The Climbing Grief Fund (CGF), created by Madaleine Sorkin with the American Alpine Club (AAC), has released the long-awaited film, “A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground,” by award-winning director Henna Taylor.
“A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground” launched July 7, in conjunction with the Climbing Grief Grant fundraiser. From July 7-20, donate $15 or more and receive access to the film, which features some of climbing’s most prominent figures examining an often-ignored but critical topic in our community. During this time, 100% of proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards the Climbing Grief Grants, a component of the CGF. The grants provide financial support for individuals seeking professional counseling to help process climbing related grief, loss, and trauma. In 2020, the CGF awarded fifteen $600 grants for individuals in our community.
“A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground” explores the paradox of grief within climbing, an activity sought out for the joy and vibrance it provides its participants, but one that also exposes individuals to risk and the potential for tremendous grief and loss. The purpose of the film is to establish a starting point for destigmatizing the grieving process for climbers.
In 2019, Henna and Summer Taylor began interviewing climbers on the topic of grief as part of the Climbing Grief Fund’s “Story Archive Project.” Their goal was to capture the climbing community’s collective experience of grief and loss, and the nuanced wisdom inherent in each individual’s relationship with grief. The Taylors and Sorkin initially scheduled two days of interviews at Outdoor Retailer but decided to expand the timeline to accommodate a large number of people interested in discussing their grief within the climbing community. In the end, they interviewed 30 people about their experience and their different journeys toward healing.
A statement from the director, Henna Taylor
As a filmmaker, I look for the moments when our internal and external explorations come together to create instances that feel whole and deeply honest. “A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground” is a culmination of these moments for many members of the mountain climbing community.
The level of nuance required to make this film inspired a very delicate approach to filmmaking. This was true, especially in the editing process. At times I felt like I was trying to weave a piece of cloth using a spider’s thread. The greatest challenge for me was to keep the integrity and meaning of each person’s story, in their excerpts, as I began to weave them in and out of each other. An excerpt could mean one thing in the context of their full interview but when placed before or after another person’s experience, it could take on a whole new meaning. I had to pay such close attention to the subtlety of this meaning so that I did not change it throughout the course of the edit. The challenge was to make all the voices work together and uplift each other as they communicated the message of this film while at the same time protecting the individuality of each character’s perspective and original meaning in their own story.