Valley Uprising is a game changer. Rock climbing films typically feature buff guys and semi-clad women dangling from cliffs using fingers that can crush coal into diamonds. But in this 90-minute documentary by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen, we’re treated to a 60-year history of the world’s rock climbing Mecca: California’s Yosemite National Park. And instead of focusing on arm strength, the film offers a look into the counterculture movement that spawned modern-day rock climbing. All the legends are interviewed, including Yvon Chouinard and Dean Caldwell, and in one memorable segment the film describes the epic rivalry between pioneers Royal Robbins and rebel Warren Harding that helped put the sport—and the valley—on the world’s radar. But the film makes the case that dirtbags are becoming harder to find, and that the current rock stars are instead clean-cut, law-abiding hardmen, such as free-soloist Alex Honnold.
In addition to excellent storytelling, the filmmakers perfectly use animated sequences that bring to life the still photographs that would otherwise belong in your parents’ slide projector. The one downside is the lack of interviews with park rangers about their attempts to eradicate climbing counterculture in Yosemite, but that’s a minor point. Valley Uprising has succeeded in taking the genre to new heights.
Check out the trailer.