Banff Mtn. Film Festival casts light on solar power

WALLA WALLA — On Tuesday, I carpooled to Whitman College with my greenest friends and took in the nearest stop of the 2009-10 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Four.

The amazing assortment of short films included a documentary on free solo climber Alex Honnold, the young Californian who shook the world with his freakish ascent of Yosemite's Half Dome. The film is called First Ascent — Alone on the Wall.

Another of the featured films followed a group of insane kayakers on their journey through several African countries via rapids, falls and rivers — some patrolled by hippos and crocodiles.

Their trip was sponsored by the Sun Catchers Project, which developed Villager Sun Ovens. These amazing units allow villagers to bake food via solar power vs. chopping wood or burning forests to create charcoal.

Ironically, the Sun Catchers Project home page includes a link to their sponsorship of the Columbia River Experience. The last video update from their team of kayakers is of their Kennewick to McNary Dam journey. (There's no indication that the dam operators allowed them to use the locks to continue downstream. Why? Lock usage is restricted to motorized watercraft.)

As I sat in Whitman’s Cordiner Hall, I realized that I might have been the only person in the audience wearing a leather jacket. And it was poignant to me that a winery from California — not one from the Walla Walla Valley — helped to underwrite the world tour. Sapolil Cellars stood out as the only Walla Walla winery to provide support to Whitman College Outdoor Program for this Banff tour.

My party helped support local business as we enjoyed a delicious bowl of pho at Pho Sho. It's a sister restaurant to the acclaimed Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen next door and owned by Chris Ainsworth, the executive chef who first put Taverna Tagaris on the map in the Tri-Cities. I highly recommend the hangar steak at Saffron.

This was the second time that I'd viewed the Banff Mountain Film Festival tour during its annual stop at Whitman College. It won’t be my last. It's amazingly inspiring and entertaining, and the cost is a mere $10.