Fear (previous blog post)
Fear by McKenna McKrell
Fear. Fear has been called a triggered response, a necessary “uh oh” that can keep us out of dangerous situations. But what happens when we ignore, push past, and take a new outlook on fear? Do we make stupid decisions or get hurt? Or is this challenge of what frightens us, a tool to strengthen us, our mind, and our perception of a “dangerous” situation.
“Free Solo”, an academy award winning documentary, truly challenges your personal perspective on fear. As the film opens, Alex Honnold - the subject of the film- introduces this idea of climbing a sheer wall of granite without a rope. This will not be his first free soloing attempt by any means, but quite frankly will be the most difficult. El Capitan is his goal, the sheer wall of granite centered in Yosemite National Park. Completely free of a harness or parachute to catch him if he slips.
Throughout the film, the idea of him falling is the cause of fear, but it is never Honnold who asks those “what-if” questions. It’s his friends, his significant other, and the directors because they care about him, but Alex’s approach toward the climb is different. He talks about how he focuses on what a slim chance there is he would fall, as an experienced climber.
Throughout this film, the ethics are discussed, and Honnold often wonders whether he’s making the climb for the right reason. Most of his other major free solo attempts were made with no one around to watch, to not wrack his friends with the fear of his well-being. While dangerous, Honnold knows that if he’s doing the climb because he really wants to, a fall will mean he died or was injured doing something he absolutely wanted with no regret. A film crew could motivate him to do a special move on the wall or push him to do the climb altogether. A fall at that point would push regret onto the faces of many.
These ideas of fear, and ethics, and risk are combined into this stunning documentation of one of the most challenging physical feats I’ve ever seen accomplished. But the climb is rooted in this desire to do something great, and to change the way you look at something: from “impossible” to “possible”.
It becomes no longer just a documentary on his climb, but one on how strong the human mind can be, and how fearlessness means doing what you truly want regardless if it pushes you past a comfort zone. As Alex Honnold says, “Nobody achieves anything great by being happy and cozy”.