The award-winning documentary, VALLEY UPRISING, will premiere on the Discovery channel on Saturday, April 25 at 8 PM ET/PT as a part of the first annual ELEVATION WEEKEND. VALLEY UPRISING explores the stories of climbers who pushed the limits of what’s possible at Yosemite Valley, CA and pioneered rock climbing as a sport.
The film features many personalities that helped shape the sport. One such living legend, Lynn Hill, spoke with Outward Bound California’s Jason Schmidt (Bay Area Program Manager and avid climber) yesterday to talk about the film, the sport and the importance of pushing your limits.
Lynn changed the definition of what is possible in rock climbing with her first free ascent of the most famous big wall climbs in the world, The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California. Over nineteen years later, Tommy Caldwell and Lynn are still the only two people in the world to have succeeded in making an all free one-day ascent.
Jason: Hi Lynn, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! I also got my start in this field living in Yosemite one summer back in 2003, I never became quite as good of a rock climber so my career took a different path. I saw this film in the Valley last fall and it was great. What does this film mean to you and why should people tune in to the Discovery Channel this weekend?
Lynn: Thanks Jason, happy to be here. The film is very entertaining and funny, it gives people who don’t know much about the history of climbing an idea of where the culture came from, the back story and personalities of the day.
The first part of the movie talks about Harding and Robbins and their competition to one-up each other, it wasn’t quite as divided as it appeared in the film but that competition in climbing was there, even in a subtle way, and now in a more overt way with climbing competitions.
People can relate to the idea that it is natural to want to push and do something out of the ordinary and visionary. This is one of the themes of the film, trying to optimize and explore because, after all, climbing is about discovering new things and experiencing the unknown – that’s what makes it exciting
There is also a theme of, I’ll put it in my own words, questioning authority. As society changes we need to question our assumptions and I think this is a very healthy attitude. In the film the conflict is the climbers vs. the rangers. With the millions of tourists using the park every year, there is a competition for this resource which makes regulation necessary but a 14 day limit for a climber is hard, especially if you are Tommy Caldwell who spent 7 years working on the Dawn Wall.
Jason: At OBCA we use the authentic adventure and challenge of rock climbing to provide character developing experience for our students. In what ways do you see climbing, even top roping at Little Dome for a day, change people even if they don’t pursue climbing?
Lynn: On the rock its just you, your body, and the rock – climbing is direct feedback to your actions. You have to look at a hand hold and foot hold and pull and push in a really intricate and complicated way to make progress. The technical stuff like tying knots and equipment isn’t so life changing but to trust the person belaying you and trust that rope and your body to going up off the ground is outside more peoples experience.
Climbing is about balance and experiencing things in a simple way, it can be like a moving meditation once you have calmed all the fear. Because it is so outside the normal experience, it becomes a very intense, emotionally charged experience and therefore has more meaning and we can learn a lot more from it. We see how we deal with risk and fear and the unknown, success and failure and even how we dealt with the person belaying us.
Self responsibility, trust in your partners that lower and belay you seem simple but they are huge – we need to learn how to cooperate and listen to each other and be aware of things a little bit more broad than our day to day. I see climbing as a tool to open people up in ways that they never even knew existed.
Jason: I’ve heard that you really value reflection, you have a thing you refer to as “tub time.” At Outward Bound we intentionally use “solo” experiences to give students space to process and reflect. What do you see that is valuable in taking this time?
Lynn: Tub Time is a comfortable space, by myself, without anyone asking things of me. You brain will optimize and process things without much effort, you just have to have some down time to let this happen. Reflection gives you a chance to think about how you behaved or performed and review what didn’t work well or how you could have done it better and the next time you are in a situation you can use that information to act differently and refine your performance.
I look at photos of me at 16 or 17, my parents had no idea what I was doing of course, and I barely did. I was willing to just go there and figure it out and I got to go to these places that were amazing. I look at this picture of me on Big Sandy which is up on Half Dome and I remember the feeling of being on the ledge. It was very quiet, you could see the Valley below, hear the birds see the high country up to Tuolumne. There was a lot of time taken on each pitch, it wasn’t a race, it was about the experience and there was always time when your partner was climbing, or you are up at the belay while your partner is following where you could reflect about anything you want, or not. Its important to have that time to be by yourself and reflect on you life and think about things that are important to you.
Jason: Do you have anything left on your chalk bucket list?
Lynn: About 2 years ago I wanted to do a hard climb in Rifle and I picked one that was particularly challenging for me 5.13d or more like 5.14a called “Living in Fear” it took me a few weekends to get it right.
Now that my son is 12 it is getting easier because he is more independent and I do intend to keep climbing and I’d love to find something in my own backyard versus the travel I’ve been fortunate to do. One of the first values I learned as a climber was to appreciate what I had and do more with less.
Jason: Well thank you so much Lynn for speaking with us and really representing the side of climbing we teach our students everyday.
Lynn: Thanks Jason.
Check out Lynn and her fellow climbing legends tomorrow on Discovery Channel and preview the film Valley Uprising HERE!