The Alpinist Gives Free Solo a Run as Scariest Movie Ever

The Movie Free Solo is the Scariest Thriller Ever Made. IMDB
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The Alpinist Gives Free Solo a Run as Scariest Movie Ever. A while ago, I brought you guys, what I thought at the time was the scariest movie ever… no, not Midsommar – though that is other worldly scary and up there with Disney’s Pinocchio as the scariest technicolor feat to mar my limbic system – Free Solo. The movie was about a man named Alex Honnold who managed to climb El Capitan… free solo. IE, no ropes, no wire removal, special effects. Man, cliff… go. The Alpinist is in this same limbic-nightmare-fuel-space as Free Solo in that it also involves a single man, Marc-André Leclerc, and a lot of crazy scary vertical ascents without the assistance of safety ropes of any kind.

What is The Alpinist All About?

Hilariously… The Alpinist is more about the difficulties of the movie makers attempting to keep up with Marc-André Leclerc, than it is about climbing. Because apparently Marc-André isn’t really a fan of climbing for anyone other than himself. In that regard he’s more of a real free soloist than even Alex Honnold. And actually, Honnold makes an appearance in The Alpinist and he tells stories about the crazy Marc-André and some of his insane soloing routes.

Where The Alpinist diverges from Honnold’s path is that he prefers to climb in the snow and in the ice. And even mixed routes of normal rock faces, snow, and ice routes in the same ascent. This way of thinking is so foreign in the climbing world that Marc-André is the only person to have done some of the routes he’s managed. Even worse (better? what are you insane?) is that while Marc-André does his climbs sans pro (equipment on the wall to keep you from falling) but he also does many of them sight unseen, and without a pre-thought out plan.

When I was writing about Free Solo, I spiraled into a divergent thought experiment that is even more relevant for this movie than even Free Solo… so I’ll include it here. And then I’ll talk through a couple spoilers about The Alpinist, so turn back if you haven’t watched the film yet.

The Meaning of Life and Everything

“Alex is right, people die every single day. And they die in stupid, minute ways…as well as enormously crazy big ways. Today alone, over 50,000 people on the planet will die from heart issues and strokes. Heck, four or five thousand people will die today on planet earth just commuting about. So the real question should be, why do we intentionally get in our cars? I mean, this is obviously a preventable opportunity to die. But to characterize free soloing as a danger on par with commuting is laughable. You get the point though. We die every day. Something like 200,000 people will die today, unfortunately.

“I am not certain what I would do if my favorite hobby increased my likelihood of dying by like a 1,000%. It’s really not comprehensible. I don’t know where I would begin to weigh those costs and balances. For example, I love sketching. I am generally sketching something all the time. Here, here is the sketch I’m fiddling with right now.

“And while I’m not any good, if you were to tell me if I were to continue drawing, actuarially, that it would decrease my life expectancy dramatically, I’d probably keep drawing regardless. Which, probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. Even more significantly is that after watching an on-camera MRI, we learned that Honnold’s brain isn’t really excited about anything that normally humans find exciting. So, in order to even hit his excitement meter, he requires vastly larger stimulants than you or I do. So, while my drawing analogy is cute, it isn’t really even relevant. (Though, if pressed, I would make the case that I find drawing extraordinarily stimulating.)

“All of this begs the question. What is life about? What is the purpose of this life that we are living right now? If this is one big accident, then maybe it doesn’t really matter whether or not our hobbies kill us in our twenties. If you believe this life is for a bigger purpose, and that we are here for a reason, then maybe wasting it on a drawing accident isn’t the greatest idea in the world you have ever had. But, the larger question here is are you ready to die today? Not to run this into the religious ground…but that is the larger question isn’t it? Whether you believe in God or not. Is your epistemological framework sturdy enough to handle this particular cosmic dice throw? But I don’t climb El Capitans! Yes, but you ride in a car each day. And it’s hit or miss on whether you get cancer today, or die of a heart attack. So you are throwing those dice each day, whether you are intending to or not. No offense. (That’s not true, I am actively trying to offend you.)”

The Alpinist Gives Free Solo a Run as Scariest Movie Ever

The really sad tragedy of The Alpinist is that while the film was in edit, Marc-André and a friend were climbing a mountain, and the duo were killed in an avalanche. Which brings the above mind-spiral into even clearer context. Is it worth it? Better yet! Is Red Bull, and the various film deals that these experiences inspire, to blame? Or even marginally culpable. HELL, are you and I culpable because of our desire to watch these guys ascent this stupidly crazy pitches? The question is valid. Should we actively dissuade these guys from climbing without safety precautions by outlawing the support of this sort of insanity? Sure, let them climb, but don’t financially support it? I don’t know. Doesn’t seem feasible. And yet! Marc-André is gone. (The contra argument here is that Marc-André wasn’t being filmed, or documented at all when he died… yeah. I get it.)

Regardless of the moral ambiguities here, it is an amazing movie. Marc goes up these insane pitches by using pick axes and spiked boots that just seem impossible. Just other-worldly. And I have to admit, watching the grace and ease with which he did it was just beautiful.

Edited by: CY