Warrior Culture #FreeSolo #AlexHonnold #Inspiration

“I think that the free soloing mentality is pretty close to warrior culture, where you give something 100% focus because your life depends on it.” -Alex Honnold, Free Solo

I am a few months “late to the party” on Free Solo, the Best Documentary Winner at this year’s Oscars. I was able to finally see it after my loan from the library finally showed up on my “hold” shelf.

It was a gripping documentary following the training, personal life, and ascent of El Capitan by Alex Honnold at Yosemite National Park situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California. The film was directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and her husband, Jimmy Chin (the pair also directed, “Meru“).

In 2017, Honnold became the first person to ever free solo the prestigious 3,200-foot wall face of the El Capitan. Free soloing is climbing without the use of ropes at all. The film covers the filmmakers, who are also all elite climbers, and friends of Honnold, and their own fear and anxiety of Honnold’s climbing in the making of the movie. It also covers Honnold’s upbringing and how it shaped his somewhat distant and detached personality. Honnold started free soloing as a teen because of shyness and not wanting to talk to other climbers. One of the most intriguing plot lines of the film is Honnold’s relationship with his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless.

One of Honnold’s climbing buddies that plays a prominent role in the film is Tommy Caldwell, the first climber to ascend the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in 19 days with his climbing partner, Kevin Jorgeson. His ascent and journey climbing it was documented in the film, “The Dawn Wall,” directed by Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer (Free to watch with an Amazon Prime subscription). As an accomplished, world-famous climber himself from Estes Park, Colorado, Caldwell provides commentary on both the risk of the attempt and the mindset.

At one point in the film, doctors perform an MRI on Honnold to see if something’s wrong with his brain. It turns out either as a genetic anomaly or because of the regular high-risk activities he engages, Honnold’s amygdala, the brain’s fear center, showed a significantly smaller response than the normal brain. One of the conclusions in the film was that the test didn’t provide sufficient stimuli to trigger the amygdala like it would in the average person.

The film is engaging, thought-provoking and inspiring to consider what is possible.

“Free Solo” / National Geographic Documentary Films

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