ABYSS: A Critique

ABYSS, the newest feature film by Louder Than 11, weaves a unique story, not only about climbing development, but about climbers who aren’t the best in the world, going out day after day to put up new ascents. Spending that much time in the alpine isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying to climb at your limit, as I learned in Peru and then again up at Mt. Evans. The hardest lines in the movie are V13 and 5.14, which although still insanely hard, aren’t ground breaking. However, ABYSS doesn’t need groundbreaking ascents because it has a plot and follows a timeline, something the majority of climbing films lack. While watching the pros take down V16 is neat to watch, what about the people who climb V6 or V10 or V2? In the words of the Colorado Daily, ABYSS is “not just climbing porn”.

A few of my favorite things about ABYSS: First, as I said, moderates are plentiful. Watching routes I’m actually capable of completing is motivating. Plus, these lines are still tall, they’re still scary, they still have crazy looking holds, and they still look like a big deal. That’s because they are.

Mayan Smith-Gobat on Knives Out, V6 (screen capture)

Ben Vernon on Rule of Thirds, V3

Second, I like the close ups of hands and feet. To me, contact with the rock is what makes climbing such an incredibly bizarre sport. We press our skin and shoe rubber into tiny sharp crystals and they stick. And it’s always shocking to see what minuscule hold the climber just made look like a jug as they floated past it.

Ben Spannuth‘s foot. What is he standing on?

My first ever heel hook.

Third, landscapes. ABYSS does an incredible job of capturing on screen the beauty of Mt. Evans’ alpine.

Jon Glassberg atop Do or Die, V8

Ben Spannuth on Doubloons, 5.14

Fourth, the graphics/animations. As a non film person, I don’t know what they’re called. But the opening and closing credits and what? A 3D map? Awesome.

Finally, there’s just the right amount of sex appeal – classy, yet subtly revealing. Giant ‘ceps, shirtless men, and Sarah Fullerton eating blueberries whilst wearing a sports bra in a snow storm – “Happy July!”.

Jon Glassberg

Matty Hong

Ben Vernon

Dave Wetmore

Sarah Fullerton

Now, there’s one area I think LT11 could work on for next time. As an admirer of the Planet Earth series, I would have liked to see a bit more fluffy animal footage. Perhaps allowing us a glimpse into the life of the American Pika and how she escapes the lightning strikes to avoid the ultra conductive granite ground to protect her young. Or the meaning behind the shrill calls of the Yellow Bellied Marmot as he searches for his mate, or mates? Unfortunately, we’ll never really know since David Attenborough‘s name did not grace our screens in the ending credits. Next time, I’ll gladly hand over my place as the first name on the cast list, seeing as his Attenborough A would dominate my Claassen C.

For someone who doesn’t actually like climbing movies, ABYSS actually kept my attention beginning to end. The shots are dynamic, the music captivating, and best of all, a route won the spot for the climax in a bouldering movie. Bingo. Whether you’re looking for scenic landscapes, inspiring boulders, funny personalities, or just hot bodies, you’re sure to find it all in ABYSS. Nice work Rich Crowder, Jordan Shipman, and Jon Glassberg!

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