We’re honored that Sender Films was profiled on CBS This Morning. It was great to have correspondent Jeff Glor, producer David Rubin and the CBS team out for an adventure with climber Matt Segal and the Sender Team for a day of climbing in Eldorado Canyon. And so cool/surreal to see Charlie Rose’s film talking about climbing films! Check out the piece here.
As a creaky 38-year old, I daydream of reincarnation in the form of Lebron on a 50-point playoff night, or Messi scoring 5 goals in a Champions league battle. But no vision comes close to Alex Honnold soloing 7,000 vertical feet of the sheerest, most exposed rock on earth in an 18-hour period, knocking over the Lower-48’s three biggest rock faces in less time than it takes most parties to get to the ¼ mark of El Capitan.
In scaling El Cap, Watkins and Half Dome in perfect style, Alex incorporated 50 years of the greatest advancements in Yosemite climbing, bringing together big wall techniques, hard free climbing, bold free soloing, and speedy link-ups into one grand event that, in my opinion, is the greatest climbing achievement in the history of the universe. And given what we know about Alex, it all seemed so… predictable.
Over the past year we’ve been filming with climbing’s newest celebrity, documenting his journey — from the awkward savant who spent his non-climbing hours alone reading Dostoyevsky in his van, to the guy from 60 Minutes with billions of facebook fans who still reads Russian classics in his van, but now usually with a lady at his side.
We set out this filming project (provisionally titled “Honnold 3.0”) asking one big question: how would fame and celebrity affect Alex in his pursuit of the world’s boldest free solos? Because let’s face it, he is famous not for his ability to dunk over 7 foot giants, or for his golden left foot, but rather for his ability to scale the world’s steepest walls without a rope, facing certain death should he slip at any point, for hours on end, and all with a boyish charm that has us truly convinced he believes that what he does is “no big deal.” Its one thing to shoot hoops for the wrong reason. It’s quite another to free solo.
We’ve seen Alex go through some ups and downs over the year, at times feeling hostage to the on-line chatter and digital philosophers pontificating in 4th grade English about how, when and where he is going to die. We watched him disappear for months in the boulders of the Sierra to “get stronger,” dragging his butt on ridiculous sit-down cave boulder problems in an effort to build up his core. We saw him journey with friends to far away countries in pursuit of potential big walls to rival Yosemite. He climbed crystalline granite in Mexico, alpine walls in Peru, limestone in Morocco and China, and cliffs all across Europe.
And though he seemed to lose his way a few times, when he came back to Yosemite for the prime May season, it was clear that everything was going as planned. Back together with his girlfriend after a 5-month separation, Alex was bounding through El Cap meadow with the boyish step of a kid in a candy store – specifically the kid who gets to eat whatever the hell he wants in that candy store, everyday. His core training on the small boulders, his time spent on foreign rock learning how to climb in different conditions, his obsessive day-in, day-out rock crushing everywhere he went this past year, not to mention the years of his young life logged on the Yosemite granite, was all in preparation for this.
Alex immediately teamed up with Yosemite’s other demi-god, Tommy Caldwell, to free climb the Big Three in a day — an historic achievement in itself. He then went on to speed solo the 2,200 foot Half Dome in 1 hour 22 minutes. Another day, he casually free soloed the West Face of El Capitan, making it clear that he is able to treat Yosemite’s massive walls the way many of us treat our local boulders — a place to play around, get stronger, run laps and have fun.
And then came the main event.
Walking through plans with Alex, it quickly became clear that he had been strategizing for the triple solo for a long time, and his calculations were precise. In order to avoid the summer heat while maximizing the long days, he would start Watkins at 4 pm in the shade, top out at sunset, hike to Tioga pass, drive the hour to El Cap meadow, jump on The Nose just after dark, solo through the night and top out pre-sunrise, run down the East Ledges, drive to the stables, hike the Death Slabs at sunrise and climb Half Dome in the morning before the shade would hit him. Sitting in the meadow, listening to him talk through the details, it starts to sound pretty damn logical. Until you look up. El Cap through the night solo? Start Watkins at 4 and top out by sunset?! Solo Half Dome after climbing 5000 feet through the night?!! Is this guy crazy?!!!
In order to film the climb, we began calling the Monkeys, who, it must be said, all have that same locals-view of Yosemite where preposterous things can be done in exceedingly short times. Sean “Stanley” Leary, who has starred in more than one Reel Rock show and is now honing his wall shooting skills, would go to the top of El Cap, rap in to the great roof to meet Alex at 1 am, jug out with him shooting the last 600 feet of the wall, hike down the ledges and up to the base of Half Dome, filming the whole way (he stuck it). Cheyne Lempe would aid solo up to the boot flake and shoot from 12 – 1 in the morning as Alex chimney-ed Texas flake, traversed the bolt ladder, soloed the boot flake and disappeared into darkness off the King Swing (Cheyne stuck it). Colin Delehaney, Kyle Berkompas and Alik Berg were positioned around the valley with a RED, 5Ds and 7Ds to capture long shots and time-lapses of Alex on each formation (Stuck it, stuck it, stuck it). The uber-fit Ben Ditto and I would rap in on Watkins, hike out with Alex, drive him to the meadow with his girlfriend Stacey, see him off on El Cap then meet him at top of Half Dome for the zig-zags and final summit shots. (We stuck it, but I am a bit sore). Throw in footage from Mikey Schaeffer who’d filmed a practice run with Alex on Watkins and helped with logistics, and we would have an impressive document of a historic event.
When the climb began, things went predictably smooth. The thing with Alex is — and this sounds cliché, but its true – when his mind is set on something, nothing stops him.
Example #1: It rained hard for seven hours till 9 pm the night before he went up on the triple. We’d all decided his climb wouldn’t be happening. But Alex just calmly said, “Lets wait and see, things dry up here surprisingly quickly.” The next morning by 8 AM he was out at the Manure Pile feeling the rock, and he decided that, while a bit damp, it would be good enough for climbing later that day. And so he stayed on task. As it turned out, there were some wet spots on all three routes, but apparently they didn’t bother him much.
Example #2: In the middle of his link-up, at 9:30 PM, after scrambling up the first pitch of El Cap in the dark, he realized that he left his chalk bag in the car. Instead of wasting an hour sprinting down to the meadow, he yelled “FUUUUUUCCCK” at the top of his lungs, then calmly began soloing the damp Nose by headlamp. Eight pitches up he passed some aid climbers who were on a multi-day assault of the Nose. They happily gave Alex a chalk bag to continue his journey.
Arriving at the finish line atop Half Dome at almost 11 AM the following day, Alex was as exhausted as I’d ever seen him. He admitted that this climb required everything he had and then some, and that “No Big Deal” Honnold had finally found something that was indeed a big deal.
No less than 50 tourists on the summit recognized the 60 Minutes guy and lined up one after the other to shake his hand and pose for photos. It was a perfect finish for a guy who has become world-famous for doing the thing that he is most driven to do. He made climbing history in Yosemite, but the first to congratulate him were people who really had no idea what he was up to. They did understand one thing though: Alex Honnold is someone special.
- Pete Mortimer
At Sender Films, we’re always trying to discover new on-screen talent, and snag the penniless unknowns living in their cars before they become big stars and headline makers. We’ve watched with pride as folks like Alex Honnold and Timmy O’Neill have gone on to worldwide media fame after first appearing in a Sender productions.
When we decided to make a film about Andy Lewis, the slackline master and star of REEL ROCK’s “Sketchy Andy” film, we knew we could rely on his major athletic talent and a bombastic personality to deliver a crazy film. But we didn’t foresee that, several months later, he would be doing back flips at the Superbowl and getting smooched by the Material Girl in front of 115 million viewers. There was something about the dude with the Caligula outfit and golden fro (4,999 FB friends and counting) that really hit a collective American nerve. Suddenly Andy was the subject of CNN reports, Youtube responses and hilarious spoofs on Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live. Check out Andy Samberg’s impression at the end of this SNL skit:
Congrats to Andy on his star turn, hope he still returns our calls.
In case you missed Sunday’s Super Bowl madness, REEL ROCK 2011 star “Sketchy” Andy Lewis rocked the slack-line during Madonna’s epic halftime performance. With 115 million people watching live, Andy — wearing some sort of Greek tunic — bounced and flipped his way along the line as Madonna encouraged him with sexy moves and a kiss. Check out the performance here (start at 4:10). We knew this guy was bound for stardom, but this is next-level. Hats off to Andy, who is apparently taking his show on the road with Madonna for over 100 more performances.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the 2011 REEL ROCK DVD, you can buy it here as a DVD or HD download to watch Sketchy Andy perform his death-defying stunts thousands of feet off the ground, often ropeless, sometimes naked, in the eponymous film that won Best Adventure Movie at Kendal Mountain Film Festival, and has left REEL ROCK audiences debating which side of the insanity/genius line this guy falls on. At least we know Madonna’s opinion on where he stands on that one. HERE is the REEL ROCK DVD trailer, which features all 6 of the amazing films from the 2011 Tour — Ice Revolution, Cold, Project Dawn Wall, Origins:Obe and Ashima, Race for the Nose and Sketchy Andy — plus an hour of bonus footage, hilarious outtakes and behind the scenes.
Here’s to following your passion, and going big — thanks for the inspiration Sketchy Andy!
The REEL ROCK crew
Each year we travel to Mountain Film Festival in Telluride to get inspired by filmmakers who have captured stories of everything from first ascents to social and political campaigns and efforts in environmental activism. We never leave disappointed. The selection process for the 2012 Mountain Film Festival has started and we strongly encourage all filmmakers celebrating achievement in adventure and activism, culture and environment to apply. The submission deadline is February 3rd, 2012. Visit the Mountain Film Festival website for submission details.
We were psyched to participate in the line-up of 2011 films. Our team continues to be motivated by the honor of the mountain film festival selection as we work on our 2012 documentaries.
Not a filmmaker? No problem! Anyone can attend this incredible film festival to see the latest and greatest in documentary film, with plenty of opportunities to meet the filmmakers and attend workshops.
Check out Mountain Film and get pumped for the 2012 festival. We hope to see you in Telluride this May!
Happy holidays! ‘Tis the season to shop for gifts, and we’ve got everything you need at the newly revamped Sender store! From our latest DVDs and downloads — including the award-winning REEL ROCK 2011 — to our brand new line of organic, sustainable T’s, hoodies and hats, you can do all your holiday shopping for your favorite climbers right here.
We’ve got exclusive products, cheap shipping rates, and great special offers!
THE 2011 REEL ROCK DVD AND HD DOWNLOAD
After touring to over 250 locations around the world with packed houses from Boulder to Sydney, the critically acclaimed REEL ROCK 2011 DVD and HD download are here! Featuring six outrageous climbing films, REEL ROCK 2011 is the definitive adventure DVD of the year.
Check out the trailer, and treat yourself to the wildest adventure cinema from Sender Films and Big Up Productions. We’ve packed the DVD with bonus footage, hilarious outtakes and behind the scenes with the filmmakers. And – for the first-time ever – we offer all the bonus footage FREE with your HD download purchase.
SENDER’S NEW LINE OF APPAREL
We are also proud to announce the launch of the Sender Films line of apparel!
First up, the Sender Films sustainable T’s. In five colors and featuring the iconic Sender Dog logo, the Sender T is a sure-fire holiday hit for every climber you love. Check out all our color options at the Sender store.
And we’ve got three styles and weights of Sender hoodies, with great color options.
Lastly, we have the Sender embroidered logo hat, and the infant Sender onesie!
Happy shopping at the Sender store, and happy holidays from all of us!
-The Sender Crew
In case you missed it on Sunday, the venerable CBS show 60 Minutes aired a 13-minute segment that we helped shoot on Alex Honnold’s free-soloing exploits. The piece can be seen online at the links below, along with two entertaining “Overtime” segments that get behind the scenes with Alex and the film crew.
The Ascent of Alex Honnold
Click here to read CBS News Article
Filming Mountain Climber Alex Honnold
Click here to read CBS Article
The Quirky World of Alex Honnold
Click here to read CBS Article
Hats off to 60 Minutes producer Jeff Newton and host Lara Logan for doing a great job presenting climbing, and free-soloing, to a broad audience, and for capturing Honnold’s unique personality. We’re honored to have been a part of the show, and to be able to continue following Honnold on his amazing journey. Big thanks to the rest of the crew that joined Pete, Frosty and Kyle on the wall, including filmers Mikey Schaeffer and Ben Ditto, and rigger Dave Turner.
After a long summer of editing and a big year of filming, we have just wrapped this year’s REEL ROCK movies and they are looking great! Check out the trailer above.
The tour kicks off September 15th, with two big shows at Boulder Theater, before heading to over 200 locations around the world. Check www.reelrocktour.com for a show near you. And if there isn’t a show in your area, don’t hesitate to contact us about how to bring REEL ROCK to your town.
So get psyched for the fall climbing season and a stack of our best new flicks. We’ll see you at REEL ROCK.
We showed up to El Portal on Sunday night for a dinner gathering to kick off a week of filming with Alex Honnold for a piece that “60 Minutes” is doing on the goofy Sacramento kid that soloed Half Dome. At around 10:30 that night, Alex quietly mentioned to me that he was considering soloing Phoenix in the morning before our 8:30 “safety meeting” with the rangers. I asked if I could tag along and, perhaps realizing how preposterous the whole thing would sound, he said he liked the idea of having some sort of record of his ascent.
At 5:30 we drove into the park with the early light, and by 6 we were walking to the top of the Phoenix. Alex rapped the route as I got into place on two filming bolts set off to the side of the crack. He warmed up by rehearsing the route for about 20 minutes on mini-traction before lowering to the base. He then tied his harness and sweatshirt to the rope, and asked me to pull it out. Cascade Falls, which flows about 300 feet behind the Phoenix, was flowing with such intensity that it seemed the wall was shaking, and its crash was so loud that I couldn’t understand Alex from even 70 feet away. Alex started up the 12d dihedral that begins the route and it was clear that a fall from even the third or fourth move would be critical, as the wall quickly drops away below the start ledge into Cascade Creek. But he continued up, undaunted by the exposure, the roaring water, or the hard moves that he said felt like 13b, and in 8 minutes he fluidly soloed the first-ever 5.13 crack in Yosemite. By 8:00am we arrived at 4-Mile trail, half an hour early for our safety meeting.
Mason Earle has been quickly rampaging through the desert’s hardest routes, and on April 20th climbed what he considers his most difficult desert crack yet. To finish off our 10 day shoot in and around Moab, we shot Mason’s FA send of the project known as Hot Pork Sunday, a 5.13+ two pitch splitter in Indian Creek. (We’re hoping he’ll rename the thing.) Mason completed the burly 70-meter climb with grit in his teeth, blood on his joints, and the secret beta: no underwear. Congrats Mason! For more details, check out his blog: http://masonearle.blogspot.com/