October 31, 2018

The ethics and the method of filming Alex Honnold free solo climbing El Capitan.

I would not watch this live and find it terrifying to watch even knowing he succeeds. It's beautiful too:


72 comments:

Birkel said...

The choices he makes are his own and so far as I can tell he endangers nobody but himself.

One wonders at your reaction to watching the movie Gosnell.

Which would cause the most consternation?

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...
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Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Brag from me.
Last fall I was walking thru the new plaza in front of Bar Taco and I bumped into Mr. Honnold. I shook his hand and told him I was a big fan. He's nice!
His pal Cedar Wright lives in town.

(The Sufferfest movies are great)

Pianoman said...

"Ethics"?

I don't get it. How is it unethical to film someone doing what they want to do? He's not hurting anyone by risking his own life. People climb El Captan all the time.

"What if he falls?" Then he dies. Next question?

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Agree Birkel

His girlfriend worries. As she should.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

I could run into any asshole from Hillarywoodland and not give a rat's-butt about it. In fact, I'd probably spit on their shoes.

Meeting Alex Honnold for me was like meeting a rock star. pun alert.

The climbing world frowns on his ways. Whatever. I think he's amazing.

PM said...

"The choices he makes are his own and so far as I can tell he endangers nobody but himself."

And the cinematographer, who definitely has steel ones.

gahrie said...

I've done some climbing, and even some free climbing. It can be exhilarating...but free climbing something like this is selfish and self indulgent.

gahrie said...

"What if he falls?" Then he dies.

And somebody else has to clean him up, and his family gets to mourn his untimely death.

Arashi said...

I don't get the 'ethical' bit. He is making his own choices, so good for him. If the climbing world has issues - they can all go piss up a rope. As long as his decisions only direclty affect him, its on him and everybody else can watch or not watch.

Personally, I think folks that rock climb, whether free climbing or using aids, are truly special (in a good sense) folks. I tried mountaineering in college and found early on I did not have the ability to ignore the pain and discomfort, even though I could learn and manage teh skills.

Good photography as well.

Virgil Hilts said...

I remember seeing a video of a speed free climber about 10 years ago - he didn't do stuff like El Capitan, everything he did was fast and without interruption or rest. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. Then a few months after I saw the video he died while doing fast free climbing. Having trouble finding the video.

n.n said...

Check out Catherine Destivelle - amazing solo climb in Mali.

James K said...

The video is a bit confusing and irritating, because very little of it is of his actual climb, and it's interspersed with lots of clips of him practicing with ropes and other equipment. It's as if the important story was their filming and their feelings.

Arashi said...

n.n - Pretty cool. Thanks for the link.

Pianoman said...

"And someone else has to clean him up"

Okay, so let's ban skiing, skydiving, base jumping, scuba diving, overeating, ultra marathons, motorcycle riding, driving on highways, etc. I mean, people could die, and then someone would have to "clean them up".

Arashi said...

Hey - leave off on the motorcycle riding.

Life is an adventure to be experienced. It is not a problem to solve. Sometimes, people die - someone else always gets to clean up, like when if a loved dies unexpectedly in their sleep.

Bay Area Guy said...

I've been to Yosemite 10-20 times in my life. It was awesome as a kid, awesome as a young man, and awesome as a boring, middle-age, married guy.

This young fellow is a total stud. Yes, he's either extremely reckless or batshit crazy. He may even meet an unpleasant fate on one of these daring climbs. But he surely is living, I reckon.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm trying to think if there's any celebrity I'd feel great about meeting.

I prefer to just see somebody or be able to sit at the next table from them. It's awkward to actually meet, unless you have a way to have some sort of relationship with the person. But I've gotten a bang out of sitting next to a celebrity on a couple occasions, without wanting to exploit the occasion to meet them.

I think I prefer the distant intimacy of, say, listening to a Bob Dylan record to having to meet Bob Dylan. What good does meeting someone you really love do? It might be intriguing to see how he's smaller than he looks in my mind, even though my mind already contains the information of his height (5'7"). You'd have to meet the purpose with some kind of a prospect of getting them to become another person to you, but why?

Birkel said...

Where he is climbing the bugs and buzzards would do all the cleanup necessary.
Self-indulgent because he's placing himself and nobody else in danger?
That seems an odd definition of the term.

john said...

The "ethics" come it because the filmakers are part of the story whether they want to be or not, a part that could fatally influence Mr. Honnold's climb. I think this backstory story is important and is told well.

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john said...

Listenting to Dylan wheeze through a song makes you wonder how he could climb to the top of the stage.

Arashi said...

I would like to meet Chuck Yeager face to face. Pretty much any other celebrity - not so much. Enjoying from a distance is just fine and dandy.

Bay Area Guy said...

The NYT should compare this story to the one with the 40-year old divorcee who left her manly husband and moved into an adult dorm in SF.

One has spine-tingling action, one has tedious navel gazing feelings.
Just saying.

Leland said...

How is it unethical to film someone doing what they want to do?

While I have no issue with an experienced climber doing what this Honnold is doing; I can see the ethical problem of filming him. First, the videographer is a distraction (and I wrote that before I watched the video, which makes the same point). Second, the arrangement of the video and the conditions needed for the best shots may push timing and tempo of the climb into unsafe conditions for the climber. Finally, for less experienced climbers, an opportunity to be filmed might encourage them to take risks for which they are unprepared.

Now remember, this is about ethics. If Honnold had died, I think legally the camera crew wouldn't be responsible. Ethics is a bit more than the law, although it still has a lot to do with guilt. If Honnold had fallen and died, and they caught it on tape; then I suspect the videographers would have felt some level of guilt.

Let's look at a comparison; what do you think about the death of Steve Erwin?

Pianoman said...

"The "ethics" come it because the filmakers are part of the story whether they want to be or not, a part that could fatally influence Mr. Honnold's climb."

Oh, I see. So the question really is: If you make a film, and the subject of the film dies as an indirect result of your filmmaking, then is it unethical?

hmmm ...

gspencer said...

Get plenty of Kleenex or Bounty to wipe your palms. You'll need them.

Mark said...

Ethics of filming are fine -- and even helpful if he did fall for investigators to know exactly what happened. Keeping a record of something is rarely if ever wrong. But morally wrong to publicly show the video if he did fall.

Temujin said...

Fascinating. I can't get my head around any of those people and what impulse runs through them, driving them to do this. But...it's amazing to watch the skill, focus, concentration, and endurance. One would have to be totally on, every single second of that climb.

I don't even like to drive over high bridges. I don't get soloing El Cap.

Arashi said...

Maybe the film crew had ethical issues becasue if something went wrong, then they would be filming while it happened and could\would not be able to help?

PM said...

Alt: "I'm trying to think if there's any celebrity I'd feel great about meeting."

For PBS, I got a chance to interview a bunch of people like Alec Baldwin, Buck Henry, Amy Madigan, Joan Chen (woof), Ed Anser, Robert Ludlum, etc. For me, the finest and most engaging were Phillip Glass, a cool guy, and David Brower, McPhee's hero in Encounters with the Archdruid.

Andrew said...

@Virgil Hilts,
Are you thinking of Dan Osman? There's an amazing video of him here (below). Absolutely insane. Sure enough, this eventually killed him.

https://youtu.be/wYbwZQ-QnMY

Yancey Ward said...

I probably knew that Honnold had spent a considerable amount of time and practice for the total free-style climb of El Capitan, but it was interesting in this excerpt video seeing it- he seemed to have taken extensive notes all along the way, and likely them all memorized by the time of the climb.

Honnold is free to do what he wants with his life, and I think I do understand the cinematographers' concerns about their project, but I think they are overthinking it- Honnold agreed to it and set the boundaries for them, so I don't really think there is an ethical dilemma here.

Ryan said...

The ethics are explained in the clip. You dont want to influence the outcome negatively.

john said...

This is a great talk about how he prepared for this climb. He knew every step and every handhold because he practiced it for 2 years.

john said...

Sorry. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iM6M_7wBMc

lgv said...

I've been following Jimmy Chin for many years. He is truly a great photographer and now cinematographer. Remember, climbing a mountain is difficult. Imagine carrying camera gear and shooting while you are doing it. Sometimes filming exploits is more difficult than the exploits themselves. I've done many scuba dives that were extremely challenging just by themselves, but while carrying massive camera gear and trying to shoot.

For a haunting example of failure there is always this one:

https://www.outsideonline.com/1922711/raising-dead

David Shaw filmed his own death. The addition of the camera to his head may have contributed to his death. The rest of his team watched the event later.

Gahrie said...
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Gahrie said...

"And someone else has to clean him up"

Okay, so let's ban skiing, skydiving, base jumping, scuba diving, overeating, ultra marathons, motorcycle riding, driving on highways, etc. I mean, people could die, and then someone would have to "clean them up".


Cry me a fucking river. I'm not allowed to drive my car without wearing a seatbelt.

Gahrie said...

Where he is climbing the bugs and buzzards would do all the cleanup necessary.
Self-indulgent because he's placing himself and nobody else in danger?
That seems an odd definition of the term.


He has no family?

EDH said...

Althouse said...
It's awkward to actually meet, unless you have a way to have some sort of relationship with the person.

A good way is ignore their celebrity. The best example I've seen was on the short-lived TV series Vinyl.

A female photographer approaches John Lennon and May Pang in a club (with Bob Marley playing) and asks for a photo.

javabeast said...

Joe Rogan Experience #1189 - Alex Honnold

JaimeRoberto said...

I'm amazed at his skill, but I can't help but think that someday we'll be reading of his untimely death. But it's his life, and it seems that he's accepted the risk.

stevew said...

I've met Steven Pinker, Snoop Dog, and Will Ferrell. Pinker and I shared a plane ride from Boston to NY. Snoop and I were waiting for a plane in SFO. Ferrell and I were at adjoining tables in a Chicago restaurant. In those moments I chose to acknowledge I knew them, introduced myself, and let them know I enjoyed their work (true). It would have been awkward to ignore them IMHO.

stevew said...

Interesting to see the authoritarian busybodies in our midst self identify.

mockturtle said...

Unethical would be filming a situation where you could help the person you were filming and didn't, e.g., filming someone being attacked.

wild chicken said...

I met Merle Haggard, Ronnie Millsap and Charley Pride.

So I'm set.

wildswan said...

One of those things - no matter how long you think the danger doesn't go away. You always need awesome skill. An amazing video.

Bill Peschel said...

I met Albert Speer. Nice guy, for a murderous Nazi.

That puts me two degrees of separation from you-know-who.

I did get to see Mel Gibson, when he was in our area filming "The Patriot." He taught me the attractions of stardom.

Imagine me, ignorant of the news, walking into the little newsroom, and hearing people absolutely losing their shit. Talking loud, almost babbling. I was seeing another side of my co-workers excited like children on a sugar-high Christmas morning, talking about "Mel!" coming to York County, S.C.

During filming, I got a scoop by getting hired as an extra and for four days I ran around in a Continental Army outfit filming battle scenes. At one point, Mel was within arms'-reach, befriending the extras and making us all fall in love with him.

(Later, I learned from one of the extras that he spent the afternoon with Mel. Filming was interrupted by rain, and he found himself in the same tent with him. They spent the time talking about cattle, because the extra was a local farmer, and Mel apparently had a ranch in Australia.)

Then what happened next was weirder. The day the article appeared, I walked into the newsroom -- I'm a copy editor, and no one pays attention to us unless we make a mistake -- and people were losing their shit over me. I snuck onto the set! I saw Mel! What was it like? What did he say?

I was interviewed by the local cable station, and later fielded calls from Sony's PR people asking how the hell I broke their embargo (they settled down when I told them I applied for the extra job and even stated on the form I worked for the newspaper; it wouldn't be their fault).

I learned that day that my ego was capable of growing four times that day, it felt marvelous, and it sucked when I was back to being ignored the day after.

Gahrie said...

Interesting to see the authoritarian busybodies in our midst self identify.

If you are talking about me...show me where I said the government should stop him. I just think he's being a dick. I get the thrill...I used to free climb.

JaimeRoberto said...

I've met Nicole Kidman while she was coming a movie near my house. She stopped her limo to get out and take pictures with the kids, which was a really nice thing to do.

I also boogied on the dance floor with John Lee Hooker. Well, he boogied, I kind of flopped around like Elaine on Seinfeld.

William said...

I'd like to meet Jesus. I would get a particular thrill from the encounter if it happened after I died.........I don't think you can conquer death. I suppose free climbers think they've mastered their fear of death, but death always wins.....People who take selfies on the edge of cliffs have been mocked in these environs. Isn't this a kind of highly evolved selfie. I don't think it qualifies for a Darwin Award though. He probably gets lots of hot chicks........Also if a gust of wind can knock you off your feet while posing on a cliff, how much worse the gust when you've solely got a toehold in a gravel infested crevice? The risk/reward quotient in this activity seems crazily out of wack.

stevew said...

How’s he being a dick? Who makes you wear a seatbelt?

buster said...

The ethical problem is the film maker's, not the climber's. The problem is whether to (possibly) place the climber in greater danger in order to do something in the film maker's interest (make a great movie) but not in the climber's (even though he gets to star in it). The climber's consent complicates the problem but doesn't make it go away.

Arashi said...

Adults making adult decisions. Yes, they have to live - or possibly not - with those decisions, but they are theirs - not ours. We are just watchers.

BuckIV said...

Where he is climbing the bugs and buzzards would do all the cleanup necessary.
__________________
Yosemite Valley is not very remote at all.

Sebastian said...

"It's awkward to actually meet."

Especially if the "meeting" consist of an NBA star shooting hoops at the next basket. Awkward for me, though the star in question was a super nice guy.

Gahrie said...

How’s he being a dick?

He's irresponsibly chasing bigger and bigger thrills. He's doing the same thing that drug addicts and gambling addicts do, chase a bigger and better rush. And remember, his rush comes from knowing that he could fuck up and die any second. Well you know what? He's going to fuck up one day...they all do.

Who makes you wear a seatbelt?

The state of California.

JAORE said...

I can safely say I have no interest in meeting someone from Hollywood or any politician. But....

I was once in the Daytona pits for the motorcycle races courtesy of a friend with ties to the BMW team. He introduced me to Gary Nixon. Most of you don't know who that is, but Mr. Nixon was a world champion motorcycle racer back when the best ran all kinds of races from dirt to super speedway tracks. He was the best of the best.

I was left sputtering and stammering at meeting this god who trod the earth. I'm sure Mr. Nixon wondered why my friend was introducing him to a half-wit. He handed me a business card. It's framed on the wall of my den. My diploma and Professional Engineer license are on a garage shelf.

john said...

I met a guy who stared in Deadliest Catch. I was like, Oh, so you fish?

I bet they get that all the time.

Arashi said...

Gahrie - The state of california does not force you to wear a seatbelt. They will ticket you if you don't - but you still have a choice to wear it or not, and just pay the fine.

Unless you are stating that when you go driving, the state has an police officer in the vehicle with you at all times? No - then you still have a choice.

Unknown said...

My wife and I just saw this, amazing. His concentration and preparation are off the charts. The photographers discussed filming him but he wanted it, obviously for this movie.

JML said...

I have always wanted to go up to a celebrity and tell them that I have always wanted to have my picture taken by a celebrity, then hand them my camera, strike a pose and ask them how my hair looked?

We know someone who is married to a climber. He wanted to climb Everest - his wife said he could do it - after the youngest graduated from high school. He waited, and ended up climbing Kangchenjunga.


Fred Drinkwater said...

I sat poolside at a kids bbq party next to a woman who'd been introduced to me as "Chelle". We watched the kids, and chatted for an hour or so. Nice lady.
Later I was informed that her full name was Michelle Pfeiffer.

Rusty said...

Supposedly one of the Walbergs lives in the next town over. Never met him. I did see William Proxmire once at O'hare. I was impressed by how small in stature he was. And I once saw George Wendt getting into cab in Chicago.

SeanF said...

"On the contrary, Mr. Spock, gravity is foremost on my mind."

Gahrie said...

Gahrie - The state of california does not force you to wear a seatbelt. They will ticket you if you don't - but you still have a choice to wear it or not, and just pay the fine.

Which is what I do...but your statement is like saying "The state of california does not prevent you from committing murder. They will arrest you if you do - but you still have a choice to kill or not, and just do the time."

Richard Taylor said...


"I'm trying to think if there's any celebrity I'd feel great about meeting."

I hadn't really thought of it that way. I mean, it would be really cool to meet, say, Paul McCartney or Barry Sanders, but beyond shaking their hands, what do you say? "Your music is timeless" or "I think your running was poetry in motion". Whatever I said wouldn't be something they haven't heard a million times.

Rusty said...

I'm sure the guy understands. Should the unfortunate happen his broken body will be retrieved either by the park Service or the local paramedics and his family will be billed accordingly. The more difficult and/or dangerous it is to retrieve the more his family will be charged.

Marc said...

Mickey Dolenz and St Teresa of Calcutta.

I watched five or six minutes of the Joe Rogan interview, and was impressed that the Honnold fellow is as articulate and reasonable-sounding as he is (the last sports celebrity video I saw was someone from the Seoul Olympics whose vocabulary comprised perhaps a score of words the most frequently spoken of which was 'awesome'). He does seems extraordinarily focused, which might be disconcerting in ordinary social circumstances.

Don said...

The ethics only come into play if he falls and the producers release the film for profit.

bobby said...

What are the ethics of filming NASCAR, where many are simply awaiting the next crash?