I have reviewed several mountain climbing movies and documentaries. Most of them are quite good and all are pretty fascinating. Recently I watched The Dawn Wall and then watched Free Solo, which was reviewed by Kevin. The commonalilty shared by individuals who attempt these feats is that they are all more than a little insane. Obsessed and driven does not begin to explain the mindset of these individuals who crave a date with Death.
El Capitan is a marvel of geomorphology. It is a granite monolith like no other. It rises 3,000 from its base in a 90 degree vertical. Even using the latest climbing gear and taking the easiest route, 31 climbers have died attempting this most difficult of all rock climbs. As recently as 2 days ago, a teacher’s aid fell to her death at El Capitan. This rock is no joke. When I said “easiest” this refers to the route where there are actually cracks for hand and foot holds. The Dawn Wall has no such luxuries. It is like a sheer glass wall with embedded razor blades. To free climb The Dawn Wall was thought to be impossible, but it became an obsession for Tommy Caldwell.
Both feats in these two documentaries were pretty amazing. Soloing is climbing without ropes. Free climbing uses ropes and other climbing gear. See the picture below. Both endeavors are insane on El Capitan, but the chances of death with Free Soloing are significantly higher as you might imagine. Hell, sometimes I think I need a rope just to go down to Elevation and buy a beer.
The Dawn Wall is not just a documentary about the climb, but about the events in Tommy Caldwell’s life that led up to his attempt at this impossible feat. O.K., we all know that he made it, that is old news. It is how that Tommy and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgenson made it that is so fascinating. Before the how, we had a harrowing look at some of the events that shaped Tommy Caldwell’s life. This movie is about relationships as well, and the crushing reality of losing the only person you have really loved. It is also about sacrifice, teamwork and loyalty, but most of all it is about sheer perseverance.
To give you a little hint of spoilers and some of the obstacles, Tommy was missing his index finger on his left hand due to an accident. They were on that wall of Hell for 19 days, eating, sleeping, peeing and pooping on a sheer cliff of granite. I can’t even articulate how difficult this climb was, you’ll just have to fire up Netflix to see for yourself. Like I said, all these people are insane, and have a hard time holding on to girlfriends and wives, but for your viewing pleasure, The Dawn Wall is hard to beat for a climbing movie.
[Adam Ondra subsequently made the climb in 8 days in November 2016]. See image above.
7.5/10.0 And a must watch for climbing enthusiasts