Hanging thousands of feet up a mountain without a rope is dangerous enough – but it’s even more dangerous when you’re holding snow that could break or melt at any moment.
The ever-more-death world of tackling the sheer walls of rock newcomers has begun to put even Alex Honnold of Free Solo fame in the shadows.
But a thirst for greater challenges proved fatal for the star climber in a major new documentary.
The Alpinist depicts the adventures of Marc Andre Leclerc, a young Canadian climber whose desire to take on any vertical terrain without any protection took the sport to new levels.
Tragically, 25-year-old Daredevil went missing in Alaska while the film was being made.
I had no idea life could be so painful. nothing matters after he dies
It is believed that he died in an avalanche on his way down the mountain.
His girlfriend of six years, Brett Harrington, who also climbs without a rope, explains that watching the film was hard because: “It’s painful to be in touch with him every day. this is so sad.”
Brett says after his death in March 2018: “I had no idea life could be so painful. Nothing mattered after he died.”
Despite this, she continues to ‘free solo’—climbing mountains without a rope, harness or even a helmet.
Living without fear when one little slip could end your life was something Mark taught him.
By the time she met him, Brett made sure a rope would tie him to the rocks if he fell.
“It can be scary”, says the 29-year-old American, “but you have a change in mental attitude where it starts to get tougher and you have to pay more attention and you have to control and manage your fears.
“If you think about slipping you get scared in a biological sense and you get stressed, so you have to manage your biological reactions and know that you are perfectly capable of climbing that without falling Be aware of the fear, but don’t get attached to it.”
Top climbers like Honnold can make millions from sponsorships.
Be aware of fear but don’t get attached to it
These extreme sports stars post their pictures in precarious locations across the globe on social media sites and generate huge clicks.
In the early days of his mountaineering, Mark slept on a ladder, as he had little money.
But once he gained the sport’s attention, he earned a sponsorship deal with outerwear firm Arcturics, which funded his campaigns around the world.
They occupied the mountains in Scotland, Canada, the United States and South America.
What set Mark apart from others was his ability to deal with any kind of environment, both ice and rock.
In the documentary created by the team behind Free Solo and The Dawn Wall, Honnold says: “People think what I’m doing is crazy, but it’s safe in a lot of ways. It’s on the rock, the medium is super solid. Then I see Marc Andre free soloing on the ice.”
While he appeared to be veins of steel hanging from sheets of ice, Mark was terrified at times.
Mark had to decide whether the frozen water was strong enough to hold his weight as he used the strength of his upper body to pull himself up.
Brett says: “He definitely had fear and managed his fear to such a great degree, but he definitely got scared in certain situations.”
Death is worrying among the most courageous climbers.
mountains of death
Many independent soloists have died in the past decade.
Whereas an average of four people die every year climbing Mount Everest.
Reinhold Messner, the first solo climber of Everest, questions whether the discussion justifies the risks.
He says: “Maybe half of all major solo climbers are killed in the mountains. It’s sad and hard to rescue.”
If there was no possibility of death, coming out would be nothing
But they say there is no adventure without real risk: “To go on an adventure you need difficulty. If there was no possibility of death, coming out would have been nothing.”
The main danger to life and limb are the elements.
At high altitudes the weather system is unpredictable and storms can crash suddenly, leaving climbers trapped.
Chasing snow trails requires careful calculation.
You can’t control what the mountain is doing. And that’s the biggest threat ever
Marc Andre Leclerc
Mark had to assess whether the temperature could rise and that snow or ice could melt as he climbed or descended.
The other major risk is avalanches, which can happen at any moment.
Mark said: “You can’t control what the mountain is doing. And this is the biggest danger ever. I know it’s dangerous”
It is most likely that the sudden collapse of a shelf of ice – known as a cornice – caused Mark to lose his life in Alaska.
Brett joins the search for him and his climber Ryan Johnson, 34, after he goes missing while coming down the 2,500-foot-high north face of the main tower of Mendenhall Towers.
Seeing the traces of their equipment, they came to the conclusion that both the men were trapped in the avalanche. They were unable to recover their bodies.
She explains: “Mark had never been there before and had large cornices and he attempted to descend an alley and either the cornice failed and the avalanche started or an avalanche occurred, but my impression is that a cornice failed. “
Ironically, the ascent to Alaska appears to be less treacherous, as one Mark was planning to go it alone on Mount Washington, 5,200 feet high in Canada.
Because of all the rifts Brett cautioned against it.
There was no film crew on the day Mark died because he often didn’t tell the documentary team what he was doing.
The Canadian realized that it wouldn’t be true if there was a cameraman next to him on the climb as ‘single’.
Sometimes, he may go the way alone at first and then do it again with a nearby cameraperson.
Even when the production team bought a mobile phone for him he didn’t answer it, so they had to track him down.
Talking as if Mark is still alive, Brett says: “He’s kind of shy, he doesn’t like being seen for who he is.”
Nevertheless, he spoke openly about his troubled past in the documentary.
Mark at one point admitted to being heavily involved in the climbing party scene and taking too many psychedelic drugs.
He said in the film: “It got to the point where I couldn’t do anything without drugs.”
Luckily, when he met Brett he calmed down and rediscovered his passion for the outdoors.
he could see all the elements
On the mountains he was relaxed and content, he did not need artificial heights.
Brett says: “He loved climbing. He was so confident, he could see all the elements, he could understand the whole picture, some climbers get tunnel vision and they make mistakes. “
Mark didn’t follow the rules, choosing to mix things up, sometimes using a rope and sometimes not.
He was not a purist, he just liked to climb.
Brett thinks his dedication to taking on rock faces in ways that no one else has before will be his legacy.
She concludes: “A lot of climbers are inspired by what Mark has done. He spent 90 percent of his time focusing on the climb and I don’t see it in anyone else.
The Alpinist is in theaters now.