Great opinion piece in the NYT about it:
Great opinion piece in the NYT about it:
I used to climb 5.13 and even free soloed at times (always alone) but I don't like how it's done today. If anyone is climbing without a rope and doing it for profit then there's a problem. Although there aren't very many soloists who die doing it, the game is changed when financial gain gets involved. I especially don't like it when there are sponsors involved. I understand everyone has to make a living but it's just like those who have died from talking selfies in high or dangerous places in order to make money. You may have heard of guy who recently died trying to make some money for his mother by taking dangerous footage high atop a structure. Sad story.
While it's an impressive physical accomplishment to solo these type of climbs, it's not some kind of miracle. Not having to mess with pro or wait for a partner certainly speeds things up and reduces the physical cost or expenditure of the climb. I won't likely watch the show because it promotes these people taking undue risks beyond what they might do just for themselves. If they want to do it alone just because then I'm okay with it.
This comment for the NYT opinion was haunting:
PPMD Times Pick
Bret, As the mother of an extreme athlete, a rock climber who I know would have agreed that, either you get it right or you're going to die, I can't watch the film.
All those years ago when my young son, Dean Potter was at the top of his climbing career, I could agree with Honnold's mom, "How can you even think of taking that away from somebody?" Today, 3 years, 5 months and 10 days since Dean fell to his death B.A.S.E. jumping off of El Cap, I feel like you, Bret, it's not supposed to be that way, a parent shouldn't have to bury their child.
Dean admired Alex and would have cheered him on. I send him every blessing I can think of.
A film that spends most of its time explaining the dangers of free soloing and why someone would do it is stating the obvious for climbers. That could be condensed into a minute. Climbing is what we wanted to see, and we got a little of it.
That's true - though even for non-climbers like me, as soon as someone answers your question "What does free solo mean?" you also know the dangers, you don't need to be a climber to get that, haha! I thought the movie was great, but I had my eyes closed for much of the climbing scenes. Even though I knew he made it, obviously, it just made me too queasy to do more than peek here and there to see what he was doing. Obviously, the filmmakers needed the film to be commercially viable. My perspective on the background stuff (girlfriend, relationship with family, etc.) is that it helped me to bond with Alex as a person, and not just see him as some weird freak of nature who thinks only of climbing at the expense of all else.
I admit to an overall feeling of sadness during the movie; he came across as so likeable, smart, and funny that all I could think of is that, talented and careful as he is, if he keeps doing this he is unlikely to live to a ripe old age. And while I always feel sorry when I hear of a climber losing his or her life in a climbing accident, it will almost feel personal to me if something happens to Alex Honnold, because the filmmakers did such a good letting me think I know him (a little bit) as a person, and not just as a real-life Spiderman.
Anyway, agree that climbers would not have been as interested, but for me I thought it was great.
I thought it was the best documentary I've ever seen. I've been a huge fan of Jimmy Chin ever since I saw Meru, which was the only other documentary I've seen that I thought was as good as Free Solo. I climb―not a huge amount, but enough to feel like I have some clue of how insanely difficult that must have been, both mentally and physically.
I do think that they overdid the significance of his relationship with his girlfriend (not that their relationship isn't significant, it just felt like the story of the climb was overshadowed by the story of their relationship, which seemed backwards).
I'm really curious to see what Alex does now. He made it sound at the end of the film like he might be backing off from pushing the limits of free soloing. I wouldn't be at all surprised if after completing the climb of El Cap that he'd been working towards for so many years, he experienced what thru-hikers call post trail depression -- in case anyone hasn't heard that term before, it's the depression that often sets in when you succeed at something that's been your primary goal/motivator for a really long time. I've experienced this on a couple of trips I've taken, and those were only a couple of months long each, so I can imagine it might be incredibly strong when you finish a decade-long project. I can't imagine Alex just sitting around and enjoying life "at home"―he's been a climbing dirtbag (that is not at all meant as an insult) for way too long to start living a normal-ish life.
What do you all think he's going to throw himself into next?
I was wondering the same thing, Jessee. It seems like a lot of people like him need to do something even more epic next time. I'm that way. I don't know how athletes retire in their 30s and then just chillax. I wouldn't be able to. I need to feel like I'm doing something epic that pushes me.
I always viewed Alex as this calm, zen-master of climbing. He's so smooth and calculated. In my mind he is still all those things. But the documentary altered my perception because I started seeing parallels with those who've perished pushing the edge, like Dean Potter. The concept of perfecting a tough route enough to climb it confidently without pro excites him. Why isn't flashing Free Rider with adequate protection enough? He's taking something so safe and making it dangerous to make a point that he can climb it flawlessly. This is the discipline of mastering playing with fire. The same discipline of wing suiters and snake wranglers. The idea that they can avoid death on something so unimaginably difficult due to their abilities excites them enough to do it. Isn't that what an adrenaline junkie is?
While it's an impressive physical accomplishment to solo these type of climbs, it's not some kind of miracle. Not having to mess with pro or wait for a partner certainly speeds things up and reduces the physical cost or expenditure of the climb. I won't likely watch the show because it promotes these people taking undue risks beyond what they might do just for themselves. If they want to do it alone just because then I'm okay with it
100% agree. I feel it's reckless. More and more experienced climbers are getting hurt or killed running out easy terrain every year according to the Accidents in North American Climbing. I can't help but wonder if Alex Honnold being the poster child of the climbing is perpetuating the poor choices being made that lead to these accidents.
He just gave a great TED talk!
I wonder how this would have all played out if he had died in the attempt. Or how this will play out if a few more people die in similar attempts if they are filming it or have a large number of supporters in the endeavor. There seem to be an awful lot of companies like Red Bull who are raking in the money of promoting extreme sports. These sports are causing a large number of injuries that's for sure. Not to say humans haven't pushed themselves to crazy levels before but it seems like it's the new gladiator sport and we are pacifying the populace by treating them to the events. At whose expense?? I say this as someone who like I said before has spent his life doing risky things and I've injured myself plenty while doing it. Nor have I stopped doing many of those dangerous things.
I wonder how this would have all played out if he had died in the attempt.
Years ago I noticed a set of base-jumping photos in the basement of a friend's house. He said he left them up to remember the previous tenant, Jan Davis, who died base jumping in Yosemite. She was extremely experienced, beloved by the base jumping community, and the last of 5 to go off El Cap during a demo to plead for making base jumping legal in national parks. Photographers and news crews were there along with a large group of spectators.
That pretty much sealed it for the national parks. Base jumping has stayed illegal.
This is a fascinating profile of Jimmy and his co-director and wife who made the film, Elizabeth Chai. You can really understand how they made such a great film:
Huh, that was really interesting. They're SO different from each other. Jimmy still has some of the climber-dirtbag vibe, even though he's not really anymore, whereas Elizabeth Chai has a sort of high-society feel (I don't mean either of those terms as insults). It's sort of surprising to me that they ended up together, but it seems to work really well for them.
Also, I've seen clips of Alex on the wall about 100 times now, and it still gives me chills.
As a competitive cyclist I cringe every time the commentators explain things that are obvious to me. And I lament the wasted background time that could be spent on better coverage. But if all the coverage was for people who have pinned a number on 1000 times, the audience would be trivially small. I suspect a climbing movie made for folks who can climb a 5.12 or better would be similarly popular, yet Free Solo just won an Oscar 😜
I'm psyched a climbing movie got the Oscar this year! To me the climber, I immediately asked myself why did Free Solo get the Oscar and not Dawn Wall? I liked Dawn Wall better, but Free Solo was a better documentary. Sure, the climbing explanations were dumbed down to the masses, and incredibly difficult to sit through, but they followed the Honnold's and constructed a story around a concrete event. A very very good story.