Perfection or Death

We all have interesting hobbies. Some people are into collecting seashells, knitting or baking, but only a small percentage of the population has a hobby that could easily lead to their death. Meet Alex Honnold, a free-solo rock climber. Free-solo climbing is a lot like regular rock climbing, just without a single piece of equipment that could prevent you from falling thousands of feet to your death. No ropes, no harnesses, nothing.

National Geographic released a documentary called “Free Solo,” Sept. 28, 2018 featuring Alex Honnold’s historic free-solo climb up Yosemite National Park’s massive rock formation, El Capitan. The rock is 2,900 feet tall, and Honnold climbed it in just under four hours.

It was interesting to watch Honnold through his climbing journey, leading up to the free-solo climb of El Cap. He started climbing when he was only five years old in a climbing gym. His father introduced him to free-solo climbing when he was older, and Honnold often skipped college classes to free-solo rocks in California. After missing a few too many lectures, he dropped out of college after his first year and began to live in a van, driving place to place to climb by himself or with his friends.

Honnold is unlike anyone I have ever seen. His view on life is purely based on being a better person. He donates mo

st of his money to people that need it more than he does, and started a charity that brings solar power to people in African countries. Honnold is an avid reader, a vegetarian, and he has a girlfriend. He also risks his life every time he forgoes the harness and ropes to climb up big rocks.

A question bouncing around in my head during the whole documentary was, “How does he not get scared?” I mean, Honnold is climbing thousands of feet, at some points only using the very edges of his fingertips and toes to keep his body up. “Free Solo” explored this when Honnold was sent to get an MRI that would measure his amygdala’s reactions, the part of the brain that triggers fear. When Honnold came out, his amygdala showed no activation after being showed gruesome or frightening pictures.

Honnold may not have been scared, but “Free Solo” had me sweating on the edge of my seat the whole time. Honnold’s friend, Jimmy Chin, was a part of the film crew. Chin really summed up the entire documentary when he said the scariest part of filming was the po

ssibility of seeing a longtime friend slip and fall out of the camera’s frame.

Overall, “Free Solo” was worth the watch. It’s amazing to see how other people spend their lives, and how different it can be from your own. It recently won multiple awards, including an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.