In mountaineering, there is a phenomenon known as ‘Summit Fever’ in which the heightened anticipation of summiting out weighs all reasoning. It is a step into the Twilight Zone where one’s critical faculties take a leave of absence and reckless decision making begins. The boiling frog story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to perceive significant changes that occur gradually –  the premise is that if a frog is placed  in cold water that is slowly heated, the animal will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

In Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air,  he describes climbers so intoxicated by the drive to get to the summit that the common sense of survival gets discarded even when exhaustion, dehydration and  bad weather becomes overwhelmingly evident – not to mention the absence of  fellow climbers who have met their death.  

Summit fever is not only limited to the tallest peaks in the world but can be found anywhere the human spirit is challenged- including the Sahara Desert. 

It has been called the toughest footrace on earth, The Marathon des Sables. Competitors have described the event as running on the surface of the sun. The  race is  held each year in Morocco over six-days covering  254 km which is the equivalent to six regular  marathons. Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpacks. Water, tents and medical support are supplied by the race organizers. During the 1994 race,  Carabinieri (Italian police officer) Mauro Properi lost his way during a sand storm. Not wishing to endure a long drawn out death of dehydration, Mauro attempted to commit suicide in an abandoned mosque by cutting his wrists. The attempt failed – lack of water had caused Mauro’s blood to congeal the wound before the blood could escape his emaciated body. Nine days later he was found by a nomadic family and taken to an Algerian military camp. Mauro was nearly 200 miles off route.

Whether in the mountains, oceans or deserts for many adventurers the ultimate goal is to finish – at any cost. 

” I think that if you see me crawling I might be in trouble, but until then I think I’m okay.” Triathlete Felicia Wilkerson, competitor # 378, Marathon des Sables.

 





Chapter One

The first time I saw my name in print was not on a “Hello My Name Is” sticker but in the American Alpine Journal on climbing accidents in North America. Which was not the kind of publicity I needed, after all I was the go to guy for remote and hostile location camera work.

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California, Yosemite Valley, Half Dome Route

On June 4, 1988, at 1200, dispatch received a call from Wesley Walton concerning an injured climber on Half Dome. Walton had talked with people on top of Half Dome by CB

Dave climbing Half Dome
me and my 80’s porno mustache

radio. At 1215, six SARSITE climbers and I were flown to the top of Half Dome starting at 1330. At 1443, Kevin Brown arrived at Big Sandy Ledge after being lowered 150 meters. He met David Banks, who had an uncomplicated injured elbow, bruised seriously enough so the he could not climb. Banks was raised the 150 meters arriving at 1545. Brown, Klotz (Banks climbing partner) and two Half Dome climbers who had helped jummarred out. All rescuers were flown out, ending at 1847.

Ranger Horner interviewed Banks later. He said that he had injured his arm/ elbow  (After x-rays I learned that I had shattered my left elbow) in a slow, sliding fall on the pitch below Big Sandy on June 3. He was slightly off route and did not protect well. He fell about ten meters (about 33 ft.) and stopped prior to hitting a larger ledge. Banks was lowered to his belayer and then Klotz led the pitch to Big Sandy. Banks took an hour and a half to jumar to the pitch, which he did in a lot of pain. They were also hauling the largest haul bag ( which we referred to as the “Pig”) anyone can remember seeing. (Source: Dan Horner and Bob Howard, Rangers, Yosemite National Park)

 

Whitewater WestAnalysis: Banks and Klotz had each been climbing for several years, led at the 5.3-5.10 level, but had little wall experience. They had brought too much hardware and other gear, and their huge haul bag and lack of experience hauling meant long, tiring days. They were on schedule but had underestimated their daily food and water requirements by about half, however; and by time of the accident they were tired, hungry and dehydrated. In retrospect, they felt their condition made an accident “only a matter of time.” Two points:

By their own admission, they had too much gear; that’s not an argument for taking nothing.

To Be Continued…..

Unknown-1“I wanted to witness things that very few people in the world get to experience and to test myself, to discover what I could endure seeing, what kinds of craziness I could survive and still be able to record images and pass them on.It was a lifestyle choice as opposed to a profession or thinking of it as work.” – Jason P. Howe

Back in the day, went I would return from the Middle East or Afghanistan I was often asked by friends, ” Dave, are you some kind of adrenaline junkie?”
I would reply, “No, but the importance of documenting history is why I take the risk.” Photojournalist James Nachtwey who put in terms that you (society) can best understand the importance of conflict photography, “The free flow of information represented by journalism, specifically visual journalism, can bring into focus both the benefits and the cost of political policies. It can give credit to sound decision-making, adding momentum to success. In the face of poor political judgment or political inaction, it becomes a kind of intervention, assessing the damage and asking us to reassess our behavior. It puts a human face on issues which from afar can appear abstract or ideological or monumental in their global impact. What happens at ground level, far from the halls of power, happens to ordinary citizens one by one.” This documentary which represents the virtue of risk for many men and women who sole motive is to record history so that society won’t repeat it.

I slid my right boot then my left boot into the hole leading to the tomb’s tunnel. There was the soft, muffed sound of my pants sliding against the rough stone as my feet fell into the tomb. My knees passed and my thighs followed – which was as far as I got. I was stuck between two worlds. My companions started laughing before cheering me on. “Push! Push, Dave”. There was a scraping noise as my 34 waist and belt buckle tried to shimmy. I’ve been told in the past, during romantic endeavors, that I have ‘a booty like a black man’ – something I’ve always thought of as an attractive asset, but which, in this instance, was a real liability. ‘I think I’m too big, guys,’ I told my audience, ‘I’m wedged in!’ as giggles grew louder and escaped from the darkness of the tomb. I too began to chuckle, which was uncomfortable considering the added pressure of stone against my waist.

When I returned to the States and the Tonight Show, I shared my big ass adventure with one of the comedy writers for the show, Larry Jacobson. We both had a good chuckle when Larry added. “You know Dave, if you were Kim Kardashian you’d still be stuck in that tomb.

 Dave-and-John-ScotlandMaybe, just maybe the deja vu that I experienced was stamped on my DNA from the lineage of my ancient past. In all my travels, I have never felt more at home then I did while in Scotland. The mystic heather-clad hills of green, the quality of air and light and the faces of Highlanders that looked all to familiar. Perhaps this lineage explains why I took up bagpipe lessons several years ago or when the song Amazing Grace is played on pipes my chest swells with emotions as I try to fight back the tears – which we men try so hard to hide.
On this trip, I learned that my family name (Banks) was first recorded in the 17th century on the Orkney Islands which lies off the northern tip of Scotland. It is where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and has the fearful reputation as a haven for witches and warlocks. Which may explain when I reached puberty I had a huge crush on Yvonne De Carlo as Lily in the TV show The Munster’s or  Carolyn Jones as Morticia in the Addams Family. Blonde witches just don’t do  it for me, so the attraction must be something in my recorded DNA.                                           Tuir 1
Witches WebFor a week, home was a 200-year-old Scottish Manor Tigh an Tuir in the village of Strathtay
which sits in the heart to Highland Perthshire. On the last evening of my stay in Scotland, I gave myself permission to wear the kilt now that I had Geno connection to Scotland. To the surprise of family and friends my new friend John and I made a grand entrance with a lone piper playing Scotland the Brave. In spite of feeling somewhat awkward in Dave's kneesa kilt bearing my knobby knees, our family and friends seem to enjoy the opportunity to see John and I in skirts. Now, traditionally the kilts is worn without undergarments since their use as part of Scottish military uniform, leading to the creation of such expressions as “going regimental” or “going commando.” During the First World War some Sergeant Majors reportedly had mirrors tied to the end of golf clubs to inspect up and under the kilt at parade inspection. So, a “True Scotsman” is a humorous term used in Scotland for a man wearing a kilt with out underwear but in my case on this very cool evening and with the possibility of serious shrinkage I worn my Calvin Klein. As for my friend John, John and Kyra #2 don’t ask, don’t tell, but I’m sure his wife Kyra will know what wee mysteries lies underneath John’s kilt. Till the morn, guild cheerio the now ! (Till we meet again , good bye!)

Dave-Image047 There was a time in my professional life that the tools of my trade required 13 anvil cases, patients, and throw away paper underwear. The demands for international travel as a documentary filmmaker was like an assault on climbing Mt. Everest. Months of preparation are involved along with logistics, scheduling, and risk management. Once at the point of entry in a foreign country the arduous task of clearing customs begins with lots of patients as every item in the anvil cases are cross referenced to see that the serial numbers match the Carnet.  For those not familiar, a Carnet is analogous to a passport for equipment. It is an import/export document, which allows property to pass across borders without hindrance. Free passage is assured by the guarantee that imported property will be reliably exported again after a set period of time. However, the documents Whitewater Westmust be scrupulously prepared and every item’s serial number on the Carnet. The Carnet must be recorded through customs on entering a country and then checked out again on exiting. Any errors or omissions can cause the delay of the entire shipment unless you have Baksheesh which is tipping or as some may call it charitable giving. I call it outright bribery.
That was then and this is now, I can now wear brown socks with white tennis shoes, plaid Bermuda shorts and a “Go Dodgers “ tank top and travel as a tourist. Today, I travel “Light and Fast”  which is an alpine mountaineering approach to traditional mountaineering that seeks to leave behind everything but the minimum gear required to reach the 252617_3880792791286_1338272699_nobjective and allowing the climber to summit faster. An experienced mountaineer will jettison gear that was not used on previous climbs and go “Light and Fast”. With that in mind and since I’m not tackling Mt. Everest but Scotland I have downsized my gear to an carry on bag.
This is my equipment list today:Travel Gear
  1. Canon 5D Mark II, 17mm – 40mm Lens, for stills and HD video w/Sennheiser short shotgun mic, headphones.
  2. Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Lens
  3. GoPro Camera
  4. Macbook Pro
  5. Portable battery charger
  6. External hard drive
  7. 3 thumb drives
  8. 4 Report’s Notebooks
  9. Composition Notebook
  10. 5 pencils
  11. 10 copies of Cue The Camels
  12. 100 business cards

Part One

Dave Banks discusses and signs Cue the Camels
Jay Leno says, “Within these pages Dave has written gung-ho, self-deprecating, wildly engaging accounts of his exploits, with all the behind-the-scene high-jinks that go into shooting news and documentaries across the world.” In Cue the Camels, Dave shares his misadventures in a comedic style that is sure to entertain.

Vroman’s Bookstore Link: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/local629

 Cue The Camels available atwww.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 , Amazon Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Cue-Camels-three-time-award-winning-film-maker-ebook/dp/B00IA10Z88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403461103&sr=1-1&keywords=cue+the+camels