Wall Walker 

Climber Chris Sharma inspires local effort

Not many people can say they're the best in the world at anything, but Chris Sharma can. He has solo bragging rights as the world's best rock climber.

Sharma has essentially been defining and dominating the world's rock climbing scene since he was 15 years old. Now he's 25, and the new film about his globe-trotting, rock-scaling feats, King Lines: Chris Sharma's Search for the Planet's Greatest Climbs, will stop in Boise on the Reel Rock North American film tour. The film will show in more than 60 cities during its tour circuit that kicks off in Squamish, B.C., for the two-month travel schedule. The Boise State Outdoor Recreation Center is presenting the Emmy Award-winning film in the Student Union Building on September 28 in the Special Events Center.

Geoff Harrison, assistant director of Boise State's Campus Recreation Outdoor Program, has bigger plans for the draw the film will have on the outdoor and climbing community in Boise.

"We thought if we brought a cool, hip film that [it] might attract people who are not climbers," said Harrison.

Attracting a large crowd will give Harrison and the Boise Climbers Alliance (BCA) an opportunity to inform the public and the outdoor/climbing community about the Black Cliffs Cleanup. Brian Fedigan, treasurer of BCA, will speak at the film festival about what is happening at the cliffs.

The BCA is an education and advocacy group for climbers that focuses on access and impact to climbing areas in the Treasure Valley. Providing a voice and community for local climbers, the BCA originally formed in 1999 to help protect raptors at the Black Cliffs. In conjunction with the Access Fund's signature stewardship program, Adopt-a-Crag, the cleanup will unite local climbers and encourage communication with developers.

The Access Fund is a national advocacy group dedicated to conserving climbing areas and has granted BCA funds to put up educational kiosks at the cliffs to keep users aware of recent developments, closures and preservation issues. Typically meeting once a month, the BCA has had its hands full with helping protect the recreation area since it has been zoned for a new neighborhood.

The ever-popular basalt climbing area east of Boise is slated for major development that will perch at the edge of the cliffs. The first neighborhood to arrive, called Skyline, is going in at Hammer Flats. Putting an entire neighborhood above a heavily-used recreation area creates conservation-specific issues that Harrison and the BCA hope to address through the Adopt-a-Crag program.

"The cliffs may be on public land, but it's a private development being built at Hammer Flats. Maintaining public access to these areas is important," said Harrison.

Public access is a 130-year-old concept that only comes to public attention when an area is threatened, but Idaho boasts the most public-accessible land in the country. The Frank Church Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states, and Idaho is 68 percent public land, the Black Cliffs included.

"The cleanup is a day of activism to show that we value this area," said Harrison.

Harrison believes conservation is the responsibility of the user. The cleanup and preservation effort for the cliffs includes access for trail maintenance, trash pickup, erosion prevention and learning about the future of Carbody Canyon, which is owned by the developers. The BCA has been in talks with developers to ensure that access will remain open to the cliffs.

Especially of concern for climbers is the safety issue raised by the prospect of the new development going up above the cliffs. Loose rock, climbing and heavy foot traffic on the edge above creates a precarious and potentially deadly mix. Keeping cliffs users informed and involved is part of a preventative effort being made by BCA.

"If we can use the film to bring people in, have a great evening, we're hoping to inspire local involvement to preserve our climbing areas," said Harrison. "Even if 200 people come to the film festival and 40 of them come out to help, that would be great."

Watching a spectacular climber may make folks feel like gripping the rock themselves, but access advocates will encourage film-goers to grip a shovel for a day instead.

The cleanup effort meets at the Outdoor Center at Boise State on September 29. Carpool to the cliffs for a day of appreciation through preservation and maintenance. Harrison suggests participants bring work gloves, a shovel, sunscreen, a hat, water, lunch and a go-to-it attitude. What they'll take home is a sense of pride and maybe a better of knowledge of why Sharma's own accomplishments are as impressive as they are, especially after seeing the film.

A cooperative filmmaking effort by Peter Mortimer of Sender Films and Josh Lowell of BigUP Productions, King Lines highlights Sharma working the first ascent of a spectacular arch, Es Pontas, in the Mediterranean Sea in Mallorca, Spain. Since he's climbing without a rope, every time Sharma misses the hold on an all-out, seven-foot dynamic move (meaning he jumps for the next hold), he plummets 50 feet to the sea below.

Unless you're an all-out climbing freak, watching someone cling to a rock wall, grunt and grab the next hold isn't non-stop action. But Mortimer and Lowell combine their filmmaking prowess and utilize multiple high-definition cameras, cranes, helicopters and state-of-the-art rigging techniques to showcase Sharma's unbelievable talent.

As big as the world of rock climbing is, it remains a remarkably tight community, even internationally. Sharma's accomplishments are the next climbing kid's goal, and even as Sharma redefines what is humanly possible on rock, this film illuminates his personal humility. Raised Buddhist in Santa Cruz, Calif., Sharma has an abiding respect for all things living, an ideology in harmony with a conservation effort to preserve, if not the world's best then, one of the Treasure Valley's most beloved climbing areas.

Reel Rock Film Festival, September 28. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., tickets $6 in advance, available at the Boise State Outdoor Center, or $8 at the door. Boise State Special Events Center, 1700 University Dr. Adopt-a-Crag Cliffs Cleanup, September 29, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; meet at the Outdoor Center. For more information, contact Geoff Harrison at 208-426-2628 or gharriso@boisestate.edu.

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