Some 1,300 fans packed into the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder last Thursday and Friday alongside professional climbers like Dave Graham and Alex Honnold to watch the world premiere of the seventh Reel Rock Tour, the climbing film show put together every year by Sender Films and Big UP Productions. This year's edition took the show one step closer to full-on film festival status, with half of the four movies on the program coming from outside filmmakers.
The most captivating film on display was The Shark’s Fin, which documents the journey of alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk, as they return to India's Mt. Meru in three years after bailing from an attempt to summit the peak via its unclimbed northwest prow. Rising 6,310 meters in the Indian Himalayans, Meru had been on Anker’s mind for decades, and the failure in 2008 left him wanting more. The film, shot by Ozturk, turned out to be my favorite, and I found myself considering a mountain adventure of my own until I saw the frostbitten toes and nights spent hanging off the side of the mountain.
Just as interesting, though perhaps less enticing, was Wide Boyz, a film by director Chris Alstrin that follows Brits Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker as they climb some of America's hardest offwidths—awkwardly-sized cracks that are too big to comfortably jam a fist into, but too small to chimney up. During their trip, the pair snagged the first ascent of the world's hardest offwidth, the 5.14b Century Crack in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. It's an interesting glimpse into the offwidth world for those of us who aren't planning on trying it ourselves.
In contrast to the epics depicted by the other flicks, La Dura Dura stays closer to the ground, instead focusing on the high-end sport climbing in Spain. The film shows the battle between Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra, the Czech teenager who has owned the sport climbing scene for the past few years, as they work to establish the world's first 5.15c in Oliana. The well-done film makes a point of contrasting the muscular, laid-back 30-year-old Sharma and the skinnier Ondra, who throws himself at routes with a 19-year-old's lack of abandon. A side plot of the film follows Sasha DiGiulian and Daila Ojeda, who have upped the bar for women by crushing hard routes around Catalunya.
Capping off the evening was Sender and Big UP's newest project with Alex Honnold, Honnold 3.0. If you're into outdoor adventure and you haven't heard of Honnold, you must have just returned from the ends of the earth. The 27-year-old climber and free-soloist is everywhere; over the past year, he's made the leap from climbing hero to mainstream celebrity. The film focuses on Honnold’s solo climb of the Yosemite Triple—Mt. Watkins, El Cap, and Half Dome—which he completed in 19 hours, 95 percent of it without gear or a rope. It has been said over and over again, but Alex Honnold truly is the only person on earth who can do what he does. I found myself holding my breath throughout the whole 20 minutes even though I knew he must have survived, since he was sitting on the other end of the auditorium.