Female mountaineers take the spotlight during AlpinFilm

The new film festival will celebrate the 100-year-anniversary of the first female ascent of the Grand Teton.
Madison Rose Ostergren is the star of ski film "Fuel" and will be speaking at AlpinFilm's opening panel. (Courtesy of Teton Climbers' Coalition)

by | Jan 11, 2023 | Recreation

In 1923, Eleanor Davis topped the summit of the Grand Teton. She was the first woman to reach the 13,775-foot peak. Two days later, she made the first recorded ascent up the South Teton, inspiring other women to follow in her footsteps.

In honor of the 100-year anniversary of those climbs, a new film festival will celebrate the legacy of women in the Tetons. 

This weekend, Teton Climbers’ Coalition is partnering with Teton Mountaineering to present AlpinFilm, a two-day mountain film festival.

We wanted to be able to build a space for the community to gather and celebrate these mountains that are so inspiring,” said Christian Beckwith, the coalition’s founder.

The event is an offshoot of the Alpinist Film Festival, which Beckwith held in Jackson from 2004 to 2008, in addition to running the Alpinist magazine. Since then, Beckwith said he has wanted to hold a similar event that’s rooted in the Tetons.

Lack of climbing gym options

In 2020, Beckwith and others launched the Teton Climbers’ Coalition. The group formed to advocate for climbers, as Teton County and Jackson work to build a climbing gym in their expanded recreation center. Jackson hasn’t had a climbing gym since Enclosure Climbing Gym closed in 2014.

“We knew that this gym was coming,” Beckwith said. “And we knew that we had to get it right.”

The gym was originally going to be under 6,000 square feet — now, it will be nearly twice that at 10,000 square feet. It won’t open till April 2024, but the coalition is still keeping busy.

The story behind the adventures

The AlpinFilm weekend event will feature five films a day, following climbers and mountaineers as they take on adventures across the globe. In addition to the focus on women climbers, Beckwith said the coalition looked for films exploring why mountaineers embark on adventures in the first place.

“We’re interested in some of the thinking and considerations and maybe the human dimensions that are behind these adventurous acts,” he said.

One film, “The Traverse,” follows ski mountaineers Valentine Fabre and Hillary Gerardi as they attempt to become the first women to ski the Haute Route non-stop from Chamonix to Zermatt. (Courtesy of Teton Climbers’ Coalition)

The documentaries also showcase people with roots in the Tetons. One film, “Jean,” is about Jean Dempsey, the second female ranger in Grand Teton National Park — and in the country. It follows her journey from being a top female climber to landing in a hospital bed, paralyzed, after a climbing accident in Yosemite National Park. Dempsey will present virtually about her path back to recovery.

Beckwith said the goal is to celebrate Jackson’s identity as a mountaineering hub.

“We are first and foremost a mountain community,” Beckwith said. “So, (the Teton-centric) films really became the spark that is lighting up the entirety of the festival.”

Other films will highlight world famous climbers, such as Beth Rodden, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell. 

A panel of female mountaineers

AlpinFilm kicks off with a free panel discussion about women in the Tetons on Friday, Jan. 13 at 5 p.m. Speakers include Catherine Cullinane, Exum’s first female guide; Morgan McGlashon, the youngest woman to ski Grand Teton; and Madison Rose Ostergren, a professional skier in the film, “Fuel,” which will be shown at the festival. 

“I’m looking forward to talking about being a female in the industry,” Ostergren said in a press release. “Self acceptance and overcoming obstacles in life shape who we become. That’s part of my journey, and I’m excited to share it with others.”

Films will start at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The festival is $25 per day, or $40 for both days, in addition to online streaming options. All proceeds go to Teton Climbers’ Coalition, which is using the funds to replace the hardware at local outdoor climbing areas.

More information is available on the Teton Climbers’ Coalition website.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's reporter and producer. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she wrote about housing and the impacts of climate change. Her work has been published in the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains. Follow Hanna on Twitter @HannaMerzbach.

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