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Climbing

Nov 07, 2017

Reel Rock 12 is Flat-Out Awesome

Want to win free tickets to Reel Rock 12? Read our review of the film, the best installment in several years, and check out the details at the bottom for your chance to win free tickets to a Reel Rock 12 showing near you.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

The Reel Rock Film Tour is a major event in climbing each year. It is more than just a movie: it is both a barometer to gauge the general feelings of the climbing community and a yardstick by which to measure the progress (in more than just grades) that has been made.

Here are our thoughts on the four mini-features that comprise Reel Rock 12.

Chris Sharma, Malloca, Spain. Photo: Adam Clark.

Above the Sea

Sharma is the quintessential climber for a whole generation who grew up with his amazing first ascents of sport routes like Biographie and Dreamcatcher. Compared to the gangly Adam Ondra’s and Dave Graham’s of the climbing world, Sharma was muscled, his climbing as dynamic as could be.

It’s been a few years since Sharma graced the Reel Rock screen with his own mini-feature. In Reel Rock 7, he and Ondra faced off in “La Dura Dura,” a chronicle of their attempts to establish the first 9b+ (5.15c); and then in Reel Rock 8 there was “La Dura Complete,” a cut of both of their eventual sends. The story from these two shorts signaled a passing of the torch: Ondra’s rise has since continued unabated, while Sharma has seemed content to focus on personal projects like opening a climbing gym and settled into his role as a representative of the new old-guard. He still makes headlines and graces covers and cranks out impressive first ascents, but his role has changed.

Chris Sharma, Malloca, Spain. Photo: Adam Clark.

So when Reel Rock 12 opens with “Above the Sea,” a feature about Chris Sharma’s years deep water soloing on the coastlines of Mallorca and climbs he’s established there, it’s straight out of yesteryear.  The absurd number of psats that issue from his mouth, the needless feet-cuts and campus moves tens of feet above the crashing waves evoke a warm nostalgia. You can’t help but smile.

The cinematography and shots are stunning. The story is innocuous and nice: Sharma has settled down and has a family now, but is still driven to explore the cliffs above the thunderous ocean. It is a delight to watch, through and through.

Yet the story is tired. Has little enough happened in climbing in the past five years that Sharma is still the biggest draw around just because of his pseudo-bodybuilder physique and golden locks? This is nothing against Chris Sharma; rather it’s a question about the climbing community.

And to answer that question for us, Reel Rock 12 film turns up the volume, the stakes and and awesomeness full-tilt with the second mini-feature.

Margo Hayes on La Rambla. Photo: Greg Mionske.

Break on Through

The narrative move here is perfect: we transition from Chris Sharma to the first woman to climb his standard-setting route, Biographie, and even get some interview footage with him. Just as La Dura Dura represented Ondra taking over center stage from Sharma, “Break on Through” does the same for women. In this Reel Rock, Chris Sharma is merely prelude. (Reel Rock has had features about women before, notably the excellent Spice Girl about British crusher Hazel Findlay, but “Break on Through” feels different.)

“Break on Through” profiles American climber Margo Hayes and her quest to become the first woman to climb 9a+ (5.15a). Hayes is portrayed as having a laser-focus, but also as a kook who will have fun no matter how serious the objective. In between tries on several of the hardest climbs in the world, she makes goofy faces at the camera.

Margo Hayes. Photo: Greg Mionske.

First up is Hayes’ battle with La Rambla (9a+), in Siurana, Spain. The line is one of the most storied in hard sport-climbing, with ascents by Ramon Julian Puigblanque, Sharma, Adam Ondra, Alex Megos, and roughly a dozen other crushers.

The best moment in “Break on Through” (and in our opinion the best in all of Reel Rock 12), happens when Hayes is working La Rambla. In interview voiceovers as she climbs, American climbers Matty Hong and Jon Cardwell talk about how flexible Hayes is and how she is capable of doing moves and sequences that they would probably never even consider. Next we see Hayes with an improbably high foot, virtually next to her head, before cutting to a gaggle of onlooking male climbers, mouths agape, in awe. The comedy is self-deprecating on behalf of the men behind the camera and on screen, but their reverence for Hayes’ skill is dead-serious and mirrors that of the audience; Hayes is absolutely mind-blowing to watch on the rock.   

The film later follows her attempts on Chris Sharma’s Biographie (9a+), in Céüse, France. We won’t give anything else away except to say that “Break on Through” ends with  descriptions splashed across the screen of other massive barriers shattered by women in climbing this year. The audience howled with approval.

Brad Gobright. Photo: Dan Krauss.

Safety Third

“Safety Third” is wildly entertaining and offers the biggest laughs of all four films in Reel Rock 12. Directed by Cedar Wright, “Safety Third” follows Brad Gobright, an American climber dubbed “the next great free soloist” by Outside. Gobright is not what you would expect out of a preeminent free soloist: no rippling Sharma muscles, no Dean Potter platitudes about the beauty and art of ropeless climbing. The short-in-stature Gobright is decidedly ridiculous. In one scene, he shows up to try one of Eldorado Canyon’s hardest and boldest traditional lines (with a rope), but realizes he forgot his shorts. So he climbs it in his skivvies. At another point, the nails-hard climbing above him is the furthest thing from his mind; instead he is preoccupied with where he left his glazed croissant that morning.

Brad Gobright. Photo: Cedar Wright.

Of course, these moments are all played up for comedic effect. In between laughs, are sequences of super-uncomfortable-to-watch and simultaneously brilliant free soloing. The feature builds up to Gobright’s solo of Hairstyles and Attitudes, an insecure pitch of face climbing high up on the north face of the Bastille, a tower in Eldorado Canyon.

2017 was a big year for free soloists. While we love watching Gobright “wow”on the big screen, we hope he tones it down a bit and bumps safety up to second, at least sometimes.

 

Maureen Beck. Photo: Cedar Wright.

Stumped

A great finale for the best slate of Reel Rock films in a few years. Another Cedar Wright flick, “Stumped” follows one-armed American climber Maureen Beck.

Beck wants to climb 5.12. As she says, she doesn’t want to be seen as a good one-armed climber; she wants to be seen as just a good climber. Full stop. From the description on the Reel Rock website: Beck “is not here to be your inspiration. ‘People say, ‘Look, a one-armed climber, now I have no excuses.’ I’m like, dude, you never had any excuses in the first place.’”

The candor is refreshing and Beck’s journey towards 5.12 is familiar to anyone who has aspired to the grade. Failure, failure, failure. And then bits of progress. Glimmers of possibility.

Beck is a perfect character with which to end Reel Rock 12. Her stoke, determination, ability and goofiness remind us of the best qualities of all the prior segments, and bring them together in one short feature. 

Check out the trailer below and read on for more details about how to win free tickets to a Reel Rock showing near you!

LOVE THE OUTDOORS? LOVE GOOD CINEMA? WE’RE GIVING YOU AND A FRIEND THE CHANCE TO GET FREE TICKETS!*

Step 1: Subscribe to our newsletter here.

Step 2: Share this Facebook post from The Outdoor Journal!

Step 3 – Join The Outdoor Voyagers Facebook group.

Step 4 – Like the REEL ROCK Facebook page

Good Luck!

*Competition Rules & Guidelines:

  • Entrants must follow The Outdoor Journal’s Facebook Page and publicly share the competition post on their profile. Entrants must also subscribe to The Outdoor Journal’s email newsletter, and request access to the Facebook group “The Outdoor Voyagers,” and like the REEL ROCK Facebook page.
  • Entrants must clearly enter their complete name and email address on the subscription form. Incomplete or inaccurate entries will be rejected.
  • Only one entry per person. All eligible competition entrants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • The winners will be randomly selected. Two attempts will be made within 24-hours to contact the selected winners via the provided email. If at the end of the 24-hour period the winner has not replied, another winner will be contacted and the process will repeat until winners are selected.
  • The winner must present a valid form of identification in order to collect the passes at the screening of their choice.
  • Winners may choose from any of the following shows:
  • San Francisco, CA, 11/10, Castro Theatre
  • Los Angeles, CA, 11/10, LA Live
  • Santa Cruz, CA, 11/10, The Rio Theater
  • Austin, TX, 11/11, Crux Climbing Center
  • Mountain View, CA, 11/13, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
  • Durango, CO, 11/13, Fort Lewis College
  • Nashville, TN, 11/16, Climb Nashville
  • Nashville, TN, 11/16, Climb Nashville
  • Anchorage, AK, 11/28, Bear Tooth Theatrepub
  • Anchorage, AK, 11/29, Bear Tooth Theatrepub
  • Anchorage, AK, 11/30, Bear Tooth Theatrepub
  • Portland, OR, 12/13, Revolution Hall
  • Portland, OR, 12/14, Revolution Hall
  • The Outdoor Journal does not accept liability for any lost, stolen, unclaimed or expired prizes. Any unclaimed or expired prizes will be retained by The Outdoor Journal. The winner agrees to allow The Outdoor Journal to publicly use their name and likeness in association with the competition and agrees to present The Outdoor Journal, REEL ROCK and any other partners in a positive light in any interviews, social media posts or other public communication now and in perpetuity.

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Video

Dec 06, 2018

Film Review: Ode to Muir. A Snowboarding Movie, and an Important Covert Education

Lost in amazing scenery, and one of outdoor's great personalities. Prepare to learn, even if you won’t realize it’s happening.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Before we get to the movie itself, don’t be put off by the narration that you’ll hear in the trailer. It’s a tone that you might expect from the X-Factor announcer, or any movie trailer that starts off with, “In a world…” and it’s important to give you an incentive to push on, in case you might need it.

To answer the question that I suspect you have… yes, the same narration continues throughout the film. I know, it doesn’t seem like a good thing, but I have my own personal relationship to that voice. Something that develops as the film continues, and you recognize its purpose.

WHAT WERE WE EXPECTING FROM “ODE TO MUIR”?

The film is called “Ode to Muir”, so an education about John Muir and the John Muir Wilderness? Probably. Great scenery? Sure. Another awesome Jeremy Jones snowboarding video? Very likely! I was correct on 2 of 3 fronts.

“Price of admission: lots of calories”

In short, this is a nine day, 40 mile foot-powered trek through the Sierra Mountains, as two-time Olympian Elena Hight, and a guy introduced as the “Sierra Phantom” accompany Jeremy Jones deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness. The remoteness is exactly that, and it is earned. Jeremy takes joy in mentioning the “Price of admission: lots of calories”. His point is a good one, that this is something that we can all enjoy. Crest after crest, the views are stunning and beautifully shot (as you might expect from a Teton Gravity movie). Jeremy indulges himself in pointing across valleys, and announcing that they must make their way in that direction. By his own admission, he has spent a lifetime in the Sierra, and continues to see landscapes the first time. The outdoors is a big place. 

Of course, Jeremy Jones does not need any introduction. His snowboarding movies have adorned bookshelves around the world for decades now. This, however, was something different. It was something more important. There is less of an emphasis on the music, or even snowboarding (don’t expect death-defying descents here). Instead, you will find more of an emphasis on Jeremy, the landscape, and more than anything else, Jeremy’s message. This is propaganda, just the positive kind.

Ode to Muir is a little like trying to subtly slip the bad news into an everyday sentence using snowboarding to distract us. “Honey, have we got milk at home, I crashed the car, because my parents are coming around this evening”.

Note: Whilst this is not your typical snowboarding movie, I could still hear the customary Jeremy Jones’ oooohs and ahhhhs from those sat around me.

THE MESSAGE

Time is spent on recalling a bygone era, when politicians spent time in the outdoors, they appreciated them and fought for them. They sat around fires, and really experienced the outdoors, they didn’t just swing clubs at The Mar-a-Lago Club. This movie is a call to action, that we must do something now, but gives us hope, that things can be done correctly, with the attitude that we have seen in presidents past. 

The movie is interwoven with animations that paint an important, and scary picture with regards to the future of our climate and planet. Key messaging that continually remind you that this is not just a snowboarding movie. This is an education, but not algebra, the information is presented well, it sinks in and you immediately recognize the importance. You’re going to bring this up and discuss these newfound stats when you’re next hanging out with friends.

Whilst the animations play an informative role, Jeremy contextualizes them. He refers to the terrifying term “last descents”, the chilling concept that people are now doing things that might not be possible in subsequent years due to climate change. As someone who lives in the outdoors, Jeremy can see these detrimental changes in his everyday life, and of course, it means a great deal to him. He isn’t just using what he is, but who he is to pass on this important information. Not stood behind a podium, but communicating important information to us whilst he uses his skills, and the beautiful shots to hold our attention. Jeremy obviously loves what he does, but he now chooses to do what he has done for so long, in such a way that communicates an important message. It’s commendable. What’s more, this isn’t a one-off, Jeremy is the founder of “POW”, or “Protect Our Winters”, an initiative with a mission to turn passionate outdoor people into effective climate advocates.

Find out more about POW: Protect Our Winters.

Still, an important point is made, real change can unfortunately only be sparked in the wilderness. Walking up the mountain isn’t enough, we need to walk up to the White House, and up Capitol Hill too.

THE PERSONALITIES

“The older I get, the more I love my snow”

A great element of this movie is easy to miss, Olympian Elena Hight trying to understate her own abilities. Elena is, of course, a very accomplished snowboarder, she’s more than comfortable on the snow and her modesty with regards to split skiing wasn’t fooling anybody. It’s an attitude that is great to see, but will make your average Joe, with your average abilities (like me), smile. Her reservations regarding her own ability are not shared by anybody else. Nor were there any problems for Elena when it came to the descents. She’s awesome, and a great addition to the film.

Jeremy introduces the “Sierra Phantom” pretty quickly. In effect he’s presented in a way that you would describe what Mogli is to the jungle, “ he’s out there all day and you just see his tracks”. A brief appearance, but worthwhile. 

Elsewhere, there are laughs from those who are sat around me watching the movie, as Jeremy reaches the crest of ridge and summits alike. You might expect “f*ck, that was hard” or “Jesus, I need some air” but no, invariably you will only hear “Good job”, another “Good job”, or “The older I get, the more I love my snow”. As impressive as Jeremy’s attitude is, and of course, it’s due to his familiarity with something that he has done for so long, it is also the relaxed nature of those that that summit with him. You won’t hear them telling JJ to “shut up and pass me the water”, it’s all fist bumps!

The movie ends with JJ suggesting a moonlight ride, to “get the last bit out of it”; spare a thought for those that might have fancied an early night. You would really have felt for the production team, had it not been for the stunning shots caught under moonlight. As someone who can relate to these guys, they live for such shots, and wouldn’t have required much encouragement. Not that their skill shouldn’t be acknowledged, something special is happening behind the camera. Many of the shots are powerfully engaging, whilst the audio is picked up perfectly, regardless of powder being thrown around.

BACK TO THE NARRATION

Here’s the thing about the narration. What would the movie be without it? Whilst Jeremy brings credibility as someone who is acutely aware of “last descents”, John Muir’s words hold unparalleled sincerity that can only belong to a different time – a time when people were less cynical, and in this context, given that this is propaganda, a perspective from that time counts for something.

I had a relationship with that voice. So much so, that I almost felt apologetic by the end. In a way, the voice is synonymous with the film, you need to absorb the delivery in order to absorb the information. It was just harder to do so in comparison to appreciating fresh pow.

Who would I recommend the film to? People who like ski docs? People who care about the environment? Just general outdoorsy people? It’s of interest to each, they all cross-pollinate in a way that was definitely intended.

This is an important film to watch, it’s incredibly digestible, and it will raise awareness of important issues. It’s the kind of content that we need more of.

You can find more information, and a calendar of tour dates should you like to go and watch the movie for yourself here. We encourage you to do so.

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