In June of 2017, a young rock climber named Alex Honnold broke a world record in Yosemite National Park, becoming the first person ever to free solo the iconic granite wall towering over Yosemite Valley. He climbed all 3,200 feet of El Capitan without a partner and without any ropes or safety gear, in a nail-biting three hours and 56 minutes.
It was a superhuman feat, but on the way to accomplishing it, he grappled with the very human feelings of success and failure, fear and love. And a film crew followed him. The resulting work, a gripping and suspenseful documentary film called Free Solo, chronicles two years of training and setbacks as Honnold prepared for and ultimately accomplished his life’s goal.
In this interview, we speak with Free Solo’s husband-wife directors, filmmaker Chai Vasarhelyi and filmmaker-alpinist Jimmy Chin, about Honnold’s engaging story, as well as the ethical challenges of documenting his historic climb.
You can find screenings of the film here.