Reviews of Rock Climbing Movies. Reviews by a beginner level climber with a fascination for quality climbing films.

Dean Potter in First Ascent
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First Ascent TV Series

This is the first made for TV DVD I have reviewed on this site. After loving the First Ascent movie this was the next logical purchase. This is just as good if not better. Breaking things up into episodes is great. The production levels are obviously higher than most climbing films too, which means we get a no expenses spared selection of worldwide scenes and some awesome camera angles.

first ascent series reviewEpisode 1:
The first in this series of 6 episodes follows Alex Honnold as he free solos a 2,000 foot wall in Yosemite Valley. This is apparently quite a famous wall and it certainly looks like a daunting task. No one has free soloed (no rope) such a high wall before. It is a little strange to watch knowing that a fall means death. However Honnold is a guy who seems to have a very clear head. There are mixed emotions watching this as I couldn’t help feel that maybe it is being done for the screen. I think that is probably not the truth though. Compelling stuff!

Episode 2:
This is a very moving story about a guy who wishes to scatter the ashes of his girlfriend in Patagonia. She was an avid climber from Brazil and her wish was to have her ashes scattered at her favourite mountains in Argentina. This is extremely well filmed and we are privileged that we get to see this special journey. It gets quite close to the end of the episode and there is bad weather. I thought they might no be able to climb after all. Fortunately they make a first ascent on a single day when the weather breaks. I won’t ruin the ending but it is super cool. For the guy, who really took the death hard, this seems like the perfect way to move on with his life.

Episode 3:
This one follows Chris Sharma up very hard wall. It is a line first spotted 20 or 30 years ago, but has never been climbed. It is another great watch, this time a fun one with plenty of climbing. We also get to see a bit of Sharma history and how he lives in Spain. I’ve seen this episode before as part of a full length movie. Perhaps it was one of the Reel Rocks? I have a feeling this episode is a longer version as I didn’t recognise some parts with his girlfriend in. The climbing looks like a 300 foot run of hard boulder problems. It is over hanging so we hear lots of Sharma screaming, which is quite funny when he falls off. This is a fantastic watch and full of powerful, difficult movements.

Episode 4:
This is one I saw on the Discovery channel once. The fact that this TV format is getting rock climbing into the mainstream is great. I hope more climbing films are made in this format too. I prefer watching shorter episodes rather than a collection of many different places. Anyway this is the story of 2 climbers and a cameraman who set off for a very ambitious alpine climb in China. It is a daunting task. It all ends in tragedy and this is a welcome reminder how dangerous this sport can be, especially with the rather extreme climbs in some of these episodes.

Episode 5:
This is another fantastic story which follows two brothers, one of whom is paralysed from the waist down. We seem them climb the famous El Capitan in Colorado first. Then they really take it up a notch and attempt a difficult alpine wall in Alaska. This is a heart warming triumph over adversity. It is not the most exciting episode but it shows us a nice human side with a great love for the outdoors.

Episode 6:
What a great way to end this series. This is about a madman who combines free soloing with base jumping. It is really exciting stuff. He is able to attempt difficult climbs. If he falls he swaps the worst thing in the world to the best thing “dying to flying”. This has instantly gone to the top of my bucket list. Pretty sure I have seen this before too, so it could be part of one of the Reel Rocks or something else. It was a delight to watch it again and this episode will get many more replays. Crazy but brilliant!

This is an essential collection for any climber. I really can’t pick a fault with this fantastic selection of stories. This is the second 5 star rated DVD on this site. It has tuned me into a big fan of Sender Films who also made the movie of the same name and the excellent Reel Rocks. Visit www.senderfilms.com where you can buy their productions and get more information.

5 / 5 stars