For the first time ever, the Reel Rock tour is headed to Chicago for an official tour stop, and we’re proud to be taking part as a sponsor.

We may be biased, but as long-time fans of Reel Rock, we think it’s about time the official tour came to our town—after all, Chicago is a world-class outdoor city and the climbing community is just as strong and just as passionate as any other out there.

To learn more about the history behind the tour, and partly because we’re psyched to get to participate in the October 24th screening (bought your tickets yet?), we reached out to Reel Rock Tour Director Jaime Ray to learn a bit about Reel Rock’s history and why they’re coming to Chicago:

How did Reel Rock start? What was the climbing film world like before it?

Jaime: Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell, the founders of Reel Rock, actually met each other in film school. They initially started their own production companies — Josh founded Big UP Productions and Peter started Sender Films. Up until Reel Rock, they produced a lot of individual films you might have heard of (Dosage, Rampage, etc.).

Fourteen years ago, they came together and started co-creating Reel Rock. In the beginning, they made films separately and toured them together, but over time, collaborated to make films together.

Early on, they made these very “climbing porn” style films, but together, over time, and as they got more experienced working together, the films starting evolving into real, cool stories about climbing. Reel Rock now is about telling stories about the people who climb.

This is the first year the Reel Rock tour is hosting its own screening in Chicago. Why Chicago and why now?

Really, we saw a need in the market to bring Reel Rock to Chicago. There are more climbing gyms, and more strong climbers coming out of Chicago, and clearly people who have an interest in seeing these films. So we saw the need.

How are the film subjects selected?

Really, Reel Rock tries to present what is going on in the climbing world right now. We’re filming what’s happening. We can’t necessarily orchestrate some rad event to its full extent, and sometimes people unfortunately don’t send. We’ll film someone working on something really cool, but sometimes they don’t actually do the thing. So there’s some restriction based on the reality that we want to show that journey. There isn’t really criteria, except that we’re telling a story.

Do you think the climbing world has started to recognize the Midwest in terms of its outdoor community?

The truth of matter is there are no big mountains in Chicago, not as much natural outdoor climbing as there is out west, but that’s led to places like Chicago developing gym communities to fulfill the desire to climb and explore.


We at First Ascent are stoked to see the climbing community in Chicago grow and flourish, and we’re excited to see the that community get recognized by the broader outdoor community.

Join us for the Official Reel Rock 14 tour stop at the Music Box Theatre at 7:00 PM on October 24, 2019. Buy your tickets here, and we’ll see you there!