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What's your limit? The limit where fear, adventure, adrenaline and chance meet, where if you make one mistake it's your life—and maybe others' lives.--- Mount St. Elias—shown on Monday, Jan. 25 as part of X-Dance—documents the limits for three world-class mountaineers and their efforts summiting and skiing down one of Alaska's most dangerous peaks and longest ski lines.
The 2007 expedition of Axel Naglich and Peter Ressmann took weeks of determination including one heli-ski venture to scout and one unsuccessful trip in which they were forced to return and wait. The venture was too much for American pro freeskier Jon Johnston, who had to back out of the second attempt to summit.
Director Gerald Salmina has the story line follow this expedition and periodically cuts to a recreation of the 2002 American expedition up Mount St. Elias that ended in two dead. It stands in juxtuposition to Naglich and Ressmann's relentless fortitude, acting like the voice of good reason.
The human and psychological element of what happens when someone is pushed to their limit is portrayed with precision. Johnston hit his and in a post-showing interview Naglich said that the portrayal of Johnston probably wasn't fair. "There was a lot of footage and [director Gerald] Salmina choose to show the extremes," Naglich says.
Mountaineer banter reined throughout (potty-mouths), and as Naglich and Ressmann persist through their trials, their sarcasm shines through. Their humor helps break-up intense sequences of near-death storms, weathering psychological adversity, possible avalanches and sheer determination.
Ultimately they summit and are able to ski 18,000 feet of terrain. In the movie Naglich comments that when you are exhausted it's hard to take three turns, let along 1000. They made it out alive to be the first to ever accomplish that feat.
Their passion is as intense as Alaska's beauty. The closer they come to death, the more they want it, becoming addicted to that indescribable feeling.
Would these mountaineers do it again? "If we had twice the budget," Naglich says.