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Posts Tagged ‘El Capitan’

Alex Hannold

“FREE SOLO” My rating: B (Opens Oct. 26 at the Tivoli)

100 minutes | MPAA rating:PG-13

The faint of heart had best pass on “Free Solo,” a mountaineering documentary with so many close calls that the audience spends a good chunk of the running time with their hearts in their throats.

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s film follows young Alex Honnold, who eschews pitons and ropes and the usual paraphernalia of mountain climbing in favor of his hands and feet.  As a free soloist, he clambers up impossible cliffs with nothing but his own strength and a sort of sixth sense about what cracks and indentations can accommodate his fingers and toes to support his weight.

“Free Solo” follows Honnold over two years as he prepares to be the first to freestyle climb Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, viewed by mountaineers as “the most impressive wall on earth.” We also learn that the most famous of Honnold’s fellow free soloists have fallen to their deaths…it’s a high-mortality calling.

There’s a good deal of information here about how Honnold approaches this killer challenge.  He has climbed El Capitan dozens of times using ropes  and safety equipment, trying to decide what route he’ll take once he’s on his own.  Frequently he loses his grip and falls. The lines that save him won’t be there on the day of the big climb.

Over time he maps out in his head every nook and cranny of the 2,000-foot tall mountain face, and choreographs his every move, planning what each hand and foot will be doing in a sort of life-or-death choreography.

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