Filmmakers Detail The Immense Care They Took Capturing Free Solo Climb Up El Capitan In Yosemite

In 2017, champion free climber Alex Honnold scaled El Capitan at Yosemite National Park, a 3,000 foot cliff from base to summit, without the benefits of ropes or safety gear.

The attempt alone was dangerous enough, but Hohnhold allowed filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and husband Jimmy Chin to document this incredible feat as well.

In New York Times Op-Doc, “What if He Falls?,” filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin take us inside the process of documenting Honnold’s quest for climbing glory — and the ethical calculus of filming a friend who could, with the slip of a finger, plummet to his death.

The filmmakers were faced with a genuine ethical dilemma of whether it is ok to film someone risking their life in such a way, and had to tailor the production around keeping Alex safe whilst also preserving the legitimacy of his experience.