As Bret and Rose’s relationship strengthens, Rose “pitches” to Bret her want to ascend the route “Killer Pillar” – a 1,000 ft grade 5 multi-pitch “commitment.” Against Bret’s better judgment, he obliges. Armed with nothing but the advice that “you have to trust your body, it’s a lot more reliable than your mind,” Rose quickly becomes the film’s heroine and lead character. What follows in the next 60 minutes of the movie is an array of technical correctness, terminology, equipment, knots, Cams, nuts, and style, that both Bret and Rose implement in order to not only climb but ascend “Killer Pillar” with naturalistic finesse and brutish grind – all while removing even the slightest shred of doubt that every detail of this film was not comprehensively thought through and extensively researched to be precisely executed.
Some way up the climb, both characters are faced with adversity as Bret’s single handhold cracks off, causing a jarring and grating fall, resulting in a serious head injury and torn shoulder. With no other direction to go than straight upwards, the only way down is up. Rose must see what she is really made of, and lead the climb to the summit. With nightfall and rapidly dropping temperatures swiftly on their way, Rose and Bret are a long way from the summit and choose to “bivouac” on the cliffside ledge. As the sun rises, a storm approaches. Bret is benighted and drifting in and out of consciousness. Still carrying the heavy backpack from the beginning of the ascent and now a 165-pound male, Rose steps into her power to save them both and with Bret far from clairvoyance and even further from the brink of life, Rose re-writes the “locals only” cliché and shows that a feminine touch is just as deadly when applied to a life or death situation.
“…the cynics looking for frays in the rope and incorrect harnesses – they will find nothing.”
The best part about this movie is that even to the cynics looking for frays in the rope and incorrect harnesses – they will find nothing. There are no stunt workers. The actors do absolutely every part of the traverse, including the falls and dynamic jumps captured expertly by John Garrett, who may have climbed 2,000 ft in his carrying of heavy equipment up and down the abrasive terrain to document the close-ups and far shots from a neighbouring peak. Without a doubt, Gripped: Climbing the Killer Pillar is one of the best rock climbing movies ever made that isn’t a documentary, but seems like one when Rose and Bret are scaling the face which is why it is such a vibrant and potent piece. Coupled with a backdrop that no green screen could do justice, and cinematographic sequences that would put any Mac screen saver to shame, Gripped: Climbing the Killer Pillar makes you feel as if you have missed a hold and are falling to your death with your heart in your throat. It is certainly a film to see and will have you involuntarily crying out for relief as if it is you who is making that last imperative dynamic leap to pull yourself up and stand atop the summit.
"…makes you feel as if you have missed a hold and are falling to your death..."