Last Sunday, my friend and I went to see the most insanely gripping movie…
Free Solo is a documentary about mountain climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park — that’s 3,000 feet of vertical rock — without any ropes or gear.
I was awestruck by Alex’s physical strength — and the 3,000-foot drop beneath him. Before trying it solo, he practiced climbing the mountain many times while wearing ropes. By the end, the whole mountain was choreographed; as he fell asleep at night, he would mentally walk through the steps — a toe here, half a thumb here. He lives in a van! He does pull-ups with one finger!
But, in the five days since I’ve seen the movie, the way his mind works has stuck with me. Can you imagine knowing, while climbing an infamously impossible rock face, that if your every single move, step, finger and toe isn’t 100% perfect, you will fall to certain death?
Sometimes Alex begins to panic and has to walk it back. “There are certainly better technical climbers than me. But if I have a particular gift, it’s a mental one — the ability to keep it together where others might freak out,” he says. “You will always feel fear, but over time you will realize the only way to truly manage your fear is to broaden your comfort zone.”
Isn’t he scared of dying? For him, the risk is worth it. He told his girlfriend, “I, in no way, feel obligated to maximize lifetime.”
Have you seen Free Solo? WE were on the edge of our seats. It would be amazing to see on the IMAX.
(Photos from Free Solo/National Geographic/Jimmy Chin.)