“Reel Rock 14” energizes Whitman community


Illustration by Elie Flanagan

Ryder Brookes , A&E Reporter

A rowdy audience filled Maxey Auditorium last Thursday, Nov. 6, to watch the rock climbing film “Reel Rock 14.”

The Reel Rock Film Tour is a nation-wide tour where colleges, businesses and other organizations are able to play the film in their facilities for advanced rock climbers, novices and everyone in-between to enjoy. The film centers around the national climbing community and follows the challenges faced and achievements made by climbers of different backgrounds.

In past screenings at Whitman, the tour followed the journey of Margo Hayes to be the first to climb a 5.15 route, a climbing grade that is notoriously difficult to execute, and also showcased the future prowess of young climbers. This fall, the film highlighted Neena Williams, a professional rock climber pushing her limits highball bouldering. Highball bouldering is a boulder problem that is long, difficult and high off the ground. A fall off of one of these routes could result in serious injury.

The tour also highlighted the building and resurrection of tensions between a small Mormon town in Utah and boulderers in nearby Joe’s Valley. 

The film ended with rock climbers Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell tackling and beating the Nose Speed Record on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.

When asked about why the climbing community at Whitman would want to screen the film, climbing team captain and senior Walker Orr said that the film helps bring people from various climbing backgrounds together. 

“Having a fun climbing related event open to all students but not held at the climbing gym — which can be intimidating — helps bring newcomers into our community,” Orr said. 

The Climbing Club was at the center of organizing the event. Climbing Club co-leaders sophomore Maddie Ott, junior Emery Hansell and senior Nick Rapp collaborated with the Whitman Events Board (WEB) team to obtain the rights to show the film in Maxey and operate a small concessions stand.

When asked about the event organizing process, Hansell said the WEB team’s help was integral in putting on the event. 

“WEB has been really generous with this event and every step has been pretty hassle-free as a result of all these wonderful people,” Hansell said. 

During the event itself, the three co-leaders gave some brief words about the Climbing Club and the off-campus trips it leads during the school year.

The energy was high in Maxey, with loud chatter leading up to the screening and during the leaders’ speeches. Throughout the film, there were stints of laughter, shocked faces and loud applause from the audience. The atmosphere was supportive and upbeat, with many becoming entranced by the film.

“Neena Williams climbing the 50 foot boulder was crazy; I was low-key shaking in my seat,” first-year Nasser Gulleh said. “The thing is, even though I was struck by fear at first, I was then overcome by admiration and inspiration. Now, I want to check out the climbing scene.” 

This sentiment was just what the climbers putting on the event were aiming to invoke.

“We know that the climbing community can be a little intimidating and feel difficult to break into,” Hansell said. “Our hope is that these films will provide a low-pressure and low-stress introduction to climbing and hopefully make the climbing and outdoor community at Whitman more accessible.”