Between 1999 and 2009 our family spent a fair amount of time at Granite Arch Climbing Center in Sacramento, CA. We went there to learn, to practice, to improve our climbing skills and to hang out with friends.
Granite Arch was a fun place and we logged a lot of hours dangling from ropes above shredded tires. We had no idea at the time, but also baked into that arrangement was something truly remarkable.
At some point during that period of time we noticed a kid that was climbing there nearly every time that we were. He was always polite, friendly and very focused.
I remember one time when we were there and the kid climbed what may have been the hardest route in the gym – a gritty overhang of a route with finger cracks and tiny footholds. I can’t recall the name but i think that it was one of the permanent routes. It may still be there.
After topping out the belayer laughed and said “now you can go on with your life.” The remark came in a way that made me believe that the kid had been working on that route as a project for a long time. He laughed casually in response and went back to another route as if nothing had happened.
At that time we were in our thirties with young kids in tow, he was somewhere in his very early teens. We didn’t have much in common and Sara and I didn’t know him as anything more than that nice kid who climbed really hard at the gym.
Long story short, that kid grew up and never stopped climbing. Along the way Alex Honnold has quite literally changed the course of climbing history by pushing limits and doing things that were thought to be impossible.
Once in a while when I hear about one of his new accomplishments (free solo of El Capitan in under 4 hours for example) I get a little sick to my stomach… Be careful kid is usually what I’m thinking.. For some weird reason it’s hard for me to think of him outside of the context of that nice kid at the gym. It’s also hard for me to imagine his accomplishments as anything other than terrifying and on the edge of control.
Anyhow, if you’re still with me this brings me to the point of this post. I recently watched Valley Uprising. You can find it on Netflix and if you download it it’s well worth the time.
The documentary covers the birth of Yosemite climbing, interviews some of the people who were a part of each major chapter, and tells the story in a fun way. Alex plays a significant part in the film near the end.
The film is not without it’s critics. Some of the objections center around who and what was left out of the story. Valley Uprising is by no means a complete work on the history of climbing in Yosemite, but it captures some of the legends and I found it fascinating to see these well known legends play out in narration, photo, and film.
My recommendation is to watch it. If you have ever tied into a rope, visited Yosemite National Park, climbed at Granite Arch between Y2K and 2009 or even just walked up a mountain to see if you can get to the top this documentary will draw you in and is well worth your time.
My two cents as a film critic….