Free Solo

“Free soloing is so dangerous that less than 1% of people who climb attempt it.”

What mad man would do that? … Alex Honnold for example. He is one of the few people who spend their life climbing without any rope, means without safety or protection. If he falls, he is dead. In “Free Solo” we accompany him on his most dangerous climb yet, El Capitan. The 3,000ft high mountain is located in the Yosemite National Park and has been his dream to be crested for his entire life. The documentary is filmed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and the world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin.

With a run time of 100 minutes, the documentary is surprisingly long. Therefore I was very happy to not only see free climbing but also to get to know the circumstances around the film shooting of Alex’s climb and the discussion whether it should be done or not. Beyond that, I’m also glad to learn more about the character of Alex, the people surrounding him and especially his attitudes and biography a little. Still, it could’ve been shortened to 80 minutes because the documentary lost some of my attention in the beginning.

Nevertheless, the last part of the film in particular is very gripping and exciting although I knew how it would end. Just seeing Alex climbing all the way up these bold rock walls which you’d think are impossible to pass, was nearly mind-blowing. I noticed several times where I was like: “No way this can work … oh man … how?!?”

“Free Solo” also gives attention to the fact that every free solo climber knows a bunch of other climbers who died doing what they love. Further, we learn how it must be to be in a relationship with a free climber, balancing romanticism and keeping some kind of distance between each other due to the fact that your boyfriend could die at any given time during climbing. One false step and it is over, your love is gone. Getting into that is very hard. That for, it is a quite lonely life, in which you try not to bond with someone too much and on the other hand have a harder time finding somebody who is willing to go that path with you. An aspect of free soloing I would’ve loved to see more from because I highly admire those people and I’m curious about how they can deal with that pressure. It is probably the hardest for a free climber.

Free soloing is one of the most dangerous sports in the world and I can’t understand the people doing it but still admire them for the courage they have of letting go of life and loved ones at any given moment.