In the Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy – which, from now on, will be the only Middle-Earth movie saga officially recognised by Movie Quibble – the characters carry out many acts of heroic sacrifice and bravery. Battles are fought, brethren are lost, and pipe weed is smoked in the most copious amounts. In the end, of course, the evil Lord Sauron’s armies are vanquished by the might of the
light side of the force the Fellowship, but it is important not to lose sight of the smaller deeds that led to eventual victory. For that reason, it seems only right to highlight some of the unsung feats of rock climbing prowess on display during the final War of the Ring, featuring some of your best loved Middle-Earthlings.
Gandalf the Grade Sticks the Dyno of Khazad Dum
The Mines of Moria are notorious for poor wall maintenance, as well the erroneous stairway collapse now and then. But no true chalk head can resist the beautiful climbing opportunities this gigantic underground bouldering gym affords. Where the Dwarves truly outdid themselves was with the bridge of Khazad Dum; to some an impossible challenge, but to a wizard? Bah! Watch here as Gandalf finishes the problem with spellbinding athleticism. It’s quite the leap of faith.
His spotter, B-rog, can be seen far below. But he needn’t have worried about Gandalf plummeting back down into the dark abyss. This is one seasoned climber right here.
He just needs to leg up and top out now. Pay special attention to Gandalf’s choice of hand placements on the top ledge there. That grip is going nowhere. Still, the sheer exertion of the climb is obvious – the facial expressions are sign enough of that. You can tell he’s been climbing hard. But a wizard is never pumped, nor does he in fact develop any buildup of lactic acid in the forearms; he climbs precisely as he means to.
Pippin Gets Fired Up on the Torch of Gondor
No one had ever attempted an unroped ascent of Minas Tirith before Peregrin Took, also known The Toke, due to his renowned intake of the halfling-herb (word has it he refuses to get on rock unless stoned). He didn’t even prepare with a practice safety climb before going for the real thing. This was an unprotected on-sight. And, as you can see from the clip above, this is one route on which you do not want to deck out.
The Torch of Gondor has been lit! The beacon is used to signal to the mountaineers of Middle-Earth that Winter is at last over and the climbing season has officially begun. As if climbing up wasn’t enough, Pippin chose to climb back down to the ground rather than accept the massage and second breakfast of Clif bars and Lembas bread awaiting him at the summit. He did partake of an amply filled pipe bowl, however.
Fun fact: Hobbits do not need to wear conventional rubber climbing shoes when on the rock, owing to their tremendously durable and leathery feet, for which they are Earth-famous. Even if they wanted to, their freakoid flippers would never fit anyway.
Legolas Sends the Mumakil (V1 + Moving Wall + Armed Attackers = V8)
Watch Mirkwood’s leading adventure climber and competition ale drinking champion Legolas beast this monster problem, which was expertly laid from a distance of thirty yards by Rohan’s archery route-setting specialists. He’s always up to the tusk…
Some burly moves on display right there. The leg to leg transfer and the pendulum swing were both particularly impressive. It was also a bold decision to slice one of the belays of the multi-pitch to assist in the climb. The Haradrim should have secured their 20-man elephant harness against trunkation like that, really. Too easy.
Gollum – The Ultimate Dirt Bag
A few hundred odd years spent dwelling in caves has fashioned Smeagol into a God among Half-men. Caressing a ring can’t have been his only occupation when he was all alone in the wilderness. No, no. He was climbing! Overhangs, cracks, slabs, trees, mountain ledges – nothing was too edgy for Gollum! In this scene, centuries of hardcore hermit training come together as he reverse down-climbs a 30ft crag with the grace of a cockroach.
If you really want to climb hard and get that full range of motion then it has to be loin cloths only. Tank tops are for tools.
Frodo’s Mount Doom Deadhang
And you thought sweaty palms were a problem! Try getting on the rocks mere seconds after losing your index finger, as blood pumps profusely all over your hands and into your mouth.
Luckily, Frodo Chalk-Baggins has been hitting the boards of Campus and Hang for many moons, and it pays off hugely here. The strength required to catch and secure yourself on a rounded handhold of volcanic rock while falling (mid-fight with a fellow climber who has just bitten off one of your appendages, no less) is beyond normal human/halfling comprehension. This may just be Frodo’s finest hour.
Some serious wall deterioration occurring at this location. It’s abombadillable… There’s rockfall all over the place! But Frodo Chalk-Baggins isn’t put off by life-threatening distractions like that.
A slippery slope indeed. This is where that extra finger strength can really be appreciated. Believe it or not, blood actually assists in climbing difficult routes – the conscious awareness that your own life-fluid is coming out of you jolts the system into fight or flight mode, giving an added energy boost and providing the edge needed to get that final move down.
Gandalf: All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is- OH YEAH BABY THAT’S HOW IT’S DONE! WOOOOEEEE! GET SOME!
WARNING: Deep Lava Soloing is for trained professionals only. Do not attempt unless you are in a film and the molten rock is actually just a green mattress which will later be replaced with VFX. See the clip below, a harrowing example of just how dangerous this extreme sport can be.