If any one can make the perilous professional sport of rock climbing sexy and glamorous, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi can. In Free Solo, their latest documentary (the couple made the extraordinary Meru), they turn their lens on renowned climber Alex Honnold, as he fulfills a dream, to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Of course he had done this before, utilizing all the tools of his trade including ropes, but now he wants to go it without. Needless to say, many have died attempting to climb without this support. To add to the drama, Alex is also in a relationship with Sanni. The charm of Free Solo is that the film goes into Alex’s personal, eccentricities, living in a van, eating with a spatula as his utensil of choice. He’s quite the barbarian, softened by a lovely blond who teaches him to say, I love you.
As if these heights were not enough, National Geographic hosted the premiere in a space known for its lofty stature and terrific views, and topped that by adding a VR journey on El Capitan. Let’s just say, this rock is not for sissies. Guests received the pouch Alex used to hold his chalk on that day, and his metal cup, the climber’s only equipment. “Now there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go on a climb with us,” said Jimmy, inviting me on a day trip. Yeah, right!