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Reels of Real Rock

Climbing films bring laughs, inspiration

For its 10th year, the Reel Rock Film Tour is spreading the magic, challenge and rewards of climbing to the world and will make its Durango stop Oct. 6 at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall.

Beginning in 2006 with 50 shows in the U.S., the tour now reaches all seven continents approaching showings that capture the essence, grit and beauty afforded by the climbing life.

Film producer, Sender Film’s Nick Rosen, said a lot goes into choosing what films are made and which are showcased on tour.

“We’re looking for a balanced program,” Rosen said. “Something that delivers drama, humor, a diversity of characters, styles of climbing and themes.”

In the climbing world, however, some things are hard to control.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the film gods. In this business, one sprained ankle can derail an entire expedition, and an entire film,” he said.

In five compelling and incredible short films, here’s a hint of what you can expect:

World renowned climber Tommy Caldwell’s eyes are hardly open as he eats dehydrated mush from a tattered tin cup using a broken pair of sunglasses. His partner and fellow celebrated climber Alex Honnold films him, laughing. The two are somewhere along an astonishing alpine route in the Andes, a relentless up-and-down traverse that connected 10 summits for the first ascent of the seemingly impossible Fitzroy skyline.

In the American southwest, climber Daniel Woods and others go way beyond their comfort zones with no room for error if things go wrong, climbing tall unforgiving desert boulders sans rope. It’s a look at the lure and insanity of high ball bouldering.

A 24-hour climbing competition in Arkansas puts anyone that steps up to the rock to the test. It’s been called a combination of a marathon and the Burning Man festival.

In the Yosemite Valley, again Caldwell is at his limit, this time with partner Kevin Jorgeson on the climb that was seen around the world: the first ascent of the Dawn Wall.

“Our audience is everyone,” said Reel Rock’s press manager Emily Vacchiano. “Tons of climbers, but also non-climbers too – people who just love adventure.”

The Dawn Wall film is one of this year’s highlights. A seven-year obsession of Estes Park’s Caldwell, he and Jorgeson spent 19 days on the blank face, and the film gives a closer look at what life was like for the two men for nearly three weeks.

“Everyone knows that Tommy and Kevin went out and did this amazing thing, but when they see the film it gives them a glimpse of what actually happened during those 19 days, and interactions between Tommy and Kevin,” Vacchiano said.

In the inhospitable Patagonia Andes, Caldwell and inexhaustible Alex Honnold, both typically rock climbers, crush a long standing objective of alpinists around the world, an accomplishment that earns them the prestigious Piolet d’Or award – the golden climbing axe.

“It didn’t get as much press, but Tommy and Alex doing the Fitzroy is something that people have been attempting for years and weren’t able to do, and they went out and did it,” Vacchiano said. “They’re not even alpine climbers.”

Vicchiano said this year the films showcase as much vibrancy from the climbers themselves as the climbing.

“I’m laughing non stop from beginning to end,” she said. “So much personality from the climbers comes through.”

The film makers also dedicate a film to a lost friend, fellow climber and vertical sports pioneer Dean Potter, who lost his life in a BASE jumping accident earlier this year in California. It was a blow felt around the climbing and BASE community, where he was not only a hero but a mentor.

“Dean was a good friend to the filmmakers and has always been an integral part for Reel Rock,” Vacchiano said. “It was never a question that they were going to do something to celebrate his life.”

The tour, which receives accolades from film festivals around the world, generally stirs quite a response from attendees. Crowds are hardly silent.

“I think people get inspired by watching their heros doing what they’re doing,” Vacchiano said. “And they get to see the behind the scenes stories.”

Tickets are $20, unless you catch the tour in Antartica.

“It’s free if you can get down there,” Vacchiano said.


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