Jackson, Wyoming – March 14, 2005 – Alpinist Magazine announced today that the town of Jackson, Wyoming, has proclaimed March 24, 2005, as Barry Corbet Day. The day coincides with the start of The Barry Corbet Film Festival, which will be held March 24-26, 2005, at Jackson’s Mainstage Theater. Presented by Alpinist Magazine, The Barry Corbet Film Festival honors Corbet’s athletic and artistic spirit with a series of films that evoke the joys of deep snow, wild water and steep stone. All net proceeds will be donated to the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation’s Khumbu Climbing School, which seeks to lower the injury and fatality rate among the Sherpas who work and climb in the high Himalaya.
Barry Corbet, who died December 18, 2004, was an American skiing and climbing legend. Among his many other accomplishments, Barry made the first ascent of Denali’s Southwest Rib (the first big alpine route on the south face) with fellow Exum Guides Bill Buckingham, Jake Breitenbach and Pete Sinclair in 1959. In 1963, Barry helped put the first American team on Everest via the West Ridge route, bowing out of the historic first ascent to give Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld a crack at the summit. He got his first experience behind a film camera on the expedition, and that experience led to his career as a filmmaker. His ski movies, especially Ski the Outer Limits, made with Roger Brown, set a new standard in mountain sports photography. He was awarded the National Geographic Hubbard Medal twice, once for his role on Mt. Everest (given to him by John F. Kennedy) and once for his climbs in Antarctica (he made the first ascents of the highest and second-highest peaks on the continent in 1966). In 1967 he was awarded the CIA Intelligence Star. But in 1968, a few months after founding the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides at the age of 32, the first chapter of his life came to a close.
Barry was making a ski film when a helicopter crash left him partially paralyzed. While such an accident would mark the end of most people’s lives, for Barry it marked a new beginning. For the next thirty-six years, Barry taught the world that mental strength and agility could overcome physical impairment. The accident focused his attention on new outlets for his physical and artistic force. He became a first-rate kayaker, and his keen eye for emotion-wrenching film turned to ballet-like maneuvers through class five rapids.
Barry also used his filmmaking and writing skills to become a leading spokesperson for the disabled. He produced three spinal cord injury films: Changes, Outside and Survivors. His books-Spinal Network: The Total Wheelchair Resource Book, edited together with Jean Dobbs; and Options: Spinal Cord Injury and the Future-have helped millions of people. Cure Paralysis Now calls Options, “a combination encyclopedia and Bible for the spinal cord injured.” His best writing, however, may be found in New Mobility, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association’s magazine, which Barry edited from 1991-it was then called Spinal Network Extra-until November 2000. Tim Gilmer, its current editor, says, Corbet’s “deft editorial guidance set the tone and philosophy that still anchor the magazine today. “As one of his colleagues from the magazine said, “Because of his spinal cord injury, Barry kind of had two lives. And he lived more fully in both of them than most of us do in one.”
By adopting March 24, 2005, as Barry Corbet Day, the town of Jackson recognizes Barry Corbet as far more than just a climber and a skier. His perseverance in the face of adversity, his poetic appreciation for both the physical and intellectual challenges of life, and the artistry he displayed in his work have left us all with a shining example to which we might aspire.
Tickets for The Barry Corbet Film Festival (available at Pica’s, Skinny Skis, Teton Mountaineering and Tobacco Row) are $10 each night. All shows will be held at the Mainstage Theater in Jackson, Wyoming. For information on The Barry Corbet Film Festival, including film schedules, see www.alpinist.com, or call Alpinist Magazine at 307-734-0600. Information on the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation may be found at http://www.alexlowe.org/