By Paddy O’Connell
I am not from Uganda. I have never lead climbed the first ascent of a 3,000-foot wall. I have never ascended anything, except a pile of doughnut holes. I will never wingsuit, slackline between towers in Castle Valley, or compete in an Alaskan high school basketball tournament on an all Yup’ik team. I am merely a semi-pro ski actor and river rat who partakes in general dirtbaggery. But at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado, all the things I am not and will never do became a part of my identity. Mind bending, right?
From the filmmaker’s dinner on night one, I knew the film fest would hit my gooey, emotional center. While we noshed, filmmakers and the Carbondale poet, Wade Newsom, told stories that ranged from exploring the highest peak in Southeast Asia to a bad acid trip in Mexico to passing on a meeting with the Dalai Lama. But the tales were connected thematically: we are all a part of a singular outdoor adventure community. (Except for the Lama apparently.)
I am not a climber, but 5Point’s many rock climbing films all broke through the off-putting nature of climber-bro egos. Operation Moffat, a standout in the genre, is a profile of Britain’s first female mountain guide, the now 91-year old climber Gwen Moffat—one of the most captivating characters of the festival. The Great Alone follows the rugged life of Lance Mackey, who battled substance abuse, poverty, and a tumultuous relationship with his father to win the Iditarod four years in a row. Did I mention that I am not a dog sled racer? It’s true, but I cried when Mackey hugged his mother at the finish line. I experienced a similar touch of the feels during Brendan Leonard’s Ace and the Desert Dog, which highlights the 60-day Utah trek of photographer Ace Kvale and his dog, Genghis Kahn. My tear soaked notes read, in all caps: GET DOG!
The festival connects heart and humor, darkness and rebirth, and that communal call to get outside. Besides watching films, participants biked to Mushroom Rock on Red Hill, SUP’d six-miles of the Colorado River into the mouth of Glenwood Canyon, and danced to the local yacht rock cover band, The Davenports, at the Black Nugget. We even played a secret late night game of dodge ball that pitted filmmaker against filmmaker, brand rep against athlete, and members of the media against the body odor of dirt bags. (Keeping with the I Am What I’m not theme, I fought myself.)
I am never going to ski in front of a solar eclipse like pro skiers Cody Townsend, Brody Leven, and Chris Rubens do in Eclipse, and I’ll never freedive to 1,000-meters, like William Trubridge in Hectometer. I will never participate in a 400-kilometer ultrarace, unless that “race” involves drifting into a food coma. And above all, I will never summit Everest. But at 5Point, I had the opportunity to chuck a dodge ball at Luis Benitez, who stood atop the Earth’s tallest mountain six times. And I did it while wearing jorts.