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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

REEL ROCK inspires climbing Carls

<st Tuesday, a number of Carls took the opportunity to escape the confines of the college to visit an even colder and snowier place than Northfield: Antarctica. But that wasn’t the only place they visited. At Carleton’s annual screening of the REEL ROCK Film Festival, within two hours they also saw glimpses of Jordan, Russia, and various European countries. Thanks to the Weitz Cinema’s generous screen size and the films’ captivating content, the screening successfully pulled the audience away from their daily lives of homework and classes and into a world of natural beauty, competitiveness and determination. “It’s a nice little escape from a week of school to watch something that is outside of my own experience,” said Sarah Newsham ’20, of the screening. “And also the scenery is really beautiful.”

The annual REEL ROCK Film Tours bring a collection of each year’s best films about rock climbing to audiences around the world.

This year’s REEL ROCK, the 13th annual tour, followed the extraordinarily dedicated Adam Ondra on his journey to be the first person to climb a 5.15, the highest grade currently in existence, on the first try. The second film focused on the new phenomenon of competitive speed climbing, a required event for all Olympic competitors in 2020. Then came Valley of the Moon, a film about a couple of Israeli climbers and an American travelling to the Jordan desert, meeting a local guide and establishing a new route. Last but not least, Queen Maud Land featured Carleton’s own alum, Jimmy Chin ’96 and five of his friends, including Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright, in Antarctica climbing various routes amidst the frozen tundra.

But beyond the cinematic effects and extraordinary landscapes portrayed, the screenings possess sentimental value. The films hold a personal connection with the college—Wade Johnson, the sole reason Carleton had the opportunity to host the screening. In 2007, the adventurous and loveable Johnson graduated from Carleton College and began working for Sender Films, an adventure film production company in Boulder, Colorado. Wade was a well-liked campus figure, member of the student climbing staff, resident of CANOE house, and known for encouraging others to take advantage of the adventurous opportunities that awaited them.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s short but memorable life ended in 2009 during an avalanche on Mount Edgar in China, where he was sent on a filming expedition. In his honor, Sender Films established a relationship with the college that had shaped and influenced a fundamental portion of his life. Built on this relationship and the memory of Johnson, the college enjoys screenings of the REEL ROCK film tour each year.

Due in part to Wade Johnson and Carleton’s ability to access certain elements of the climbing world, the college’s climbing community has grown tremendously. CANOE’s climbing czar Todd Johnson ‘20, highlighted each film’s emphasis on community and hard work. “It’s an outdoor experience that revolves around a community of people with similar interests and a community of people who are very dedicated and taking risks,” said Johnson. “It’s inspiring to see people reaching their goals and potentials and dreams and accomplishments.” As Carleton continues to derive inspiration from REEL ROCK films and honorable alumni and as the climbing community continues to grow, perhaps we will see even greater developments among the realm of climbing Carls.

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