Northeastern Recreational Climbing Club finds inspiration in film

Northeastern Recreational Climbing Club finds inspiration in film
Photo courtesy Mattie Yerxa

By Cole Albert, news correspondent

The Northeastern Recreational Climbing Club hosted a film festival at AfterHours Monday night. The featured film, “Reel Rock 5,” is a long-running anthology project that features several of the world’s premier rock climbers. While a new edition is released every year, the 2010 version was selected largely out of deference to Ueli Steck, a record-setting speed climber who fell to his death last April.

Short film “The Swiss Machine,” chronicled the adventures of the late Ueli Steck, who was widely regarded as the most versatile athlete in climbing. Traveling to Yosemite National Park, Steck climbed alongside Alex Honnold, a young prodigy who was the first and only person to solo climb the three tallest peaks in the park in just one day. To Honnold’s surprise, Steck was able to match his pace perfectly, ascending to the nose of El Capitan (3000 feet) at a remarkable speed.

Steck then traveled to Eiger, a mountain with the largest north face in the Swiss Alps, to switch from fair-weather climbing to a treacherous and icy speed ascent. Wielding an ice axe in each hand, Steck appeared almost nonplussed by the freezing winds and vertigo-inducing heights. As he crested the final ice wall and began a mad dash for the summit, the musical score picked up the pace. The final scene, according to club president Duncan Muir, is the most compelling part of the movie.

“This company does a really good job of producing films that have one killer scene at the end,” he said. “They put an amazing song to it, and that’s what gets people to see that and say ‘I want to go outdoors this weekend.’”

The first of several standouts from the short film collection was titled “Origins: The Incredible Hulk.” The film captured the efforts of competition climber Lisa Rands as she departed from smaller boulder climbs to challenge the titular ascent — an 11,500 feet peak jutting out from the High Sierras. Rands’ climbing partner, Peter Croft, was the original pioneer of the route, and despite her inexperience, he challenged her to a relentless pace.

The perseverance demanded by this sport was on full display as Rands faltered, taking a moment to examine her bloodied hands before steeling her nerves and pushing through to the summit.

“Down and Out and Under,” an audience favorite, focused not just on the climb, but the eccentric characters that seek out new and dangerous challenges. Traversing the historic Grampian range in Australia, the team ran into a series of odd situations. Cedar Wright, an experienced North Face Team climber, settled a stolen equipment dispute with a judo match, and Matt Segal, who established difficult climbing routes from China to Argentina, made amends at a wildlife sanctuary for a past altercation involving a wallaby.

“Cedar Wright is one of my favorite people to watch,” said Avery Cluff, a second-year bioengineering major in the climbing club.

Cluff felt that Wright’s fun-loving and adventurous personality resonated with their group dynamic.

“He’s such a low-key person, but then climbs so hard,” Cluff said.

Two young climbers, Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson, were featured in the film “The Hardest Move.” The film followed the two friends as they trained in bouldering, a subset of rock climbing that forgoes longer ascents in favor of short climbs that push their technical and physical skills to their limits. Woods, attempting to establish a route in Boulder Canyon, Colorado, spent more than two years doing intense physical training in order to perform one seemingly impossible move.

Mattie Yerxa, a second-year communication studies major who focuses on bouldering and more technical moves, drew motivation from the commitment displayed by the climbers.

“It gets you psyched to go back to the gym and get really good,” Yerxa said. “When you watch a guy like Daniel Woods make a new route that’s really hard, watch him do it for weeks and weeks, it makes you inspired to go out and do that.”  

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