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Go see ‘Free Solo’

There’s a documentary movie coming out on October 12 that I want you to see. It’s called “Free Solo,” and it’s a movie about mountain climbing.

Before you roll your eyes, give me a minute.

As much as Free Solo is about the first ascent of El Capitan without ropes, it’s not really a movie about climbing.

It’s a movie about pushing your limits, managing risk, and relentless preparation.

A little context is in order. There’s a 33-year-old climber called Alex Honnold. He likes to climb things without any safety ropes. They call it free soloing and the risks of this sport should be obvious. If he makes one mistake, he will fall to his death.

So why does he do it? Who in their right mind would risk their life by climbing a rock wall without ropes? That’s part of what the movie is about.

In climbing, they assign routes a difficulty designation. The higher the difficulty, the more prestigious the climb. While it’s not the most difficult climb in the world, the 3,000 vertical foot wall called El Capitan is the most famous. No one has ever even thought of climbing it without ropes.

In fact, the first group that climbed El Cap took 47 days to complete it. You’ve probably seen photos of people sleeping in special tents anchored to the side of cliffs. Alex has only a t-shirt, shorts, shoes, and a chalk bag. That’s it.

Spoiler alert: Alex does not fall to his death in this movie, but that takes nothing away from making it one of most tension filled movies I’ve ever seen. The stakes are literally life and death.

What Alex Honnold did by Free Soloing El Capitan may be the greatest athletic achievement by anyone ever, and this movie invites you to a bird’s-eye view.

My hands were sweating and my heart pounding as I squirmed in my seat watching. At one point, when Alex had to complete a particularly difficult sequence of moves or fall to his death, I actually blurted out, “Oh, hell no.”

There’s no turning back. He can’t just quit or say, “Well, I guess this isn’t my day.” Once he starts the climb, there are only two ways it ends: at the top or in tragedy.

Alex is a truly remarkable human being and climbing El Capitan with no safety gear whatsoever is an unbelievable achievement. Being able to watch him do it is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Even if climbing out of bed is the most climbing you do, you should go see Free Solo.

“Free Solo” debuts at theaters in L.A. and New York on Friday, Sept. 28 and in theaters in Seattle on Oct. 12.

Listen to KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don. “What Are We Talking About Here” can be heard every weekday at 4:50 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. on the Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.

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