West Virginia filmmaker introduces work
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 08:10
Filmmaker Josh Lyons showed his fundraising documentary film, "Thaitanium Project," at the West Virginia University Recreation Center Thursday to promote the need for titanium equipment for rock climbing routes in Thailand.
Thailand is located in the Indochina peninsula where the tropical climate is a quality that does not go unnoticed.
Crystal blue waters and vibrant greenery define this place as paradise, and these blissful qualities draw travelers from all over the world. A large portion of these travelers use the area for rock climbing, and Lyons’ film reminds us not only is rock climbing dangerous, but the equipment used there has become unreliable.
Lyons graduated from Garrett College in West Virginia with a degree in adventure sports. After ascending his first rock climbing route at the New River Gorge, rock climbing at Cooper’s Rock and working as a guide at Seneca Rock for eight years, he began spending his summers in Thailand.
Lyons said he was always inspired by documentaries and wanted to make his own films.
"When we got comfortable saying all of our money needed to go into titanium, a lot of ideas were thrown around about how to buy these bolts," Lyons said.
Thailand is well known for its unique rock climbing routes. When Lyons visited the country, he was not only in awe with the environment but also alarmed by the dangerous climbing equipment.
"Thaitanium Project" demonstrates the corrosion steel bolts have undergone over time and also details how and why it has become an issue for the rock climbers.
These bolts’ purpose is to securely attach to the rock, a process achieved by manually drilling a hole where the bolt is then secured with heavy-duty glue.
Sam Lighter, a rock climber featured in the film, said everyone thought stainless steel would work because they make ships out of it.
For many years, rock climbers and scientists could not explain the steel bolts’ speedy corrosion time of just one year, and rock climbers began to worry Thailand would prohibit climbing if someone was severely injured.
Scientists acknowledged the tropical environment of the country possibly affected these materials, noting that a tropical climate consists of high humidity and high temperatures usually accompanied by salt water.
Metallurgist Angele Sjong describes in the film the uniqueness of the steel corrosion.
This process creates stalactites, stalagmites and also corrosion – all pitfalls for a potential climber.
"This is the wrong material for this environment," Sjong said.
Sjong continued to research this problem and found that titanium would solve the corrosion problem in Thailand.
"Titanium has superior corrosion resistance," Sjong said.
Internal corrosion was the more significant and less noticeable problem.
After failed attempts to ensure the security of the bolts using capsules filled with glue that isolated the bolts from the chemicals in the rock, ideas ran short.
It was recognized that if the environment would not change, the materials and methods would have to. Different types of steel were tested, including titanium.
Lyons said everyone was naturally suspicious and that it took time to become confident in the lightweight bolts.
"They looked fantastic," Lyons said.
Lyons stresses the necessity to replace the equipment in order to make sure the vast community continues to safely do what they love.
The film, as well as T-shirts and accessories are currently on sale and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward the necessary tools and equipment to replace already existing routes.
Lyons said each bolt is estimated at $20 to replace, and there are many bolts on a single route.
The funds will also be used to remove the unsafe steel equipment already placed in the rock, to deter rock climbers from using these outdated bolts.
For more information about the project or to make a donation, visit www.thaitaniumproject.com.
"By buying this film, you’re essentially saving lives," Lighter said.