Roger Cox: Imagination one of our most powerful tools

A still from North of the Sun by Inge Wegge and J�rn Ranum. Picture: Contributed
A still from North of the Sun by Inge Wegge and J�rn Ranum. Picture: Contributed
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Prepare to be inspired by a bunch of individuals who have harnessed the power of the human spirit

“Dreams... struggle... darkness... cold... even taking a p*** can be a challenge.”

That’s how Norwegian surfer and snowboarder Inge Wegge sums up his experience of overwintering in a deserted bay on a remote Arctic island with his friend Jørn Ranum for their multi-award-winning film, North of the Sun. As the title implies, the location the pair chose to spend the chillier months of the year was at such a high latitude that for a goodly portion of their stay the sun never rose at all. On the up-side, though, their little cove produced perfectly peeling waves when the conditions were right – ideal for surfing, as long as you have an extra-thick wetsuit; and the nearby mountains boasted some dreamy, snow-stuffed gullies – great for snowboarding, as long as you’re happy to earn your turns with a bit of hiking.

Wegge and Ranum collected driftwood and rubbish washed up on the beach to build themselves a cosy little Hobbit house to stay in, and they whiled away the dark days of winter by clearing further detritus from the beach, which they eventually arranged to have helicoptered out. At the time of their adventure Wegge was just 25 and Ranum just 22.

North of the Sun is one of many films due to be screened at Dundee’s Bonar Hall today as part of the 32nd annual Dundee Mountain Film Festival, and if this tantalising line-up of cinematic delights could be said to have a collective message, it is this: there is no excuse not to have amazing adventures. None. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a selection of films more likely to make people leap out of their cinema seats and go exploring the second the lights go up.

Also screening today, for example, is Man In A Hurry, a short about the adrenaline junkie “Deano” Dunbar made by Patrick Winterton, Tony Gill and Rhona Dunbar. Deano is registered blind, and suffers from the progressive condition known as Rod and Cone Dystrophy, but he isn’t going to let a little thing like that stop him from swimming the Gulf of Corryvreckan between the islands of Jura and Scarba, home to the third largest whirlpool in the world. As long as Deano completes the 1,200m swim during slack tide he should be OK, but once the water starts funnelling through the gulf again and the whirlpool starts whirling... well... that’s why he’s a man in a hurry.

Climbers are supposed to be gnarly, hairy tough guys with nerves of steel, arms of iron and skin like leather – or, at least, that’s the stereotype. On a mission to blow great big holes in such lazy preconceptions is Hazel Findlay – blonde, petite and the first British woman ever to climb to grade E9. She’s the star of Spice Girl, made by Josh Lowell, Alex Lowther, Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen.

In 2011, Joe Beaumont fell 40 metres while climbing in the Lake District and smashed up his right leg so badly that he was left wearing an “external fixator” – essentially a big metal cage running from his knee to his ankle, designed to help his shattered bones re-set in the correct alignment. Rather than simply sitting down in front of the TV and waiting to get better, though, Beaumont set out on a self-powered adventure from the lowest point in the British Isles (in Cambridgeshire) to the highest, Ben Nevis. Dom Bush’s cunningly-titled In The Frame tells the story of his 600-mile odyssey by bike and kayak.

If they’d wanted to, the stars of all of these films could have given up on their respective challenges at the eleventh hour and made their excuses: it’s too cold to go camping in the Arctic; it’s too scary swimming in open water when you’re blind; it’s too tough being a woman in a male-dominated sport; it’s too tiring cycling hundreds of miles with one leg. It’s the fact that they didn’t cash in their Get Out Of Jail Free cards, though, that makes them so inspiring – not just because of the fortitude it took to overcome the various obstacles standing in their way, but also because their achievements inevitably make us think: “if he or she could do all that, I wonder what I could do if I put my mind to it?”

If mountain film festivals teach us anything, it’s that imagination and determination are among the most powerful tools we have.