Thursday, September 9, 2021

He climbed alone — and liked it that way


     I’m not a follower of climbers, so I’m unfamiliar with the highly focused athletes who might be household names to folks who immerse themselves in this high-risk world.
    Maybe my ignorance of all things alpine doesn't matter because The Alpinist tells the story of solo climber Marc-Andre Leclerc, a 22-year-old Canadian who never sought celebrity status.
     True to its name, The Alpinist offers dizzying views of a young man ascending cliff walls so forbidding you can't quite believe he's attempting to climb them.
     Directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen show Leclerc's exploits in ways that make you gasp as he works his way up cliffs that often require him to negotiate a trio of perilous surfaces: snow, ice, and rock. 
     If the 2018 Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo left you wanting more, The Alpinist should fill the bill. Alex Honnold, the subject of Free Solo, also shows up in The Alpinist, offering commentary, as do other climbers.
   A mostly solitary figure who once spent time living in a stairwell, Leclerc sometimes climbs with his professional climber girlfriend Brette Harrington. But usually, he works alone, pursuing adventures without excessive calculation.
   Moving from climb to climb, the movie eventually chronicles Leclerc's assault of Torre Egger in Patagonia, a treacherous climb that required him, at minimum, to check weather conditions.
     In addition to offering some incredible climbing footage, The Alpinist serves as a portrait of an independent-minded young man who marches to his own drummer. 
    I won't say anymore because if you don't already know Leclerc's story, it's best to discover it in a theater.
     I can’t pretend to understand why Leclerc put himself at so much risk. To feel free? To concentrate life into a singular task, determining the next move? 
     Whatever his motivations, it’s almost impossible to watch The Alpinist without uttering cries of amazement as Leclerc works his way through one harrowing challenge after another.

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