2011 Reel Rock Tour Review

Last night I got to check out a showing of the Reel Rock Tour at the Glenwood Springs High School. The first half of the show was solid, but I felt the second left something to be desired. The line between achievements that are cutting edge, and those that are just in the freakshow/irrelevant category, is becoming increasingly thin, and I think this year’s tour strayed a little too close to that edge. Thankfully there were some good segments to offset the ones where you were left scratching your head, thinking, huh…

Yet again it was one of the filmmaking competition shorts that probably got the most laughs of the evening, with the Climber Kid/Karate Kid spoof. After that, things got kicking with Ice Revolution, which was a cool look at the most bizarre ice climbing on the planet. Even though it’s obscure, it was hard not to get caught up in Will and Tim’s enthusiasm, and Helmcken Falls looks like a truly surreal place to climb.

Next up, Cold, which I saw at the 5Point Film Festival, and which has been winning awards left and right in the film community. First time around, I thought it was a brilliant and raw glimpse into the world of extreme high altitude mountaineering. Second time around, it was just as powerful. The moment after the avalanche when Cory Richards is looking into the camera the look of raw fear on his face is simply unbelievable. My only gripe the first time ’round was the excessive use of f-bombs, which I thought detracted from an otherwise excellent film, so I was pleased to see it was edited for Reel Rock into a much more polished version.

And then finally we got some rock climbing, with another glimpse at the Dawn Wall project on El Cap with Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. Billed as the “hardest big wall” in the world, their efforts on the ultra techy granite are truly impressive and inspiring. The segment was a little shorter than I would have liked, but since it remains undone, I’m sure we’ll see more in the future.

I was hesitant about the bouldering segment, only knowing it revolved around a nine year old kid. It seems like every year there is a feature on some uber-strong grom who by the next fall has fallen off the map because the stress of high end rock climbing is just too much for their young minds. This one, however, ended up being my favorite film of the night, as it had a real story to it. I’d always wondered what happened to Obe Carrion, and this film shed light on his rise to stardom, his burnout, and his return to the sport he loves. In a way, it was just as much a film about him as it was the incredibly talented, nine year old Ashima, who puts down a V12 in Hueco in impressive style.

The second half of the show kicked off with an overly long segment about the speed record on the Nose. Those of us who went to 5Point a couple years ago felt like we were seeing Hans Florine’s slideshow from that festival turned into a movie. It’s certainly interesting, and crazy to see some of the risks these guys take. “No gear don’t fall” is yelled by Potter as he and Sean Leary near the top, and it’s hard to imagine being that high on El Cap, that tired, with no margin for error. I think this would have been better as a shorter segment in the first half, and they could have used this space for something a little more interesting to the masses than a speed record which, these days, comes down to mere seconds.

And then there was the last segment, about a sketchy fellow named Andy, who apparently is the top slackliner in the world. He spends his days cooking up insane tricks and free solo high lines between desert towers. I honestly felt like I was watching an episode of Jackass, where they recruited a bunch of dirtbag climbers to do all the dumbest stuff possible. I also cringed as I thought of all the high school kids in the audience, watching these guys pull off stunts that should not be emulated by kids without much technical savvy. This one left a sour taste in my mouth, and it may sound harsh, but no one will be shocked when we learn that this guy has perished. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for a film like this, but why feature it in the closing spot? I’d much rather go home with something inspirational like the Obe/Ashima piece swirling through my thoughts.

Overall, a fun show to be sure, and always fun to see the local community come out of the woodwork. Hopefully they raised a bunch of money for the high school, it seemed much better attended than last year’s event. I think overall the Tour wasn’t as impressive as year’s past, though the first half of the show felt cohesive and complete. I would have preferred to see the spotlight in the second half given to something with a little more substance, but I guess there’s always next year!

4 Responses to 2011 Reel Rock Tour Review

  1. I totally agree with you here, BJ. I was disappointed in this year’s films as a whole. I too enjoyed the Obe and Ashima story a lot. I heard a lot of people bagging on it but I thought it was a good story about not only climbing, but life. It had more depth than the other films. I wasn’t crazy about Cold, mostly because I think that type of mountaineering is kinda crazy and I wouldn’t do it, so it was hard to relate to. I thought the slackline episode was bad and shouldn’t have ended the show. I won’t be surprised either when we hear about him kicking the bucket. I thought last year was incrdible, so this year left me wanting more.

    Gif November 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm
  2. The whole ‘grom climbs big number’ is just so tiresome. Every gym in the country has some kid that cranks. This one just has a coach with connections to guys who shoot climbing movies. Climbers have an unhealthy obsession with age, like somehow a personal achievement is greater because you’re old or young.

    dave December 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm
  3. As I have not seen the show yet, I like your reviews. I am always interested in genuine thoughts on climbing related films. I am attracted to a good story and for climbing films it is tough to come up with something that is worth caring about.
    On the other hand, films that are just showing off accomplishments can only be watched for so long also. Been there, done that. It is that fine balance that I am looking for in a climbing movie.

    I respect all the film makers out there for trying to show us something and it is easy to fault everyone for what they shared with us, but I agree that there is a line of what is watchable and what is not. That is the film makers role in making that call for us.
    For me though, it sounds like the ice climbing and bigwall climbing are worth watching and the rest can be missed. One of these days I will actually sit down adn watch. Until then, I will just go rock climbing.

    piz December 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm
    • Good plan…

      BJ Sbarra December 10, 2011 at 1:25 am
Locals Corner

Bulldog Creek Dog Walk (IV WI 4+)

Hayden Carpenter and Tom Bohanon recently repeated an obscure ice climb on the south side of Mt Sopris. Given a brief mention in Jack Robert’s ice guide, Bulldog Creek Walk is described as being 100 meters of WI 4. What they found was seven pitches of ice in a remote setting that makes for one […]

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