MntnReview: 'Valley Uprising'

“The history of rock climbing is written on these walls.” – Cedar Wright

Using Yosemite National Park as a spectacular stage, Valley Uprising shares the stories, characters, and history of prominent rock climbers from the past 50 or so years. More than just watching them push their physical limits, the movie explores the perception of what is possible, as climbers challenge prior generations’ boundaries up the national park’s towering granite walls.

Despite the film stars’ daring feats and charisma, however, the park itself remains at the center. For instance, the film shows that, while new climbers may bring their attitudes, rules, and ideas of what’s possible to Yosemite’s walls, they still play their game in the same stark, stunning, and uncaring location as the generation before them.

Valley Uprising gives the audience a glimpse of some of the most dramatic climbs ever to take place in the park, from the golden age of Warren Harding and Royal Robbin’s first ventures on the massive granite faces to the rope-less ascents of today’s rock stars, like Alex Honnold. Almost as impressive as the ascents is how the movie captures these climbers’ vastly different personalities, how they fit into American history, and how their beliefs, backgrounds, and the times they lived in shape their relationship with Yosemite.

While the film targets climbers, anyone can appreciate the incredible deeds depicted on screen, as well as the beautiful setting and the climbers’ serious, sad, funny, and action-packed lives. If, like me, you believe Yosemite National Park to be the star here, the climbers frequently steal scenes with bold ascents, humorous anecdotes, and incredible insight into what it’s like to climb a 3,000-foot wall. While not a definitive history of Yosemite climbing, Valley Uprising does an excellent job of capturing each generation’s spirit and motivation while also highlighting some of each era’s most prolific and entertaining climbers.

Re-watching the film, I realized that it’s the characters who make this movie resonate with both climbers and non-climbers, as there is someone that everyone can relate to or be inspired by. Whether it’s the wine-guzzling, lives-with-his-mom Warren Harding, the hallucinogenic-taking, incredibly bold Jim Bridwell, the barrier-breaking Lynn Hill, the late, prophetic Dean Potter, or the awkward and otherworldly Alex Honnold, these are people you wish you could share a rope with.

If you have a rainy day this August or are just looking for something to watch during the height of summer reruns, Valley Uprising is streaming on Netflix and can also be downloaded through a variety of other services. It’s a collection of stories guaranteed to inspire climbers and non-climbers alike, and is sure to have you looking to hone your free-climbing skills, perfecting your aiding, thinking about buying a van, and wondering if you can take the fall off to climb in the Valley.

Valley Uprising from Sender Films on Vimeo.