This year, Reel Rock moved away from its usual feature-oriented format to focus on short films. Co-creators Sender Films and Big UP Productions spent months documenting some of the most talked-about sends and stunts of the past few years and distilled them into six shorts, ranging from big-mountain adventure docs to a humorous piece on roadtripping Australia that has the feel of an old-school skate video. The result is a fast-moving show, with none of the lulls in action typical to features.
As usual, the flicks on the 2010 tour feature an impressive cast of climbers: athletes from Big UP, Sender's regular roster, and new collaborators like Peter Croft. One notable vet is Chris Sharma, who continues his unbroken streak of Reel Rock appearances with "First Round, First Minute," an energetic and surprisingly entertaining little film about his ongoing battle to free Spain's toughest sport route.
Out of all the films on the tour, "The Hardest Move," with Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson, has been the most hyped by far. Woods and Robinson are two of the most talented boulderers on the planet, and the Reel Rock crew was lucky enough to catch the duo on camera earlier this year as they made the first ascents of the two hardest boulder problems in the US. It's not always easy to make climbing a 15-foot-high rock look exciting, but this movie did a good job, capturing the persistence and near-obsessive focus of two young athletes on the razor edge of the sport.
The highlight for me was "The Swiss Machine," a mini-feature that profiles speed alpinist Ueli Steck. Steck is one of the most gifted climbers alive—he has speed records on all three of the Alps great north faces—yet is mostly unknown in the US. This film serves as an introduction to Steck for audiences who may not be familiar with him, juxtaposing bucolic images of him jogging in the Swiss countryside against scenes of him and Alex Honnold tearing up El Cap.
The film, if not the entire tour, reaches its climax in an absolutely riveting scene shot with helicopter-mounted cameras of Steck rushing up the sheer north face of the Eiger in winter. As the show wraps up, it leaves us with that parting shot of Steck on the mountain, a speck perched on an impossibly huge wall of rock and ice. It's an image that says more about the challenges of climbing than any grade or guidebook ever could.
For dates and ticket information, check out the Reel Rock Film Tour's website.
Photo Credit: Daniel Woods, Reel Rock Film Tour