"Mountains were places of peril, not beauty. An upper world to be shunned, not sought out. How then have mountains now come to hold a spellbound? Drawing us into their dominion. Often at the cost of lives. Because the mountains we climb are not made only of rock and ice, but also dreams...and desire. The mountains we climb, are mountains of the mind."Passages from Macfarlane's book 'Mountains of the Mind' sweep through the piercing crevices of Ozturk's mountaineering photography, accompanied by Dafoe's heavenly soothing narration. Exploring the relationship between humanity and mountains across time, "into a space where time warps...and bends". Providing insight into their alluring endangerment, the mind's requirement to feel alive. A lust for death-defying experiences where the stoic poses of grandiose mountains intimidate, cursed with the uncontrollable meteorology that governs them. Souls perish beneath the snow encrusted rocks. Others enlightened by the achievement they have just accomplished. "Sensations are thrillingly amplified". Earth's most imposing natural wonders of the world, have now become passions. "Our fascination became an obsession". To conquer. To discover. To relinquish one's self unto the summits where deities rest.Mountain refuses to be categorised as just a documentary, but rather cinematic immersion. Enabling nature's seduction to beguile and mesmerise. Towering peaks hypnotise to the accompaniment of Beethoven and Vivaldi's stringed odes. The Australian Chamber Orchestra supplying an additional poetic interpretation to the lofty heights of snow-capped summits. Panoramic horizons woven into a methodical observation, edited exquisitely to create a narrative flow. The first expedition to Everest. Humanity's eternal desire to achieve the unachievable. Modern tourism and its environmental impact. Extreme sports. Nature's water cycle. A symphony of characteristics brought together to enrapture those who dream of the bone deep cold. Stunning. Bewitching. Photographic beauty that is rarely surpassed onscreen. For every shot of these formidable rock formation, is a mental link that questions the psychology of humanity. A surprisingly affecting and visceral experience.However, much like the terrain that is captured, its pace is uneven. The balance between physical and human geography tipped towards the latter. Aspects such as the water cycle, volcanic surplus and glacial formations failed to coincide with the human element that enveloped this documentary. Furnishing no insight other than to resemble a rudimentary geography lesson one would watch at school. The daredevil stunts, mountaineering expeditions and environmental detriments were at the forefront, fortunately. Still, even these aspects were depicted unevenly with the environmentalism garnering a total of five minutes of the runtime. Considering the feature is just over an hour long, its secondary message had insufficient time to manifest.To end this review, a passage from Macfarlane's book, which should be read just for its exquisite poetry in itself, will suffice and perfectly sum up Mountain as a feature. "Stone and ice though are far less gentle to the hand's touch than to the mind's eye. The mountains of the Earth have often turned out to be more resistant, more fatally real, than the mountains we imagine".
If you like the mountain music you'll likely love the movie... if not... you probably will critique the acting and plot pretty harshly. In my humble opinion the acting is pretty good for having no big Hollywood names in it. I happen to like the music so I gave it a ten. I don't know how factually correct it is for the depression era mountain people but I think it's entertaining. I kind of like the way it moves back and forth in time with all of the actors being very gifted musicians as both younger kids and older adults.
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Down. Down. The elevator drops 200 feet inside the gate-control tower at the Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica, Vt. Occasionally a girder flicks by as the elevator descends. Otherwise, there is only the rounded, concrete wall of the tower visible through the diamond pattern of the expandable safety gate as the elevator glides down. Then it is another 50 feet down a stairway, each step a metal grate, to the floor where the "bonnets" of three hydraulically operated flood-control gates rest. The gates themselves, each 5 feet 8 inches wide and 10 feet tall, are farther down still. They are accessed through a manhole cover in the cement floor. The inside walls of the tower bristle with frost, particularly just above the line overhead that Park Ranger Dale Berkness points to as the level of the pool (most of us would call it a reservoir) in which the tower sits. Below that line, lime oozes from the cement wall, giving the tower basement the look of a cave. The bonnets, part of the hydraulic system that operates the flood-control gates, are about 5 feet wide and 10 feet high. They are painted silver and are fastened with nuts the size of a man's fist. Next to each bonnet is a brass ruler, 10 feet high. Each foot is marked off on the ruler and divided into tenths. These rulers indicate the height of the opening in the flood-control gate with an arrow. Only the ruler next to the center bonnet shows a measurement above zero. On this central ruler the arrow points at a spot below the 1-foot mark. It is three lines up from the bottom of the ruler: three-tenths of a foot. Vermont's five federal flood-control dams are part of a massive project designed and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to tame floods in the Connecticut River valley. They were built to stop torrents. Today, attempts to restore the health of the rivers mean that the dams are managed by the trickle, rather than the flood. Instead of three gates open 10 feet high, here at the Ball Mountain Dam one gate is open three-tenths of a foot, or 3.6 inches. Flood-control dams are different from hydroelectric dams. Flood-control dams hold back water for short lengths of time during periods of high water to prevent flooding downstream, while hydro dams constantly store and release water to keep their turbines spinning. Vermont's five federal flood-control dams (there are also three unrelated state-operated flood-control dams in the center of the state), are part of an interstate network of dams and levees along the Connecticut River. They are designed to reduce flooding in a floodplain that runs from Springfield, Mass., to Hartford, Conn. The Vermont dams also alleviate flooding in Springfield, Vermont and Brattleboro, but that is almost a fringe benefit. All five of Vermont's federal flood-control dams are of the earthen embankment variety. They look at first glance like gigantic piles of rock, and in some ways they are. The key part of the dam is its impervious core, made from clay. The pile of gravel and rock, or embankment, that surrounds the core primarily holds the core in place. Tunnels allow water to flow through the dam. At three of the dams (North Hartland, North Springfield and Townshend) a weir or smaller pre-dam regulates the flow of water into the tunnels. Otherwise, flood-control gates regulate the rate of flow. Upstream is often a "pool" or reservoir, but not always. The Union Village Dam, on the Ottauquechee River in Thetford, is a "dry" dam that is usually operated without a pool. (In winter, the dam has an 18-foot pool to keep the flood-control gates from freezing.) A concrete spillway, slightly lower than the dam's height, protects the earthen dam from being washed away in extremely high water. Vermont's federal flood-control dams have "gone to spillway" only once in their history. On April 7, 1987, the pools at the Townshend and Ball Mountain Dams were filled over capacity and the West River cascaded over their spillways. The dams are only middle-aged in human terms, but they are clearly of another era. The first of the dams to be built, the Union Village Dam in Thetford, was completed in 1950. The last of the dams were completed in 1961. It was an era with great faith in technology, and it was an era without a conservation ethic. Things changed so quickly that three of the Vermont dams named in an interstate dam compact were never built. Those would have been at Groton Pond on the Wells River, at Victory on the Moose River and in Boomfield on the Nulhegan River. In Vermont, the period was also a time of bitterness over the federal government's seizure of thousands of acres of private land on which to build the dams - land to be flooded when necessary to preserve the more valuable property down-river. That history is as much a part of the dams as the flood gate indicator that measures in feet but is operated in inches. But like that indicator, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vermont state agencies and local conservation groups are trying to work together to manage these dams in a new way for a new era. For example, the dams were built without fish passages. There were no anadromous fish swimming from ocean to river to spawn when the dams were built, notes Jay McMenemy, a fisheries biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Since then, however, the federal government has undertaken a multimillion-dollar project to reintroduce salmon to the Connecticut River and its tributaries. As part of the reintroduction effort, returning salmon are trapped just below the Townshend Dam in an electronic trap and are then trucked above the dam. The pool at the Ball Mountain Dam is kept at about 25 feet from late April until early June so the young salmon, called smolt, can reach the tunnels under the dam and swim downstream. Maintaining a natural river flow is another issue for all rivers with dams. A partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the state Agency of Natural Resources has worked hard to bring a more natural flow regime to the dammed rivers. "We used to turn the rivers off and on, and we don't do that any more," says Michael Curran, the Army Corps of Engineers' operations manager for the Upper Connecticut River Basin. McMenemy says the abrupt changes in water level, particularly when the river is shut off totally, can strand fish. "During a tunnel inspection, we actually saw a juvenile salmon, one of the most mobile fish in the river, stranded in the woods," he says. "We walked along just flipping fish back in the river." The Townshend Dam was recently inspected while water continued to flow through the tunnels. The rate at which the water level changes, called ramping, is also important. "In the past, the flow would be increased from 50 (cubic feet per second) to 1500 cfs in two minutes," says Brian Fitzgerald of the ANR's Water Quality Division. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now models the flow of the West River on the nearby Williams River, which does not have a flood-control dam. "It is pretty dramatic," says Fitzgerald. "We have the two on a graph and it's pretty clear that some kind of ramping is necessary to emulate a more natural system." He adds, "Today it will take several hours to get from 50 cfs to 1500 cfs." This more natural flow regime has displeased the recreational paddlers who enjoy the traditional autumn whitewater release at the Ball Mountain Dam. A high river flow at that time of year is not natural, and the release has been changed to reflect that. "We are trying to balance the paddlers' desires with the needs of the fisheries," Curran says of the continuing discussions. Fitzgerald and McMenemy consider sedimentation a rare problem at the flood-control dams, but it has proven to be a dramatic one. According Jamaica's town records, in May and June 1993 the West River flowed with mud when silt spilled through the gates at the Ball Mountain Dam. State records noted another silt release at the dam in 1995. After the two 1993 silt spills, news reports said the river bottom was buried in up to 2 feet of silt and populations of fish and other wildlife were decimated for over three miles downstream. The West River is home to Vermont's only population of brook floater mussels. These freshwater mussels, which are listed as a threatened species in Vermont, were not wiped out by the silt spills, says Mark Ferguson, zoologist for the state's Nongame & Natural Heritage Program, but they have been in serious decline in recent years. "The numbers (of brook floater mussels) in this stretch appear so low now that I believe the mussel may not be able to exist here much longer," he says. "Another threatened mussel species that occurs between the dams, the eastern pearlshell, seems to be doing better than the brook floater there." Ironically, the silt spills ushered in an unprecedented period of cooperation between the Army Corps of Engineer and other organizations, including the state Agency of Natural Resources. "There were some differences of opinion about the federal government's obligation to comply with state water quality standards," says Fitzgerald. "Those differences were basically resolved in December 1998 when the Corps and the state signed a partnering agreement," he says. "In that agreement, the Corps agreed to comply with all Vermont water quality regulations." The state and the Army Corps of Engineers continue to work on a more comprehensive agreement. Richard Carlson, who runs the construction operations department of the Corps' New England Division, is generally credited with initiating and developing the agreement. Em Richards, the West River Watershed coordinator for the Windham Regional Commission, has watched the Corps of Engineers evolve into a more environmentally conscious organization over the last 10 years. As an example of that evolution, Curran offers his own career. A civilian employee of the Corps, he has a bachelor of science degree in forestry from the University of Vermont. He began his career as a park ranger at a dam site, then worked for the Corps as a forester before he was promoted to basin manager. Army Corps of Engineers rangers do much the same work as other federal forest rangers or park rangers, he says. Park Ranger Donna Vondle may be an even stronger example of the Corps' new environmental focus. "Do something you love to do and find someone to pay you," she advises. For Vondle that something is serving as a ranger mostly at the Townshend Dam. She has fond memories of visiting that dam's recreation area as a child, and is an ardent supporter of the recreational opportunities that the Army Corps brings to Vermont - from sledding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in winter, to hiking, camping, swimming and boating in the summer. Richards says Vondle is a valued participant in the West River Watershed Coalition. "The Army Corps is not the bad guy," Richards says. "They have done a lot with the recreation areas. They share their data." In the past year or so, she says, the organization "has been wonderful." Richards sees sedimentation in the 10-mile stretch between the Ball Mountain Dam and the Townshend Dam as a problem for the West River. So does the state. It listed that stretch of the West River among the "impaired rivers of the state" in 2002. While the dams are not blameless, Richards says, they are not the only source of the problem. "Ball Mountain Brook, which enters the West River between the dams, has over 14 major erosion sites," Richards says. "We're talking 20-footers up the bank. Stratton Mountain is at the headwaters of the brook. There is a combination of much development and changes in river dynamics." There are no swift or sure answers to the flood-control dams' contributions to the West River's sedimentation problems. "Ball Mountain is the only dam without a weir that has a pool," says Curran. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was asked by the state to create a pool. Now there is a pile of sediment behind the dam." A weir or new control gates at Ball Mountain could alleviate the sediment problem, but neither are being planned within the next five years. The Ball Mountain Dam received a new automatic gate-control system to replace the one that malfunctioned, causing the silt releases. This beefier system keeps the dam pool between 24 and 27 feet during the smolt migration period, Berkness says. Dredging, which also harms aquatic wildlife, would only occur if sediment threatened the dams' function, says Carlson. In the Northeast, the Army Corps of Engineers relies on "a natural flushing action" of the annual spring releases to purge dam pools of accumulated sediment, he says. In spite of the lack of easy answers, progress continues to be made in bringing the flood-control dams of the pre-conservation era in line with the priorities of today. All parties involved say the level of collaboration has never been greater. Like the big brass ruler in the bottom of the tower at the Ball Mountain Dam, the electronic monitors in the control room near the top of the tower also measure in tenths of a foot. Curran reports that the dam's staff has learned to time the adjustments they make to the flood-control gates some 250 feet below, not waiting for the next number to tick on the monitor. By timing the adjustments, they are able to move a flood-control gate less than the tenth of a foot that is the control gate's smallest measure to more closely approximate the river's flow. With these small movements the Army Corps of Engineers is nudging Vermont's federal flood-control dams out of one era and into another. 2b1af7f3a8