Valley Uprising: Yosemite’s Rock Climbing Revolution featured at this year’s Reel Rock, and it was the first time they presented only one film on the tour. The feature-length documentary shed light on the history of Yosemite climbing.
Valley Uprising was more than just a history of Yosemite climbing. It’s a large part of history, if not one of the main parts, of rock climbing. In the beginning of Yosemite climbing, we had the ‘Golden Age’. From this age (1953-1970) of climbing came some of the most iconic climbers such as Royal Robbins and Warren Harding. Climbing on Yosemite brought the worst and the best out of these two legends. The worst was the ego from both of them trying to one-up each other and creating a rivalry that went beyond a love for climbing. It was an obsession for both of these men to see who the better climber was and who could do the hardest route. Their best climbing came from this obsession. Although it was an unhealthy obsession, they discovered routes that have become renowned today.
Fast forward to the ‘Stonemasters’ (1973-1980) which brought Jim Bridwell, Lynn Hill, John Bachar, Jay Fisk, Ron Kauk, Mike Graham and several others that pushed climbing to a new level from the Golden Age. It also brought a slew of drugs from LSD to marijuana, a whole plane full of marijuana, laced with the gasoline that leaked out from the plane after it crashed. Camp 4 in Yosemite became the “Stoned Masters”, and this part of the film was really quite entertaining when seeing the climbers hike up to the wreckage of the plane pulling out huge bundles of weed fresh out of Colombia. Their ambition was fierce yet, once again, a tight-knit community of climbers became embittered as egos interfered with accomplishments that exceeded earlier climbing legends.
As the film took us through the falling out of the Stonemasters, the restrictions in Yosemite were developing into more extreme measures of keeping what some would call the ‘riff raff’ out. Rangers were becoming more aggressive and they were practically being trained to be more a part of a S.W.A.T. team than anything. It was extremely frustrating to see Yosemite becoming more about restrictions, regulations and commercialization. More and more of the freedoms we used to have, not just in Yosemite but many National Parks, are being taken away or impending some kind of added fee to pay for something as simple as taking a photograph. Climbers such as Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Cedar Wright and Dean Potter have to sneak through some of the restrictions in order to get a true experience of big-wall climbing in Yosemite.
Sender films did an outstanding job portraying the legacy of Yosemite climbing. This film is recommended not only to seasoned climbers, but to those who are just getting into the sport or even those who don’t even climb. It passes along the message that even back when the legends discovered climbing on Yosemite and loved the adrenaline rush it brought, it was hampered by image and the selfish struggle to stay on top. While that part of the climbing scene is still evident, with all of the restrictions rising around Yosemite, the big-wall climbers of Yosemite try to make the most out of climbing the monoliths that challenge them to conquering their next great climb.
For a more in depth review and perspective on Reel Rock 9: Valley Uprising, please read Andrew Bisharat’s Valley Uprising Nostalgic review.
To see if Reel Rock 9 will coming to a theater near you, visit www.reelrocktour.com.