Reel Rock Tour 9 – An honest review of ‘Valley Uprising’.

I have talked extensively about the great “Stone Masters” from Yosemite’s past on here before; often not favourably. However, when Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer invited me to the Reel Rock 9: Valley Uprising premier in Boulder, CO, of course I said yes. I, like most climbers, look forward to crisp fall temperatures, and sending conditions, almost as much as I do the screening of the annual Reel Rock Tour. We are climbers, outcasts, dirtbags, and general dredges of society. Most of us will watch the same clip of Adam Ondra climbing Illusionist 5 or 6 times before knowing which film won ‘Best in show’ at Cannes.

The Reel Rock Tour is our film festival. This is what we look forward to each year. Oh I hear you, “what about the Banff Mountain Film Festival, Wes?” Are you kidding me? The Banff Mountain Film Festival has more to do with getting naked, beating a caribou drum, and giving thanks to our earth mother, than climbing. Sure, each year there’s a small cross section of Will Gadd ‘best of’ clips and whatever corporate beasts Jimmy Chin is serving will hobble together a slideshow or poster signing with Chin himself walking around signing you up for National Geographic subscriptions.  We get it NatGeo, you’re cool now.



But dammit, this is the Reel Rock Tour! This is where the cutting edge of climbing meets 1080p! Past Reel Rock Tours have given us films like, Progression, The Swiss Machine, On Sight, The Sharp End, and King Lines. These are giants: films that have inspired us, got us off the couch, and showed us the kind of climbing we as weekend warriors have only dreamed of. Just look at this trailer for Reel Rock 2010:

Bad ass or what? Now… this gets me back to Valley Uprising. I suspect, that after 8 forays into adrenaline pumping movie mastery, the team behind the Reel Rock Tour thought they could pull the wool over our eyes and release a SINGLE film for this years tour, and somehow we wouldn’t notice. Valley Uprising is a passion piece – an art film made by film-makers who think we need more Shindlers List when all we really want is Cliffhanger. Sure, Yosemite has a rich history of climbing, cool stories, blah blah blah… We’ve all heard about the aid climbing, the drugs, freeing of the nose, speed records, naked solos, the plane crash filled with weed… These stories are tired, and I’m tired of hearing them. Google ‘John Long + Climbing + Yosemite’ and you’ll get the same old sound bites talking about the glory days. I can’t even read an anchor book without John Long mentioning to me how bad ass the stone masters were before the invention of the equallette. Railroad iron slung with webbing as protection? You don’t say…. that’s news to me!

Even though we’ve all heard the stories before, I could forgive a little rehashing of old classics, if not for the blatant use of film footage literally poached from dozens of movies we’ve seen a hundred times. They say that Valley Uprising is 10 years in the making… and I believe it, because apart from a few new interviews, and some old Yosemite photographs that have been made 3D through some fancy CG wizardry, all this movie has done is spliced together footage from old Reel Rock films, stock footage from the National Park service, and an overlay of some sick beats. This is what we’ve been waiting for all year? All decade?!

To be honest…. this movie could’ve been made by the same guys who make ‘fan-made’ trailers on YouTube. Or by whoever made this trailer, it is fucking brilliant:

That all being said…. Who am I kidding? You’re all still going to see this movie. I’m going to see it a few more times myself. Why? Because fuck the Banff Mountain Film Festival, that’s why!