Mark Veerman is silhouetted by the sun, on Standard Left

Mark Veerman is silhouetted by the sun, on Standard Left

Filming on the ice is one of the more sublime and challenging things I’ve done professionally in my professional career – though the filming surround this event was what I would just call exercise. Dare I say home-video? Filming in a frozen wilderness is one of those times in life where all you really have to do is show up – that’s much harder than I thought, by the way. But just get there with a lens, and you’ll be amazed; if your batteries don’t freeze – which, not too surprisingly, is also a bit tricky. “Fall” started out as just another “tripumentary” – in fact it was more of an investment of my friends in me. And it would have been “just another video” except that it all went wrong. Not totally wrong. Just a whole lot more wrong than any of us ever expected.

A warning: this video is real and intense at times. I find it, though, to be more true to the event than is the raw, almost voyeuristic footage of the fall by itself. No one falls alone. No man is an iceberg (sorry, couldn’t resist). What I mean is that despite the climbing communities focus on the technical (de)merits or the reasons why, this video is pretty human. While it fails in some areas, I have found it to be quite true on the emotional, human drama side of an event like this.

There’s been a lot of commentary surrounding this particular video. This may sound silly, but that’s only because there’s a video. And there’s only a video because Nate was okay with it. Okay with showing the world what has been dubbed the reason to SELL YOUR GEAR and NEVER CLIMB AGAIN!

If you could show your biggest mistake to the world, would you? Would you instead hide from your mistakes and, almost in shame, pretend this never happened? I might.

Well, the climber that fell chose what I believe will prove to be the higher road, so thanks to Nate for “manning down” and letting me chronicle this. It’s not often there’s a high-definition camera rolling when you trip (and fall). Throughout this ordeal, to me and to those “more grumpy than *necessary”, he has been an exemplar. I know he’s changed because of it. I knew then I was changed because of it. When I wrote the opening line of the video I meant it for me. I meant it about me. Change takes time. But few are the moments in a persons life where they can look back and say, that’s what changed me or that’s when I started to change. This is one of those moments for me. I know from talking with Nate, it is for him, too. (*not all of the grump is without warrant)

Dan begins the climb, belayed by Nathan

Dan begins the climb, belayed by Nathan

As one of the ones at the bottom of a 110 foot wall of ice, who was traumazed by almost losing a friend – - I don’t care why – - we almost lost a friend – and it being such a charged event, it simply had to be processed somehow in my psyche. “Fall.” is nothing more than my souls perspective. The resulting video is what I needed to do in order to process what happened – to me. And since I’m not a climber, but just a regular jeff, the video, by default, is lacking. Perhaps in the pedagogy and remorse that the climber world is clamoring for. I should mention that because of technica- er, ok, my human error, I lost the audio of the post fall analysis you catch a glimpse of, and have no doubt the video would have been very different with it.

But it is what it is. I stand by it – I stand by Nate. I know my work has caused him pain – I don’t particularly like that part.

The pain for me, was not so bad. For some viewers, it was the cameras fault that any of this even happened. Well, I am the camera. I was criticized for even continuing to film. That’s nonsense, and I think from a simple event video perspective this is a pretty solid production. But on many levels I actually consider this video to be a failure. The blow back was predictable; it was hinted at by Frode but I missed it. Produced better, it could have been avoided entirely. I’ve been looking for a producer to partner with for years, and the failings of this video brought the yearning for that collaboration very front and very center.

But this video will remain my perspective on a day I will not soon forget.

If you are a climber, realize it’s put together by a non-climber; and keep in mind that the standard by which you judge others is the standard by which you will be judged.

A recent comment: “It’s odd to say, but you’re incredibly lucky to have been able to document such an important event in your life and the lives of the other’s on the climb.”

Yep. That sums up my feelings on the matter. Find your own.

Going to be read this cover to cover. Twice.

Going to be read this cover to cover. Twice.

A few production notes:
Music includes and is licensed/with permission:
Jonsi – Kolindur (Go)
moby – mobygratis.com
Roger Subirana Mata (Jamendo.com)
Celestial Aeon Project (Jamendo.com)

An iPhone4 shot or two in there, the rest all Canon 5D goodness.

Some personal production notes:

  • Never shoot in this place again w/o wearing a harness or know how the knotted mashup of webbing in your pack works.
  • Never cover your H4n w/ a mesh bag + hand warmer b/c moving numbers don’t always mean recording (!!!)
  • Always verify record is record (and not playback) on covered H4n (!!!).
  • Wear gloves when shooting 45 minutes in 27 degree weather. You won’t lose digits but it sneaks up on you.
  • Remember the IS gyro in Canon’s 70-200mm is audible; very, very audible if H4n is on camera!! Rode stereo mic, not so much as it’s shock mounted.
  • Always carry apple cider vinegar with you to mitigate the stress migraines you’ll get when your friends foray into the near-death penumbras of life.
  • Never forget what it felt like to be traumazed – and don’t go looking for it. It will find you. Just be ready.