Free Solo is edge of the cliff drama
Watching Free Solo is enough to remind you just why you have that entirely rational fear of heights.
Lead protagonist is solo climber Alex Honnold as the action follows his June 2017 attempt to achieve a dream. This is to scale the mighty El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without any safety gear.
As you expect from a National Geographic production, Free Solo is wonderfully-shot. It’s visually stunning and created by filmmakers who are themselves expert climbers.
The documentary reveals less than 1% of people are free solo climbers. Understandably, many lose their lives in pursuit of their sport.
It’s frankly ridiculous and unbelievable to think a human being wants to do this. But that’s coming from a guy who sits with the majority of the global population in thinking: “No, you wouldn’t get me up there!”
Free Solo provides a fascinating insight into the psyche of the type of person who wants to accomplish goals like this. It raises discussion about what separates someone like Alex from the rest of us, apart from obvious core strength and ability.
Brain behind the Free Solo climb
Viewers see Alex have a brain MRI scan to determine whether something in his brain gives him a different approach to fear than most of us.
Scans reveal the amygdala isn’t active in Honnold’s case. The amygdala is a set of neutrons which sit inside the medial temporal lobe. Basically the bit that dictates fear, more of which can be found in this excellent breakdown.
This tallies with the notion he doesn’t seem aware of the risk-consequence factor as it plays out for the majority of humans. It’s an eye-opener to say the least.
The documentary details how Alex’s efforts affect other people, those close to him.
His is a very singular way of living. He discusses feeling no pressure to maximise his number of years but is instead driven by the overwhelmingly personal experience he gets from free soloing.
Those with a personal connection to him, like girlfriend Sonia, are most affected. Honnold himself tends to keep distance from others, a protective armour which allows him to continue being successful.
Certainly, El Capitan is not a place to be shaking like a leaf as you’ll pay with your life. It takes a particular kind of individual to attempt feats such as these.
Above all else, it’s a triumph of what someone is capable of. Free Solo is terrifying but intriguing for the viewer. It’s the climber himself who seems to be having most fun!
While it’s never something I’d consider hat’s off to those who do so. And the result – Alex free solo climbed it in 3hrs 56 minutes.