If last year’s Reel Rock production was criticised for not having enough female representation, this year there was no danger of that. The tour opens with a film about the next generation of young climbers, entitled Young Guns, featuring 15-year old Ashima Shiraishi and 16-year old Kai Lightner.
Ashima has already made a name for herself in the climbing industry, having become the first female climber to boulder V15 and the youngest person to send this grade. The film follows Ashima and Kai along their very different paths into the elite ranks of the climbing world, with insight into aspects such as parental support required for athletes thrust into the limelight at such a young age. We like the fact that the spot light is more on Ashima’s perseverance and discipline rather than the fact that she is a girl and tells an inspirational tale to young men and women alike.
Next there’s “Brette”, a short film that follows rising talent Brette Harrington as she embarks on a year-long climbing trip with her boyfriend, leaving her home town of Squamish in search of adventure in Yosemite and Patagonia. Her personality shines through as she encounters different rock types, takes big whippers on scary trad routes, and free solos some pretty tall pieces of rock. The footage of the latter is particularly breathtaking! Her approach to climbing is different to that of the younger climbers though as she’s all about the experience gained rather than the success of sending.
The other films in the latest Reel Rock collections provide some comic relief – Boys in the Bugs, a hilarious account of Will Stanhope and Matt Segal attempting a 5.14 finger crack in the Canadian alpine wilderness of the Bugaboos, which takes them a staggering four seasons to complete, and Dodo’s Delight, a tale of adventures and mishaps in the Arctic Circle.
Last but not least, Rad Dad is a heartwarming story of a father who manages to dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to his daughter despite his addiction to remote, and often dangerous expeditions. We found it particularly touching that she joins him on his adventures when she’s older, sharing her dad’s passion.
One criticism we heard about the latest Reel Rock is that there was nothing truly inspirational this year, compared with epics from previous tours. Admittedly the athletes in the films, bar of course Ashima, are not breaking into any new ground. Some might even say, albeit being the best climber of her age, that even Ashima’s V15 is not the first boulder problem climbed at that grade and that the likes of Adam Ondra are out there climbing V16 already. However this tour seems to be more about the emotional connection that climbing can provide, as well as the funnier side to our sport than epic tales of groundbreaking achievements for the sport on a global scale.
Saying that, Ashima’s achievements, Brette’s discovery of her prowess on the rock and the dedication of Will and Matt to their four-year long project are all insiprations to us to try harder, train more and give up less easily.
One thing is certain – as climbers are stretched to the limits of their abilities, it is becoming harder to pioneer new ground and breaking into new grades is becoming more and more difficult and frustrating; this is clearly evident from Ashima’s struggles and exasperation, even as she climbs some of the hardest routes out there.
But there is a clear message to be taken from Reel Rock 11 – don’t give up! Climbing is all about these frustrations, falls, bleeding fingers and bruised egos. But if you get up every time you fall and keep trying again and again, eventually you will break through the barriers.
We’re excited to see where this takes climbing in five, ten, twenty years, and what the new generation of climbers will be able to achieve. Will they climb V17, V18, V20? Will they establish 5.16 routes? Perhaps Reel Rock 12, 13, 14, will have the answers to those questions.
You can find out more information about the Reel Rock 11 lineup and tour here.