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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

REEL ROCK Film Tour comes to Western

By Hannah Blank

A sea of Bellinghamsters in Carhartt beanies and down jackets filled Artzen Hall 100 for the premiere of REEL ROCK 13, a collection of climbing films on Nov. 8. Upon entering the room, there was a buzz of anticipation in the air over this year’s film tour.

This year’s films included Age of Ondra, Up to Speed, Queen Maud Land and Valley of the Moon.

A man in pink shorts looks up as he climbs up a gray rock wall. A person in blue and green belays below.
Scenes from the film, Age of Ondra. // Photo courtesy of REEL ROCK Film Tours 2018 media kit

The REEL ROCK Film Tour is the product of Josh Lowell of Big UP Productions and Peter Mortimer of Sender Films. The two filmmakers, who are also climbers, founded the tour in 2006, according to their website.

The films, a mixture of compelling climbing feats and humor, kept the audience engaged and laughing throughout the two hours of the event. This particular film tour has come to Western for the past seven years, the first showing in 2012.

James Pierson, the Pacific Northwest Programs Coordinator and guide with the Mountaineering Instructional School, had a table set up outside of Artzen 100 in hopes of connecting with individuals who have similar interests in climbing.

“[This is our] chance for us to get out and get in touch with others people who are interested in [climbing] and let them know about what we do and hopefully get people interested in our programs,” Pierson said.

Pierson said he went through basic and intermediate climbing programs with the Mountaineering Instructional School until he began helping on climbs and even leading field trips. He started climbing in Olympia and was able to continue doing the mountaineering work he loves after moving to Bellingham.

Outdoor Center employees pose together.
AS Outdoor Center employees left to right: Justin Escobedo (Bike Shop Coordinator), Iva Recalling (Challenge Coordinator), Isabella Jones (Marketing Resources Coordinator), Emily Schauble (Excursions Coordinator) at the REEL ROCK Film Tour on Nov. 8. // Photo by Hannah Blank

Western’s Outdoor Center marketing coordinator Isabella Jones worked on organizing this event for a couple of months now. According to Jones, she had to get the license to show the film over the summer and from there, worked on creating posters, banners and advertisements to spread the word. All of this work drew in close to 400 guests, which Jones thought was a great turnout.

Although Jones isn’t a climber herself, she said she enjoys other outdoor activities such as windsurfing, kayaking, hiking and skiing.

“Bellingham is such a perfect location for so many different hobbies,” Jones said, reflecting on why she came to Western. “I loved the vibe when I came so I decided to stay.”

Western graduate Jonathan Cooper was at the event with the Wilderness Medicine Training Center, an organization that focuses on wilderness medicine and risk management. He teaches avalanche courses for the American Institute for Avalanche Research.

Two climbers lie on reddish-brown rock. Other rock faces like this one can be seen in the distance.
Climbers in The Valley of the Moon. // Photo courtesy of REEL ROCK Film Tour 2018 media kit

“The films are super inspiring and there was a great turnout,”  Cooper said. “It was neat to see the Western climbing community come together.”

While the mass of filmgoers didn’t necessarily know each other, there was a sense of unity that could be seen as people discussed their climbing experiences and the excitement that comes with those adventures.


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