“A Life Ascending” Captures the Power, Beauty, and Danger of the Mountains | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Film & TV

“A Life Ascending” Captures the Power, Beauty, and Danger of the Mountains

As a young boy growing up in the Swiss Alps, Ruedi Beglinger watched in awe as his father returned home from climbing expeditions and mountain rescue missions. Stephen Grynberg’s documentary, A Life Ascending, captured how the 51-year-old Swiss-Canadian mountaineer not only followed his father’s footsteps but took it further by turning mountain guiding into a successful business -- The Selkirk Mountain Experience.

The film follows Beglinger as he guides thrill-seeking skiers and hikers through complex terrain of the British Columbia Mountains. Throughout his tours, Beglinger instructs explorers how to overcome the hazards of a possible avalanche. The potentially dangerous environment requires risk yet yields great reward of picturesque powder snow-skiing.

The film documents the guide’s meticulous acumen for mountains, climate, and compacted snow. With artful mastery, cinematographers Pat Morrow and Roger Vernon capture the hypnotic beauty of angelic snow while also exemplifying the vast power of the magnificent mountain range. “Mountains have energy, they are fully alive,” Beglinger’s voice asserts during a splendid image sequence.

Viewers without prior knowledge of the Selkirk tragedy may find themselves curious as to the objective of A Life Ascending. It is not until the midway point when Beglinger’s narrative says: “Mountain guides fear of an accident,” letting the audience know that the documentary is more than a story about the daily routine of a mountaineer man.

Yet, the 2003 avalanche tragedy -- which killed four Canadians and three Americans -- is given somewhat brief attention. Grynberg appears more invested in capturing family life at the British Columbia chalet than the perils of a fearless mountaineer guide and the consequences of nature’s force.