Alex Honnold on appearing in upcoming documentary The Alpinist

Virgin Radio

22 Sep 2021, 09:28

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

The American rock climber joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about appearing in a remarkable new documentary about the life and achievements of legendary Canadian soloist Marc-André Leclerc.

The Alpinist, which is in cinemas tomorrow, features Alex, who is the star of another incredible documentary, Free Solo. He told Chris: “I’m mostly a rock climber, so I mostly spend my time climbing big, vertical rock walls around the world. The film, The Alpinist, chronicles this young man, Marc-André Leclerc, who is a very good alpinist, which means mostly climbing giant, snowy and icy rock faces around the world. So, it’s a little bit of rock climbing but a lot of using ice tools and crampons and climbing ice. It’s basically a more complicated version of the type of climbing that I like to do.

“It’s definitely higher risk. There’s just a lot more objective hazard, meaning there are more things that can go sideways, because the medium is so uncertain. The medium is icy and snowy, and, you know, it’s just unpredictable mountains.” 

Speaking more about the film, which was directed by The Dawn Wall’s Peter Mortimer, Alex told Chris: “Alpinism is an important part of climbing, and it’s an important historic part of climbing, and I tend to do one alpine trip like that a year. For me, doing one alpine expedition like that a year is enough to remind me that it’s beautiful and it’s exciting, but it’s not something that I need to do all the time. But what I think is so remarkable about the film is that Marc-André loves it so much that he is basically pursuing the biggest alpine objectives in the world, non-stop.

“He’s basically travelling to the most remote, beautiful mountain ranges on earth, and climbing as well as he can.”

Alex lived in a van for over a decade in order to follow the good weather and therefore good climbing. He told Chris that Marc-André lives a similar lifestyle. “He was so committed to rock climbing that he just didn’t care about his living conditions. So, he was living under a stairwell for a while, he was living in a tent in the woods for quite a long time, and then he was basically just on expedition, living in tents in various parts of the world for, you know, years.

“He was fully committed to the climbing experience, and his living conditions just didn’t really seem to matter that much.”

When Chris asked Alex how much thinking is involved in the kind of climbs that he and Marc-André do, or whether they are free from thinking, the 36-year-old said: “It depends. For me, a lot of the hard free solos that I’ve done, I’m a little bit more free of thinking, but that’s because I’ve rehearsed them quite a bit, but when you watch the film, The Alpinist, most of the positions he’s in, it’s the first time he’s ever been there, so that requires a fair amount of thought, because he has to figure out the path, he has to make sure that he’s staying on the route, that he’s going in the correct direction and that everything is working. So, I’m sure that he’s very in the zone, but at the same time, he does have to think about it, because he doesn’t have a plan, necessarily. He’s never been there.”

For many viewers, a documentary such as The Alpinist can be uncomfortable and stressful to watch. Alex told Chris: “The power of a documentary like that is that it can show you a completely different way of life, because if I watch a documentary about big wave surfing, let’s say, I think that’s totally unhinged, because I’m not a very strong swimmer and I don’t like to spend time in the ocean. I’m like, ‘That seems so wild to me.’ And so, when I watch The Alpinist, and I see Marc-André doing what he does best, it does seem very uncomfortable to me. I’m like, ‘Oh jeez! That is not something I would never want to do, exactly.’ But it’s remarkable to know that other humans can do that if they apply themselves to it.”

When speaking about what he hopes people take away from The Alpinist, Alex told Chris: “I would hope that people see a beautiful glimpse of a different type of life. A reminder that humans can do incredible things if they try.”

The Alpinist is in cinemas from tomorrow, Thursday 23rd September.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.