I think this might be the 'best' 'free solo' free solo video (including "Free Solo" the movie, or any other climbing movie I've seen):

I was pretty disappointed by "Free Solo" – not much climbing!

(Watch "The Dawn Wall" for a climbing movie with a lot of climbing; one of my favorite movies, period.)

(I would still like to eventually see "Free Solo: The Actual Climbing" too!)

There are some great climbing 'movies'/videos of Honnold free soloing. But they're – apparently, according to Honnold himself – bullshit in a way. He says somewhere (not sure which video exactly) that most of the time he will (a) free solo a new route by himself, with no cameras, first; (b) go back (via ropes) and free solo parts of the route with cameras. (That is kinda crazier than just free soloing a route!)

But this video – (I'm pretty sure) it's what it looks like: a real first-time free solo, by Magnus. Magnus IS a fantastic climber; maybe top 100 worldwide for the kinds of climbing he does? (There is a LOT of 'room' in terms of 'climbing difficulty' at the top!)

(There are lots of kinds of climbing and Magnus isn't a 'professional climber' like what that typically entails; more of a former professional climber that's now a professional YouTuber but whose YouTube videos are mostly about climbing.)

I can climb 5.9 – tho I've never climbed outdoors, never climbed a route (in a gym) with multiple pitches, don't know really anything 'mechanically' (e.g. have any muscle memory) for 'trad climbing' at all, which looks like how anyone else would climb the route they climb in this video.

But I could climb that route. (And I think I'd be mostly fine, psychologically, going with a guide and after testing that the ropes and other gear would catch me when I fell.)

I think maybe I might, someday, climb an (EASY) 'highball' boulder problem up to maybe 30-40 feet? (That's a somewhat survivable height to fall from!)

But I'm very sure I could climb the route!

But I'm also still thinking about whether I would ever, possibly, climb anything, even with ropes and gear (and a helmet) much harder this outside. I definitely am 'terrified' of mountaineering; the climbing itself doesn't seem to be the primary danger. The main dangers are snow (e.g. avalanches) and ice (e.g. breaking or falling) and falling rocks and human stupidity handling the ropes and gear.

Of the climbers that climb 'hard' free solo routes, maybe literally none have died while climbing a 'hard' free solo route.

John Bachar, a famous free solo climber, died while free soloing, and on an 'easy' route, and at the age of 52. From what I pieced together when last I 'investigated', it seems like he might have died because a (small) rock fell on him from (way) above him, causing him to fall from the climb. He died shortly after being rushed to a hospital afterwards.

Dean Potter, another famous free solo climber, died while 'wingsuit flying'.

And if you've read even a few climbing 'accident reports', which climbers document pretty meticulously, it seems pretty clear that most people die, or are injured, NOT because their climbing wasn't good enough. They die from avalanches, and rocks falling, or from forgetting to tie a knot at the end of a rope.

But I can't even imagine a future me that seriously entertains even an 'easy' free solo like in this video! (I would be – at least – as scared, and thus, hopefully, as focused, as Magnus clearly appears to be in this video.)

My current maybe barely achievable personal climbing goal is to climb V6 (boulder problems), in gym(s). I also want to go climbing outdoors – The Gunks upstate (NY, in the U.S.) are supposed to be fantastic. (I will hire a guide and definitely start with easy routes, e.g. 5.6, or 5.7, and then maybe consider trying the next harder grades.)

But I think (am VERY sure!) that even this level of free soloing is not for me!

This was an amazing video tho! I'm glad Magnus did this, even if I wouldn't have dared to pressure him, in any way, into doing it myself, were I to have had the opportunity somehow.


4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:07 AM
New Comment

Just finished watching that video this morning. My hands were sweating through most of it haha.

But I can't even imagine a future me that seriously entertains even an 'easy' free solo like in this video! (I would be – at least – as scared, and thus, hopefully, as focused, as Magnus clearly appears to be in this video.)

Magnus did say in the video that he would not have been able to do the route without Alex there guiding and encouraging him. I think that says something about just how psychologically challenging free soloing is.

I've been climbing for awhile now, but I still experience pretty significant levels of fear. There are of course risks and dangers that can't be entirely mitigated/avoided, even in the safest scenarios.

But yeah – a free solo climb above 30-40 feet is extremely dangerous! And, thankfully, we've been bequeathed with fairly sensible instincts about those kinds of risks :)

Good video, even if I'm don't quite agree with the superlative. I suspect that the festival film this video is about (this YouTube is a Pete Whitaker behind the scenes https://youtu.be/pDCSzC7PJBg) will be better, and also I'm excited for the full 3d/ vr films that should be coming out soon (here is Alex honold doing the behind the scenes thing https://youtu.be/dy4jGZ--gre)

The "behind the scenes" video apparently isn't available now :(

But thanks for sharing some extra details!

I think a big part of why I think this is (maybe not literally literally, but 'seriously literally' anyways) "the best" free solo video is that it's so focused and almost 'spare'.

It doesn't include any of the 'social drama' around free solo climbing (or any kind of relatively dangerous climbing, e.g. mountaineering). I found that fairly annoying about "Free Solo". I still want to see a (LOT) more of the actual climbing for that climb.

I've watched a good bit of videos/movies about free solo climbing, but this video is the most 'perfect gem' in terms of a focus on free soloing. It's not about a climbing trip involving free solo climbs. It's about one free solo climb, and it's almost perfect that: (a) this is Magnus's first 'real' free solo climb (> ~20m); (b) Magnus is a great climber. It highlights/demonstrates that, in a very real sense, the biggest difficulty of free solo climbing is mental/emotional; not physical.

New to LessWrong?