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Masters of Stone 4 - Pure Force
(Doco) Climbing & BASE jumping in Yosemite, California, Spain, etc.
|Pure Force is a very good video with some amazing stunts, such as Dan Osman speed soloing, and various big name climbers doing what they do best, ticking hard sport and trad leads. The camera work and editing is professional, and the content generally speaking very worth watching. However, as a whole, it lacks a certain vicarious engagement that I’ve found in comparisons to such titles as “Hard Grit”. I guess this might be because I’ve seen several climbing docos now and I’m starting to get a little more picky. In Pure Force, nobody (except Bobbi) falls or even dogs the ascent. All these top-of-their-game climbers cruise what I know are very hard, leading edge problems, but there appears to be no struggle. While I award top points for the footage that takes us close to the action, showing the holds and the moves as they happen, I’m left with a feeling of being impressed by the feats, but not swept up by the emotion of the climbs, because somehow it all comes across as slightly unreal. I have a few other niggling points to make below, enough to dock a star or two, but don’t get me wrong, while the movie is perhaps a little dated by now, it’s still amazing stuff. I can’t say how it compares to Masters Of Stone 1,2 & 3 having not seen them, but on it’s own it is certainly worth watching, and you won’t be disappointed by the cast, locations, and climbs. I’d say most climbers would be enjoy this movie.
Here’s a run down of what we are shown:
A young Chris Sharma (age 15?), takes on a 5.14 variation to “Surf Safari” at Mickey’s Beach, California. He red points the sport route on pre-placed draws, which appears to be the accepted style for most of the movie. It’s interesting watching him at such a young age, given that we know he’s now gone onto achieve even higher grades still later in life. Clipping a draw from a one arm (no feet) lock off, is pretty cool. This footage is followed by Chris bouldering at Castle Rock, and another route “Ubermensch” 5.13d at the Pinnacles. For some reason the sound quality drops off here, not sure why. Anyway, Chris’s segment isn’t that long, maybe 7 mins at the most. Probably the longest segment on tape. It packs a lot of climbers into the hour.
Above Left: Chris Sharma. Above Right: Katie Brown.
George Hery Jr does a gym workout on some rings rigged off a cliff. What the? Oh well, that only wasted a few seconds of tape. Next up a very young Katie Brown plays her flute, oh and she climbs too on a route called “White Mans Overbite” 5.13+. Footage not so grand, bad lighting or something, maybe duplication quality loss? Anyway, it doesn’t really do justice to the route or the efforts of Katie, but still, better than not including it.
What’s next? Tommy Caldwell at The Monastery, Colorado climbs “Third Millennium” 5.13+. Much better camera work. In fact I’d say this segment has the best footage of the whole movie. We get some serious close up footage, giving us a sense of engagement with the rock that is missing from most, if not all of the other segments. This was my favourite part.
Left: Tommy Caldwell on “Third Millennium” 5.13+.
Ron Kauk follows with a lead up “Magic Line” 5.14b. A trad lead, though on pre-placed gear. He then fires up “Peace” 5.13d in Tuolumne Meadows, California to a background of Rasta music. I think the video-photographer must have been smoking something illegal, because the camera weaves in and out and pans left and right, like they were trying to make Ron’s super composed style on this crimp fest face climb a little more zany. This poor camerawork is a pity, because Ron is probably one of the best climbers in terms of style, and we might have actually learned something from him.
Above: Ron Kauk.
The next segment begs the question “why?”. Dan Osman does a free solo, with ice axes, a wet suit and face mask, straight up the guts of a raging white water fall. His voice over comments tell us that he was freezing his butt off and just wanting to get off. Again, why get on in the first place?
Right: Dan, free soloing an icy water fall, fights his way upstream like a spawning salmon.
Steve Gerberding then gives us a crash course in aiding big routes in Yosemite with a siege of “Reticent Wall” at A5. He defines A5 as basically death by zippered gear should you fall, and then goes on to bounce test bashed in nuts, hooks and pitons without the slightest look of unease. Since I’d never seen any aid climbing footage before I actually found this section very interesting to watch. The camera gets right up to Steve, to show us the kind of dodgy gear he’s hammering in, and hanging off.
Next up John Bachar leads “The Gift” 5.12 b/c at Red Rocks, Nevada by free soloing! Yep, no rope. As John tells us, the actual risk taking is easy, you just walk up to the rock and climb. Pity about the camera angle, which, from the ground, starts off well, but turns into a bum shot all to quickly. Anyway, amazing footage to watch, despite John's bright blue tights.
Above Left: Steve Gerberding aiding A5. Above Right: John Bachar free soloing 5.12 b/c.
Dan does one of his roped cliff jumping tricks next, which if you haven’t seen them before will likely raise the heartbeat a little, after which both JB Tribout and Bobbi Bensman take it in turns to lead up “7pm TV Show” 5.14 a/b at Rifle, Colorado. JB’s successful climb is all to quick, since the camera work here is much better. Bobbi, who had been working the route for 2 months takes a few falls (the only sign of any struggle anywhere on the movie), before straining through the crux and topping out.
Above: JB Tribout & Bobbi Bensman both leading 5.14 a/b at Rifle.
Steve Petro does a trad lead of “Fiddler On The Roof” 5.13d at Fremont Canyon, Wyoming. I think this (and the next segment) are the only “ground up” footage (no pre-placed gear), that we see on the tape, and as such, earns my respect. The finger locks look very painful. At one point he places a cam while totally hanging off one arm (no feet), proving that such stunts are not just the domain of the younger climbers.
Lisa Gnade is next, showing us her style on “Rubby’s Café” 5.13a at Indian Creek, Utah. Again, a ground up trad lead. Also excellent camera work, shows us close ups of the jams and the gear, then cuts back and forth to long shots, to give perspective of height.
Above Left: Lisa Gnade trad leading 5.13a.
We are then forced to endure some base jumping, which I didn’t see the relevance of in a climbing video, but I guess it might appeal to some. Will Oxx nearly kills himself leaping off a cliff and cratering into a shallow pond when his shute fails to open quickly enough.
Over to Spain next, where Carlos Brasco takes us up a couple of local sport routes at Siurana, Catalonia, at one point hanging upside down by his feet to shake out his arms. (What the?). Anyway, more silly antics follows as Toni Arbones boulders a mountain hut table, before leading “Mr Cheky” (8B+), wearing a tea cosy
|I must admit to not really digging this video. It seems to have too much stuff included for SHOCK value. The footage of Tommy caldwell is cool but the route is average. It looks like hes climbing in a quarry !! Footage of Ron Kauk is excellent. Sharma footage is boring. The rifle footage is nice. I always thought rifle looked average, but the climbing style looks unique and funky. Basejumping, rope jumps and dan osmans solo are all fillers to me. The waterfall footage was absurd. Oh and one more thing the soundtrack is BAD. Screeching 80's guitarws and saxophones...
|I am well behind the times, as this is the 1st time (last night) that I have seen any of the Masters of Stone series.
... but not having seen anything like it before, I thought it was good and certainly eye opening stuff that these people are up to / capable of.
Yeah, the jumping and waterfall stuff are out-there-weird, but the video makes no apologies for it because its theme is 'defying gravity' as outlined in the 1st minute of playing.
Defy gravity these people certainly do, whether by skill or luck or both.
Bit dejavu watching Dan Osman after knowing his fate in later years ...
Re him soloing the waterfall; I can understand the adventure/attraction in that, ... if for no other reason than the outrageousness of it.
Re Steve Gerberding doing “Reticent Wall” at A5. As an aid climber myself I regarded what was filmed as being purely for the film. He was showing a little of the technique required rather than an exposé of A5 climbing per se.
His whacking in an obviously sound piton (note the ascending ring tone as it was driven home), then 'testing' of it was a classic case of doing it for the film. It was solid before the last several blows and did not require testing. Someone of his calibre and experience would have known that, without having to bounce test it, or for that matter belt it home uneccessarily ...
Bounce testing hooks was in the same vein, as the large one he placed on a square cut edge was obviously sound and visually verifiable. They either work or they don't and seldom require bouncing on. More often one simply eases onto them while keeping weight on the prior placement in case they blow. I also found it interesting that he was standing on a lesser hook placement at the time of demonstrating this!
The copperhead he placed for filmings sake was likewise 'played up'. I reckon he would normally have had a selection of micro-nuts to choose an appropriate one for that placement, rather than going to the time consuming exercise of copperheading. In practice (due to this time factor), you only copperhead when nuts won't go ...
Ron Kauk on 'Peace' was good. I had already read the reviews here before I saw the video, so was expecting worse camera footage. It wasn't that bad as a one-off, though fortunately they did not continue that style throughout the video.
I was gob smacked watching people suspended one handed and placing gear then clipping it, as well as people keeping feet contact with ourageously overhung territory; more so when their feet came off but they still managed to get them back on and continue.
Inspiring stuff; ... and as mentioned by a contribution above, the more so when the climbs were led ground up without pre-placed draws.
I am looking forward to seeing the next one.
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