SCALING YOSEMITE’S EL CAPITAN WITHOUT A ROPE- A conversation with filmmakers of a classic movie and a new hit

In 1978 Marin County documentarian Fred Padula completed his breathtaking movie, EL CAPITAN about the ascent of the 3000 foot vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park. The film followed Gary Colliver, Richard McCracken and Lito Tejada-Flores accompanied by climber/cinematographer Glen Denny scaling the sheer granite face to The Nose.

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Fifty years later filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi collaborated with world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin to make an intimate and unflinching movie about free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he prepared to scale the El Capitan and be the first person to do it without a rope. The result is the suspenseful FREE SOLO taking film festival audiences to new heights of excitement this autumn and now a hit in theaters.

EatDrinkFilms asked Fred Padula to sit down with Vasarhelyi, Chin, Honnold to discuss the new movie while they were at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October, 2018. We think that you will be thrilled with their exclusive conversation.


Interview filmed by Wynn Padula and Owen Bissell

Read Michael Ybarra’s article about the making of EL CAPITAN in The Alpinist.

Widely regarded as one of the best climbing films ever made, EL CAPITAN enjoyed great success at film festivals, in theaters and on home video but it has been unavailable for years. The original 16 mm film, faded and scratched over 40 years, was no longer good enough to screen.  But a major digital restoration and remastering effort funded by a Kickstarter campaign has resulted in a “new” version—not merely as good as the original film—but much better. You can learn more about how this film was made; see samples of individual frames from the film before and after restoration; and order the DVD or Blu-Ray versions on the official website.

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Richard McCracken, Lito Tejada-Flores and filmmaker Fred Padula get together in Taos, after 40 years,  to share some memories of making EL CAPITAN for a bonus extra on the restored version disc.

Alex Honnold took a huge risk when he made his free solo climb of El Capitan. Did making a film about it make it even riskier? The filmmakers wrote about it for The New York Times.

Read National Geographic’s “How Jimmy Chin Filmed Alex Honnold’s Death-Defying Free Solo” by Peter Gwin.


FREE SOLO is playing in theaters across North America. Check here for a list of current and upcoming showings.

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