Reel Rock Tour 7 Review

In two words: Good Times. Two more? As Expected.

The premiere of Reel Rock 7 was held at the Chautauqua Theater in Boulder, a lovely wooden auditorium at the base of the Flatirons. The sold-out crowd of about 1,300 people struggled for seats, as many sections had large wooden support beams obstructing the view. Many ended up sitting in the aisles or standing in the back.

The crowd for opening night at Reel Rock 7

The show opened with the usual thanks to the sponsors, and with Peter Mortimer asking everyone to stand up for a Facebook photo. On another cool note, Peter also asked everyone who’s birthday it was to join him up on stage. It happened to be his daughter’s second birthday, and also Vikki’s 26th, and the entire crowd sang Happy Birthday to the dozen or so people. Pretty cool.

Then the films. The first bit was La Dura Dura, about Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra vying to establish the first 5.15c sport climb in Spain. The footage was, as per the usual, spectacular. I believe it was the Lowell brothers’ work filming, and they used a perpendicular version of the NFL’s above-the-field-on-cables camera to smoothly follow the climbers up steep terrain. The result is unbelievably smooth, and so much better than the previous generation of climbing film’s prodigious use of shaky hand-held footage shot by someone on rappel. Sasha DiGiulian and Daila Ojeda were also featured, leading the charge of female climbers knocking on the door of 5.15.

The film was as much about the route as it was a portrait of the two generational icons of sport climbing, and a snapshot of this unique moment in climbing. Though nobody sent the route (and this isn’t a spoiler…you’d have heard if 5.15c was established!), the film leaves you tingling for what the next generation is capable of.

Omitted from the film was much mention of other young climbers doing amazing things, or other older climbers doing the same. Of course it has to be limited in scope, but it presented these two as the only ones capable of pushing the limits of our sport. I think this shortchanges other equally driven and capable climbers of attention, and makes the viewer put all their eggs in a very loud Czech basket.

The next piece was The Shark’s Fin, an incredible story that nearly tells itself. Renan Ozturk, Jimmy Chin, and Conrad Anker tackle an unclimbed peak in the Himalayas 4 years after a close but unsuccessful attempt left them broken and vowing to never return. I had read the story in Rock and Ice Ascent two months ago and was eager for the film. It did not disappoint. Vikki was shaking afterward. That’s all there really is to say. Go see it. This, and Touching The Void, should be then benchmarks for the word “epic.”

After an intermission, during which Alex Honnold was swarmed with autograph seekers and Adam won 4th place in a handstand competition, they showed The Wide Boyz. We were most excited for this one since it featured our friends Brad Jackson and Adam Papilion, as well as some of our footage. To be honest, it was good but a bit disappointing. The first ascent of the Century Crack is a great story, and it’s always funny to make fun of offwidth climbing. What the film lacked was detail and specifics about the Brits’ training regimen, which to me is the most impressive and inspirational part. These guys showed that if you aim high, work hard, track your progress, and believe, then you can pull off some badass shit. I think that aspect was partially lost, as the piece was, I think, meant to be comic relief. Either way, it was cool to see our friends on screen, and as always, the footage was spectacular.

The last film was the highly anticipated Honnold 3.0. It follows Alex Honnold through a winter season in Bishop, as he establishes Too Big To Flail (V10), and conjures up his next big feat, the Yosemite Triple Crown. Thanks to 60 Minutes and Nat Geo, Honnold is now a household name even outside of climbing circles. The film attempts to portray Honnold as a goofy guy thrust into stardom (thanks in large part to Sender), but who climbs for the love of it. Having been at Sender HQ during one of the interviews, we can say that they did a pretty good job of portraying the Triple Crown as he saw it. Based on the questions Nick and Peter asked, they wanted to make it sound much more perilous, and I was glad to see that Honnold got his way.

Honnold 3.0 was awesome for the feat it depicted, the slice of his life we get to see, and of course, the footage from Bishop which made us yearn for Thanksgiving in the Pit. It was actually a bit anticlimactic, though, since we all know he made it. This feeling might’ve been due to sensory overload from all the inspiring, mind-blowing, and just plain cool stuff that had already happened on the screen prior to the last film. Either way, it’s a great film.

All in all, it was a great evening and a fitting birthday celebration for Vikki. I was struck by how much fun everyone was having, how chatty folks were during the breaks, how communal the whole event felt despite the large crowd, and how much emotion people showed during key moments. Every film had at least one “Woo!” moment, where the whole audience erupted as if they were witnessing their friend clip the chains on their project. The only thing missing was the user-generated films, but the lineup was probably the best ever for a Reel Rock, and I don’t think anyone had any complaints. Except for those stuck behind the wooden posts.

Lastly, I found that, unlike most climbing films, this is an event I would be very proud to bring non-climbers to. Our sport, in so many of its iterations, was presented in a way anyone can understand, with storylines anyone can relate to. As a climber, I was proud to see what Sender and Big UP put on the screen.

So what are you waiting for? Go get a ticket!

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