In 2018, when Free Solo was busy breaking box office records and blowing minds, Jimmy Chin—who shot the film and directed it with his wife and collaborator Elizabeth “Chai” Vasarhelyi—was getting the same question a lot: How was Alex Honnold not paralyzed by fear as he clung to the face of El Capitan without a rope? Some wondered aloud if he wasn’t simply fearless.
Before becoming an Oscar-winning filmmaker, Chin enjoyed a decades-long career as an alpinist, rock climber, backcountry skier, and photographer. He knew the answer to the question was that fear is ever-present for those who risk it all in the most dramatic and merciless of environments. However, that was difficult to explain in passing conversation given where most of us get our outdoor adventure content now.
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