"Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall - it's great when you stop."

Chris Darwin

Free Solo

Source: . Credit: Internet Movie database,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: . Credit: Internet Movie database, Licensed under: Public Domain.

Meru , the previous film by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, was considered massive hit in terms of documentary films. However, their most recent flick Free Solo surpassed its success in just about every aspect cleaning the award tables as well as collecting praise pretty much everywhere. It covers the stunning free solo ascent of FreeriderEl Capitan2307m by Alex Honnold.

The fact that the photography is stunning is hardly surprising as Jimmy Chin is known for spectacular visuals. What differentiates the film from most other climbing films is human interest side. The film also studies the person behind the feat as well a those who are close to him. This is no doubt heavily affected by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the other half of the director duo and Chin's wife. She was already award-winning documentary film maker before she was introduced to world of climbing after meeting Chin and working on Meru . They have found excellent mix as evidenced rave reviews and all the awards.

Meru

Source: . Credit: Wikipedia,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: . Credit: Wikipedia, Licensed under: Public Domain.

Section about the first ascent of Shark's FinMeru Central6310mNorth East Pillarnccs VII 5.10 A4 M6 WI5; 6a,A4, WI5,M61400m was featured in Reel Rock 7 already in 2012. The climb was well publicised at the time and for long considered one of the last great problems. It was attempted many times by the very strong parties, yet the fin remained to be unclimbed despite its flanks being climbed by the likes of Valery Babanov earning him Piolet d'Or. The climb was finally scaled by Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin after unsuccessful attempt by the same team in 2008 and earlier attempts by Anker with different partners.

After some years a full feature length documentary Meru was released after Chin recruited established documentary film maker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi to turn what was already gripping climbing film to highly praised film that gathered praise both from climbers and general public (for example Rotten Tomatoes).

2T on Paiju Peak

Source: . Credit: Vimeo,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: . Credit: Vimeo, Licensed under: Public Domain.

At the same time I accidentally found First Ascent - Kunyang Chhish East I also tumbled upon , available as 2T on Paiju Peak on Vimeo. The film covers the ascent of 2TPaiyu Peak6660mSouth side5.10d,A3, M5. I have to admit that I did not know a lot about Paiyju Peak, had just read somewhere that is is spectacular looking peak in Karakoram with very few ascents.

Turns out the peak is certainly spectacular looking: See for yourself. Given the fact that the peak is located close to access route taken virtually every team crossing Baltoro glacier one would imagine such a peak would attract plenty of climbers. Yet, the number of previous ascents turned out to be exactly one. So I figure it is safe to assume that climb must be very difficult or extremely serious. Or most likely, very much of both.

The chief protagonists of the flick are Alberto Iñurrategi, Juan Vallejo and Mikel Zabala. The names may not be as heavily featured in English-speaking climbing media, but the main cast has some seriously impressive ascents under their belt including the likes of NW ridgeGasherbrum IV7925mWest FaceV, 65°2500m and attempt of West pillarMakalu8463mSouth side. Furthermore, Iñurrategi has completed all 14 8000ers without bottled oxygen and been nominated for Piolet d'Or (twice that I know of). Perhaps the most famous of his ascents on 8000ers are East RidgeAnnapurna I8091mEast Ridge and first undisputed ascent of SSE SpurK28611mSouth sideIII-IV, 75° (aka Cesen route). I guess it is reasonable enough to expect some cutting edge stuff.

Apparently there's also involving the same team climbing WSW ridgeChamlang7319mSW side.

First Ascent - Kunyang Chhish East

Source: . Credit: Vimeo,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: . Credit: Vimeo, Licensed under: Public Domain.

I recently stumbled on First Ascent - Kunyang Chhish East , available as First Ascent - Kunyang Chhish East in Vimeo. The topic of the flick is the first ascent of SW faceKunyang Chhish East7400mSW face by Hansjörg Auer, Simon Anthamatten and Amtthias Auer back in 2014.

Until the ascent, the peak was one of highest unclimbed peaks and also one of the most sought after objectives. The peak had send some very strong suitors back empty handed. I had no idea there was a film about the ascent.

Mountain Film Database

While browsing for bluray release of Reel Rock 11 I somehow landed at Mountain Film Database. It is a very welcome service, as I have a lot of interest in climbing films and have few items in my collection for which next to no information can be obtained in regular movie databases such as The Movie Database and The Internet Movie Database. Those general purpose databases usually list better known and commercially releases films, but omit plenty of lesser known films.

I am not entirely sure whether the absence of these films is due to imdb acceptance criteria or some other reason, but the fact is that no trace of many smaller climbing films can not be found in imdb. The Movie database is maintained by its users (that is to say anyone who bothers to register), so pretty much anything could be listed there- However, this is not often the case. And in some of the cases, the information that should be entered is not readily available anyway. Ijn any case, at the age when small and relatively inexpensive gear is good enough to produce great image and the services like SteepEdge, Vimeo, Youtube make publishing and distribution of these films affordable, the number of available content has skyrocketed and sizeable chunk of it is not listed in those mainstream movie databases.

Available content aside, the service also seems to provide map-based search. This does not exist in mainstream databases as it would not be applicable to a lot of other types of movies. However, for the climbing-specific content, it is a very welcome feature.

Doctor of Climbology

When reading the reviews about Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna.Terray, LionelMountaineers Books2001Frenchman Lionel Terray is one of mountaineering history's greatest alpinists, and his autobiography, Conquistadors of the Useless, stands among the "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time", according to National Geographic Adventuremagazine. Following World War II, when France desperately needed successes to heal its wounds, Terray emerged as a national hero, conquering summits atop the planet's highest mountains.This biography of Lionel Terry is filled with first-time feats and acts of bravery in the face of unspeakable odds. He climbed with legends such as Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, and Louis Lachenal. He made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya. Terray's gripping story captures the energy of an optimistic world shaking off the restraints of war and austerity. It's a mountaineering classic.97808988677879780898867787Conquistadors of the UselessBiographyen I stumbled on few lists of climbing classic films and some other media. Since I am a big fan of climbing books and films, I thought to provide a links to some of those. Several of the books I've previously mentioned are mentioned on many of those lists.

Particularly often listed are the following books previously mentioned on this site: Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna.Terray, LionelMountaineers Books2001Frenchman Lionel Terray is one of mountaineering history's greatest alpinists, and his autobiography, Conquistadors of the Useless, stands among the "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time", according to National Geographic Adventuremagazine. Following World War II, when France desperately needed successes to heal its wounds, Terray emerged as a national hero, conquering summits atop the planet's highest mountains.This biography of Lionel Terry is filled with first-time feats and acts of bravery in the face of unspeakable odds. He climbed with legends such as Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, and Louis Lachenal. He made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya. Terray's gripping story captures the energy of an optimistic world shaking off the restraints of war and austerity. It's a mountaineering classic.97808988677879780898867787Conquistadors of the UselessBiographyen, The Shining Mountain, 1st Vintage Books Ed.Boardman, Peter & Tasker, JoeVintage Books1985'It's a preposterous plan. Still, if you do get up it, I think it'll be the hardest thing that's been done in the Himalaya.'So spoke Chris Bonington when Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker presented him with their plan to tackle the unclimbed West Wall of Changabang - the Shining Mountain - in 1976. Bonington's was one of the more positive responses; most felt the climb impossibly hard, especially for a two-man, lightweight expedition. This was, after all, perhaps the most fearsome and technically challenging granite wall in the Garhwal Himalaya and an ascent - particularly one in a lightweight style - would be more significant than anything done on Everest at the time. The idea had been Joe Tasker's. He had photographed the sheer, shining, white granite sweep of Changabang's West Wall on a previous expedition and asked Pete to return with him the following year.Tasker contributes a second voice throughout Boardman's story, which starts with acclimatisation, sleeping in a Salford frozen-food store, and progresses through three nights of hell, marooned in hammocks during a storm, to moments of exultation at the variety and intricacy of the superb, if punishingly difficult, climbing. It is a story of how climbing a mountain can become an all-consuming goal, of the tensions inevitable in forty days of isolation on a two-man expedition; as well as a record of the moment of joy upon reaching the summit ridge against all odds.First published in 1978, The Shining Mountain is Peter Boardman's first book. It is a very personal and honest story that is also amusing, lucidly descriptive, very exciting, and never anything but immensely readable.03947292930394729293The Shining MountainBiographyen, either as standalone or as part of The Boardman Tasker Omnibus: Savage Arena, the Shining Mountain, Sacred Summits, Everest the Cruel Way.Tasker, Joe; Boardman, Peter & Bonington, ChrisMountaineers Books1995Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker each two accomplished books which, deservedly, soon acquired classic status and became required reading for all those venturing to high altitude. It is fitting that the memorial to these two exceptional climbers and writers should take the form of the annual Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature. As for their own four books, these are now reprinted for the first time in one volume. 97808988643669780898864366Boardman-Tasker OmnibusNon-fictionen, The White Spider, Reprint edition.Harrer, HeinrichHarper Perennial1998At 13,025 feet, the Swiss Eiger doesn't approach the height of Everest or Denali, but the sheer rise and difficulty of its 5900-foot north face keeps it in the company of the world's most celebrated peaks. At the time Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet, originally the sequel to this volume) became part of the first successful summit climb in 1938, the north face of the Eiger was considered the "last and greatest of Alpine problems" left in the world. Originally published in 1959 (with chapters added in 1964 and an index covering subsequent Eiger climbs), this riveting account of his ascent and the history of confronting the EigerAbeginning with the first fatal attempts to conquer the north face in 1935Ais a crisply written paean to the mountain where Harrer first earned recognition as a world-class climber. A simple narrative style brings to life the many obstacles faced by Eiger climbersAsnowstorms, avalanches and a continuous shower of falling rocks among them. Harrer has a Hemingwayesque appreciation of the codes, bravery and rules of conduct governing the closed world of "true mountaineers." And he reserves special contempt for the sensation-seekers who gather to watch deadly feats of climbing from the ground below. Sections that document the evolution of climbing gear (Harrer wore no crampons on his 1938 ascent) and national rivalries in the WWII-era climbing community help make this volume an important contribution to the emerging canon of mountaineering literature.97800071978429780007197842White SpiderBiographyen, Touching The Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival.Simpson, JoeVintage Books1998Concise and yet packed with detail, Touching the Void, Joe Simpson's harrowing account of near-death in the Peruvian Andes, is a compact tour de force that wrestles with issues of bravery, friendship, physical endurance, the code of the mountains, and the will to live. Simpson dedicates the book to his climbing partner, Simon Yates, and to "those friends who have gone to the mountains and have not returned." What is it that compels certain individuals to willingly seek out the most inhospitable climate on earth? To risk their lives in an attempt to leave footprints where few or none have gone before? Simpson's vivid narrative of a dangerous climbing expedition will convince even the most die-hard couch potato that such pursuits fall within the realm of the sane. As the author struggles ever higher, readers learn of the mountain's awesome power, the beautiful--and sometimes deadly--sheets of blue glacial ice, and the accomplishment of a successful ascent. And then catastrophe: the second half of Touching the Void sees Simpson at his darkest moment. With a smashed, useless leg, he and his partner must struggle down a near-vertical face--and that's only the beginning of their troubles.00997710120099771012Non-fictionen and Everest: The West Ridge, Reprint edition.Hornbein, Thomas F.Mountaineers Books1998In 1963, Jim Whittaker became the first American to summit Everest via the South Col route. Roughly two weeks after Whittaker's achievement, Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, fellow American mountaineers on the same expedition, became the first climbers ever to summit the world's highest peak via the dangerous and forbidding West Ridge—a route on which only a handful of climbers have since succeeded.97808988661629780898866162Everest: The West RidgeBiographyen. The film High and Hallowed: Everest 1963 I've previously written about, is based on the last of those three.

Conquistadors of the Useless

Source: . Credit: amazon.com,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: Amazon.com. Credit: amazon.com, Licensed under: Public Domain.

Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna.Terray, LionelMountaineers Books2001Frenchman Lionel Terray is one of mountaineering history's greatest alpinists, and his autobiography, Conquistadors of the Useless, stands among the "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time", according to National Geographic Adventuremagazine. Following World War II, when France desperately needed successes to heal its wounds, Terray emerged as a national hero, conquering summits atop the planet's highest mountains.This biography of Lionel Terry is filled with first-time feats and acts of bravery in the face of unspeakable odds. He climbed with legends such as Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, and Louis Lachenal. He made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya. Terray's gripping story captures the energy of an optimistic world shaking off the restraints of war and austerity. It's a mountaineering classic.97808988677879780898867787Conquistadors of the UselessBiographyen by Lionel Terray seems to have gotten extremely positive reviews. Being listed as one of National Geographic Adventure 's 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time is probably already good enough reason to read it. However, perhaps the most glowing review was that made by Explore magazine : "If my library was to somehow catch fire and I could only save one book, the long out of print Conquistadors of the Useless, by Lionel Terray, would be it."

Terray is probably best known for his role in the first ascent of French routeAnnapurna I8091mNorth face in 1950 (he did not summit) and in the first ascent of French routeMakalu8463mNW side. However, his routes on somewhat lower peaks, particularly SE faceFitzroy3440mSouth sideED-; 50-60°, VI+,A2/VII+300m/6 pitches of ice + 650m/14 pitches of rock, SE ridgeJannu7711mSouth side and Arista NEChacraraju Este6001mEast sideED2800m, 1 day may be even more important as they represented the absolute cutting edge of difficulty climbed at altitude at the time.

Bold Beyond Belief

Source: . Credit: Fishbond,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: Fishpond. Credit: Fishbond, Licensed under: Public Domain.

Article about the book Bold Beyond Belief: Bill Denz, New Zealand's Mountain Warrior, 2nd edition.Maxim, Paul2012Twenty eight years after the original hard man of New Zealand climbing was killed in the Himalaya, the story of this legendary mountaineer has been recorded in a book.The New Zealand Alpine Club is proud to support this biography of Bill Denz. Running to nearly 300 pages, with over 100 images and a Foreward from Greg Child, Bold Beyond Belief is the story about a kiwi climber whose attitude, passion, drive and vision is unique in the 150 year history of New Zealand Mountaineering.97804732331989780473233198Bold Beyond BeliefBiographyen caught my eye in AAJ 2012. Bill Denz was a New Zealander who put up large number of groundbreaking ascents. Many of his routes in New Zealand Alps are considered to have been decades ahead of his time.

Denz is best known for his very bold solos of routes at the very pinnacle of difficulty at the time. Routes like DenzMount Cook3754mCarolina FaceNZ5-/TD; 60-65°2000m and SW Buttress & West FaceKusum Kanguru6369mSW side are still today considered very serious propositions. Aside of being very bold, he was also very persistent, a fact that is highlighted by his 10+ attempts to solo Compressor RouteCerro Torre3127mEast faceED-/ED1/nccs VI 5.10b,A2 70°; 6a,A2-3/5.10,A-2/VI,A2-3, 80°900m (27 roped pitches). Like too many others, he was killed by avalanche when attempting West pillarMakalu8463mSouth side in 1983.

The Bond

Source: . Credit: amazon.co.uk,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: Amazon.co.uk. Credit: amazon.co.uk, Licensed under: Public Domain.

At the end of the 70's duo Simon McCartney and Jack Roberts put up two extremely difficult and serious climbs in Alaska: Timeless faceMount Huntington3731mNorth facenccs VI 5.9 WI5 and SW faceDenali6190.5mSW faceAK6; 5.9,A38,000'/4000m from base camp. The latter climb proved nearly fatal for Simon. His book The Bond: Two Epic Climbs in Alaska and a Lifetime's Connection Between Climbers.Mccartney, Simon & Westman, MarkVertebrate Publishing2016'Man, the only - only - good thing about that climb was that you were tied on to the other end of the rope.' Simon McCartney was a cocky young British alpinist climbing many of the hardest routes in the Alps during the late seventies, but it was a chance meeting in Chamonix in 1977 with Californian 'Stonemaster' Jack Roberts that would dramatically change both their lives - and almost end Simon's. Inspired by a Bradford Washburn photograph published in Mountain magazine, their first objective was the 5,500-foot north face of Mount Huntington, one of the most dangerous walls in the Alaska Range. The result was a route so hard and serious that for decades nobody believed they had climbed it - it is still unrepeated to this day. Then, raising the bar even higher, they made the first ascent of the south-west face of Denali, a climb that would prove almost fatal for Simon, and one which would break the bond between him and climbing, separating the two young climbers for over three decades. But the bond between Simon and Jack couldn't remain dormant forever. A lifetime later, a chance reconnection with Jack gave Simon the chance to bury the ghosts of what happened high on Denali, when he had faced almost certain death. The Bond is Simon McCartney's story of these legendary climbs.97819102406639781910240663The BondBiographyen tells the story about these groundbreaking ascents.

The Fitzroy Traverse

The route follows the iconic skyline from right to left over all main peaks. Source: . Credit: Patagonia,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
The route follows the iconic skyline from right to left over all main peaks. Source: Patagonia.com. Credit: Patagonia, Licensed under: Public Domain.

I have briefly mentioned the 2014 first ascent of Fitzroy traverseFitzroy3440mNorth pillar7a,C1, 65°3600m by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell (Big routes going down, part deux). Now there is a movie A Line Across the Sky about the ascent. It is included in Reel Rock 10 .

Fitzroy traverse is very alpine undertaking. Something which perhaps is somewhat out of the norm for both of the protagonists who are world class rock climbers not particularly known for their alpine exploits. That said both have extensive experience of scaling large rock faces rapidly. To pull the Fitz traverse off within limited weather windows of Patagonia, speed is obviously of prime importance. Something that the first ascentionists are very familiar with having both held The Nose speed record and climbed many Yosemite big walls in a day.

History