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Five Years of 5Point

Carbondale's adventure film fest keeps climbing

Freddie Wilkinson
The Old Breed

It happened over breakfast with her friend Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and icon of corporate and social responsibility. Julie Kennedy, wife of alpinist and former Climbing Magazine owner Michael Kennedy and mother of climber Hayden, was seeking a new purpose. Climbing had been sold off, Hayden was school age and the daily routine of ski or bike or yoga was getting, well, boring. “I knew I had a lot to give to this world,” she says, “and I needed to figure out what it was going to be.”

Recalling good times they’d shared at Mountainfilm, the wide-ranging mountain culture festival in Telluride,  and the profound impact it had on her life, Kennedy decided—with Chouinard’s encouragement—to start a four-day-long film festival celebrating "inspiring adventures". She would use her connections, experience and resources to create a baby all her own, and put it in the tiny mountain town of Carbondale, just downvalley of Aspen.

The titular “five points” are the guiding principles—respect, commitment, humility, purpose, balance—that Kennedy says are key components of honest-to-god adventure . “The X Games have been here in Aspen for the last eight years,” she says, “and the fact that that egomaniac event inspires young kids to huck themselves off impossible jumps and break themselves to pieces for a TV media event really bothered me deeply.” 5Point would be the antidote, encouraging young people to look inside themselves and follow their outdoor passions on adventures that are more than ego-deep.

Five years in, the festival is humming. More than 50 films are showing this year, and the guest speakers are a who’s who of big wall climbers, kayakers, skiers, skateboarders, mountaineers and storytellers, including Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin, Fitz Cahall, Tony Alva, Erik Boomer and Jon Turk. Oh, and Kennedy’s son, Hayden, who’ll be giving the backstory of unbolting Cerro Torre along with Jason Kruk. “It was very authentic, because he's really a young kid and didn't mean to create such a to-do," she says, switching into mother mode. "He just felt really strongly about having a via ferrata on one of the most beautiful pieces of rock. It has great natural features everywhere, and to have it bolt-laddered just absolutely flipped him out.”

But one of 5Point’s greatest accomplishments to date is elevating talented filmmakers by producing their films. Kennedy brought together climber Cory Richards, writer Kelly Cordes and filmmaker Anson Fogel to create COLD, a raw, honest picture of Richards’ brutal winter ascent of an 8,000-meter Pakistani peak. The journey nearly killed them, but the film, which premiered at 5Point last year, was a runaway success. This year she’s produced The Equation, an art-house adventure film by Jeremy Collins about a French botanist in search of the "breathing orchid."

Among the world premieres at this year's festival are A Desert Life, Austin Siadak's film about dirtbag climber Alf Randell's solitary life in the red rock deserts of southern Utah:

The Last of the Great Unknown, a film by Dan Ransom about exploring the innumerable, nearly inaccessible technical side slots of the Grand Canyon, which are described as the Big Ditch's last frontiers. Ransom and his team plumbed the depths of 22 slots over the course of a month. Here's the result:

In David Clifford's beautiful film Lucky, elite ice climber Sam Elias struggles to find a deeper purpose in his climbing, even as he pushes the sport to new limits.

Check out the schedule here, then head to the festivities this weekend in Carbondale, from April 26 to 29.

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