Heart-stopping film captures man climbing 3,000ft El Capitan without a rope

Photo of Heart-stopping film captures man climbing 3,000ft El Capitan without a rope

A new documentary records the heart-stopping moment a rock climber scales a sheer rock face, 3,000ft in the air – with no safety ropes.

The feat was so terrifying even the filmmakers documenting it were ‘tortured’ by the fact Alex Honnold may have died completing it.

Honnold described climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California as ‘glorious’ but Free Solo, a National Geographic film, depicts the months of anguish that went into planning it.

Of the documentary, released on Friday, filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi admit they had their fears.

Chin, himself an expert climber, says the crew spent more than 30 days rigging and shooting on El Capitan – a vertical wall of granite.

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Many renowned solo climbers have died there, just in June, two experienced climbers, Jason Wells and Tim Klein, fell to their death while climbing it with ropes.

‘You’re a pro, but when you have that much exposure and you’re moving that much equipment and you’re filming on top of it and thinking about your friend, it’s a tremendous amount of physical and mental exertion,’ Chin said.

‘The crew was tortured by the idea that maybe you’ll be filming your friend’s death.’

Vasarhelyi says the tension was highest when Honnold made his first, later aborted, attempt despite a recent injury. She felt he wasn’t prepared.

‘But I don’t think our role as filmmakers was to tell him not do it,’ she told the Associated Press. ‘And that’s weird, right? Especially when there’s a life on the line.’

Man who climbed El Capitan without a rope National Geographic
Incredible shots show Alex Honnold gripping onto the sheer rock face with no safety lines (Picture: National Geographic)
Man who climbed El Capitan without a rope National Geographic
Even the filmmakers found the documentary hard to make because of the dangers involved with free climbing (Picture: National Geographic)
In this Sept. 10, 2018 photo, climbers Alex Honnold, from left, and Sanni McCandless, subjects of the documentary film
Alex Honnold (left) with girlfriend Sanni McCandless with Free Solo co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Picture: AP)

Honnold’s ascent of El Cap without ropes or safety gear is now considered one of the greatest feats in rock climbing history and the 33-year-old is now widely acknowledged as the greatest free-solo climber in the world.

But it almost caust him his long-term relationship with girlfriend Sanni McCandless.

‘I don’t think I ever wished that he wouldn’t do it. I wanted him to not want it, but I never wanted him to not to do it,’ she said.

‘Knowing that he does want it, you realize he’s going to be so bummed if he never brings it to fruition.’

Honnold completed the climb in three hours and 56 minutes on June 3, 2017.

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