(2019) Documentary (1091) Karn Kowshik, Prena Dangi, Bharat Bhushan, Ari Novak, Karsten Delap, Ishani Sawant, Anne Matthias. Directed by Ari Novak and Austin Schmitz
Ice climbing differs from mountain climbing in that rather than climbing up rocks in spring, summer and fall weather, you are climbing up sheets of ice generally in harsh winter conditions. The skill sets are similar, but the tools are different and ice climbing requires more brute force than mountain climbing. Also, because of the nature of water and ice you can come back to the same mountain the next year and find a completely different type of ice there.
When ice climber Karsten Delap met Karn Kowshik in a bar it was brothers at first sight. They immediately realized that there was much common ground between them and Karn invited Karsten to do some ice climbing in Karn’s native India. Karn had in mind the Spiti Valley one of the most remote places on Earth. The Himalayan village of Kaza is so ridiculously hard to get to it requires a 65-hour drive through terrifying mountain roads just to reach the town.
But Karsten was about more than just a visit. He wanted to set up an Ice Festival, a convocation of ice climbers worldwide to come and visit. He was hoping that once word got out about the ice conditions in the valley, climbers would flock there from around the world and help the local economy.
There is a cultural difference between Indian climbers and American climbers. Whereas Americans tend to look at ice climbing as a personal challenge, Indian climbers tend to view it instead as a spiritual quest to get closer to the Hindu and Buddhist gods who live in the mountains. Success or failure is less important to them; the act of climbing the ice is what’s important.
With climber/filmmaker Ari Novak in tow, the two American climbers link with Indian climbers to create an incredible experience. Receiving both Buddhist and Hindu blessings before the actual climbing begins, trails are made safer by the organizers who get rid of debris that could possibly fall and hurt or even kill someone; holes in bridges are repaired and handrails also repaired. The sport is dangerous enough as it is, so safety is a major priority here.
I gotta say this though; these guys are dudes. They may be the bro-est bros to ever bro out together. Everything isn’t cool, it’s really cool. Yeah, I admit that the way these guys talk is irritating if you’ve grown to a certain place in your life, or if you’re not part of the fraternity, but all in all that’s not something to get totally bummed about. It’s really irritating, though.
The cinematography is world-class here. Yes, the mountains are mostly barren of even snow with shimmering crystalline ice flows standing out on brown rocky terrain, but there is still a sense of majesty of being in one of the world’s most sacred places. At 47 minutes long the film barely qualifies as a feature presentation, but the short investment of time is well worth the outlay.
REASONS TO SEE: Excellent cinematography as we’ve come to expect from these kinds of films.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little too much dude-ness.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some mild profanity here and there.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: On the way home from the Ice Festival, Karsten Delop ate some chicken at a roadside stand and had to be rushed to the hospital where he spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit. He did, however, make a full recovery.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Google Play
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/22/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Free Solo
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10 dude!
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