I can tell you with complete confidence that the last thing in the world I’m going to do is climb a mountain. More specifically, I’m not going to climb a mountain using only my fingertips and feet with no security rope. It’s just plain never happening.
Yet that’s what climber Alex Honnold does in the National Geographic movie Free Solo. It’s mind-boggling from every vantage point. How do you get a camera close to a climber without distracting him while he’s hanging onto a mountainside by his fingertips? And there are other films that are daring and bold involving mountains and varying degrees of safety rope effectiveness: Touching the Void, Meru and North Face.
I’ve done indoor rock climbing and enjoyed it. But there was a safety rope and I only went half-way up the wall. I had no inclination to touch the ceiling, no inner drive encouraging me upward. In fact, I don’t remember looking down either. But I admire and am a bit baffled by those whose aims are sky high.
Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush or enjoying taking risks. Maybe it’s like any Olympic athlete, the drive to push yourself to the limit, to aim for perfection. I’m not a candidate for this aspiration. I’m content with simple achievements, like getting through the day. And I’m comfortably terrestrial. Flat surfaces are just fine with me. Yawn.
I’m amazed by those who push past boundaries of safety and security that I’m perfectly happy to remain within. Sitting in the den wondering how and why they do it, I also felt inspired by their bravery and courage. If you want to vicariously push a boundary or two, check out Free Solo from your couch. It’s jaw-droppingly remarkable to observe and an adrenaline rush even while you’re seated.