Climbing season to kick off with film festival in Jackson

The Teton Rock Gym is presenting Reel Rock, featuring films where climbing fosters community and athletes push the limits of the sport.
Urwah Askar climbs a route graded 5.12d at Yabrud, a occupied Palestinian territory. (Austin Siadak/Reel Rock)

by | Apr 13, 2023 | Recreation, Teton Valley

Shoulder season has brought most events in Jackson Hole to a screeching halt, but the rock climbing season is just about to kick off. 

The community will have an opportunity to get motivated Saturday in Jackson at a showing of Reel Rock. The traveling film festival is coming to Jackson for the first time in at least five years. 

The Driggs-based Teton Rock Gym already presented the documentaries in Teton Valley last month. Jen Piperno, the gym’s development director, said the team wanted to show the films again in Jackson to help foster community, since the town won’t have a gym of its own until next year. 

“I think that providing a film festival is an opportunity to bring those folks together who otherwise don’t get to come together especially in the winter months,” she said. 


A mix of films

According to Piperno, the films show how different people can make climbing part of their lives. 

One follows French athlete Sébastien Bouin as he tackles what may be the world’s hardest route. Another highlights an Austrian duo’s attempt to ascend the “Nameless Tower” in Pakistan. 

“It’s a mix of pure, hard climbing videos,” she said, “and also the deeper importance of climbing and what it can mean to not only a community but to individuals.”

One of the docs, Resistance Climbing, highlights Palestinians finding community through climbing, while living in conflict zones.

Piperno said this film stood out for her as a reminder that access to climbing isn’t guaranteed for everyone. 

“I think we take it for granted where we live, that we have access to the sport and access to equipment and access to climbing areas,” Piperno said. “I think it’s important to remember that that’s not the case for many people around the world.”

Making climbing accessible

Still, Piperno said people in Jackson and Teton Valley can face challenges when it comes to climbing, from language barriers to economic ones.

This year’s Reel Rock showing is a fundraising opportunity for Teton Rock Gym, a nonprofit. Piperno said proceeds could help the organization continue to provide educational opportunities and make climbing more accessible to the community.

“We like to make sure that people feel comfortable learning the skills of climbing, and we like to think that the gym is a safe space for them to learn those skills that they’ll need to hopefully go outside,” Piperno said.

Doors open at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 15 at Jackson High School. Tickets are available here.

Hanna Merzbach is also a member of Teton Rock Gym in Driggs, Idaho.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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