/ Free Solo - Thoughts?

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C Witter on 12 Dec 2018

So... Free Solo showed at cinemas across the UK yesterday; apparently around 19,000 people were watching it! What did you think?

A few rambling thoughts...

1. Wow! (Obviously!)

2. "Everyone has their theory", said Honnold in the Q&A afterward. It does seem that people are very willing to theorise away Honnold's achievement: he's presented as 'mad', as having a misfiring amygdala, as being depressed or autistic or otherwise broken. Even the film makers, despite their long-winded concern with the 'ethics' of making the film, are happy to characterise him as an awkward loner who is motivated by his difficulty connecting with others. I think this really misses the point. I think he has a very rare level of talent and an even more rare desire to for these objectively amazing and beautiful climbing achievements. That desire is seen as illegitimate by some; they need to explain it away. But Honnold really believes in his art and its worth.

3. Saying that, it does seem from the film that he has a lot of pain connected with his childhood, anger toward his mother, and that his father's death was a catalyst in his climbing. In the exchanges with others, he also seemed to feel resentment toward people for making him justify what he's doing and explain his feelings - again and again and again. It seemed from the film that he had basically decided his girlfriend could never understand what he was doing, and that he preferred to avoid the subject. He oscillates between this avoidance and a kind of brutal honesty, where he says things to her in a very hostile way: "I guess if I were obligated to try to prolong my life I would give up free soloing; but I don't feel obligated to do that." A similar dynamic develops in interviews, where he gives his party line - "it's all about preparation" - but then quickly reverts to a kind of cynical frankness when pressed:

- "But, what I don't understand is, if you make one mistake you'll die"
- "Yep. Actually, you seem to understand it very well."

My sense is, he doesn't actually understand why he free solos, he has a very deep well of emotions connected to it, and he gets a bit pissed off when people don't accept the party line and persist in trying to make him dredge them all up.

4. Honnold talks about "performance" and I think there are two meanings to this. "My mum was always very performance-focused. Nothing I've ever done is good enough for her", he says. He sets out to do well, to achieve, to perform at a high level - but there is always also the aspect of performing for others. This is an important point, because it's where the film is really disingenuous. There's a lot of gumpf about doing the solo for "the right reasons" (as if there ever could be "right reasons" for something like this). The apex of this is where Honnold makes an attempt and backs out. Chin and the others in the film crew are happy to interpret this as meaning that Honnold is his own man, that he's not affected by the film crew and that they're not changing how he thinks about the climb. Yet, any vaguely empathetic person can see that Honnold is deeply pissed off about the failed attempt, that he's embarrassed, and that he's specifically embarrassed about failing in front of the film crew - a team of people who have gone to a lot of effort to film his ascent. It seems to me he conceptualises it as though he's made a claim about himself that he fails to deliver on, and which then becomes a hollow boast. It fills him with self-loathing. The film makers know this - they know they have to keep out of his way, and that it's only when he feels well within his ability, rather than vulnerable, that he can tolerate their presence. So, whatever the statements to the contrary, the solo of El Capitan is most definitely a performance for an audience; a performance aimed at gaining approval.

5. Finally, many people here will be familiar with Arno Ilgner's Rock Warrior's Way - and it really interested me that at several points Honnold likened himself to a warrior (comparing shoes like a samurai sword; hood like a ninja's cloak) and even half-quoted the book (talking about striving for excellence in everything from tying shoe laces to performing moves). This is interesting in a number of different ways. Firstly, it is a book about mastering your fear; the fact that Honnold is referencing this book - that he has in all likelihood studied it - indicates that he does have fear to master, which puts paid to theories that try to explain away his climbing achievements with reference to his brain is badly wired. Secondly, it's a book I found useful - but problematic, fetishistic, macho, limited.  Its protocols aimed at "eliminating the ego", can actually become a way of performing a kind of overly self-serious, pseudo-enlightenment that glosses over honest self-appraisal rather than facilitating it. Is this really one of the sources of Honnold's personal philosophy? Is it also one of the sources of his patronising attitude toward his girlfriend and his difficulty in dealing with probing questions about his own motivations?

Who knows... What do you think?

3
Hooo - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Alex's attitude to his girlfriend ( and everyone else) looked like a classic example of Aspergers to me. Obviously I'm no expert and I only have this film to go on, but it seems a pretty straightforward explanation. I am of a similar personality and related to a lot of his motivations. He started soloing because this was less scary than finding a partner - yep, I can definitely relate to that.

Regarding the failed attempt, what struck me most was that if it wasn't for the film crew he couldn't have bailed. So did they save him from something he attempted of his own free will, or did they enable his attempt by giving him a bail-out, and therefore encourage him in something he might otherwise not have attempted?

Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

A simpler way of looking at it is that Honnold is just doing what the vast majority of climbers have done at some point and probably many times - just looking at a route and thinking "ok, I'm happy to solo that" and then doing so. Obviously he is doing it at a higher level than anyone else, but I really don't find it hard to relate to his motivations and impulses - in the end, he's just another climber doing what climbers do.

Having said that, I found the whole film utterly gripping, not because I couldn't relate to it, but I think because I could.

1
Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:


I would love to hear your views on this article. If climbing feats of near perfection are a product of male white supremacy (not to mention misogyny), where does that leave comparable feats by a woman?

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spidermonkey09 - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Thanks for the link Natalie. I struggled with an awful lot of that to be honest, particularly the first section criticising Honnold's lack of appreciation for the lands indigenous heritage. I'd be interested to know your thoughts, because I like to think of myself as liberal and progressive, supportive of feminism and indigenous rights, but I thought that was a load of tosh to be honest. 

 

C Witter on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

An interesting article - I'll have to come back to it when I've time to do more than skim.

I think a few points don't really touch base: I'm not sure the violent history of expropriating the Native American peoples, and their continuing marginalisation, can really be laid at Honnold's door; I don't quite see where that critique goes. But, I do think Monahan is correct in pointing to the ways in which race and colonisation shape our way of thinking about and mythologising the 'outdoors' and our achievements in it; and certainly our responses to Honnold can be understood in relation to that. 

I also think she is spot on in relation to much of what she says about gender, e.g. listening to the audience laugh at exchanges between Honnold and Sanni that were full of pain and anger. It felt like the embarrassed laughter of family members around the dinner table, who want to pretend something was a joke to avoid conflict - to avoid an honest appraisal of relationships. "Isn't dad funny, the way he teases mum by calling her stupid!" That kind of shit. 

In relation to this last point - I was amazed by how much access Honnold, Sanni  and his family allowed the film makers into their personal lives.

Thanks for the link!

ClimberEd - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to spidermonkey09:

> Thanks for the link Natalie. I struggled with an awful lot of that to be honest, particularly the first section criticising Honnold's lack of appreciation for the lands indigenous heritage. I'd be interested to know your thoughts, because I like to think of myself as liberal and progressive, supportive of feminism and indigenous rights, but I thought that was a load of tosh to be honest. 

This.

Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> I also think she is spot on in relation to much of what she says about gender, e.g. listening to the audience laugh at exchanges between Honnold and Sanni that were full of pain and anger.

To me it just sounded like both men and women laughing at themselves - we've all been there; relationships are difficult.

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1poundSOCKS - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> It felt like the embarrassed laughter of family members around the dinner table

Didn't notice embarrassed laughter, people just seemed to find the disconnect between the couple funny. Despite the serious backdrop to the exchanges.

> But, I do think Monahan is correct in pointing to the ways in which race and colonisation shape our way of thinking about and mythologising the 'outdoors' and our achievements in it; and certainly our responses to Honnold can be understood in relation to that. 

This I don't understand. As a climber I think my reaction is very basic and it comes down to imagining myself in that situation on El Cap. And my appreciation is based on that, sweaty palms and all. How does colonisation come into my thinking and how does it change my response?

Post edited at 11:00
C Witter on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

I understand what you're getting at... 

A good place to go for this is Jim Perrin's series of biographies on Shipton and Tillman, Whillans and Menlove. It seems to me that Perrin's main thesis over the three books is that mountaineering was very much a colonial project (linked directly, through exploration and mapping and personnel) and aristocratic pastime, but was transformed over the course of the twentieth century by various forces - not least the increasing participation of the working class. Perrin's bete noire is the word 'conquer', which he sees as a stupid way to describe any climbing achievement. The article Natalie linked has a similar attention to the types of words we use to describe, understand and imagine climbing achievements and wild places.

A very interesting topic for anyone interested in understand the social and cultural history of climbing... unfortunately, I must get back to work, so will leave it there!

WVRox - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Brilliant film -  can’t  think of a bettter climbing film - Dawn Wall comes close. Here’s a bloke that loves soloing (and paradoxically seeks publicity), is bloody good at it, comes across as a ‘good bloke’, and presumably gives out a fair few quid to good causes through his Foundation. End of. 

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fifthsunset - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

This article is a study in bad faith, fallacious arguments. For example the author says that Honnold is often referred to as a Peter Pan type character. It goes on to say that Peter Pan was racist and misogynistic, therefore so is Honnold. That's like saying that because Gandhi and Hitler were both vegetarians, Gandhi was a Nazi.

In another section the author says

"When I started rock climbing, I didn’t know, or rather didn’t want to admit, that I was participating in a recreational activity made accessible to me solely due to the fact that my ancestors violently built the world we see now."

She then say that this realisation made her feel self-hate; then quote mines Free Solo for Honnold expressing negative emotions. She calls this self-hate on Honnold's part, then says this is due to white supremacy. Again this is pure equivocation. Just because she hates herself because she rock climbs, that doesn't mean that Honnold hates himself. And even if he does, you still have all of your work ahead of you to demonstrate he hates himself because of white supremacy. 

You could pick virtually any passage in there and pull apart its logic. Its nonsense.

Deadeye - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Well, that's a bit selective, no?

Lynn Hill? Catherine Destiville?  How are their ascents of major projects any different?

sheavi07 - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Identity politics at its worst where she sees everything through the lens of power - who has it and who is being oppressed. 

1poundSOCKS - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> Perrin's bete noire is the word 'conquer'

I think most of us understand that's a silly word to use, and dates back to mountaineering in colonial times (not that I know too much about the history specifically). But extrapolating from that to my reaction to Free Solo takes a bit more proof doesn't it? The article seemed to be lazy in this regard, and complex issues aren't helped by lazy articles.

C Witter on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

As I understood it, you asked how (your experience of) climbing is related to colonisation. I pointed out that this relation is also explored by Perrin. 

I agree with most of what fifthsunset says above about the article having some poor argumentation, and that the rhetorical excesses are quite problematic in the context of an article focused so squarely on one individual.  Really, the film might reveal lots of different issues, but each of these issues are far broader than Honnold. But, I don't think the article is lazy. It can be read as a character-assassination, but I don't think that was the intention. It can be read as poorly-written, but I think it's insightful in many places. The writer is just struggling to deal with everything they try to take on, and they sometimes slip into making unfair judgements. I think there's an attempt in it to deal with many real issues, but, perhaps Free Solo is not the best target for dealing with these issues; not least because it's so centred on one individual, and because, whilst the film invites us to try and understand Honnold's motivations, our understanding is heavily mediated - and mediatised. Honnold's psychodramas are presented for us as a grand spectacle for our consumption.

Offwidth - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

I think most of the population of the western world is ignorant or in collective denial about where a large proportion of our wealth came from. When we view buildings that come from exploited peoples (especially mansions built on slave trade profits) and visit parks like Yosemite that were taken from the indigenous population, a minimum of a bit more context of that would be good (the park doesn't ignore these people but does rather 'museumise' them) . What I don't get is how this is Honnold's fault; other than missing a chance to touch supportively on the issues. I'd certainly expect climbers to be fairer on this than most park visitors. The murderous depopulation of native americans elsewhere was far worse. Its not Muir's fault either and without him the park and much of the wider area could have been much more despoiled.

The relationship discussion is cruel but inevitable; it was probably a mistake of Alex to allow this in the film. Even long term stable loving relationships can still be complex, with regret for things said. A few minutes on film would always struggle to be fair, especially with someone like Alex and the hardly uncommon tendancy of climbers to make juvenile jokes. I'm not defending the sexism on display but I think the analysis is preachy and unfair.

I guess the issues around his character and lifestyle are unavoidable as it clearly does tie in with his extraordinary talents (and opportunities to utilise them) but the simplistic attacks on this in the article seem to me to be misplaced ... the guilt (if there is any.... I'm not sure always that there is) should be more clearly elsewhere: not blamed on Alex or the film. Alex is who he is: a very young but complex man with a prodigous climbing talent. Its particularly problematic as the author admits that she  herself made similar lifestyle choices with good intentions.

The stuff about his charity is plain mean. How many people of his age try to give so much back.

I'd like to speak up for the idea of the 'warrior way' in climbing as being  non sexist. I always saw it as something that, although, coming from mainly male martial sources, works very well in dealing with real risk situations  on bold rock, for women as much as men and with no obvious sexism to the actual method. The most famous example, Arno's book, doesn't always help itself with its language, but has useful messages about how to go about making sensible commitment to risky situations, that has wide applications, way outside climbing, for anyone.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/publications/other_publications/the_rock_warriors_way_mental_training_for_climbers_by_arno_ilg-434

In conclusion, the article may well have good intentions but sadly comes across as a bit lazy, bizzarely over analysed and too often just mean. The author seems to be shifting her own guilt, for not finding her political position earlier,  onto others, who may mature to have very different views.

Post edited at 12:39
The Grist - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

I saw the film last night. You make a lot of insightful points which I agree with. 

What struck me most about the film and what struck me most about the climbing was just how damn hard it was and how it appeared that there was more than a minimal chance of him falling. I get soloing. I go to my local quarry every summer and solo 3 e1s that I know like the back of my hand. I know I am not going to fall off even though I only lead e3 on a good day. I think the chance of falling is below 0.1%. I have processed that and accept the minimal risk. This was something on a way different level. I would love to know what Alex Honnold really thought were the chances of his actually falling off. My guess is that he would really think  about 10% if he took a step back (but he would say the chances were less than 0.5%). To me that is not great odds.

The fact is that the slab pitch near the bottom (pitch 8) he fell off on lead a year before and hurt his ankle. He did not know he was going to fall by his own admission. The same could have happened on the solo. That 7c+ crux looked absolutely desperate. I know he had it wired and when he did it it looked like he was solid on it but Tommy Caldwell fell off on a top rope. Was that just to make it look nails? Either way the film makers did a great job of showing just how hard that move looked.

I loved the film but found the climbing very uncomfortable viewing. Ultimately it was totally unnecessary to take the massive risk that he seemed to be taking. If was my friend I would tell him that I thought he was being a massive arsehole by doing it. But  then again I am probably wrong and he had it way more dialled than the film made it look. I have never climbed at Yosemite but the climbing looked tenuous and insecure. Totally unsuited to hard soloing. But what do I know having never been there?

I am really torn between thinking Honnold is a total hero and a total maniac with a death wish.

 

4
spidermonkey09 - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

Good response. I simply couldn't be bothered to articulate it!

Interestingly, on his relationship, he is nothing if not honest. Speaking on camera and to her he says directly that he doesn't see being in a relationship as a 'obligation to maximise my lifespan.' That honesty has to be commended I think; if they find a way to make that work for them ( and it seems to be working well enough so far!) then frankly its none of anyone elses business surely?

Post edited at 13:21
john arran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to The Grist:

> ... the chances of his actually falling off. My guess is that he would really think  about 10% if he took a step back ...

If he took a step back anywhere except on one of the few bivi ledges, the chances of him falling off would be virtually 100% ;-)

More constructively, the difference in concentration levels, between when soloing at your limit and when leading the same pitch in a hurry just to get to a different part of the route, will be enormous. It isn't really fair to compare the two in terms of chances of falling.

Offwidth - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to The Grist:

Honnold's risk details will be very different to yours and so the comparisons you make are pretty meaningless. On the context of the roped slab fall... many an extreme leader will have unexpectedly slipped on a polished VD (as I've seen a few tines on the Swimmers Chimney start to Brightside at Froggatt).  In any case he has a greater technical margin than you indicated, had clearly got the crux sections completely wired and is up with the greatest climbers ever at dealing with the psychology of soloing.

Post edited at 13:28
1
Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to spidermonkey09:

> Interestingly, on his relationship, he is nothing if not honest.

Absolutely. Honesty is important in relationships. And is it actually a good thing to give up one's dreams for a relationship (or to ask someone to do so)? I thought he came out of it well (as did she).

 

Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> I'd like to speak up for the idea of the 'warrior way' in climbing as being  non sexist.

She also said how bad it is that there are mountains named "Warrior Peak " etc.  I wonder how many of those are translations of native American names (a quick google of ones I know didn't answer the question).

1poundSOCKS - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> But, I don't think the article is lazy

It's lazy because it's very easy to speculate like she does, and that's all it seems to be, speculation and opinion. She ignores the hard bit of actually providing the evidence to back it up. To deal with real issues you need to understand the situation beyond speculation and opinion.

1poundSOCKS - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I thought he came out of it well (as did she).

Alex was more of an odd character than I thought previous. Sanni and Peter Croft were echoing my thoughts and I could relate to them more than Alex. And as the solo approached I wanted him to walk away, even though obviously I know the outcome.

I thought Croft's comment of 'well done' when Alex chose to back off was a wonderful moment.

Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> Honnold's risk details will be very different to yours and so the comparisons you make are pretty meaningless. On the context of the roped slab fall.......

After the fall he did find a new sequence/variation that he was happy with.  Presumably one of the points of so much practice is to find out these things while on a rope - I saw it as not worrying but reassuring.

 

ClimberEd - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> I think most of the population of the western world is ignorant or in collective denial about where a large proportion of our wealth came from.

 

Or they just don't give a shit. The past was the past and we are where we are is a prevalent attitude.

 

1
Simon Caldwell - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to ClimberEd:

> The past was the past and we are where we are is a prevalent attitude.

I'm sure pretty much everyone adopts this position. The difference is on where in the past we draw the line, unless you're still angry with Italy because of the Roman invasion.

Luke90 on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing.

> Firstly, it is a book about mastering your fear; the fact that Honnold is referencing this book - that he has in all likelihood studied it - indicates that he does have fear to master, which puts paid to theories that try to explain away his climbing achievements with reference to his brain is badly wired.

My recollection of all those stories a few years ago following the scientists wiring him up to a brain scanner was they didn't conclude he felt no fear at all, they concluded that making him feel a certain level of fear seemed to require a greater stimulus than more "normal" people. That fits in perfectly well with still having to think about mastering his fear. 

In fact, his soloing in general seems to fit that same pattern. He's not fundamentally different to all the rest of us on this thread who sometimes go soloing, he's just operating at a higher level.

> Secondly, it's a book I found useful - but problematic, fetishistic, macho, limited.

On the question of how seriously Honnold takes the book, this podcast might be interesting:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0odJ-Y_JbjY

It's apparently a discussion about the book between Honnold, the author of the book and somebody else but it's 50 minutes long and I don't have time to listen.

> listening to the audience laugh at exchanges between Honnold and Sanni that were full of pain and anger. It felt like the embarrassed laughter of family members around the dinner table, who want to pretend something was a joke to avoid conflict

Interestingly, that's exactly the way 1poundsocks interpreted the laughter at the showing he went to: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/off_belay/free_solo_premiere-697224?v=1#x8905679

> So, whatever the statements to the contrary, the solo of El Capitan is most definitely a performance for an audience; a performance aimed at gaining approval.

I'm not sure you've made that case conclusively. Feeling like he's let people down or embarrassed himself by backing off doesn't necessarily mean they were his entire motivation. Some of his previous big solos weren't filmed at all and only became big news after the fact, so he definitely feels inspired to solo regardless of the presence of witnesses or cameras. If somebody went to the trouble of organising a crew to film me doing something I enjoy and do regularly in an entirely self-motivated way, and then I messed it up in front of them after they put in lots of effort, I would still feel frustrated that I'd let them down.

It's also very difficult to disentangle the fact that this is now his career and his main claim to fame. That doesn't mean he's necessarily motivated by the presence of witnesses/cameras or is performing for them. I'm inclined to believe him when he says he's wanted to do the solo for a very long time. Now he knows that if he's going to do it, it would be worth his while to get it filmed. That doesn't mean he wouldn't have done it anyway without witnesses.

Robert Durran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

>So, whatever the statements to the contrary, the solo of El Capitan is most definitely a performance for an audience; a performance aimed at gaining approval.

I don't think it came over in that way in the film at all. Yes, he agreed to make the film, but, given that, wanted to remain as true as possible to himself in doing it. At the end he seemed genuinely happy that it had all worked out and still been the experience he wanted despite the film crew. 

 

Shani - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Thanks for posting. It's an interesting read but washed heavily in victimhood and labours to make its white-guilt case.

 

It's a shame the author couldn't simply acknowledge that Honnold's recognition of Yosemite, its beauty, its (climbing) history, the routes, are sufficient grounds for his love of the place as both a person and a climber. I like Stanage, its setting and its routes, and i really don't feel i need to make some wider point of how it was stolen from the Druids/Celts in times past.

 

The tone of the article is one of maturbatory navel gazing with a subtext of self-loathing and projection.

Post edited at 18:08
1
Tyler - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

I suggest you don't look at her Instagram page which is all that with an added layer of hypocrisy 

Shani - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Tyler:

> I suggest you don't look at her Instagram page which is all that with an added layer of hypocrisy 

Thanks for the trigger warning. I'm off to emote to a druid on Stanage!

john arran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

People get paid to write guff like that?

Jon Stewart - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Hooo:

> Alex's attitude to his girlfriend ( and everyone else) looked like a classic example of Aspergers to me. Obviously I'm no expert and I only have this film to go on, but it seems a pretty straightforward explanation. I am of a similar personality and related to a lot of his motivations. He started soloing because this was less scary than finding a partner - yep, I can definitely relate to that.

My effort at psychoanalysis of Honnold is pretty simple: the guy's an introvert. If you're introverted enough, it's regarded as pathological, e.g. Aspergers. People who don't share this psychological trait might not get that not everyone's top priority is other people. Date an introvert at your peril - you're not going to get a lot of affection and adoration. And they're going to do stuff that risks your feelings getting hurt, like if they fall off El Cap soloing. Anyone who gets involved with this kind of character and then expects them to behave in a "normal" way is just going to be disappointed, because they don't care that much if they fall off, and they see it as not really their problem if you fail to take heed of all the information available and get terribly attached to them prior to their demise. It was "in the brochure".

Everyone's got to ask, "so what am I going to do with my life?". He's answered that question, and that involves putting his climbing on film. He's doing what that involves without compromising what matters to him - I'm sure he'd much rather just go climbing without the circus, but he can see that it's better to make the money and do something half way useful with it. 

I'm 100% with Honnold and think he's a delightful, gentle man, whose priorities don't sit well with most people. I don't think I can bring myself to read that article that tries to drag some bullshit politics out of it.

1
off-duty - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Crikey. I'm sure I've read a worse article, but I'm struggling to remember it.

Still, at least the movie gave her a platform to broadcast her own story. So that's good. 

Jon Stewart - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> 4. Honnold talks about "performance" and I think there are two meanings to this. "My mum was always very performance-focused. Nothing I've ever done is good enough for her", he says. He sets out to do well, to achieve, to perform at a high level - but there is always also the aspect of performing for others. This is an important point, because it's where the film is really disingenuous. There's a lot of gumpf about doing the solo for "the right reasons" (as if there ever could be "right reasons" for something like this). The apex of this is where Honnold makes an attempt and backs out. Chin and the others in the film crew are happy to interpret this as meaning that Honnold is his own man, that he's not affected by the film crew and that they're not changing how he thinks about the climb. Yet, any vaguely empathetic person can see that Honnold is deeply pissed off about the failed attempt, that he's embarrassed, and that he's specifically embarrassed about failing in front of the film crew - a team of people who have gone to a lot of effort to film his ascent. It seems to me he conceptualises it as though he's made a claim about himself that he fails to deliver on, and which then becomes a hollow boast. It fills him with self-loathing. The film makers know this - they know they have to keep out of his way, and that it's only when he feels well within his ability, rather than vulnerable, that he can tolerate their presence. So, whatever the statements to the contrary, the solo of El Capitan is most definitely a performance for an audience; a performance aimed at gaining approval.

I don't agree with your analysis at all. He wants to  do the route. He's on it, he's not feeling it, he backs off. He's pissed off, because instead of being on the euphoric high of a lifetime's ambition in the bag, he's failed and is still in the thick of battle, and he's going to be there for AGES.

> 5. Finally, many people here will be familiar with Arno Ilgner's Rock Warrior's Way. Secondly, it's a book I found useful - but problematic, fetishistic, macho, limited.  Its protocols aimed at "eliminating the ego", can actually become a way of performing a kind of overly self-serious, pseudo-enlightenment that glosses over honest self-appraisal rather than facilitating it. Is this really one of the sources of Honnold's personal philosophy? Is it also one of the sources of his patronising attitude toward his girlfriend and his difficulty in dealing with probing questions about his own motivations?

I would expect his reaction to probing questions about his motivations are "this is what I want to do. That's it, now piss off and get that camera out of my face". As for his "patronising" attitude towards his girlfriend - what you're seeing is the gap in expectation between a "normal" person (who prioritises their closeness with loved ones and their reputation with others) and a real introvert who's genuinely not that bothered. He's got other things on his mind. You can moralise about that if you like, but he's not going to change and start acting all lovey dovey. It looks to me like he genuinely doesn't have the capacity. Perhaps I can relate to that...

People's reactions to real introverts are often either to moralise (you *should* be like...) or to medicalise (he's got a condition). I think we should take people as they are.

 

Post edited at 21:15
Jon Stewart - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

I could only skim-read this. But f*ck me was it bollocks. 

When I read stuff like this, I start to get an insight into what those on the right are saying about "identity politics" and "victimhood mentality". As for "toxic masculinity" ... if you're looking for it, Alex Honnold is not where it resides.

2
stp - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Wow great post and very thought provoking.

> he doesn't actually understand why he free solos, he has a very deep well of emotions connected to it, and he gets a bit pissed off when people don't accept the party line and persist in trying to make him dredge them all up.

Well we could say none of us really understand why we climb or why even bother to carry on living if you really want to go deeply into it. Our brains comes up with various rationalisations to try to make sense of our purposeless lives in this meaningless universe. So I wouldn't expect Honnold to do any better than the rest of us. Maybe he simply someone who hasn't swallowed the normal rationalisations and stories that most of us seem to accept?

 

> Firstly, it is a book about mastering your fear; the fact that Honnold is referencing this book - that he has in all likelihood studied it - indicates that he does have fear to master, which puts paid to theories that try to explain away his climbing achievements with reference to his brain is badly wired.

I think the idea is that his amygdala is underactive which may well help explain the fact that he can keep calm in what most would find to be terrifying, high stress situations. So it's not saying he doesn't feel fear. More that it takes a higher stimulus for him to feel that. 

I've come across other stuff related to this and I think there's a question as to whether this under-activity is a purely result of a genetic predisposition or whether by constantly putting himself in such situations he has trained his brain to be that way. So nature or nurture? Or, in my opinion, probably a fair bit of both.

He certainly mentioned in the film that reason he put off soloing El Cap was because it was so scary.

Ondra is a similar case. When asked about his fear of falling he said as long as he knows he's safe he's not been scared of falling since he was 7 years old. He says in a way it's a shame because he never gets to experience the high of an adrenalin rush like other climbers.

1
john arran - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

As someone who can relate to Honnald's desire for, mainly, the freedom to solo his chosen goals, whatever they may be, but also to the acknowledgement that there's a public interest that could make life financially easier if he lets the cameras into the world he's intent on living, I'm loving your analysis.

stp - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to fifthsunset:

> You could pick virtually any passage in there and pull apart its logic. Its nonsense.

I actually thought the first paragraph, the quote by Winona LaDuke , made sense and was really interesting. Not that it had anything to do with Honnold of course. After that, the rest, as far as I read, seemed like the writer was totally bonkers. Thanks for pointing out (some of) the fallacies.

 

2
stp - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

> People get paid to write guff like that?


I don't think so. I think it's basically just her blog that she's writing.

Having said that it is probably a rather successful troll. Lots of us on here have already read it so I'd guess it's probably had thousands of hits. The fact it's total nonsense is quite different to the fact it's had lots of views.

dougair on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

I saw this last night and have been digesting most of today. I really enjoyed it. Fascinating to see the process he goes through.

Ridge - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

> People get paid to write guff like that?

I particularly liked the verb “complexify”. 

ChrisBrooke - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to stp:

> I don't think so. I think it's basically just her blog that she's writing.

> Having said that it is probably a rather successful troll. Lots of us on here have already read it so I'd guess it's probably had thousands of hits. The fact it's total nonsense is quite different to the fact it's had lots of views.

i don’t think so. It has ‘intersectional feminism’ in the blog title and those people are dead serious. Have a look through some of the other articles, such as ‘white people have no culture’ for an insight into a world you probably never knew existed. If that’s not enough for you, check out everydayfeminism.com.  It’ll rock your world. These people are dead serious.

 

C Witter on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to dougair:

Aye - it was really affecting, I thought. I've not said much about the climbing, but the film caught the difficulty, tenuousness and scale of it so well. El Capitan looked incredible - especially in some of the shots toward the end of the solo, where huge panes of rock are shifting around this tiny figure in a way that defies perspective. And, for all that's been said above, I felt a connection to Honnold's desire for the project, and sympathetic to his difficulty in dealing with the emotions of everyone around him.

ChrisBrooke - on 12 Dec 2018
In reply to stp:

> Ondra is a similar case. When asked about his fear of falling he said as long as he knows he's safe he's not been scared of falling since he was 7 years old.

Well, he’s probably not climbed anything less than 20deg overhanging since he was 7 years old, so that makes sense....

stp - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

I had a look. Oh dear! I blame the education system. I think clear thinking should be mandatory for all children. They've learned how to write and express ideas quite well. They've learned how to use computers, the internet and how to spread those ideas. Unfortunately they just haven't learned how to think.

I don't have actually have problem with radical ideas and I'm pretty sympathetic to many. But I think some people espouse certain ideas, even whole philosophies more as a way to get attention, to make themselves different, than because they believe in the ideas themselves. I think they're unlikely to be conscious of this fact though.

1
Jim Hamilton - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> A good place to go for this is Jim Perrin's series of biographies on Shipton and Tillman, Whillans and Menlove. It seems to me that Perrin's main thesis over the three books is that mountaineering was very much a colonial project

I've read the Whillans biography, but can't think that it shows any such "thesis"?

 

 

Arms Cliff - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

 

> 5. Finally, many people here will be familiar with Arno Ilgner's Rock Warrior's Way - and it really interested me that at several points Honnold likened himself to a warrior (comparing shoes like a samurai sword; hood like a ninja's cloak) and even half-quoted the book (talking about striving for excellence in everything from tying shoe laces to performing moves)...

 

Having not read this book, but having read a few of the samurai and bushido texts (Book of Five Rings etc.), it seemed like Alex was drawing from this rather more ancient tradition, which may have influenced Ilgner's book?

 

C Witter on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

Then... try reading it again?

9
Pedro50 on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> A good place to go for this is Jim Perrin's series of biographies on Shipton and Tillman, Whillans and Menlove. It seems to me that Perrin's main thesis over the three books is that mountaineering was very much a colonial project

In Whillan's case this is clearly nonsense. He publicly stated that mountaineering was "just a job of work". Menlove's new routes, mainly or entirely in the UK were not remotely colonial. Shipton and Tilman possibly, I have not read that particular book. 

Dave Garnett - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I'm 100% with Honnold and think he's a delightful, gentle man, whose priorities don't sit well with most people. 

I don't know him personally but do know he cares about other people at least to the extent that he texts them to compliment them on their route when he repeats it.

And he hangs about with Cedar Wright, who certainly doesn't come across as wracked with self-analysis!

 

C Witter on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to Pedro50:

You've not quite understood my point, which does not in any sense accuse those figures of understanding or participating in mountaineering as a colonial project. In fact, quite the opposite. You're right, though, that Shipton and Tilman are a more ambiguous case as, for example, Tilman owned a plantation in Kenya (maybe Shipton too?), and both were involved in reconnaissance and mapping expeditions, and some of the big nationalist mountaineering projects, like Everest. But, one of Perrin's main - and overly laboured? - points is that they inaugurate a new spirit of mountaineering that is more ludic, more individual, in an 'alpine' style and opposed to the big mountaineering "conquests" of the day.

Post edited at 15:27
C Witter on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

p.s. I think the key word is "was"; those figures - perhaps Brown and Whillans particularly?? - are part of a transformation of mountaineering in the postwar period.

Pedro50 on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

OK understood. I think the "was" meaning presumably: "was previously" caused confusion. Cheers

Jim Hamilton - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

I will reread The Villain sometime, but so I know what to look out for, could you point out where in this book Perrin labours his colonial project thesis and new ludic spirit of mountaineering point?

eroica64 - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

She writes: "It’s in this absence of acknowledgment that Honnold denies his responsibility to name structural oppression and his role in maintaining it." Oh Lord, give me a break. Who says he has this responsibility?

She writes: "The film glorifies climbing, a sport that continuously leaves out the historical, social, and economic significance of being in sacred spaces like Yosemite." Why should it bring them in? Can't I walk up Snowdon without thinking  oft he historical, social, and economic significance of being in sacred spaces? It's just a walk. It's just some person soloing.We've all; most of us I guess, solo'ed at some time. Lighten up.

She writes: "Vying for supremacy is what white men are conditioned to do through our white supremacist patriarchal society." And female climbers in climbing competitions?

Erin Monahan excoriates misogyny but she is, in my opinion, a terrific example of its opposite, misandry.

sg - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

replying to parts of the thread really.

1. I'm really looking forward to seeing the film. Friends have spoken about it in glowing terms and the comments on here make it clear that the effort put in to produce and promote the film haven't gone unnoticed across the climbing community.

2. I read the article Natalie linked to with a critical eye, having seen the disparaging comments made by so many: many of whose opinions on here usually seem to be very reasonable and thoughtful.

3. I'm disappointed that so many of those white males aren't then prepared to engage with the key thrusts of the article at all but hats off to C Witter for first posting a thoughtful reflection on the film and then making a solid evaluation of the article.

On the issue of white vs native. I don't know much about the history of North America but I know / think that it should be a much greater source of shame than it is felt to be by many. Just reading 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' taught me that decades ago. You might think that a critique about a privileged white man getting to enjoy that beautiful wilderness for his own personal pleasure is the wrong response to a film about climbing but actually, where better? If we reflect with humility on the abhorrence of the Clearances when looking across the desolate northern Highlands (and we should), why not do the same when gazing upon the majestic vistas of the American frontier? Maybe the writer does feel her own shame at not recognising that discomfort sooner; that she acknowledges that discomfort now in an arguably clumsy way shoudn't be a source of mockery. We should all reflect on our own perceptions of the great (and sickening) American story of exploration and freedom. Overly simplistic and a little preachy, maybe. But not entirely wrong.

On the issue of privileged maleness. So Honnold is an archetype male in some respects and an exceptional individual in others. Again, why not use a critique of his film to articulate an argument about unquestioned attitudinal differences between white men and white women? It's a blog post, not an editorial in the Times. As white male punters full of gushing (and understandable), admiration for Honnold's unbelievable skill, of course we excuse his awkwardness and laud his frankness. But really, the writer's characterisation of it as typical of how men view each other's abilities (it's true, she uses the term 'recurring trope' a bit too often), doesn't seem entirely invalid to me.

Hmmm, I did think of more I was going to say but I've run out of energy and thinking already and gone on rather too long.

Anyway, thanks to C Witter for the thread (and the inspiration to watch), and the response re. the article, thanks to Natalie for posting the link, and to the article writer for making me think.

14
sg - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to eroica64:

I'm rejuvenated!

> She writes: "It’s in this absence of acknowledgment that Honnold denies his responsibility to name structural oppression and his role in maintaining it." Oh Lord, give me a break. Who says he has this responsibility?

As a lone individual maybe he doesn't. But as a privileged white male making a healthy buck out of a film which showcases a beautiful landscape, maybe he does. There is structural oppression, if only in the absence of recognition of the treatment of native american / first nation peoples. In denying it, arguably, like the rest of us, he maintains it. Global citizens have responsibility to be aware.

> She writes: "The film glorifies climbing, a sport that continuously leaves out the historical, social, and economic significance of being in sacred spaces like Yosemite." Why should it bring them in? Can't I walk up Snowdon without thinking  oft he historical, social, and economic significance of being in sacred spaces? It's just a walk. It's just some person soloing.We've all; most of us I guess, solo'ed at some time. Lighten up.

Maybe, but actually, why not bring the point up now. I imagine native american people have had enough of being told to lighten up, 125-odd years after the last of them was forced to live in a reservation.

> She writes: "Vying for supremacy is what white men are conditioned to do through our white supremacist patriarchal society." And female climbers in climbing competitions?

She also discusses the idea that male competition and vying for supremacy isn't necessarily healthy for them / us. Don't you think it's a cultural standard that men vie for supremacy? Women vie for supremacy too, but historically it hasn't been at such great cost to the rest of the planet.

> Erin Monahan excoriates misogyny but she is, in my opinion, a terrific example of its opposite, misandry.

Maybe she is. Maybe we just need to accept that things we still take for granted, despite thinking of ourselves as forward-thinking, modern, egalitarian, open-minded males, should be challenged.

Post edited at 23:20
11
TobyA on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

Cheers sg, pretty much agree with your reading the Monahan article. I don't agree with her on everything - I know nothing about Miwok society pre- or post-European contact and she may well be romaniticising or essentialising it for example - but its good to have your assumptions challenged. It's funny that the type of people who enjoy saying "triggered!" with relish to "snowflakes" who they perceive to be "SJWs", seem to get triggered themselves by women writers using terms like patriarchy or white privilege or using the language of academic feminist theory.

I haven't seen the film yet. I saw Dawn Wall recently and greatly enjoyed that and that sort of made me want to see Free Solo too, despite having said to myself after years ago watching the original one of him soloing Moonlight Buttress in Zion (Reel Rock something?) at a cinema, that I wouldn't watch more film of him soloing. That article intrigues me further now in some ways.

4
sg - on 13 Dec 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> Cheers sg, pretty much agree with your reading the Monahan article. I don't agree with her on everything - I know nothing about Miwok society pre- or post-European contact and she may well be romaniticising or essentialising it for example - but its good to have your assumptions challenged. It's funny that the type of people who enjoy saying "triggered!" with relish to "snowflakes" who they perceive to be "SJWs", seem to get triggered themselves by women writers using terms like patriarchy or white privilege or using the language of academic feminist theory.

Why not use the language of academic feminist theory, indeed! Change needs disagreement and political correctness (a force for good, lest we forget), has its roots in American university life.

> I haven't seen the film yet. I saw Dawn Wall recently and greatly enjoyed that and that sort of made me want to see Free Solo too, despite having said to myself after years ago watching the original one of him soloing Moonlight Buttress in Zion (Reel Rock something?) at a cinema, that I wouldn't watch more film of him soloing. That article intrigues me further now in some ways.

Yes, heard Dawn Wall is also brilliant so will have to try and see it somewhere too. I'll certainly think differently as I watch either / both film, having read the article.

1
Jon Stewart - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> I also think she is spot on in relation to much of what she says about gender, e.g. listening to the audience laugh at exchanges between Honnold and Sanni that were full of pain and anger. It felt like the embarrassed laughter of family members around the dinner table, who want to pretend something was a joke to avoid conflict - to avoid an honest appraisal of relationships. "Isn't dad funny, the way he teases mum by calling her stupid!" That kind of shit. 

I laughed, and maybe the rest of the audience did too, because the exchanges were uncomfortable. 

Sanni decides to go after this weird guy who's into f*cking soloing El Cap. What exactly is she expecting to find in this bloke? Some selfless model boyfriend who idolises her? As for relating this utterly extraordinary case to general political arguments about gender and society - well that's just plain nonsense. You literally couldn't find less useful, representative data for a political argument if you tried. 

Surely if you're going to make some attempt at an academic analysis of Free Solo, then you should be versed in psychology (or maybe geology). This is not material that has any content that be usefully viewed through the lens of political theory - which is why the article reads like an extremely boring piece of satire.

1
Robert Durran - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I bet Ms Monahan is a real bunch of fun to go climbing with - just imagine the crag banter!

 -

1
andrew ogilvie - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

( and in reply to other respondents)

I've not yet seen the film but the article presents  a very interesting critique and while I'm uncomfortable with presenting Honnold as an "effigy" and perhaps their also being a wee bit humourlessly literal the writer clarifies this at the end by explicitly saying that the concerns are not solely or principally about Honnold. The comments about dirtbag climbers and countercultural lifestyle being in fact privileges afforded by that same culture seem entirely fair and insightful ( at least in the sense they chime with my own experience and understanding in hindsight)

My reading is not of any misandry on the author's part but rather that men are differently damaged by cultural norms that are characterised as patriarchy. I don't think I'd have been so strident in drawing causal links from historical / sociological contexts to individuals actions but that there might be correlations is thought provoking and persuasive to some degree.

I set out to read the article rather expecting "loony feminist nonsense" of the kind  beloved of Private Eye in the 80s but in fact very much enjoyed it. My appreciation of the film will be enhanced rather than diminished by it.

 

8
Shani - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to sg.

> On the issue of white vs native. I don't know much about the history of North America but I know / think that it should be a much greater source of shame than it is felt to be by many. Just reading 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' taught me that decades ago. You might think that a critique about a privileged white man getting to enjoy that beautiful wilderness for his own personal pleasure is the wrong response to a film about climbing but actually, where better? 

I think many if not most people on here are aware of the horrors of Empire, invasion and so forth. Quite recently ive read materieal on the Rape on Nanking, colonial cruelty in South America, and Shashi Tharoor's Inglorious Empire.

To imagine that such themes should be shoe-horned in to every piece of work by white males on a geographic basis is utterly destructive and would kill creative endeavour, and comes with its own toxic burden of guilt projection. What right has she to push that on any single person?

Honnold is putting back in to society/environment  through his foundation. The author has no idea of his level of awareness on the issue of ancestral lands, feminism, or any other sociopolitical views he may hold.

She judges him on minutes of film footage alone; footage that is part of an entertainment package. Her's is a lesson in isolating yourself politically and choking off potential support from a broader base. Worse still, her work comes across as a cruel personal attack on an individual. It's almost abusive. She is sowing the seeds of a tyranny she rages against. 

Post edited at 07:59
Jon Stewart - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

> Worse still, her work comes across as a cruel personal attack on an individual. It's almost abusive.

True, but to really make my piss boil, her personal attack is entirely inaccurate. Because she's made no attempt to understand honnold's motivation and understand his behaviour (she just imposes her own totally inflexible idea of what white men are like and why), she comes up with an analysis that is nothing more than a malicious lack of attention to the material she's dealing with. What a dickhead. 

Shani - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Harsh but fair! Of all the criticism of Honnold as a person, throwing the weight of historical racial and sexual oppression on him seems a tad unfair, and over analyses what he has done; which is simply come up with an outrageous idea in an activity he loves and then performed it. He's never claimed to be perfect.

Furthermore his charitable work (It's covered in many interviews and is focused on the disadvantaged), and his personal outlook (increasingly left leaning), are very well thought out and commendable. 

I wonder how many people he has positively influenced regardless of race, creed and colour, and not just in terms of climbing?

Offwidth - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

I guess I'm one of those who normally defends academic feminist theorising. However, such work should be based on proper research and although the ideas are valid, the attachment to Honnold and this film are often plain unfair or very forced or highly personal. Being 'just in a blog' is no excuse when you target someone like this; she should apologise to Alex. This could all have been done in a less personal manner.

The inevitable backlash to any writing of this style from some here is tiresome and ignorant. There are real serious issues around how native americans were and continue to  be treated and the politics of this and also fair points to be made on gender politics need airing..  You can't just go for a walk or climb in many areas of the US as the land owners won't let you. All this land was stolen.  Native americans are sometimes very protective of the little land they have left.

Post edited at 10:53
2
Jon Stewart - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> The inevitable backlash to any writing of this style from some here is tiresome and ignorant.

If the backlash is not only inevitable, but also completely fair, then regardless of whether you find it tiresome, it isn't ignorant.

> There are real serious issues around how native americans were and continue to  be treated and the politics of this and also fair points to be made on gender politics need airing.. 

It isn't that the issues about native americans aren't real or important, it's that not addressing them in Free Solo is a stupid criticism and an invalid point. There is no reason to expect these issues to be addressed in the film. Shall we make a list of all the other political issues that Free Solo failed to address? On the gender issues, the author's points not only fail the relevance test, she also completely undermines everything she wants to say by framing her one dimensional political outlook as a personal character assassination on someone who's done nothing wrong. You can't make a valid point in this way, it isn't a form of argument that can communicate anything meaningful.

Thanks though to Natalie for posting it, as I'm feeling rather grouchy and it's a great target to spit some bile at.

Post edited at 11:11
Robert Durran - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> The inevitable backlash to any writing of this style from some here is tiresome and ignorant. There are real serious issues around how native americans were and continue to  be treated and the politics of this and also fair points to be made on gender politics need airing.. 

If UKC put up a serious article on the land issues surrounding the areas many of us have climbed in in the US, I am sure it would attract serious interest and discussion. Likewise as has happened with serious articles on gender and climbing. This article simply cannot be taken seriously.

1
Shani - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> The inevitable backlash to any writing of this style from some here is tiresome and ignorant.

The backlash is against how the author has chosen to project on to Honnold and Free Solo.

Who is she to demand atonement from Honnold? Why is he the person to make such an atonement?

As above, there are plenty of educated and 'woke' people on UKC. Targeting Honnold for having a penis and the wrong skin repeats that which she riles against.

Post edited at 11:27
Offwidth - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

Most of it is, some of it most certainly isn't.

Offwidth - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

I agree with all of that.

Offwidth - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Read all the UKC posts dissecting feminist theory content... do you seriously think nearly all are thoughtful, and knee jerk hatred is rare.... anger at feminist theory from some on UKC always seems much more important than the subject the theory involved. Its the same sort of problem as this article contained .. lazy exaggeration of the subject matter as a means for a political end.

I thought I was clear that the links of Free Solo to the subject of native american oppression were inappropriate and that was part of the reason Alex deserved an apology .

2
Arms Cliff - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Natalie: opens door, throws in hand grenade, closes door, walks away.

gavmac on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Jeez, that is some utter pish right there. I'm trying to think of a well reasoned , balanced response to that article but my brain still hurts from reading it. 

Post edited at 11:51
Shani - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Arms Cliff:

Has she trolled us?

fifthsunset - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

 

> 2. I read the article Natalie linked to with a critical eye, having seen the disparaging comments made by so many: many of whose opinions on here usually seem to be very reasonable and thoughtful.

> 3. I'm disappointed that so many of those white males aren't then prepared to engage with the key thrusts of the article at all but hats off to C Witter for first posting a thoughtful reflection on the film and then making a solid evaluation of the article.

I'm sorry but I've got to respond on this. I can't speak for anyone else, but my problem with the article is not with the points it makes, but that it doesn't actually make any points because it relies entirely on rhetorical dirty tricks, invalid reasoning, and bigoted stereotyping in its attempt. See my other post for a couple of examples. It's dishonest and unjust.

Put another way: if someone submitted the article as an academic essay, it would fail. If they tried to make arguments like these in court, they would lose. It's got more in comment with a Sun article than it does with academic theory.

I would absolutely engage with an article linking Alex Honnold to....well, anything you like. All the author has to do is link their premise to their conclusion in a logically valid way.

My other issue is that it takes words like "misogyny", "white supremacy", "abusive", "toxic" and without justification, levels them at a progressive-leaning rock climber who donates a portion of his income. Words matter and there are honest to god racists and misogynists out there - this is a time in history when Trump and Duturte are winning elections. You cheapen the power of these words by throwing them around so casually and unfairly. There's a boy who cried wolf effect here; if you call everyone a misogynist, people are just going to roll their eyes at you when you stumble across a real one. That's irresponsible. Some of us want misogyny and racism stamped out and you are hurting that cause.

One more thing. What makes you think its acceptable to identify the racial and gender group you think aren't prepared to engage with the article? Call me old fashioned but I don't judge people over things that have no control over, like the colour of their skin or what their gender is. The article does this as well, it uses the phrase "white men" or "white males" seven times. Imagine replacing all those occurrences with "African women". How does the article look now? Pick any other group of humans and write about them like that and they'd publish it in the Daily Stormer. It's bigotry, plain and simple.

TobyA on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> This article simply cannot be taken seriously.

It's your privilege to ignore it...

 

10
steveriley - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Anyways, I quite liked the film. Stunning cinema and I'd recommend anyone to see it. I liked the original dissection at the top - some interesting points. We'll all have our favourite moments "nice to know Spock has emotions". Much to enjoy.

[mumble, mumble, polemic, phallocentric world view]

It's a shame Honnold hasn't fixed World Peace yet.

Dave Garnett - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

> But as a privileged white male making a healthy buck out of a film which showcases a beautiful landscape, maybe he does. There is structural oppression, if only in the absence of recognition of the treatment of native american / first nation peoples.

Seriously?  You can't appreciate a landscape apolitically?  You do realise that El Capitan was there even before the First Nation?

 

DerwentDiluted - on 14 Dec 2018
C Witter on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

Not without re-reading them myself. However, from memory...

In The Villain, Perrin outlines on many occasions how Brown, Whillans and a host of other working-class vagabonds stuck a finger up at the establishment. He also discusses how these working-class climbers saw outcrop climbing as something of an end in itself - not as mere practice for the Alps and greater rangers - and pushed standards up massively. He also outlines how Whillans was overlooked at points, e.g. in relation to Everest, because his face (and manner) didn't fit.

In Menlove, Edwards is presented as an outsider - definitely not part of any climbing establishment. IIRC, he doesn't do anything in the Alps or greater ranges. He puts up hard routes on unpopular cliffs. He plays down his own achievements, downgrading his routes. Climbing is an escape from society, a place where he can exercise his desires and exorcise his demons.

In the Shipton and Tilman book, there is extensive discussion of how Shipton and Tillman acted on expeditions, their ethic (alpine-style - similar to Bonatti, actually), their joy in movement over conquest of summits, their recognition of the role of porters and their humanisation of them in their writing, their dissatisfaction with the big nationalist conquests of the day - esp. Everest.

All of this, taken together, is for me an attempt to attribute to these important figures a kind of insurgent, counter-hegemonic attitude to mountaineering which is part of its social, cultural, political and practical transformation over the course of the C20th. But, it's such a massive and ambitious intellectual/historical project that Perrin has taken on, that it's hard for me to do it justice here - he struggles to, in three books...!

Post edited at 16:04
C Witter on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

The word "appreciate" means "to value".

What is it that gives value to this landscape? Who produces it, and how does it circulate within society? How is this value transformed into other forms of value - property, capital? Who is able to appropriate these other forms of value?

Of course we can contemplate a landscape 'apolitically', but apolitical only means that we decide not to address the politics of that landscape, or that we overlook this politics.

Having said all this, there is a difference between political analysis and staging a personal attack on someone... even when that person is a climbing megastar.

2
Dave Garnett - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> What is it that gives value to this landscape? Who produces it, and how does it circulate within society? How is this value transformed into other forms of value - property, capital? Who is able to appropriate these other forms of value?

If only I understood them, these questions might be relevant if you are looking at the Colosseum, Machu Picchu or even Stonehenge.  A massive natural object like El Cap?  Not so much.

 

Post edited at 16:41
C Witter on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Yosemite clearly has a value - to the Native American people who once lived there; to the business owners who operate there now; to the tourists who shed money there; to the magazines and outdoor industry that make money from photos of Honnold and others sending El Cap. I'm sure you don't need me to explain this.

Of course, we might want to view El Cap as a natural wonder outside of these 'sordid' political relationships. The Romantic tradition that has taught us to think this way - itself a response to industrialisation and revolution - to some extent holds up nature as opposed to society. But, just as the Lake District is not separate of issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss and social inequality (encoded in such day-to-day issues as traffic, sheep farming and house prices), so Yosemite and El Capitan are embroiled in politics - including the dispossession of the Native American people, the destruction of wild places, federal funding budgets, consumerism and the inequalities of tourism. Again, I'm sure you already know this.

I also view climbing as an escape from "all that shit". But, the shit creeps back in, however much I try to avoid it. Cf. the place I'm most likely to disappear to on my own is Windy Clough, on the edge of the Forest of Bowland, which is owned by the Duke of Westminster's estate - a notorious tax avoider, owner of vast swathes of property across the UK, who is implicated in raptor deaths in the Forest of Bowland, which is used for grouse shooting. Windy Clough was closed for a long time this summer due to fire hazards... on a "managed" moor where "controlled" burning of heather exacerbates the fire risk... And we're probably giving public money to the DoW's estate for 'conservation'... So, I can go there and contemplate the wind and rain sculpted rocks, but that tends to creep in from time to time - not least when I'm not allowed on the land!

Post edited at 17:20
2
Shani - on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> The word "appreciate" means "to value".

> What is it that gives value to this landscape? Who produces it, and how does it circulate within society? How is this value transformed into other forms of value - property, capital? Who is able to appropriate these other forms of value?

> Of course we can contemplate a landscape 'apolitically', but apolitical only means that we decide not to address the politics of that landscape, or that we overlook this politics.

The holds on El Cap are all but invisible to a person on the ground, and arguably their only value is when a climber decides to pull on them. So did those holds ever really have any value to any one or any culture prior to the first climbers? What are the politics of a climb like Freerider - something that ONLY has a value because people climb that section of rock? In climbing a route we take only memories- so is there any actual appropriation?

Post edited at 17:22
C Witter on 14 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

Look... * sigh * 

Of course there is labour encoded in the ascent of Freerider. Who dug the ore that was then manufactured into the climbing gear that was used to send it for a first time; again; to prepare the route for the solo? Who manufactured the laptops, phones and droids used to film Honnold's solo? Who profits from the circulation of these media?

I'm not saying Honnold appropriated all this! And he also did a lot of labour, too! I'm not trying to attribute guilt here! And, I'm definitely not saying it's wrong to climb in Yosemite or anywhere else - I love climbing! I'm merely pointing out that it's not something apolitical, asocial, atemporal, happening in a vacuum.

Where we go with that politics, I dunno. When it comes to the example I gave above of the Forest of Bowland being owned by the estate of the Duke of Westminster, I think the answer is clear: we should take the land off the estate in the name of tax owed, prosecute the estate for damage to protected species, and ensure that it remains open to all with money invested in bodies that can work to protect this land and similar spaces.

When it comes to the politics of Alex Honnold climbing Freerider, though, I couldn't particularly give a damn - and unlike the writer of the now infamous article posted by Natalie, I don't think this is something that feeds into political practice in any obviously useful way. Except, perhaps... I do think the film and the debate around it - as well as the debate around other films and personalities - show that there is space for thinking about what sort of narratives we want to tell about climbing. I think that women climbers are increasingly demanding or producing for themselves different kinds of climbing media to those which chiefly privilege the achievements of white male athletes. None of this, for me at least, should detract from the uniqueness of Honnold's achievements. Likewise, I think it would be naive to think that telling stories in different ways and about women climbers won't also become a strategy for outdoor companies, etc., to try to market stuff to us... I've already seen plenty of pseudo-woke adverts ostensibly about empowering women, but really just about making us puke.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Ta!

11
John Stainforth - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

The film is penetrating insight into what motivates an exceptional climber. Honnold and his friends come over as totally honest about what they are doing. 5*.

It's ironic that such an exceptional rock-climbing movie should be a vehicle for 1* psychoanalysis. Some of these analysts should perhaps read a little more on the tradition of male warriors, which goes right back to the dawn of man and most species on Earth, including native Indian tribes.

sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> Look... * sigh * 

> Of course there is labour encoded in the ascent of Freerider. Who dug the ore that was then manufactured into the climbing gear that was used to send it for a first time; again; to prepare the route for the solo? Who manufactured the laptops, phones and droids used to film Honnold's solo? Who profits from the circulation of these media?

> Anyway, I'm rambling. Ta!

No, you did a great job of being open-minded and thoughtful. Given the way the white male privilege tide seems to be running on this thread, I'm not sure I have your energy to stand in the stream (!), but... Given that AH has now made a highly-regarded (and presumably fairly lucrative), movie I don't think we need to feel too anxious about him being oppressed in all this. He was able to overcome his awkwardness and diffidence long enough to do his One Show promo, after all. And the article isn't particularly meant as a personal attack on him, really; more an attack on us as unwitting bastions of attitudes which help maintain power structures. It has made me think differently and for that I'm grateful. 

I'm genuinely surprised at just how touchy some people on here seem to be about a blog post and a bit disappointed that they can't move beyond their specific dislikes of the writing or the writer to consider the wider points she tries to make. If you think it's unfair to link such arguments to a film review maybe that's because you're just looking at the whole thing from the wrong / right ends of the spectra of gender privilege and colour privilege. You're not meant to understand! (Large smiley face).

13
sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

> The film is penetrating insight into what motivates an exceptional climber. Honnold and his friends come over as totally honest about what they are doing. 5*.

I don't doubt that for one moment and I'm not sure the writer does either.

> It's ironic that such an exceptional rock-climbing movie should be a vehicle for 1* psychoanalysis. Some of these analysts should perhaps read a little more on the tradition of male warriors, which goes right back to the dawn of man and most species on Earth, including native Indian tribes.

Personally, I'm not even vaguely interested in the rock warrior stuff, and am sceptical about the value of most psychodynamic psychology; the other two issues though, I'm happy to reflect on.

Slightly confused - do most species on Earth have a male warrior tradition? Or are you talking about evolutionary ecology? Or most human species? Genuine question. 

1
John Stainforth - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

Why shouldn't your question be genuine? My very general comment may have caused confusion because it covered all *three* of your questions. To which (I think) the answers are probably: yes, yes and yes. 

ena sharples - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Quite. Who needs facts, evidence or proof when you have a f*cking massive axe to grind?

Shani - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

> No, you did a great job of being open-minded and thoughtful.

Being too open-monded allows your brain to fall out.

> Given the way the white male privilege tide seems to be running on this thread, I'm not sure I have your energy to stand in the stream (!), but...

Perhaps femi-victimisation is the real issue at hand?

> Given that AH has now made a highly-regarded (and presumably fairly lucrative), movie I don't think we need to feel too anxious about him being oppressed in all this.

Hindsight is wonderful. He made this film as a climbing bum.

 

> He was able to overcome his awkwardness and diffidence long enough to do his One Show promo, after all. And the article isn't particularly meant as a personal attack on him, really; more an attack on us as unwitting bastions of attitudes which help maintain power structures. It has made me think differently and for that I'm grateful. 

 

She gave him both barrels. Please re read it just to make sure you're 'woke'. She hammered him in an unnecessary and unprovoked way.

> I'm genuinely surprised at just how touchy some people on here seem to be about a blog post and a bit disappointed that they can't move beyond their specific dislikes of the writing or the writer to consider the wider points she tries to make. If you think it's unfair to link such arguments to a film review maybe that's because you're just looking at the whole thing from the wrong / right ends of the spectra of gender privilege and colour privilege. You're not meant to understand! (Large smiley face).

Perhaps its the case that most of us here are troubled by structural and systemic injustice and hate to see it repackaged in a pseudo-victimised angle of attack against one of life's good guys?

Post edited at 01:19
2
Dave Garnett - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> Anyway, I'm rambling. Ta!

Not at all, excellent exposition .  Guilt-ridden as I thought I was, I’m impressed by the size of your conscience.

I do just wonder who has a greater claim to an emotional/cultural attachment to the rock (as opposed to the real estate) of El Capitan; Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell, or earlier inhabitants of the area.  Or, indeed, why it needs to be a competition.

I have sympathy with the argument that you need a certain amount of privilege to aspire to be (temporarily) a dirtbag climber, but then I’m not sure how disadvantaged you need to be in order to enjoy it guilt-free.  Or what race, colour or gender.

sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

> Hindsight is wonderful. He made this film as a climbing bum.

But he sold it, and the landscape (which I'm assuming only adds to the viewing experience), to cinemas worldwide. He may not realise it, or know when he crossed the rubicon, but he's a celebrity who's put himself in the public gaze.

> She gave him both barrels. Please re read it just to make sure you're 'woke'. She hammered him in an unnecessary and unprovoked way.

That may be how it's read but (i) see above, (ii) she makes the point herself that the article isn't particularly about him per se, it's picking out some 'tropes' for what they might be.

> Perhaps its the case that most of us here are troubled by structural and systemic injustice and hate to see it repackaged in a pseudo-victimised angle of attack against one of life's good guys?

We all think of ourselves as life's good guys; that's the point, it's really hard to change perspective and not be reactive. I'm guilty for being a rich, white man. I have all the privileges that follow from that and it's hard for me to accept that others might see me as less than good simply for things I can't / don't change. I am the structure.

So the blog writer writes a(nother) post about gender politics or the (what we now view as) appalling treatment of native american people by our ancestors and not many people read it. But she draws some interesting points out of one of the biggest climbing films ever and way more people pick it up and think about her perspectives (specifically in our case because Natalie boldly, or naively, chose to link it); personally I'm glad she did. Things don't have to be brilliantly written or agree with everything one says to be thought-provoking, surely? 

12
sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Not at all, excellent exposition .  Guilt-ridden as I thought I was, I’m impressed by the size of your conscience.

> I do just wonder who has a greater claim to an emotional/cultural attachment to the rock (as opposed to the real estate) of El Capitan; Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell, or earlier inhabitants of the area.  Or, indeed, why it needs to be a competition.

It's not a competition and claims move and change with history. AH is no more guilty than anyone else of climbing in lands that, no so long ago, saw people forcibly removed from them. But he has just made a tidy packet from it so, arguably bears a little more of the responsibility in sharing that story (not that I want to attack him personally of course, sheer folly!).

> I have sympathy with the argument that you need a certain amount of privilege to aspire to be (temporarily) a dirtbag climber, but then I’m not sure how disadvantaged you need to be in order to enjoy it guilt-free.  Or what race, colour or gender.

In one sense, you can't. We are all connected by many networks, including, I suppose, moral networks. The downside of being at the mighty end of these power spectra is suffering the irresolvable guilt of being stuck there (smile).

5
sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

> Why shouldn't your question be genuine? My very general comment may have caused confusion because it covered all *three* of your questions. To which (I think) the answers are probably: yes, yes and yes. 

OK cool thanks. I'm interested in the idea of describing invertebrate (or most other species), relationships in terms of traditions. Will think more.

1
sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Seriously?  You can't appreciate a landscape apolitically?  You do realise that El Capitan was there even before the First Nation?

To answer this earlier question, increasingly less so. Sad face. But CW has explored that ground (the irony of language), far better than I could.

2
Shani - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

"...a man who has gone his whole life denying and suppressing his emotional capacity to feel, while simultaneously internalizing his trauma associated with emotional abuse and neglect. The result has caused him to emotionally abuse and disregard his loved ones and friends."

Read that last sentence. Is anyone qualified to make such a judgment on the back of a few minute of film?

> We all think of ourselves as life's good guys; that's the point, it's really hard to change perspective and not be reactive. I'm guilty for being a rich, white man. I have all the privileges that follow from that and it's hard for me to accept that others might see me as less than good simply for things I can't / don't change. I am the structure.

Wow. She's made you hate yourself. I'm very aware of historical injustice and privilege. Look at my posting history where recently I've argued against embedded power structures that choke society, such as the Royal family, grammer schools, elements of Remembrance Sunday, tax evasion/avoidance, the horror of Empire in India and in Ireland, environmental concerns (I'm fighting for change!). I'm not saying I'm perfectly 'woke', and such opinions have definitely attracted some hate towards my good self, but crucially i don't self-loathe on the basis of my skin colour or genitalia. 

Post edited at 10:05
1poundSOCKS - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

> Natalie boldly, or naively, chose to link it

Maybe wisely? It was pretty obvious the article would generate a lot of discussion. Not exactly bad news for UKC.

rurp - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Being a simple soul I’m stuck on your first point, ‘Wow’.

Best climbing  vid I’ve ever seen. Kids loved it. Can’t wait to try a karate kick off a thumb sprag, when 6 inches below a solid bolt or two.

I could have done with some chalk just to hang onto my drink. 

Good luck with the theories

sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

> "...a man who has gone his whole life denying and suppressing his emotional capacity to feel, while simultaneously internalizing his trauma associated with emotional abuse and neglect. The result has caused him to emotionally abuse and disregard his loved ones and friends."

> Read that last sentence. Is anyone qualified to make such a judgment on the back of a few minute of film?

It's a strong statement, I grant you. I'm looking forward to seeing the film all the more. We could all reflect on the extent to which we do that though, couldn't we? She might not be entirely wrong either.

> Wow. She's made you hate yourself. I'm very aware of historical injustice and privilege. Look at my posting history where recently I've argued against embedded power structures that choke society, such as the Royal family, grammer schools, elements of Remembrance Sunday, tax evasion/avoidance, the horror of Empire in India and in Ireland, environmental concerns (I'm fighting for change!). I'm not saying I'm perfectly 'woke', and such opinions have definitely attracted some hate towards my good self, but crucially i don't self-loathe on the basis of my skin colour or genitalia. 

Thanks for introducing me to the word 'woke'; I saw it a couple of times up the thread and was curious. Interesting idea. I guess becoming woke is quite tricky, no? I don't doubt your credibility as a SJW one iota. I also try avoid self loathing, although that's not always easy! I just opted to write rhetorically about myself as a privileged white male rather than target other people because I usually like to think it draws less ire! Clearly failed miserably in this instance - I'll have to just post 'you, you, you' at people in future, to avoid the sense that I can't live with myself.

I could also point out that the article certainly didn't bring me to the conclusion that I'm doomed to guilt by birth, I've had that idea for years (white man's burden). But then I go climbing and forget about it! Thanks.

3
sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> > Natalie boldly, or naively, chose to link it

> Maybe wisely? It was pretty obvious the article would generate a lot of discussion. Not exactly bad news for UKC.

I'm so naive, I genuinely hadn't thought of that. I feel played now!

WVRox - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

“......emotionally abuse and disregard his loved ones and friends.”

Absolutely spot on to pull sg up on this comment. One of the most outrageous comments I’ve ever come across on UKC. 

Dave Garnett - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

> What is it that gives value to this landscape? Who produces it, and how does it circulate within society? How is this value transformed into other forms of value - property, capital? Who is able to appropriate these other forms of value?

Actually, I tend to value landscapes from an ecological point of view, and sometimes politics flows from this, but not, I think, the politics that would occur to you.

 

Shani - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to sg:

> I don't doubt your credibility as a SJW one iota.

I'm no SJW. It is one of those terms designed to choke off ideas in a single word or phrase and shut down debate.

sg - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani:

> > I don't doubt your credibility as a SJW one iota.

> I'm no SJW. It is one of those terms designed to choke off ideas in a single word or phrase and shut down debate.

Quite; I was being facetious. What I really meant was you didn't need to convince me of your credentials as a free thinker open to messages from history. I've never described myself as a sjw either but no doubt I could be accused of being such by anyone who disagreed with something I might say about the environment, animal welfare, politics, gender, indigenous peoples etc etc. Thanks again.

3
Dave 88 - on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> > Natalie boldly, or naively, chose to link it

> Maybe wisely? It was pretty obvious the article would generate a lot of discussion. Not exactly bad news for UKC.

I'd rather UKC didn't just become another click bait site, clamouring for hits at any cost.

Post edited at 18:42
2
C Witter on 15 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

I agree it's fantastic footage of an exceptional climber. I don't think it's ironic that it should be a vehicle for 1* psychoanalysis; I think the film invites this and the film makers - and even Honnold - participate quite actively in speculation and debate about the psychology behind this achievement; which is, above all, perhaps not chiefly an achievement of technical climbing but of mental mastery.

By the by, I'm reading/flitting over and over your brother's book on the Cuillin and it's cracking!

Post edited at 22:58
John Stainforth - on 16 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

The film certainly raises many questions that most climbers can relate to - including "why do we do it at all?" One of the things that I find fascinating now is that I don't fully understand, retrospectively, my own climbing motivations when I was young. It may have been some kind of 'typical' hormonal/adrenal young male thing; I don't know. So if I don't even understand my own climbing obsessions when I was young, how can I hope to analyse someone as extreme as Alex, who most of his top climber friends don't fully understand today?

Post edited at 00:19
EarlyBird - on 16 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

She's no P.G.Wodehouse.

 

Shani - on 16 Dec 2018
In reply to EarlyBird:

Saw Free Climb this evening. My goodness that article so misses nuance in the relationship. She's worked hard to rip examples of misogyny and male privilege out of the film.

 

As for the film, WOW indeed. Sweaty palms for much of it. It is epic in scale and ambition. Up there with the best sports films, but whereas surfing a big wave can be over in minutes, multiple tricky pitches across 4 hrs of climbing and an hour of showreel means your adrenal glands get a battering. For a spectator in the cinema this film is E0!

HP - on 17 Dec 2018

I came out of that film really cross with the girlfriend. She’s trying to change him into something he is not. I can’t help feeling that she will only relax when he stops soloing and at that point it won’t be Alex any more. 

4
Ramblin dave - on 17 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

> So if I don't even understand my own climbing obsessions when I was young, how can I hope to analyse someone as extreme as Alex, who most of his top climber friends don't fully understand today?

Yes, I think this is a good point. It's worth remembering that both the relationship stuff and the general-attitude-to-climbing stuff is filtered and mediated because a) people will naturally behave differently when they know they're being filmed and b) the filmmakers will select and edit stuff to fit the story that they're trying to tell. Trying to understand and judge people based on a documentary is a mug's game.

Generally, I thought the article that Natalie posted had some interesting points about "outdoor culture" - we are sometimes guilty of erasing the people associated with a place because we want to frame it as "wilderness" for us to explore, we do sometimes attach too much significance to the "freedom" involved in dirtbag / dropout culture, there is a lot of ambient macho crap - but the connection to Free Solo felt like a bit of an artificial hook for a lot of it.

FWIW, I thought the film was great.

 

1
alan moore - on 23 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Late to the party on this one but saw it in Dundee yesterday.

Was getting a bit fed up after the first hour with everyone constantly banging on about death and dying (to keep the non-climbing viewers interested?) and all the daft love-interest stuff, although I did start to feel sorry for Sanni, constantly being used as a comic side-kick.

Things really did pick up when the climbing started though. A magic and genuine moment when he gurns at the camera after the crux. Proper wisdom from Tommy Caldwell and Peter Croft. And capturing the intensity of reaching the top and realising the RURC was, as it should have been, the best bit of the film.

Essential viewing for people who would wear in duvet in a cinema. I'd watch it again.

2
Robert Durran - on 23 Dec 2018
In reply to alan moore:

> Was getting a bit fed up after the first hour with everyone constantly banging on about death and dying (to keep the non-climbing viewers interested?).

Considering that possible death is what preoccupies most climbers when the subject of Honnold comes up, I really don't think that's the case.

birdie num num - on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

I didn't feel safe watching this film at all. Next time, I'm going to watch it in a harness, with a tight top rope

John Stainforth - on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to birdie num num:

I certainly could have done with a chalk bag for my sweaty palms!

birdie num num - on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

Well it was a great film, I'm not going to attempt a diagnosis, psychological, political or ethical. I'm just glad he made it, for us all to see. What a thing.

Now hang up your soloing boots Alex. There's a lot of life still to be led.

 

1
John Stainforth - on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to birdie num num:

My sentiments entirely!

1poundSOCKS - on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to birdie num num:

> Now hang up your soloing boots Alex. There's a lot of life still to be led.

My mum has the same view of any form of rock climbing. Not sure I can live without it.

no_more_scotch_eggs - on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to birdie num num:

The thing is, having watched the film now, I’m not sure that he can. 

I hope I am wrong 

Heartinthe highlands on 28 Dec 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Thanks for this Natalie. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable article that made some important points. I am still surprised, at my age, how few people are able to see the world outside of their own culture, race and gender. I am no longer surprised that history is always written by the winners. 

 

Post edited at 19:03
8
John Stainforth - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to Heartinthe highlands:

I got the impression that the writer of this article fell into exactly the trap that you describe.

Heartinthe highlands on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

I'll just hold your mirror a little closer. 

11
Eric9Points - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

I'm surprised at some of the responses to this thread. 

For me, at least, soloing El Cap is my wildest dream. Am I alone in having day dreamed something like this? What could be worth more to a climber than being able to get from the bottom to the top of that fabulous piece rock unencumbered by ropes, gear and partners? Of course for almost every climber doing something like this will remain just a wild dream, there is no chance we'd get to the top alive so there is no point in even trying.

But just imagine that you are actually good enough that it occurs to you that you could do it. Am I the only one that would want to fulfil their dream?

It's a shame that this thread is about cod psychology as a film I thought it great. The cinematography was excellent, the way the camera slowly moved during climbing sequences to convey the sense of precariousness. The illustrations of the pressures on the climber, from the film project that presses you to do it to the girlfriend who you know doesn't want you to because she loves you. The insights into the attitudes of Alex, Tommy Calwell et al. Like Touching the Void, this was a climbers film that at the same time is accessible to non climbers.

Shani - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

Good point. Plenty of us solo. Many of us have practised and soloed a route with the potential consequence of severe injury or death.

Technically harder routes have been soloed than Freerider, so what makes this solo so compelling and contentious? It's simply the height - which taps in to an atavistic fear. But damnit, if i had the ability, nailing the Boulder Problem or cranking up the Endurance Corners ropeless, would be a dream come true. Absolutely wild.

http://danmcmanus.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-guide-to-freerider.html

Post edited at 11:53
1
Clint86 - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Its all ego. Your Mum will have a different perspective on it being female.

Robert Durran - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to Shani

> Technically harder routes have been soloed than Freerider, so what makes this solo so compelling and contentious? It's simply the height - which taps in to an atavistic fear.

I don't think so. It's just as much, if not more, the insecure falloffability of the climbing. 

 

1
Eric9Points - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> In reply to Shani

> I don't think so. It's just as much, if not more, the insecure falloffability of the climbing. 


Yep. When the dilemma of doing the boulder corner or the teflon corner was explained I'd probably have gone for the boulder problem too, although you can never know for sure without trying them of course. I'd rather do something short and hard on relatively positive holds than smear and balance my way up a blank corner.

Shani - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

> Yep. When the dilemma of doing the boulder corner or the teflon corner was explained I'd probably have gone for the boulder problem too, although you can never know for sure without trying them of course. I'd rather do something short and hard on relatively positive holds than smear and balance my way up a blank corner.

That's exactly what i meant by 'technically harder'; the physical aspect of the moves, rather than 'fluffability'. 

1poundSOCKS - on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to Clint86:

> Its all ego.

Climbing is all ego?

Heartinthe highlands on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to C Witter:

Just watched it. An excellent film. Inspirational. Go, see it, if you haven't already. I think your review nailed it.

 

Heartinthe highlands on 29 Dec 2018
In reply to John Stainforth:

Sorry John. My last post to you was rude. I apologise. Bit grumpy this morning. 

Post edited at 15:39
malk - on 11 Jan 2019
In reply to C Witter:

interesting insights on LA's podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvsBz7hbIj8

WVRox - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to malk:

I agree, interesting and thoughtful comments from AH, expressed in a very articulate way. No time for LA though, not sure why anyone still indulges him. One is a sportsman at the top of his game who has just produced one of the most astonishing sporting feats in history; the other is a liar and a cheat and a con man.

4
1poundSOCKS - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to WVRox:

> One is a sportsman at the top of his game who has just produced one of the most astonishing sporting feats in history; the other is a liar and a cheat and a con man.

Give us a clue?

3
Patrick Roman - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to WVRox:

> I agree, interesting and thoughtful comments from AH, expressed in a very articulate way. No time for LA though, not sure why anyone still indulges him. One is a sportsman at the top of his game who has just produced one of the most astonishing sporting feats in history; the other is a liar and a cheat and a con man.

 

That’s pretty unforgiving. Live and let live. I had a smile on my face throughout that interview. Armstrong is just so frank, which I appreciate. 2 giants shooting the breeze. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% anti-doping but I loved the Armstrong era. And to be fair, they were all at it. I thought it was quite endearing that he wasn’t keen to talk about himself even when pushed by Honnold. And when he did address his time on the bike, he appeared to do so with a genuine degree of contrition. And there was a lot of humour in there. I mean, the discussion about the sex bike, or walking to the grocery store via the neighbours’ fence, or the name his own biopic that Armstrong couldn’t remember. Come on, what’s not to like?!

 

As far as the film is concerned, I thought it was interesting that Armstrong picked up on the scenes with Peter Croft and Mikey Schaefer. I thought their reactions in the film were key. And what a film it is. My head actually hurt watching parts of it. The editing is such that after, say, the footage of repeated fails on the Boulder Problem, you can’t help but wince (to put it mildly) when he finally arrives beneath it without the rope.

 

Having also watched the Dawn Wall on the big screen, I thought the Free Solo story, the way it was crafted and pieced together, was far more seamless and powerful. A staggering collaborative effort. I cannot imagine (something I contemplated during the screening) what it must have felt like to watch it unfold in real time. But Mikey does a pretty good job of showing me

 

Looking forward to seeing Honnold at the Oscars, sat between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga...

2
felt - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to malk:

1:11:53, discussing its 4th place in Vanity Fair's films of the year.

A: I mean documentaries don't, they don't rank like that.

H: Yeah, but this doesn't feel like a documentary in a lot of ways. You know, it's like an action movie almost.

A: No it's actually. Dude, it's like a, it's like a horror movie.

 

WVRox - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to Patrick Roman:

If it had been two giants ‘shooting the breeze’ then fair enough - and if he hadn’t achieved those TdF victories by cheating and constant denial then LA would indeed be a giant. TBH I’m surprised that AH wanted to indulge Armstrong - but then again, I’m not American, and I understand from friends over there that for many, LA is stil the all American hero. Very strange. 

5
Patrick Roman - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to WVRox:

> TBH I’m surprised that AH wanted to indulge Armstrong - but then again, I’m not American...

 

I don’t think you need to be American to be more accepting, just human. Perhaps Alex acknowledges the past is the past and it’s better not to judge from a distance. I guess that’s why he has his Foundation?

4
1poundSOCKS - on 13 Jan 2019
In reply to Patrick Roman:

> And to be fair, they were all at it.

Hmm. Not sure exactly what you mean by all. Professional cycling or just the TdF? But even if you just mean the TdF, is there evidence they were all doping? I'm sure the dopers would like us to believe they were all at it. 

2
ClimberEd - on 13 Jan 2019
In reply to WVRox:

> If it had been two giants ‘shooting the breeze’ then fair enough - and if he hadn’t achieved those TdF victories by cheating and constant denial then LA would indeed be a giant. TBH I’m surprised that AH wanted to indulge Armstrong - but then again, I’m not American, and I understand from friends over there that for many, LA is stil the all American hero. Very strange. 

Oh do grow up. Doped or not, winning the TDF 7 times is a giants game.

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