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Cranking out ‘One Revolution’

At 19, 341 feet, Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro in North Eastern Tanzania has tempted mountaineers through the centuries. While some have made it to the glaciered summit, others have perished due to falls, rockslides and hypothermia.

Adding to the dangers, the inactive volcano features five climate zones bushland, rain forest, heath, alpine desert and arctic.

Each zone offers unique challenges with temperature changes, dust, moisture and terrain.

Some of the trails are level and meandering and others measure in at 50 degree-slants that take the climber through rocks, water and ice.

While it is easy to picture a group of climbers taking slow and deliberate steps up these trails, imagine what it would be like to scale the mountain by using a hand cycle.

That’s what Paralympic Hall of Famer and Park City local Chris Waddell did in 2010, making him the first paraplegic to accomplish this feat.

Waddell, who was paralyzed from the waist down during skiing accident 22 years ago, reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro with his Bomba, a custom-made, four-wheel hand cycle. It took an estimated 528,000 revolutions of the hand crank to cover the 30-mile trek to the summit.

His historic climb is the subject of the documentary "One Revolution" by filmmaker Amanda Stoddard.

The film will make its Utah premier at the Eccles Center on May 13.

The Park Record caught up with Stoddard and Waddell during a telephone interview from Newport Beach, Calif., where they were screening the film at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

"The idea formed in 2007," Waddell said. "I was out training in Round Valley one day and as I was coming down the hill I thought, ‘I should climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.’"

The idea was an extension of what Waddell did as a competitive athlete, he said.

"While competing, I could change the way people saw those with disabilities by doing things they didn’t think was possible, such as skiing 70 miles per hour," he said. "When I retired, I felt I lost a bit of that platform, so I thought maybe Kilimanjaro would be a way to continue that idea."

Waddell talked with Stoddard, whom he met earlier. The two made some preliminary videos that introduced Waddell’s goal to the public.

"The project evolved from there," Stoddard said. "We both had similar ideas of what the story should be, and I have always been interested in what drives an athletes to accomplish those big goals."

After months of planning and preparation, Waddell started the climb in the summer of 2010.

"It took six and a half days to reach the summit and one and a half days to come down," he said. "My part was easy. All I had to do was use the hand cranks, although I didn’t anticipate the water bars, or troughs, that are cut to preserve the trail during the rainy months. While others could just step over them, I had to roll in and out of them."

Stoddard, on the other hand, had to take on not only the physical climb, but also the logistics and management of filmmaking.

"It was a challenge," Stoddard said. "We were lucky we didn’t have any equipment failures on the way up, but we made sure the gear didn’t get too clogged up with the dust and moisture and we didn’t drop anything along the way."

Stoddard and her cameramen Patrick Reddish and Mike Stoner along with a group of porters, including a man who previously lost his leg in a rockslide, hauled two cameras, sound equipment, computers and survival supplies up the slopes during the shoot.

"We filmed it continuously as the environment and our own personal fatigue allowed," Stoddard said. "We worked hard to capture those moments that would give people a sense of what it would be like to do something as physically exhausting as Chris did.

"As I was shooting, I hoped that when people saw the movie, they would feel as if they were on the journey with us."

"Amanda’s goal to put the audience on the mountain with us was difficult," said Waddell, founder of the One Revolution Foundation that donates wheelchairs and hand cycles to the people in Tanzania. "It’s easy for the camera to flatten the mountain and make it look like an easy trail, which is not the case."

The only major technical setback during the filming was getting a new hard drive.

"We had to buy an solid-state hard drive so we could download the day’s footage to make space on the computer so we could shoot the next day," Waddell said. "We found that her other hard drive wouldn’t work at 12,000 feet."

At 19,000 feet, the crew found a new challenge maintaining their motor skills.

"Dealing with little switches and knobs at that altitude was ridiculous," Stoddard said with a laugh. "Also, because the air is so thin, sometimes your brain doesn’t work as efficiently as you are used to, so the decision-making skills also suffer. I was glad I had a crew who knew their stuff backwards and forwards."

When filming wrapped, Stoddard sifted through 300 hours of footage to create a comprehensible, dramatic and inspiring product.

"I wanted to show what was going on inside Chris’ head," Stoddard said about the film, which, incidentally, is her first feature-length film. "I made sure he was aware of the story, and he had a lot of input, but I was the one who put it together."

"We didn’t want to tell a story about climbing a mountain," Waddell said. "We didn’t want to tell a story about disability, either. We wanted to tell a story on a more universal level. We wanted to tell a story about an average person achieving an extraordinary goal."

"One Revolution" will be screened at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Friday, May 13, at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are available $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets are available at https://tickets.ecclescenter.org . A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $100, which includes preferred seating and access to the after party at Silver on Main Street. For more information visit http://www.one-revolution.org.


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