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Culture » Culture Features

Climbing for a Cause: Jonathan Fessler heads to Nepal, camera in hand


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Heading for the peak...Last Friday afternoon, Jonathan Fessler was working busily to finish up some editing work on local television commercials. But in a little more than two weeks later, Fessler will be in Kathmandu, Nepal and prepping for a climb of a 20,000-foot peak. It's a quick change, to say the least, and not just in elevation.

Fessler, 26, a Bend-based filmmaker who had been working for KTVZ and also shot and edited the recent locally made short film "Age, Sex, Location," is part of a team headed to Nepal for a project tentatively titled "Climbing for Heathcare." Fessler is the producer and director of a documentary headed up by Les Zollbrecht and the Mountain Leadership Institute, following six men traveling to Nepal to raise awareness about the need for healthcare in an area where residents must endure a nine-hour walk in order to receive care at a hospital.

This mention of a nine-hour walk is not anecdotal, but rather what Jagat Lama, the man who will serve as the group's guide, completed with his father in his arms only to have him pass away during the arduous trek. This is just one of the stories that Fessler hopes the film will tell in the hopes of raising funds that will hopefully lead to the construction of a hospital in Kumari, Jagat's hometown.

"Jagat's entire goal in life is to build this hospital. He promised his father he would do anything he could to make that happen," Fessler says.

The faces behind the missionThe crux of the group's tour through Nepal comes in the form of an expedition to the summit of Island Peak, a 20,305-foot mountain in the Himalayas which is located only about five miles from Mt. Everest. In fact, the group will actually stop at the Mt. Everest base camp during their trek. From there, it's up to the top of Island Peak - something the group trained for earlier this winter on Mt. Hood. Fessler will have the camera in hand during the climb - albeit selectively during more dangerous sections - and even took the camera along with him during the group's training.

Fessler arrives in Nepal about two weeks ahead of the rest of the group to begin shooting the documentary and also get acquainted with the locals and of course meet Jagat and his family. Understandably, Fessler is excited to jump into this previously foreign culture.

"I'm really excited to utilize my talents to do something good in the world. I am enjoying working and living in Central Oregon, but this is an amazing experience," Fessler says.

After the group returns to the U.S. at the beginning of May, Fessler will begin editing the film and from there they hope to enter it in several nationally known film festivals. They also hope to land the documentary on television and sell it in outdoor stores all in a hope to raise awareness and funds for the construction of the hospital in Kumari. Fessler agrees that they could possibly get the word out and even raise money for the hospital without leaving the country (they've already raised more than $1,000 soley with a Facebook page), but insists that the film should prove to be a fundraising boon.

"We could do all the sort of bringing the awareness on websites and go on a campaign to build this hospital from here," Fessler says, "But our reason for doing this is to go to Nepal and I feel that I can bring way more awareness via a film project."


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