"Renan Öztürk": Adventurer of the Year

Picture of Renan Ozturk during the Meru Expedition

A climber and artist brings home deeply human stories from the edges of our world.

Climber, artist, and filmmaker Renan Ozturk has been held at knifepoint in the deserts of Chad, sustained a traumatic head injury while backcountry skiing in the Tetons, and suffered through hallucinations on Himalayan big walls. Through it all, the cameras have been rolling.
Over the course of the last two years, the 32-year-old’s athleticism, creativity, and storytelling have come together in accessible, inspirational tales consumed by hundreds of thousands of people online.

“The creativity and climbing go hand in hand,” says Ozturk, who calls Boulder, Colorado, home. “I developed them side by side. When I’m part of a team, I always pay attention to how much energy I’m putting into the creativity versus the brass tacks, the things in the mountains that could kill you.”
After graduating from Colorado College, Ozturk jettisoned most of his worldly possessions and decided to make his home in the deserts around Moab, Utah. His art flourished in pencil sketchbooks and then grew into large canvases laid out across the desert. Those visions became Internet videos from burly Himalayan and South American climbs. Ozturk preferred to shoot, edit, and publish the videos live, during the expedition. The stories he tells require only a lightweight, bare-bones team.
With his latest and most ambitious project, Meru, Ozturk has gone one step further—a feature-length documentary following Ozturk, Jimmy Chin, and Conrad Anker’s much heralded 2011 return to and first ascent of the Shark’s Fin on Meru in the Indian Himalaya. The climb itself required living on the wall for 12 days in temperatures that hovered around minus 20ºF. Ozturk was still recovering from cranial and spinal fractures sustained in a near-lethal skiing accident in Wyoming’s Tetons almost six months earlier.
“This climb nearly killed us,” says the soft-spoken Ozturk. “Making the film [was] even harder. Meru is the mountain that keeps on giving.”

Upon returning home, Ozturk realized he was sitting on the story of a lifetime and went to work. A feature-length film required collaborators, countless hours of editing, and a near-obsessive persistence to root out the deeper ideas behind the climb the three men consider to be their greatest climbing accomplishment. With themes of mentorship, obsession, and passion, the film is poised to reach a larger audience. Ozturk hopes to premiere it at the Sundance Film Festival.
Ozturk topped off 2012 with the first successful completion of the Tooth Traverse, a five-mile-long enchainment of peaks in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge, and traveling to Nepal’s Khumbu region to work on a time-lapse photography and art project with Sherpa Cinema. In late October, Ozturk went to Oman on a story with The North Face for National Geographic magazine.
“It was a big year with some very personal goals,” says Ozturk of the Tooth Traverse and Meru, which both required several attempts over the last few years. “I now feel a lot more free to explore other things.”


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