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 Day 6 – Women and Extreme sports

On the 6th day of FIFAD two films stood out. One looked at a wheelchair bound woman who still had the urge to go climbing and the second film looked at a woman who went from riding snowboarding lines in winter to base jumping in summer. By having these two documentaries the FIFAD event promoted women who appreciate and enjoy extreme sports.

A few weeks ago I wrote about superhuman climbers, it explored how differently abled people were empowered through the efforts by climbing centres to allow wheelchair bound people, people with mental issues and others to climb despite the challenge. Rêver sous les étoiles was a documentary exploring this topic from another angle. Vanessa François moved to the mountains with the goal of becoming an Alpinist but was paralysed from the waist down after a block of ice damaged her spinal column. Thanks to the people she surrounded herself with she was able to continue climbing, cycling and doing other sports despite this disability.

In the film we see how friends set up a route on El Capitan for her to climb and how the CRS in France prepared the equipment for her to spend a night at over 4000 metres near the Aiguille du Midi. We see how a woman, surrounded by the right people could, despite her injuries, keep living adventures.

There is a moment in this film where we see that she is given the opportunity to act in a play where actors in wheel chairs and conventional actors could interact to provide people with a show. As I watched this documentary I thought about how technology could be adapted to be invisible in the performance. At the moment wheelchair bound actors need to rely on conventional systems to move the chair around. Imagine if engineers from EPFL and other tech universities designed a wheelchair control system that would allow wheelchair bound actors and performers to control the wheel chair with arm and head movements. Imagine if the movement of the chair did not rely on a joystick but rather a harness or sweater which controlled the chair’s movement. In future I expect that technology will become invisible, to provide these people with wheel chairs.

The documentary is great because it shows that injuries are an opportunity to adapt new techniques to conventional sports rather than to give up and live a life that is more limited. This empowering documentary should encourage people not to give up on their passions and to continue striving for more.

La face cachée de Géraldine Fasnacht

This documentary is about Géraldine Fasnacht, a snowboarder from Verbier who won snowboarding competitions in winter and then moved on to base jumping after friends invited her to jump. In this documentary she introduces a doctor to skydiving and explains the parallels between snowboarding and base jumping. She talks about some of the principals of base jumping and how technology has allowed the sport to improve and become more interesting. As with many extreme sports documentaries and films she speaks about the importance of safety norms to make sure that dangers are avoided.

In diving, mountaineering, base jumping and other sports there is a common philosophy to minimise risk. She speaks about the importance of knowing when to call a jump, to cancel it if there is doubt. This is an important aspect of many conversations in extreme sports films. Goals and ambitions are important but it is just as important to know when to say “Let’s try again next time”.

Sommets de vie

Sommets de Vie by Sebastien Montaz Rosset illustrates this effectively. The film maker, along with Jordi Tosas, who had been on 37 trips to the Himalayas arrived just two days before the earthquake. When the earthquake struck they abandoned their original projects to help with search and rescue efforts. They went in to more remote valleys to scout what areas were affected by landslides, where bodies could be found and to find whether people who had survived needed help. In this film they walk along footpaths. Occasionally they had to cross multiple places where landslides had occurred. When they found corpses or possessions they took pictures along with GPS coordinates in order to provide search and rescue teams with information to help with the repatriation of remains to help provide families with closure. This documentary is nice because it shows Westerners working along with Asians, UN organisations such as the World Food Program and others to help people cope with and adapt to the new situation.

At some moments we see that landslides are taking place as food and aid are provided. We see how although the Himalayas are beautiful they are also a dangerous place. I like that the film concludes by saying that Jordi still wants to set up a ski school, so that people in the relevant countries can enjoy the mountains differently. It is nice to see that people who travel to these areas give back and integrate with locals.


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.

In August I will be at FIFAD

In August of this year I will be at FIFAD as a volontaire. FIFAD stands for Festival International du Film Alpin Des Diablerets. It’s the international Alpine Film Festival of the Diablerets. I want to participate at this event for three main reasons.

The first of these is that I have a passion for the documentary film genre and adventure films. I really enjoyed going to Montagne en Scène a few weeks ago and I expect to enjoy having the freedom to watch certain of the films at this event.

The second reason I want to go as a helper is that every time I have applied to help at an event I have got something out of it. I have built my confidence. I have met interesting people and I have found new and interesting ideas. In this case I hope to view a number of the films.

The third reason is that I will have an opportunity to spend a week in the mountains once again. I have frequently been to Diablerets for hikes and just once to enjoy a via ferrata. This time I will get to stay for a few extra days and learn to appreciate the town differently. I will have my 360 camera and via ferrata gear with me. Time to ride a tyrolean in 360 right? I hope it won’t rain too heavily. People told me they got wet last time they went under the waterfall.

When I watch an interesting film or hear someone talk about an interesting topic I will try to take notes and write related blog posts. It’s good to share the knowledge and passion with you.