Monday, August 5, 2019

Movie Review: Free Solo

Last night I watched the documentary Free Solo. It was both terrifying and exhilarating.

Free Solo tells the story of the man, Alex Honnold, who, in 2017, first free climbed El Capitan's 900-meter (2,950 foot) vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.

In climber parlance, "free climbing" means without ropes or any safety gear. And "solo" of course means by himself.

Honnold didn't walk up to El Capitan and start climbing. No, he climbed it several times before with ropes to make sure he knew how to climb the mountain. And if he made a mistake, the ropes would save him. He paid particular attention to spots that were difficult to climb and practiced them to get it right.

But even with all the preparation he did, free climbing is a case of "one mistake and you're dead." Literally. He had to concentrate only on the climb and do everything perfectly or he would die. And that was true from probably one hundred feet off the ground to the top.

Alex's strength was amazing. At one point they show him doing pull ups. And you think "okay, he's doing pull ups." Then they show that he's lifting himself by his fingers using a "pull up board" like the one here.

But there are times during the climb he is relying on his fingers to hold his body weight.

He tried to climb the mountain in November of 2016, which required him to start in the pre-dawn darkness so that the sun was in the right position when he got to a particular section so it was light correctly for him to see what he was doing. But he "bailed" after a few hundred feet. He tried again in June of 2017 and that's when he managed to do the climb.

I told my wife it reminded me a bit of driving on the racetrack. It took concentration and if you screwed up there was a chance of death or injury. But usually you just lost time and didn't do a perfect lap.

Free Solo is an intense and exhilarating movie and I recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know this was a thing. I'll have to check this movie out!