What it was like to make Free Solo

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi won an Oscar for Free Solo, their hair-raising documentary tracing rock climber Alex Honnold’s mission to climb El Capitan rope-free. They discuss what it’s like putting your life at risk for your job

As far as tests of human endurance and fearlessness go, climbing a 3,000-foot rock face without any ropes or other safety equipment ranks pretty highly. This was the feat achieved by American rock climber Alex Honnold in 2017, when he became the first – and so far the only – person to complete a free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley in California, doing it in just under four hours.

As well as making headlines around the world at the time, Honnold’s efforts were the subject of the recent Oscar-winning National Geographic documentary, Free Solo, which saw husband and wife filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasar­helyi document his gruelling two-year journey to successfully complete the climb.

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