Climb Tafraout Blog

Miscellaneous ramblings, news, views, and anything else we fancied writing about...

Valley Uprising

January 2015

It's tempting to say that every once in a while, something comes along that redefines its genre. In the case of climbing films, it's not even as often as that. It happened once, back in 1998, when Slackjaw Films' legendary grit flick 'Hard Grit' well and truly set the bar for others to follow. Arguably, none have surpassed it: a film that not only inspired a generation, but defined the very sport it described. Now, 16 years down the line, I think it might, finally, have been surpassed.

In fact, let's not beat around the bush. Valley Uprising, by Sender Films, is, actually, the best climbing film that I've ever had the pleasure of watching. I was so gripped for the whole 1hr38m that I couldn't tear myself away, even for a moment. My palms were sweating by the time the opening titles had finished, and they didn't stop doing so until I'd watched right the way through the closing credits, when I was left desperately wanting more. It's a masterpiece, exquisitely produced, controversial, insightful, and for any climber, surely, absolutely fascinating.

Quite how the team at Sender managed  to make old black and white photos come alive so vividly I really don't know, but what they've done is as mesmerising as it is impressive. On the face of it, the film tells the story of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley, from the pioneering times of John Salathe to recent big wall solos by Alex Honnold. But unlike almost every other climbing film since Hard Grit, Valley Uprising isn't just about one man, or a clique; people promoting their latest exploits. This film has absolutely, well and truly, hit the nail on the head. It's about climbing, the sport as a whole, and then somehow, so much more... It's got everything a great story needs: from danger and excitement to strong characters, heroes that turn out to be villains, and villains that turn out to be heroes. It's so well made that you don't even think to stop and ask "how on Earth did they film that?" - which you really ought to be asking, given some of the outrageously good footage that is included in this epic production.

Now, I know I'm probably somewhat biased - After all, I'm a devout trad climber, I love Yosemite, have a curious fascination with El Capitan, and am perhaps more interested in the history of climbing than its future... but, do you know what? For once I'm really not sure that matters, for what Valley Uprising has done so well is crystallize the spirit of the sport that unites us, whether we're sport climbers, trad climbers, boulderers, base jumpers... hippies... or perhaps even park rangers. It tells a simple, yet epic story. It tells it beautifully, honestly, and sympathetically. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I simply cannot recommend this film highly enough. Go watch it.