So got to see some movies in the Banff Mountain Film Festival last weekend in L.A., which was sweet because I missed out on it when it swung through DC this year. For those of you who don’t know about it, Banff is a film festival devoted to films about the outdoors and outdoor adventuring. I was a little disappointed with this year’s selection compared to last, but my favorite film by far was one about Eric Honnold’s free solo climb of Half Dome in Yosemite called Alone on the Wall. A nice picture of Half Dome is above, thanks to my girlfriend. And free soloing equals climbing without ropes. Yeah. The video of the climb itself has you wondering “how can he do that? He must be crazy.”
Or is he? I am not fond of heights, so what he is doing is an impossibility for me even if I did have the physical capabilities to do this sort of climbing (if you were wondering, I don’t). But just because I (and probably lots of others) have an irrational fear of heights, that doesn’t mean Alex is insane for not having that fear. I heard others remarking after the film that he must be missing some part of his brain that causes fear. I guess this is a possibility, or maybe he has developed a mental strength that allows him to overcome the fear. I think the latter, as part of the way up Half Dome, he has a moment of self doubt, and he spends several minutes hanging out on a tiny ledge just leaning on the rock, like you or I leaning against a wall with our feet firmly planted on the ground. He gathers himself and continues on.
The other thing about him was, well, he seemed so normal. And calm. There was none of the sort of typical male bravado you find in many of these “extreme” athletes. No mohawks, no tattoos, no screaming. I mean does this guy look insane:
This was the other thing about the movie I found fascinating. This guy is living out of a van, so he can pursue his love. Climbing. Reminded me of other docs I’ve watched about bands, where they are traveling around the country in a van, eking out a living, pursuing their love. Music. This single-minded devotion to a subject fascinates me. His mother talks about how he was climbing from as soon as he was physically able. I’ve never had such a passion for something. Sometimes I wish I did, but then I think about all the things I’d be missing out on in life. Is he happier soloing Half Dome than I was last Saturday running a 5k, hanging out with my girlfriend and her sister, going to the Getty Art Museum, watching a film festival, and eating a late Greek dinner with friends? Hard to say, though I think I know how the two of us would answer that question.