free solo yosemite el capitan

Free Solo: Climbing El Capitan Without A Rope

Part of my motivation for moving back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming was a return to being immersed in nature on a daily basis. That said, it can be a little overwhelming to live in a town where everyone has pushed the limit farther than the next guy.  The person behind you at the coffee shop summitted Everest twice, the person standing next to you looking at produce is in all those snowboarding films you watch and oh look it’s Jimmy Chin your photography inspiration walking down the street. But that’s part of why we love it here.  We get to be ourselves and do the things we love in a town where bears walk down the street sometimes, where we hear wolves howling and where moose live in our backyard. This place understands my need to remain untamed.

Last night we went to see “Free Solo” a film by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. Free Solo is an intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope.

The film is incredible.  Even while sitting in my seat in the movie theatre my stomach did flips everytime the camera went over a cliff.  The invitation to see what goes into both the physical and mental training for this type of climb is one you can’t pass up. The one question I walked out of the theatre with was “what really motivates us and what price are we willing to pay to explore those motivations?”

I know that many people can watch the trailer for this film and say “he has a death wish” and dismiss both the film and the passion that drives this climber. Maybe he does.  Free soloing and mountain climbing, in general, can be pretty dangerous.  This is something that the film treats with respect.   But maybe Alex also has a desire for perfection and grace.  So many of us seek routes of escapism that slowly chip away at the core of who we are. Alex found a method of escapism that appears to bring him in direct alignment with the core of who he is. And although it was terrifying to watch, it was also wildly beautiful.

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