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19 Feb 2019

A Crazy Climb: This Documentary About the Man Who Went Up El Capitan Without a Rope Is Simply Amazing

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A picture of Alex Honnold in Free Solo. A picture of Alex Honnold in Free Solo.

Alex Honnold had a dream: to climb the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope. That’s a strange, crazy, psycho kind of dream, but he achieved it—and directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin captured it on film.

The movie Free Solo spends much of its time on the pre-climbing ritual of training and Honnold studying El Capitan while climbing it with ropes. That stuff is harrowing enough, but when Honnold jettisons his safety harness for a climb using just his fingers and toes, things get all-out nuts.

Peppered throughout the film are mentions of the deaths of other free-climbers around the world, some of whom die while Honnold is prepping for his big day. No matter—he just keeps on plugging, much to the amazement of the camera crew and Honnold’s girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, possibly the most patient and understanding woman in the world. The final climb is a knockout—one of the most amazing things you will ever see on film.

Honnold is a nut, and I honestly hope his daredevil days are behind him, and he lives a good life off the fame he’s achieved with this climb. But something tells me he has a little too much Evel Knievel in him, and doesn’t plant to stop.

Free Solo is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033). It is also available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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