Photographer and Filmmaker Corey Rich is no stranger to being one of the first visual artists to be on a team that documents something for the first time. Just recently, Rich helped bring Google Maps “Street View” to Yosemite’s El Capitan. Rich, an experienced rock climber, uses his skills and knowledge in the sport to envision and capture vantage points that not many others would think of.
This was the case when Rich was emailed a photo by professional Red Bull rock climber David Lama. According to Rich’s blog, the accompanying text was thin, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
“Check this out,” was all the email said. No other words were needed to accompany this picture of a unique limestone gorge with three free-standing bridges, and a pencil-thin waterfall pouring into a misty sinkhole in the background. Being a rock climber myself, I instantly saw the potential for a spectacular climbing opportunity through the streaks of blue and black limestone.
The photo was of the remote Baatara Gorge in Tannourine, Lebanon. Rich knew this location was special and a year later, with the financial and logistical support of Red Bull, Rich and Lama were on the ground. They stared in awe at this impressive sinkhole, wondering why no one had attempted to climb it before. Rich describes the first climb in the location that called “Avaatara”
David Lama found a route, bolted it, and began working on what would end up being the first ascent of a really tough 5.14d which he named Avaatara, a clever play on the words “avatar” and the name of the Baatara Gorge. The fact that David was able to climb it in only a few tries speaks to just how good David is at rock climbing.
The 90-second short film, made for sponsor Red Bull, gives us a quick 1-2 punch on how unbelievable this location and this climb were. But the real impressive work is the longer form story cut, where the team describes the unique experience.
In the film, Lebanese climber and route developer Jad Khoury speaks about how he hopes this film will show the world a different side of Lebanon.
Usually when you hear about Lebanon in the media, you don’t think about climbing or nature or activities, you only hear about war.
Rich’s film crew decided to step up the production value on their already impressive products. Between the four members, 25 bags were checked in for the journey, resulting in $3,000 worth of extra baggage fees. Rich explains that after some negotiations, the airline eventually lowered the original $7,000 quote.
The film and the photos are impressive and give us couch climbers a view into one of the world’s most unique climbing locations. In talking with Rich, he is always one to let me know he wouldn’t be able to create this incredible content without the hard work of his teammates, Dane Henry, Sean Haverstock, and Bligh Gillies. For us armchair climbers, we are grateful that this team brings us to the edge and shows us what real adventure and exploration are all about.