Dangling off of a cliff 13,000 feet in the air doesn’t seem like the ideal vacation, but for climbers it can be the moment their whole life has been leading up to. Shown at I.V. Theater on Nov. 6, “Reel Rock 8” is a worldwide event that explores four documentaries about climbers who scale steep cliffs and mountains as a hobby, capturing their hunger for danger.

Boasting popular names in climbing circles, such as legendary Yuji Hirayama and controversial Ueli Steck, “Reel Rock 8” focused on four different groups of climbers. The documentaries’ sweeping views of mountain and alpine ranges were breathtaking and gave me some understanding of why the climbers risked their lives for this sport. The immense pain and effort of climbing gave them a sense of victory, and audiences enthusiastically encouraged them from their seats. They gasped and cheered at all of the right places, as if they were on the mountain face with them.

“The Sensei” documented Hirayama’s final climbing expedition, the summit of 13,435 foot Mt. Kinabalu, while mentoring American climbing star Daniel Woods. Hirayama and Woods climbed the summit without an oxygen tank, a feat possible only with their numerous years of experience. Because it was an untouched route, they had to drill in holes into the rock, setting up a belay system that allowed them to keep climbing. With severe sunburns and previous disappointment, scaling Mt. Kinabalu was no cakewalk. As both climbers reached frustration trying to conquer the mountain, they supported each other with advice that helped them reach their goals.

On the other hand, “High Tension” climbers Steck and his boisterous partner Simone Moro were not able to complete their expedition to Mt. Everest because of a fatal encounter with mountain guides. Because of a misunderstanding between the guides, who often risk their lives for their jobs, Steck and Moro were violently kicked off of the mountain and prohibited from returning. The news caught worldwide attention and vindicated Steck for an encounter that wasn’t his fault. “High Tension” clears up that misunderstanding and gives a glimpse of Steck’s undying determination.

Climbing is not a male-only sport. Hazel Findlay and Emily Harrington, featured in “Spice Girl,” tear down pre-conceived notions about male-dominated climbing as they embark on a day-long climb in Morocco. Findlay, the first woman to conquer the British climbing grade of E9, states that women “live in a society where [they] aren’t supposed to be brave” and proceeds to subvert society’s expectations. Hours of climbing took a mental toll on her partner Harrington, but the beauty of climbing partnerships is that each party completely understands what the other is going through. Findlay calmly encouraged Harrington and they completed their expedition successfully.

“Reel Rock 8” also teased audiences with a clip of “The Stonemasters,” a documentary about Yosemite climbers that has been 50 years in the making. In just nine minutes, the clip mentioned the clashes between park rangers and nature loving hippies and highlighted the 1977 drug plane crash from Columbia. The story of how Yosemite inhabitants rushed to collect tons of marijuana from the crash earned roaring laughter from the audience and piqued our interest for the full release coming up in 2014.

Although they were from across world, the climbers in “Reel Rock 8” all shared their invincible perseverance with the audience. Even in the face of extreme difficulties, they simply did not give up. Their inspiring attitudes were contagious and I left the theater feeling like there wasn’t any problem that existed that I couldn’t solve. If Reel Rock 8 returns to UCSB, or even any variation of a climbing documentary, I recommend everyone watch it, climber or not.


A version of this article appeared on page 9 of the Thursday, November 14, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.