The Mountain Within

Feature length drama documentary
Completed and released 2009
85 min
Directed by Kyle Portbury

What happens when a multi-ability team of climbers decides to take on one of the world’s most feared and revered mountains, Kilimanjaro?

Strong friendships evolve quickly, the bonds deepening with every step. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles defeat some but leave others yet more determined to continue. Powerful emotions are unleashed as tensions run high, but laughter is never far behind the tears. The many stories that unfold provide a powerful insight into the climbers’ internal and external journeys as they struggle with the challenge of a lifetime.

Emmy award winning cinematographer, Gordon Brown (3 Peaks 3 Weeks), directed by Kyle Portbury (My Brother Marvin) and supported by producer Gregory Rinaldi and editor Kate Coggins (I Could Never Be Your Woman, Strength and Honour), climb as part of the team, creating a feel that is up close and personal as well as epic. Renowned composer, Michael Price (Wild Child, Children of Men, Hot Fuzz), draws inspiration for the score from the developing narrative and extraordinary backdrop.

And by the time the summit comes into view, it is clear that there is nothing to differentiate the climbers with disabilities from the other team members. This amazing journey of the spirit shows us that it is often our hearts and minds rather than our bodies that limit all of us.

The Mountain Within secured a theatrical release in 2009 and is now being screened across the UK using a bespoke charity distribution model. The film won the award for best documentary at The Mountain Film Festival in California – – and has been recognised by several other festivals.

Photo courtesy of Kate Coggins


In 2008 a charity called Enham set out to show the world that having a disability does not stop you from achieving your goals or doing amazing things. What better way to do so than to have people with disabilities climb one of the highest mountains in the world – Mount Kilimanjaro. At 19,341 feet, this is a daunting task that takes a total of six days and involves covering a distance of 100 kilometers.  The mountain claims the lives of eight climbers each year.

Over a six month period, seven climbers were selected to carry the torch, each with a different disability and training regime.  Their responsibility was not insignificant – two thirds of people who attempt Kilimanjaro do not reach the summit and the climbers would also be carrying the weight of their families’ hopes and fears on their shoulders.  Some had never left the country before and none of them had any idea of what was in store. To help the process, each climber was paired up with one or two buddies to encourage, support and help them as they made their way up the mountain.

It was apparent from the moment everyone arrived at Heathrow airport that the individual climbers all had very different strengths, weaknesses and motivations. It was also apparent that each had a very distinct personality. These naturally strong characters, and the dynamics and relationships that develop between them, provide unmissable drama, emotion and comedy in equal measure and make The Mountain Within the film that it is – so much more than a traditional documentary.

Jamie Magee was hit by a motor bike when he was four years old and was left with symptoms similar to those following a stroke.  With half of his body paralysed, Jamie had a monumental physical task in front of him.

Val Bradshaw was involved in a horse riding accident that resulted in extensive surgery and left her with one leg several inches shorter than the other.  Val is lucky to be walking, let alone to have taken on one of the world’s highest mountains. But that is Val through and through.

Alex Adams was born with learning difficulties and as a teenager was diagnosed with a minor form of Aspergers Syndrome. With a strong military background within his family, it was apparent from the outset that Alex was determined to show them what he was made of.

Liz Cozgrove was recovering from a nervous breakdown following a series of very traumatic events in her life and yet gave herself what for anyone is a very tough mental challenge.  Although the quietist of the group, Liz’s determination was ever apparent in her eyes and clear to everyone around her.

James Smith’s journey before the climb had already been amazing, having progressed from needing 24 hour care in 1990 to leading a full and independent life – even getting to the airport on his own would have been impossible in 1990. James’ will to reach the summit never wavered during training or the climb and his enthusiasm from day one was second to none.

James Bridges has a weak spine following a work injury.  After the injury, James spent many years on the outside looking in and this was the first time James had even travelled by plane. For James to succeed, he needed to regain the confidence he once had and learn to trust and work with the rest of the team.

Ahmed Afranji, at nineteen years old and with cerebral palsy, was the youngest of the climbers and also the only one who did not speak English. A Palestinian born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed had never climbed a mountain before and was climbing for his father who died just ten weeks beforehand.


Alexander Adams
Ahmed Afranji
Steven Ballantyne
Valerie Bradshaw
James Bridges
Elizabeth Curtis
Pauline Griffin
John Hauf
Claire Holt
Ali Jaafar
Laura Jackson
Jack Kriendler
Bryan Magee
Jamie Magee
Eric Murphy
Chris Parsons
Michael Price
Luke Purse
Sheila Ridge
Morgan Roy
James Smith
Susie Snudden
Michael Steel
Hans Von Stiegel
Herta Von Stiegel


Kyle Portbury – Director
Alison Baxter – producer
Gregory Rinaldi – producer
Hans Von Stiegel – executive producer
Herta Von Stiegel – executive producer

Original Music by – Michael Price
Cinematography by – Gordon Brown
Film Editing by – Kate Coggins

David Angus – Narrator
Gregory Rinaldi – unit director: podcasts
Dafydd Archard – sound re-recording mixer
Steve Browell – supervising sound editor
Jeff Dalmaine – studio engineer
Nick Del-Molino – studio assistant
Dominique Devoucoux – adr editor
Leigh Humberdross – dialogue editor
Gemma Nicholson – sound editor
Jon Olive – sound designer
Kath Pollard – dialogue editor
Pat Roche – sound editor
Sven Taits – sound re-recording mixer
Kate Coggins – still photographer
Kyle Portbury – camera operator: “b” camera
Gregory Rinaldi – camera operator
Martin Falconer – animator
Aubrey Woodiwiss – colorist
Andy Brown – orchestra contractor
Tom Chichester-Clark – music editor
Andrew Dudman – score recording engineer: score mixer
Paul Gladstone Reid – musician: vocalist
Rael Jones – musician: guitar, music supervisor
The London Metropolitan Orchestra – music performed by
Michael Price – conductor
Michael Price – music producer
Anthony Weeden – orchestrator
Dolores McGinley – title designer

5 Responses to “The Mountain Within”

  1. […] to build up for the larger ones. At that point, BRAG had spent over £400 on submissions for ‘The Mountain Within‘, (a documentary about a group of mountain climbers with disabilities climbing Kilimanjaro). This […]

  2. […] executive producer of and brainchild behind The Mountain Within, Herta von Stiegel, shares her observations and insights about the lessons learnt from the project […]

  3. […] comes to Sydney The Mountain Within continues its world tour in Sydney on 17 September. The screening coincides with the launch of the […]

  4. […] comes to Sydney The Mountain Within continues its world tour in Sydney on 17 September. The screening coincides with the launch of the […]

  5. […] executive producer of The Mountain Within, Herta von Stiegel, was interviewed by Robert Miller of The Telegraph about her book, The Mountain […]

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