A life without fear.
Alex Honnold is one of these people that don’t seem to be made of flesh and bone.
We saw each other for the first time in a small road pizza place, at a late hour, 30 miles from Yosemite (California). We’d been waiting for him for hours but there was no way of reaching him. Alex was just back from an expedition at Grand Canyon and he took his time. There we were, Elena, Borja, Sergio and Bea (sound, director of photography, focus puller, production), a bit impatient. We were a small team.
Alex is a climbing myth. One of the few people doing “free solo”: that’s how they call climbing with no ropes. It’s free climbing.
It was 11 pm when suddenly a shy 20-something year old guy came in, tired-looking (after having been driving for 20 hours) and hungry.
We finally had him with us, eating like there was no tomorrow. We started talking and right there, little by little, our adventure week begun. The project consisted in documenting his life, elaborating a small story that showed his irrepressible passion for climbing. We let ourselves go by following the steps of his nomadic life. We shot with Epic, five or six lenses, and live sound. That was all our material. The idea was to shoot with a light equipment to be able to flow without problems.
After having observed him closely and having talked to him a while, I took a lot of notes that were a kind of step outline. I had that for narrative’s sake but not a definite idea of how the shooting should be. We shot during three intense days. Two in Yosemite, and another one on a road to Sacramento, where his mum lived.
One of the most thrilling experiences was following his steps day and night, but most of all, seeing him climbing with no ropes at all. It’s very impressive watching someone with no fear. All the team was open-mouthed. Some of us were even shaking, despite having our feet firm on the ground. We somehow felt a kind of strange vertigo.
Shooting the climbing was quite a feat! In order to do it we’d hired a professional climber, a specialist in the use of a camera in that kind of setting, a guy from Los Angeles and close friend of Alex. The procedure was as follows: the cameraman would climb besides Alex Honnold, but with ropes, while Alex did the same without them. Balancing the camera wasn’t easy. And neither was not distracting Alex while he was at it. Climbing with no ropes implies a heavy dose of concentration, apart from total self-control. There’s just no margin of error. Alex doesn’t fear death, I can promise you that. I was convinced it was a thought that must come to his mind. But it isn’t. He made it clear: “if I ever thought about death I couldn’t do this.” Alex is categorical, direct, a man of few words.
Alex lives for climbing. His van is his home and his little notebook his partner, where he notes down his day-to-day life in the mountains. I’ll remember him for his bravery, his temperance and for being an absolute free spirit.