Dave Rowland loves dirt bags. They are the hardcore climbers, “vagabonds” who often lead meager existences so they can constantly travel to the next mountain or boulder. For them, climbing is a way of life. It is for Rowland, too, but he can’t be a full-time dirt bag because, among other things, he’s president of Philadelphia Rock Gym and oversees its five indoor facilities.
PRG’s locations recently reopened, with COVID-19 mitigation protocols firmly in place. But the months-long shutdown put a financial hurt on PRG and nearly decimated smaller climbing-focused businesses across the country. “There are a lot of small vendors in the community, including some that are run by one or two people,” says Rowland. “As a climber, my ethic is that when the community is in trouble, I should help.”
Rowland’s original idea was to do a grant program. Then he remembered PsicoRoc. Held in Summersville, W.V., in 2016, PsicoRoc—dirt-bag lingo for psycho rock climbing—was the first deep-water soloing competition in the United States. Climbers free solo (without safety ropes) on cliffs overhanging bodies of water. At PsicoRoc, 16 professional climbers dangled over Summersville Lake, often plunging 30-70 feet into the water. A professional film crew captured the beauty, difficulty and danger of the event. “We want to tell the story of how cool it was to come together and bootstrap the event,” Rowland says.
Now, Rowland and his climbing compadres in the Camp Five Collection are working to bring it to audiences. They launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish the film and raise much-needed funds for small business owners. Danny Black, an avid climber and musician with Philadelphia indie folk band Good Old War, is creating a soundtrack for the film. “I’m honored to be part of this,” Black says. “It’s a ‘lights on’ campaign to offset the burden that COVID has placed on the climbing community.”
With the initial mission of raising $100,000 and a long-term goal of $400,000, the Camp Five Collection aims to provide various levels of financial aid—and possibly host another PsicoRoc event. As incentive, the Kickstarter campaign offers a lot of Camp Five swag, plus amazing sneak peeks of the film. Donors can also get gear emblazoned with “Dirtbag Proud” branding. “That pretty much says it all,” Rowland says. “It’s who we are and the culture we want to preserve.”