from the perspective of tour operators who are responsible for their clients as well as Sherpa. We also see how Sherpa families see the opportunities but also dangers that come from the industry around summiting everest.

The strength of this film lies in that it provides us with the discussions, sights and concerns of people on site at the time of the tragedy. In the documentary they say that as tourists want an increasing level of comfort when climbing Everest the Sherpas have to climb through the Khumbu ice fall from 20-30 times per season to take up supplies and equipment. The clients, tourists or adventurers, whichever name you prefer face the crossing just twice.

The Khumbu ice fall is a snow waterfall “cascade de glace”. On the day of the tragedy a 14,000 ton bloc of ice came lose causing an avalanche that crossed the entirety of the ice fall.

This film highlights the need for adequate social cover for the Sherpa and their families so that, because they do a dangerous job, that their families are cared for. One of the Sherpa, the leader had been approaching 22 climbs of Everest. I will write no more. Enjoy the film when you get the opportunity.

Jean Troillet

Jean Troillet is a Swiss explorer with 50 years of experience of the mountains and fourty of those on expeditions. He holds the record for the fastest climb of Everest and has climbed ten summits over 8000 metres. In the main film projected at FIFAD we see him spend a week in a tent and receiving guests to speak about previous adventures and experiences. Some time was also devoted to him providing his home crowd, people from this region of Switzerland with the opportunity to listen to personal accounts and more.



From the 6th to the 13th of August 2016 The International Alpine Film Festival, FIFAD, is taking place in the Alpine town of Les Diablerets. This is a week long festival of Alpine films covering the environment, extreme sports, adventure and more.


Alpland is a photo exhibit outside of images of Alpine life in black and white. The images were taken by Romano Riedo

The Flying Frenchies arrive

The image gallery below shows the Flying Frenchies arrive at the film festival. The drummer flew with his drum kit, the guitarist flew with a guitar and amp and the saxophonist arrived with his instrument. They played their instruments while up in the air. Watching this in person is interesting.


Baraka Films and the Flying Frenchies worked together for this fun and entertaining film. This film looks at the Flying Frenchies coming together to combine slack-lining, parapentes and other extreme sports with musicians. The Flying Frenchies arrived at the event on parapentes.The film metronomic shows cliff based stunts. It combines acrobatics on a cliff face with slack-lining and rope based stunts. At one point the guitarist, the drummer and the Saxophonist are swinging in space and playing at the same time.

The Freeride evening

The evening was dedicated to freeride sports, mainly extreme skiing and a discussion with the Falquet brothers and Jérémie Heitz. One of the images that really marked me was the climb up to a pyramidal peak so that they could ski back down. The reason they climb rather than use a helicopter is to assess how good the snow is and whether it is safe to sky down. Some of these films had some impressive images, including at least one unsuccessful descent.

The films on this day showed the beauty of extreme sports both with skiing slopes that are over 50° as well as with flying musicians. As people get habituated to certain sports so the scope for diversity and creativity expands.

Via Ferrata and Edelweiss

Via Ferrata and Edelweiss can be combined. I was reminded of this when I was looking at Salanfe’s Instagram account images last night. I saw an image of a chamois and her young and then I saw the picture below of an Edelweiss and I wanted to share that I had also seen Edelweiss.

I saw edelweiss on the Via Ferrata de Rougemont on the 31st of August 2014 according to Google Photos. These are rare but nice flowers that grow in Switzerland. They are also used as a symbol of this country. They are quite small and fluffy with thick petals. They are so rare to see that despite years of hikes, climbs and other sports I have only spotted them once.

A few Edelweiss
A few Edelweiss

“There is a flower known to botanists, one of the same genus with our summer plant called ‘Life-Everlasting’, a Gnaphalium like that, which grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolese mountains, where the chamois dare hardly venture, and which the hunter, tempted by its beauty and by his love (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens), climbs the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the flower in his hand. It is called by botanists the Gnaphalium leontopodium, but by the Swiss EDELWEISS, which signifies NOBLE PURITY.” Source.

To complete the poetic irony I also took pictures of a chamois on this particular mountain outing. You can see it standing on bare rock with the clouds and valley below. From these two sightings it seems that the flowers are visible in August so that is when we should look for them.

where the chamois dare hardly venture
“where the chamois dare hardly venture”

On the day when we saw Edelweiss it was interesting. As a person who grew up in Switzerland finding an edelweiss had been a decade long project and goal. Other people in our group were indifferent. For me it was a reward from years of looking. For them it was “yeah, so what?”. I was happy and proud when I saw those flowers at the top of that Via Ferrata.


Admiring the Tour D’Aï from the Via Ferrata de la Cascade

The weather was clear so I was admiring the Tour D’Aï from the Via Ferrata de La Cascade. I was in Les Diablerets as I am one of the volunteers at the FIFAD film festival. I turned up three hours before I was needed and as I had all my climbing gear, except the pulley for the tyrollean in the car I drive I was able to put on my climbing gear and go for an individual climb of the Via Ferrata. The weather was nice, the temperature was comfortable and the via ferrata was quiet. Aside from two guys climbing one of the climbing routes I was alone. I prefer to climb with others.

Via Ferrata de La Cascade
Via Ferrata de La Cascade

Via ferrata alone are fun because you go at your speed. There is no need to wait for anyone or rush to keep up. I enjoyed how clear the landscape was. I looked across the valley and I could clearly see the Tour D’Aï and the peak next to it. It is the first time that I notice so clearly the other Via Ferrata.

The Tour D'aï seen from Les Diablerets
The Tour D’aï seen from Les Diablerets

When you climb the Tour D’aï via ferrata you climb from the other side and go to the summit of the peak on the left. When you walk down you walk on that green part. The trail is an alpine one, for experienced hikers. You see that there is quite a drop if you make a mistake. You normally see this mountain from the Leysin side.

The Tour D'aï seen from Les Diablerets
The Tour D’aï seen from Les Diablerets

This image shows the Tour D’Aï in relation to other mountains. When you go to Les Diablerets this image will help you locate the peaks. The shape of that mountain is easy to recognise.

We will see when I try the Rocher Jaune. That via ferrata is higher up starting at 2400 metres and ending at 2450 meters according to one source.