Climbing is a sport that tests physical strength and mental control. It is a high-risk sport that requires the proper climbing techniques and equipment to stay safe. Despite the risks, climbing's popularity has exploded in recent years. It has transformed from a highly specialized niche sport to one that is accessible and mainstream.
Partly fueled by the rise of indoor climbing gyms, more people than ever before are out on cliffs and crags enjoying climbing. It's no longer just for the experts. However, these "experts" or "Stone Locals," or long term rock climbers that make up the core of the various climbing communities, are now dealing with the sudden popularity of their sport - and the way of life.
Their interwoven stories are unique and diverse, but what is clear is they all have an increasingly important role as the unofficial anchors of the industry, carrying the responsibility of teaching others about rock climbing.
Daniel Pohl is a German boulderer and artist who created Avalonia, a climbing sanctuary in Germany. It is a magical place he freely shares with other climbers. He lives within its caves and crags as with sculptures that pay tribute to fallen climbing comrades. A staunch environmentalist and helpful climbing guide, Daniel embodies how you become one with nature when climbing.
Family is also an essential aspect of climbing. In Salt Lake City, the Keithley's, a climbing family, have made it their mission to educate new and reeducate old climbers on climbing techniques and safety and how to give back to the climbing community. They organize clean-up drives, rebolting climbs and more, ensuring climbers will stay safe and involved.
Katsuka "Jumbo" Yokoyama, a climbing legend for over 20 years, contemplates his passion for climbing while home in Japan. He has conquered some of the most intense alpine climbs in the world and many first free (no gear) ascents in Japan. Now a husband and father, he works through the risks associated with climbing and his love for his family.
In Kentucky comes the touching story of Dario Ventura, who, with his father, Miguel, owns the world-famous climber's campground and haven Miguel's Pizza. They are true pillars of the Red River Gorge climbing community and forever grateful and touched by the love and support given back by the same community - an extended family of sorts - when his daughter battled a life-threatening liver disease.
Finally, Kathy Karlo, the first female to complete the Tennessee Wall Triple Crown ascent and host of the popular podcast "For the Love of Climbing." Her advocacy is inclusivity in climbing and to spark conversations about life. Her journey to find healing from a traumatic event intersects with her passion for climbing, highlighting how it's just you, your mental fortitude and the wall which you must climb to survive.
Though climbing as an industry is going through many changes, the future looks optimistic as long as climbers have a passion for the sport and are willing to embrace it as a way of life despite the risks and because of its rewards.
Directed by: Mikey Schaefer, Cheyne Lempe