Free Soloing – i.e. free climbing that foregoes the use of any ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment. Seems risky, right? Even more so when the climber (in this case Alex Honnold) chooses to free solo climb Yosemite National Park’s 3,200 foot El Capitan… *gulp*
FREE SOLO documentary co-director Jimmy Chin decided to make a film about Honnold after making his previous film, MERU. Chin describes Honnold as “an anomaly” who is “on a totally different level” in terms of skill, strength, difficulty and risk. Chin’s wife and co-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi had a lot to consider when planning to make (or not make) this film. Would they be culpable if there were a disaster? Did they want to encourage this dangerous feat?
Ultimately, the decision came down to their trust in Honnold and respect for his plan to make this solo climb regardless of whether or not it was to be filmed.
When it came to the filmmaking, the entire crew had to be professional climbers, since they had to be up close and personal with the El Capitan and the Yosemite terrain while Honnold was climbing, and even climb themselves. “Climber first, filmmaker second,” Chin states. Here, he elaborates on the challenges of that intense multi-tasking:
“I don’t think I can survive another MERU,” says Chin. The stresses of making a film with such high risk for its subjects were very real. On top of that, Chin was also working on a magazine story for National Geographic, taking photographs, and thereby adding a third layer to the already-intense tasks of climbing and filmmaking. He chats about that here:
Despite all the challenges, the film culminated into something that you won’t soon forget. Rolling Stone raves, “As Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan solo and without a net, you feel every adrenaline-pumping moment.” And the Los Angeles Times says, “Both intimate and expansive, Free Solo is a documentary beautifully calculated to literally take your breath away. And it does.”
You won’t want to miss the rush.
About the film:
From award-winning documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin, comes FREE SOLO, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock… the 3,200ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park… without a rope
View the trailer:
Where to see it: