Watching someone climb without a rope 2,000 feet up a big wall is an experience you don’t forget. Years ago, I shot stills of Alex Honnold free soloing parts of the Nose on El Capitan alongside my friend Renan Ozturk. Even though you know that Alex is more competent than anyone who has ever played this deadly game, and you trust that he’s not doing anything that he doesn’t feel comfortable with, you still end up feeling this strange mix of awe and fear and even a little anxious dread the entire time.
That experience of vicariously watching Alex free solo has been documented in short online films and feature length movies, including by my friend Jimmy Chin in his Academy Award winning documentary Free Solo. In Jimmy’s film, he wrestles with these feelings of anxiety of shooting video and stills of his friend do basically the most dangerous thing you can do in rock climbing. As I alluded to, it’s hard to be the camera guy in that seat! But that experience is coming to a wide audience, thanks to the talented VR filmmaker and climber Jon Griffith’s vision to capture what it’s like to be Alex Honnold in VR.
The Soloist VR is a two-part series now available on Ocuclus TV. The series tracks Honnold around the world, from Yosemite to the Dolomites, Chamonix to the American desert. Never before have we really gotten to see what it’s like to be Alex Honnold—alone and climbing, move by move, up a ginormous cliff—quite like this!
Part of this series, which was produced Jon Griffith’s production company as well as Red Bull Media House, is an awesome three-part behind-the-scenes series filmed by Renan Ozturk! You can watch this series on Red Bull. A lot of filmmakers I know will enjoy Making the Soloist VR just as much as the original, as it captures some of the techniques they used to shoot VR hundreds and capture climbing footage hundreds of feet up some pretty big mountains!
Respect to Alex Honnold for being such an amazing athlete, it’ll never fail to impress (and scare!) me that he can do what he does. And congrats to Jon Griffith and Renan Ozturk on producing this great package! The future of VR storytelling in the climbing world is bright!