This is a paragliding blog and I don’t do climbing.
It’s also fair to say that I’ve fallen asleep in dozens of movies in the past ten years all churned out by the Hollywood film making machine. You know the kind, big loud characters who are on a personal crusade to save the World from some form of evil. I sometimes wonder what people sitting behind me think when they see my head slumped to one side snoring away peacefully as the big screen plays out another fake story. Add in some CGI and a diverse cast with a good and wholesome moral at the end and bingo, you’ve got another hit! I watch these films and I feel nothing.
Then, along comes Free Solo.
This film is real. There’s simply no way to fake the feat of climbing up El Capitan without a rope, harness or any support of any kind.
My palms sweated continually throughout the entire movie. Camera angles from above showed Alex Honnold climbing a sheer wall as startled birds fly out from the very cracks that provide his only grip on this 3000 foot mountain.
To a non climber like me, it’s almost inconceivable that such a thing is even possible. To hold your nerve for nearly four hours and focus completely on that one task, but also knowing that one mistake will cost you your life in a particularly terrifying way.
I can’t even describe the tension I felt watching Alex negotiate the “Boulder Problem” pitch. This particular section not only involved some awkward hand holds but also a “Karate kick” manoeuvre to stretch his leg across to the next step at about 1700 feet above the expanse of the Yosemite valley floor.
What I also love about this film is the sense of adventure. This was a dream of Alex’s for more than nine years and it took him that long to study and plan the route before his confidence was high enough to take on the challenge. Many things in his life may have taken a back seat to accomplish such a triumph but it’s only the people with that level of dedication that can achieve something special, and Free Soloing El Cap is undoubtedly special.
Others may try to emulate what Honnold has done, but they would be foolish. This accomplishment may stand for years.