“If you’re free soloing it’s about perfect execution…or certain death” – Jimmy Chin
On Sunday evening, Jackson Hole resident Jimmy Chin, along with his wife filmmaker Chai Vasarhelyi, won an Academy Award for co-directing the film “Free Solo”. The movie features climber Alex Honnold and Honnold’s dramatic, unprecedented free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
In this interview with Vanity Fair, Chin and Vasarhelyi describe what sets Alex Honnold apart from most people, even if he weren’t a uniquely talented climber.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Chai: Alex lives every day of his life with intention. He’s doing exactly what he wants to do with his life.
Jimmy: But there’s also this misperception…people think “Oh, he’s a free soloist. He has a death wish”…that’s not who he is.
Chai: If he was a daredevil or a maverick, we wouldn’t have been interested in making the film. It was actually his process, his discipline…It was kind of a perfect storm for a documentary film…real existential issues lay in the dangers involved….in his courage he was connecting with people.
Ironically, although the movie focuses on Alex Honnold it also says a great deal about Jimmy, Chai, and their team. What Jimmy and Chai said about Alex Honnold also applies to themselves and their team. It took great discipline and a unique process for everyone involved in the project in order to create the gripping drama that audiences experience. “Free Solo” is more than a film about an extraordinary athlete accomplishing an astonishing fete. In fact, this movie is the story of two extraordinary human feats: Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Capitan and Jimmy Chin’s team filming it. Chin led a highly-skilled crew that filmed the accomplishment, shooting video and photos from positions on El Capitan that few – other than world-class climbers – could even reach, let alone film or photograph from. The experience that he, his wife, and their team produced is a testimonial to what can be achieved with collaboration, a sound process, and great execution.
Most of us can’t aspire to free solo El Capitan or win an Oscar. But we can aspire to live life intentionally, with courage to face obstacles we encounter, and with discipline, collaboration, and a well-conceived, well-executed process.