Valley Uprising Documentary Review


Author: Steven Shaw
Date: 09.20.17

Valley Uprising is an incredible behind the scenes look at the rise of Yosemite’s rock climbing counterculture.

The 2014 documentary, directed, produced and written by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen, covers the first 50 years of climbing in Yosemite. The sequential film is weaved with commentary from climbing icons from start of the sport through present day.


Valley Uprising is fast paced and riveting from the very first minute when viewers are introduced to climbing legends such as Royal Robbins and Warren Harding.

Mortimer and Rosen expertly explain the two rivals and their legacy left in Yosemite.  Robbins with his methodical, detail oriented and purest approach to climbing is contrasted by Harding’s anti-puritan, hard drinking fly by the tips of your fingers and soles of your feet mentality.

For more than a decade the two sparred, each attempting to best the other with new first ascents. Robbins conquered the Northwest Face of Half Dome in 1957, a feat that cemented his already growing legacy in Yosemite folklore. Not to be outdone, Harding answered with the first ascent of the The Nose on El Capitan in 1958. It’s a pattern that would continue for years.

The documentary continues with the introduction of the “Stonemasters” and the rise of 70’s climbing legends such as John Bachar and others. This new batch of climbers standing on the shoulders of Robbins and Harding took climbing to new heights with the introduction of free climbing, and, in Bachar’s case, pioneering free soloing.

Valley Uprising concludes with the introduction of the “Stone Monkeys.”  The latest group of Yosemite climbers testing the limits and pushing the sport to new heights.  The late Dean Potter and Alex Honnold speak throughout, offering their perspectives on the changing culture of climbing in Yosemite.

The film covers it all - making a boatload of cash pillaging a crashed plane full of weed, run ins with the National Park Service, the evolution of Camp 4 and much more. Got an hour and half to burn?  We highly recommend you check out Valley Uprising.

Trails of interest:

  1. Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
  2. Yosemite Falls Trail
  3. Columbia Rock via the Yosemite Falls Trail
  4. Mirror Lake Trail (YNP)
  5. May Lake Trail (YNP)