Month: November 2018

RunOut #11: Connor Herson Frees the Nose.

On November 19th, Connor Herson, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Emerald Hills, California became the 6th human to free-climb the Nose, only missing the 5th ascent to Keita Kurakami’s extraordinary free rope solo by a few days.

Supported by his father Jim, a longtime valley climber, Connor freed the famous climb in a three-day push, only falling on, then redpointing, the Changing Corners pitch rated 5.14a.

Connor has been surrounded his whole life by a climbing family including his dad, his mother Anne, and his badass older sister Kara, who, incidentally, climbed Half Dome in winter and the Nose in a Day sans jumars as a mere tween.

On today’s RunOut, Andrew Bisharat and I – two climbers well past their prime – grill Connor Herson – a climber only on the cusp of his vast potential – about what makes him tick.

RunOut #10: Adam Ondra’s Near Onsight of the Salathe Wall

What do you consider to be a casual, non-serious climbing trip? Maybe it’s bouldering with your homies. Maybe it’s a few weeks of sport climbing on some Mediterranean island where the you end up spending as much time cragging as you do at the beach, drinking ouzo and snacking on roasted goat meat.

For Adam Ondra—who is between comp seasons, which apparently demand much more serious attention and focus—a casual climbing trip means going to the United States to try to onsight a few moderates …

Only in this case, “moderate” means the Salathé Wall on El Cap. 32 pitches, 5.13b. A crack-climber’s dream.

Had any other Euro showed up in Yosemite with a goal of onsighting the Salathe, we Americans would’ve scoffed and laughed. But Ondra earned mad street cred two years ago when he swooped in and completed the second ascent of the Dawn Wall in less time than it takes me to get through a single issue of Alpinist.

On November 3, Ondra enlisted the belay and simul-climbing skills of Belgian badass Nico Favresse to join him in a single-push, sub-24-hour onsight attempt of the greatest crack climb on earth.

Leading everything, Ondra just cruised … He onsighted the Boulder problem pitch, the 12c roof, the monster off width—he got himself all the way up to the famous Headwall crux without a fall. However, his dream came up short. By then, there was no gas left in the tank, and he came away empty handed in some respects, but seemed to be just as happy and fulfilled to have gotten the opportunity to climb an amazing route like the Salathe. Who could argue with that?

This is Andrew Bisharat and I’m here with my co-host Chris Kalous, and we caught up with the Ondrasaurus himself to hear more about his magnificent failure on the Salathe.

RunOut #9: Breaking the Fourth Wall in Free Solo with DP Mikey Schaefer

To free solo or not to free solo, is not the question of today’s podcast—but whether it is ethical to film it.

Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary film Free Solo remains just about the biggest thing happening in climbing right now. It’s something that has haunted me and co-host Chris Kalous since we saw it a few weeks ago. To be honest, we haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

And you can hear our initial discussion in episode 7. That episode is merely an attempt to dry out our sweaty palms in the aftermath of watching this film.

However, now, with clearer heads, we wanted to dig in and go a little deeper. Free Solo is not just a spectacle of Alex Honnold’s obscene tolerance for risk, it also dances dangerously close to discussing the ethics of filming a guy risking his life.

This film breaks the fourth wall—the behind the scenes story of struggling to shoot Honnold is as much a part of the story as Honnold’s free solo of El Capitan.

We invited our friend Mikey Schaeffer to speak to us for today’s episode. Mikey is a longtime climber and just one of the true, authentic energies of our sport. He was also a DP, a director of photography, on Free Solo. Honnold selected him as one of the few guys he could trust to be hanging on a rope beside him and have confidence that Mikey wouldn’t drop a lens on him or cause some other horrific outcome.

Mikey also has one of the more interesting roles in Free Solo. Of all the camera operators, he was the one who seemed to be most genuinely distraught by what he was witnessing. If you’ve seen the film, Mikey is the one whose face they cut to repeatedly during the climactic montage of Honnold’s big climb.

He’s grimacing. He literally can’t bring himself to watch—and yet, like we in the audience, he also can’t look away.

I recognized this as a device often utilized in horror and suspense films—Hitchcock was perhaps the original master of this technique. In this regard, Free Solo isn’t just a documentary; it fully fits in the genre of suspense and thriller.

And yet, the thrills aren’t moot or for mere casual entertainment. The consequences are horrifyingly real.

We spoke to Mikey to hear more about what it was really like to have worked on this film for the past two years. I personally really enjoyed this interview. Mikey shared some really surprising details and insights into his own experience. He also gave some really fascinating insights into the black box that is Alex Honnold’s mind.