Free Solo (2018) Review

Alex Honnold attempts to be the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan, a 900m vertical rock in Yosemite National Park.


This took place in May 2017 however it all started in terms of the documentary build up in the Spring of 2016 showing Alex living in his van and preparing for attempting the solo climb. Starting with using equipment to really get to understand the rock face that he wants so much to be the first person to complete a free solo climb.

Free solo climbing, or free soloing, is a form of technical ice or rock climbing where the climbers climb alone without ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment, forcing them to rely entirely on their own individual preparation, strength, and skill.

We learn a little bit more about Alex and that during his childhood he was shy and pretty much a loner, started climbing and found himself loving the outdoors and being alone to do it. We then find out quite a bit about his relationship with girlfriend Sanni McCandless and how he was never actually bothered about being with someone, but she certainly did something to at least change that. Although it was rather interesting to see that he would put his climbing first.

In the built up to the free solo climb he has a bad ankle sprain and we even see that he has a brain scan, which in all honesty I found utterly fascinating that his reactions to stimulations are different to that of the “average” person meaning that he does not have as much fear as everyone else. I guess that makes a lot of sense with how at ease he is doing a solo climb when quite frankly the majority of people would struggle even on a small climb with ropes!

Free Solo is a truly incredible viewing experience and quite possibly the most anxious I have ever felt watching a film. Considering when the documentary was being filmed it was not even nailed on that he would even do the climb, the filmmakers understood that they had to be set up in areas that wouldn’t interfere with what he was going to attempt to achieve. My heart was racing even when he was climbing with the ropes and seeing him fall so many times, the level of detail about having to use just his thumbs to hold onto the rock was terrifying. Then seeing it launch into the solo climb pretty much has your heart stopped and you hold your breath. I mean I know we can easily find out and know that he obviously survives but that does not take away anything from how stress inducing it is to watch.

Throughout the film we are told of climbers that had died and Alex knew them and some where his friends, he saw it as that it can easily happen but this does not change his plans or stop him from doing what he loves. What is very clear though is how physically fit you have to be to sustain that level of climbing for hours on end and a true test of strength and endurance.

Breathtaking to watch.

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