“The Alpinist” is directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rose. One of the directors, Mortimer, narrates the film. While doing so, he lets us know how much he admires the 23-year-old Marc-André Leclerc, which is as much as he idolized the climbers he watched when he was young.
Leclerc is considered to be one of the boldest Alpinists of his generation. You’ll agree with that critique when you see what he has done to earn the title. Not that he ever wanted any praise for what he was doing. In fact, Leclerc did everything he could to stay out of the limelight, expecting none and wanting none. He doesn’t have a phone, unusual in these times. He prefers to live the nomadic lifestyle with his two loves, his girlfriend Brette Harrington, who’s also a climber, and a mountain that dares him.
To go along with footage of Leclerc soloing his heart out, the directors included old clips of the sport’s early days. Mortimer made sure to show one climber, in particular, Derek Hersey. Hersey would scale cliffs without a rope while wearing only tiny shorts and old shoes. He didn’t even carry tools, only a bag of chalk, so his hands didn’t get too sweaty and make him slip. Climbing made Hersey feel alive. He looked very comfortable hanging from a ledge as if he’d be alive and doing this for decades to come. Sadly, he did fall to his death in Yosemite National Park. Hersey was only thirty-six.
Still, Mortimer was fascinated by the people who “Pushed the limits of adventure.” His fascination led him to make this documentary on Leclerc, which includes interviews with the people from Leclerc’s life, Brette and his mother. We also hear from other climbers; one, in particular, is Alex Honnold, the subject of the film “Free Solo.” He says that Leclerc “Basically just goes out and climbs some of the most difficult walls and alpine faces in the world, the most challenging things that anyone’s ever climbed.” As Honnold speaks, the camera is moving around a big snow-covered mountain top. A small figure comes into focus. It’s Leclerc slowly making his way to the top. He has tools, but there’s no rope to be found. This is when you clutch your seat for support.
The clips of what you see are frightening to watch but remarkable at the same time. You may want to, but you cannot turn away. It’s quite a sight watching someone brave the elements in this fashion. It’s difficult to fathom when you know many of their heroes are already gone and most likely died way before they should have.
At one point, he gets involved in a Canadian Ice Climbing event to scale the Stanley Head wall. Is climbing on frozen water a good idea in these times of climate change? I’m not so sure it is, so I’m a nervous wreck. Leclerc grew up on farmland near Chilliwack, BC, which is very cold and surrounded by mountains. He’s comfortable in this setting and he wasn’t at all worried about climbing the sheet of ice. I was scared for him just watching!
The camera work during this, well, the whole movie, honestly, is perfect. It gives you a bird’s eye view of what he’s doing both from the perspective of a witness and from his point of view. You couldn’t ask for anything better.
Right after hearing Brette admit that the more they push the limits, the more the chances for death increases, Leclerc launches himself on a trek to Patagonia. He is upping the game. He wants to scale the 8,809 feet high Egger Peak. People have climbed this; it’s just that no one has ever done it in the winter. In fact, the town nearly closes during this time of year because the storms are so vicious. Willing to allow one cameraman, his friend, and his climbing buddy, Austin Siadak, we’re about to find out how that goes. I’m not going to tell you; you have to watch and find out.
Catch this in Phoenix at the following theaters:
Harkins Chandler Fashion Center 20
Superstition Springs 25
Harkins Arrowhead Fountains 18
AMC Desert Ridge
Deer Valley 30
Arizona Mills 24
Directed by: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
Cast: Marc-Andre Leclerc, Brette Harrington, Peter Mortimer
Run Time: 1h 22min
Produced by: Mike Negri, Clark Fyans and Ben Bryan
Executive Produced by: Peter Mortimer, Josh Lowell, Nick Rosen, Scott Bradfield, Philipp Manderla