Classic Climbs is a new video series that follows host Dylan Welter as he climbs some of the most sought-after routes in the United States. Welter is joined on each adventure by notable guests—names like Cedar Wright and Nina Williams—often in a guiding/expert role. The episodes intersperse climbing footage, route history, geology, and interview segments to create an entertaining and informative watch.
The first thing that stood out about Classic Climbs is that it's well-produced and beautifully shot. Drone footage highlights the exposure on Ancient Art's Stolen Chimney, and displays all angles of the corkscrew formation. GoPro footage shows the climbing up-close, and traditional camera shots round out the package. The series adds up to 1:45 of content, divided into five ~21 minute episodes. Combined with the slick production, this gave the show a TV feel.
As you'd expect from the title, the series does an excellent job of presenting the full picture of each route. In the Ancient Art episode, we learn Fisher Towers history and the route's first ascent story, and we see the team throughout the ascent. But what isn't apparent from the title, is that the series is just as much about the guests as it is about the climbs. As the team ascends, we learn about guest Heidi Wirtz through an on-the-ground interview that is interspersed with the climbing. The solid cast of guests elevates the series, adding depth beyond the beauty of the routes.
Classic Climbs has an aspirational quality. Unlike climbing movies that follow pros attempting routes at the cutting edge—routes that mere mortals like myself will never even consider—Classic Climbs features moderate, achievable routes. As such, I found myself getting stoked and wanting to make plans. Having climbed two of the routes already, I got to relive my experiences while watching Welter and his guests. For the routes I haven't climbed (yet!), I enjoyed climbing vicariously through the on-screen team. Classic Climbs provides a preview of routes like the Durrance Route well beyond what you would see on Mountain Project or in a guidebook.
I found the Ancient Art and Baboquivari Peak episodes to be the standouts. Ancient Art for the sheer beauty of the Fisher Towers, and Baboquivari for highlighting a route and guests that I was less familiar with. Welter climbs Baboquivari, located in southern Arizona, with Aaron Mike and Len Necefer of Natives Outdoors. The pair provide history related to the Tohono O'odham tribe and emphasize why the outdoors need to be preserved for generations to come. It was refreshing to see this Native American history and perspective highlighted within the climbing world.
All in all, Classic Climbs is a great way to enjoy time with these incredible routes and interesting guests without leaving our couch. While nothing beats the feeling of putting skin to stone, watching Welter on his adventures is the next best thing until you're able to leave for your own big climbing trip.