Women’s film fest

Women at Work was featured in the inaugural Women in Adventure Sports film festival in Arlington, Mass. this fall. The organizers are considering touring nationally with the fest, so we’ll see what happens. Here’s the flier they posted:

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Women at Work – a film

In summer 2010, Lorna Illingworth, Madaleine Sorkin and I spent 25 days living at the base of the southeast face of Proboscis, a sheer 2000’ granite wall in Northern Canada’s Cirque of the Unclimbables. Our goal was to free the original 1963 route.

Our story, as told through Women at Work, is “rough, raw and real,” according to Boulder, Colorado filmmaker Brad Clement:

In 25 minutes, this two-part film includes sick helicopter footage, helmet cam video of dripping-wet technical rock climbing 1000’ off the deck, scenic views from the summit ridge, hard work cleaning and hand-drilling bolts, and Madaleine sending 5.12 high above the clouds. Also, a dance party and a snowstorm. Interviews with first ascentionists Royal Robbins and Jim McCarthy led to inclusion of historic images.

“I was moved, informed and inspired, and, most of all, entertained,” said author and veteran climber, Dick Dorworth. “How can I get some of the music?”

All the musicians are climbers. Artists include the ravishing Jessica Kilroy and her folk/electronica band, Pterodactyl Plains; badass climbing rapper Odub; guitar-pickin’ Tim Johnson; and Bozeman, Montana’s Holler N’ Pine.

From daily camp life to granite splitters, Women at Work brings viewers into our frustrations, successes, excitement and exhaustion. As a recipient of the American Alpine Club’s Lyman-Spitzer award and the inaugural Copp-Dash award, I’m thankful to the climbing community for supporting our adventure.

– Emily Stifler


If you want more Jessica Kilroy or Pterodactyl Plains, check out jessicakilroy.com, or listen to their music on Myspace, or at last.fm/music/Pterodactyl%2520Plains?ac=pteroda

Catch Odub playing live at climbing events like the International Climbers Festival in Lander, Wyoming, or at odubmusic.com

Yogesh Simpson and Holler N’ Pine play around Bozeman. yogeshsimpson.com

Tim Johnson is working toward a Ph.D. in environmental history in Athens, Georgia. The guitar music here is from his album, the Missoula National Sessions.


Congratulations! I very much enjoyed watching your climb of the wall and the way you brought out the personalities of the climbers. Boy, that’s a big face! Congratulations again.  – Good Climbing, Royal Robbins (first ascentionist, Original Route Proboscis)

Loved the movie. Thank you. I did see a lot of smiling faces in it so I have a suggestion for an alternate title… Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.                                                                                – Jim McCarthy (first ascentionist, Original Route Proboscis)

So awesome! What an amazing experience! I enjoyed the seaplane shots as well.    – Vanessa Pierce (writer/editor/co-founder of shejumps.org)

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International Travelers

It’s a warm winter day in Bozeman, and I am working away at my new job as editor of a regional paper called the Big Sky Weekly.

The Women at Work film premier at the Bozeman Ice Fest went well, and I have done a few other showings to groups of climbers and non-climbers. Now I’m collecting suggestions, so I can put together some final edits and hopefully submit to other festivals.

I just got an email from Lorna, who is in Lisbon, Portugal. She’s been climbing at a limestone crag by the Atlantic Ocean and visiting friends, and soon to return to nursing school in Oregon. She wishes she was climbing more… ALWAYS, eh? I wish I were climbing more, too, since I haven’t climbed anything without skis on my feet or out of bed in a couple months. In my defense, out of bed is pretty excellent, and the skiing has been so darn good this year.

I also just heard from Madaleine. She recently travelled to India, which she found fascinating. She stopped in London on the way back to the States and gave a presentation to the London Alpine Club. She said it was a memorable slideshow, and she showed pics from Moonlight to Freerider, and then the Women At Work film took center stage.

Hearing about all this international travel should make me antsy, but luckily I did have a brief interlude in Canada last week, when I went skiing in B.C. with a group of co-workers. Work ain’t all bad! Being back north of the border made me think of Lorna and Mad and all the cool Canadians we met last summer. Here’s a view of the Valhalla Range:

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Film Premier

Check it out – the premier of Women at Work, a 26-minute film I spent the last two months editing, will be at the Bozeman Ice Fest this upcoming Thursday night, December 9. Jason Thompson will start the evening with slides from Hyalite Canyon ice climbing.

I am honored to be part of the festival and grateful to Madaleine for her rad helmet cam footage. I am also indebted to these amazing climber-musicians that let me use their music for the soundtrack: Jessica Kilroy and Aurae, Pterodactyl Plains, Odub, Tim Johnson and Holler N’ Pine.

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Another chapter remains

In September, I met Madaleine in Southwest Colorado. We climbed in the Black (see Mad’s wacky Southern Arete head cam video below), and we spent a couple days visiting with Jim McCarthy in Ridgway.

Jim was a gracious host, and we had a great time sharing stories from Proboscis. He’d first heard of the mountain from Arnold Wexler, who did the first ascent of it in the ’50s via the South Ridge. Wexler’s party also climbed many other peaks in the area. Jim, together with Royal Robbins, Layton Kor and Dick McCracken, completed the first ascent of the Southeast face in 1963. Jim had detailed memories from the trip. Their group spent three days climbing on the face, and spent the first night hanging in slings right before the crux.

Ever since the day we climbed to the summit ridge on Proboscis, I had a sneaking suspicion we’d perhaps not followed the final pitches of the original line. Off the ledge 2/3 the way up the wall, there were a couple of options. We went left, following the topo for Via Costa Brava. We climbed a loose 5.10 pitch that would have been very hard to aid (The difficulty rating on the original line was 5.9 A3). The option we didn’t take was a steep, right-leaning corner system that landed right near the summit; in retrospect it was the obvious aid line.

While we were in the Cirque, we called Jim to ask him about this. A poor satellite phone connection prevented us from truly figuring out the answer. This fall, we picked Jim’s brain and discovered that indeed, where we’d gone left on a long, grassy traverse following pitons, the FA team had gone straight up the right-leaning dihedral. Jim said he imagined those pitches would go free at 5.10 or 5.11. They looked awesome.

So, another chapter remains on the Original Line’s complete free ascent. How cool we got to be part of the story.

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Journal entry: Quality ledge time

I have been reflecting on crucial conversations from our trip and also looking back in my journal.  Here is an entry I copied from a notepad I had 1000 feet up on Proboscis.  It is taken from my journal August 15, 2010.  We all got to TR the crux that day, and Mad led it two days later.

Quality ledge time.  Emily and Mad are below: Mad is top-roping the two crux pitches on our project.  I have so far today tightened a bolt with a leatherman, and organized the gear up here.  Em climbed the long 5.10 pitch and sounded tired but happy to climb.  I haven’t climbed in over a week so I wonder how this onsight crux top-roping will go: Mad said it was harder than Costa Brava, which felt pretty hard two weeks ago when I followed it.

Madaleine had some awesome rock socks, cool shoes, and I had some beat shoes.

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After an unbelievable Indian Summer, it now feels like late fall in Montana. Cottonwood leaves by the Gallatin River are still yellow though, and they’re beautiful against the new snow.

The following are an assortment of photos I wanted to share from our summer road trip and our time in the Cirque.

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Southern Arete Video

Here’s a clip from Emily and I climbing on the Southern Arete of the 2000′ Painted Wall. It’s in the Black Canyon, near Gunnison, Colorado. Brought to you by Blinding Speed Productions!

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Scorched on the Southern Arete

Madaleine and I hadn’t seen each other in 25 days, the length of time we’d spent living in the boulders at the base of Proboscis. So, we met after dark on Sunday night on the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We woke the next morning at five a.m., force-fed ourselves, and took a last minute look at the map by the ranger station.

We descended the SOB gully by headlamp and headed for the Southern Arete on the Painted Wall. The first few pitches were in glorious shade, and Madaleine got us off the ground quickly. She rambled through loose rock, bushes and other choss.

But the Southern Arete faces, well, south. We had a liter of water each. We spent a couple hours in the mid-day sun trying to figure out which way to go, and got totally burned and parched. By the time we got back on route and into the shade, we were out of water and still had 1000’ of meaty climbing left.

I’ve never been so thirsty.

Madaleine flew up an awesome 200’ 5.10+ pitch just before dark, leading us to the top of the hardest terrain. Then three more pitches of 5th class headlamp wandering led us to the rim. I sat atop the final glory pitch of pegmatite crap, belaying Mad up to me. Someone had placed a mule deer antler shed there, and in my dehydrated state, it seemed both thoughtful and mystical. Acres of pinon pine forest, scrub oak and juniper spread out behind me, and moonlight lit the opposite side of the canyon.

We shook off the sweat and dirt, high fived, then wracked our thirsty minds: We’d seen on the map that morning that we’d have to navigate around two major drainages before hitting a trail. Without the moonlight, I think we would have laid down and slept right there. Instead, we followed a vague trail of cairns for 30 minutes and then our intuition for another hour and a half.

We bushwhacked through scrub oak. Snot dripped down the back of my throat, coating it, and easing the dry pain. A couple times we popped out on the edge of the canyon and gawked with renewed awe into the dark chasm.

We missed Lorna on this adventure, but we know she is kicking ass out there in Oregon.

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Missing my ladies

I miss you girls!

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