When American alpinist and Piolet d’Or winner Kyle Dempster took off on a fully-loaded mountain bike for two months of riding and climbing in mostly-unexplored mountain ranges, he didn't know he'd be tackling a handful of first ascents, doing 1,200 km of cycling, dealing with corrupt (and often drunk) military checkpoint staff, and making several sketchy river crossings.
When he pedalled into Pakistan two months later, he and Hayden Kennedy climbed a new route on 7,285m Ogre and another on the then-unclimbed east face of K7 with Urban Novak. Their route on the Ogre gave Dempster his second Piolet d'Or.
Dempster's self-shot footage of his journey in Kyrgyzstan made it to the desk of filmmakers Fitz Cahall and Austin Siadak, who turned it into the 25-minute Road From Karakol. The movie will launch online in the next few weeks but Dempster gave us an exclusive preview into the trip.
Is filming yourself a pain in the butt?
I never felt burdened by it at all. That camera, in a way, became like Wilson [the volleyball Tom Hanks talks to in the movie Cast Away] — someone to talk to.
Fitz Cahall is such a great storyteller.
When Fitz and I got together in January 2013 and he had me voice record the scripts that he wrote, I realized, 'Damn, dude, I think this is going to be a good film.'
Of all the things that I've done, I think it's the best presented piece of inspiration that I've been able to be part of or share from my life. It seems much less generic than, 'Yep, went to Pakistan, climbed a mountain, here's a bunch of photos.'
Was this a climbing or an adventure trip?
Going to Asia and climbing a huge mountain requires a heavy sense of adventure. The bike trip I really saw as just another channel of that. There was less climbing, but that was mostly because of the geography and landscape of Kyrgyzstan.
Pakistan, I can look at a picture of one mountain and say yeah, I want to go there. In Kyrgyzstan, 80 or 90 per cent of the country is mountainous, but I can't just pick one big mountain. I knew I wanted to go to Kyrgyzstan, I wanted to climb, and I wanted to see a bunch of stuff.
What inspired the trip?
Part of the fuel that fired my desire to go do that was the knowledge that Maxime Turgeon did a bike trip through Europe, and the late Goran Kropp's Everest expedition [in 1996, in which he biked from Sweden to Everest, summited, and pedalled back]. What I did wasn't by any means new, but maybe where I chose to take the bike was.