Let me start by saying that I am afraid of heights. Looking out of a tenth story window can make me feel a little queasy.
For that reason, and many others, the idea of climbing a mountain without ropes has never really appealed to me.
Alex Honnold is made of sterner stuff. He’s chosen this as his career, much in the same way someone might decide to be an accountant. He is one of the world’s leading free climbers and the documentary ‘Free Solo’ shows him in action as he surefootedly climbs from tiny foothold to tiny foothold without a care in the world.
His ambition is to climb the daunting El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a feat that even the fleetest mountain goat would bulk at. In fact, no one has ever succeeded in free climbing El Capitan.
The documentary follows him on his attempt. Along the way we see him and his long-suffering girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, deal with the practice runs, failures and death of fellow climbers that are standard in this world. Anyone watching, probably most of the time through the fingers of the hands covering their faces, has to have the utmost sympathy for Sanni as she tries to justify loving a man who seemingly has a death wish.
By the time we watch his final ascent of El Capitan we have a full grasp of just how to dangerous and incredible this feat is and though we may still feel that Honnold needs psychiatric evaluation we can’t help but admire the skill, courage, and tenacity of the man.
At the very least this epic film will explain to you as if you needed to be told, that free climbing is not for you.