Watch The Breakdown | Alex Honnold Breaks Down Rock Climbing Scenes From Movies & TV | GQ Video | CNE | Gq.com

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You afraid of heights, Cooper?

Hardly.

A fear of heights is illogical.

Fear of falling on the other hand,

is prudent and evolutionary.

[audience laughing]

The vast majority of people who say

that they have a fear of heights,

aren’t actually afraid of being up high,

but when they’re standing on the edge of a cliff,

they’re deeply afraid,

and that makes sense because they’re afraid

of falling off the cliff and dying,

which is totally appropriate, I’m afraid of dying too.

If I thought I was gonna fall off a cliff,

I would find that very scary.

The key is to make sure you don’t fall off.

Hey, GQ, I’m Alex Honnold.

Welcome back for part two,

where I’ll be talking about some more climbing clips.

This is the breakdown.

[upbeat music]

First up, The Eiger Sanction.

[Ben] Meyer doesn’t give a rat’s ass

about anything except climbing.

The Eiger Sanction is probably the most realistic

Hollywood depiction ever, maybe.

The Eiger is a really famous mountain in Switzerland.

This is all part of the sort of training montage

where Clint Eastwood gets into shape

to go climb the Eiger.

And so he refines his rock climbing skills

on these desert towers and then takes it to the Alps.

What Clint Eastwood is doing in this clip

is called chimneying.

He’s basically applying counter pressure

to the two different walls of this big tower.

And I’m not sure exactly what he’s climbing in this,

but it is a really cool man-sized chimney.

I’m sure they looked around quite a bit

to find something that would sort of

highlight this technique really nicely.

Chimneying really depends upon friction

between your hands and your feet.

I mean basically it’s just how much outward pressure

you can exert on the different walls of the chimney.

And the challenge of it is that

each time you move one of your limbs,

like if you wanna move one foot up,

you have to put extra pressure on your hands,

so you can unweight the one foot

and then put more weight on the feet again

so you can move the hands.

Basically just have to balance back and forth

as you sort of X your way up.

When you know how to do it,

it’s actually a very secure style of climbing

because the harder you push, the safer you feel basically.

If you have the fitness for it,

you can push yourself in there indefinitely

and feel really safe.

In this particular clip,

it’s a little bit confusing because

he’s above the other climber,

so he’s leading, but he’s actually on top rope.

The other climber’s pulling the rope in

to keep him secure as he goes up.

So it’s really sort of unclear as to

how they got the rope up there in the first place.

But that’s kind of one of those classic Hollywood

sort of things where you’re like,

how’d the rope get up?

Who cares?

They’re just up there rock climbing.

It’s pretty realistic otherwise.

[Jonathan] You mean before I got decrepit and weak.

[Ben] You didn’t look so decrepit and weak

yesterday punching out that wrestler.

Anyway, this Meyer’s really something.

He killed a guy once.

All right, pause it, this is awesome.

This looks great, it’s realistic.

He’s climbing well.

I mean, it’s maybe slightly showy the way

he’s kind of moving like a frog.

I feel like if you were that far above the gear

you’d maybe be slightly more conservative

in your movements just to be safe.

But I mean, this is totally legit.

It looks amazing.

This is real climbing,

and for a Hollywood film, that’s cool.

[Ben] Listen, John, if you got to rope yourself

to anybody on that hill, you make damn sure it’s Meyer.

This is interesting and it looks really cool.

I’m not totally sure what’s going on

’cause there’s already a rope hanging

off the one tower and he just jumped from the other tower.

So it’s a little bit confusing as

to why they would have already rigged a rope

up one of the towers

but climbed the other one and then jumped back across.

[mellow music]

Okay, so this is a bit of a cut

from what they were just doing.

I mean, you can see that these are different towers

in a different place, slightly different types of rock.

I mean, this is still sandstone

but it’s different than we were just looking at.

Now he’s doing what’s called a Tyrolean,

like sliding across a rope from one formation to another

made most famous from the clip in Cliffhanger

where somebody falls to their death doing this.

But this is a totally legitimate climbing technique.

And I mean, this is all pre CGI.

So I assume this is Clint Eastwood

dangling across this rope, which is pretty cool.

Normally, he would be dangling from a slightly shorter leash

so that he could put his feet up

onto the rope and then kind of hand over hand

like a spider a little faster,

but he’s also got kind of a heavy looking backpack on.

So presumably that’s pulling him backwards.

So it probably is kind of hard work to stay upright.

Normally to do it Tyrolean, you have to fix your rope

on one end and then climb up to the other end.

And then you can fix the rope between those two points

and then kind of slide back.

In this case, they’re not showing enough to really show how

they got either end of the rope attached in place,

but you’re kind of like, oh, they’re at training camp.

He’s just up there practicing climbing skills

and having a good time.

It’s like maybe somebody else fixed the rope

in place, who knows?

The other thing going on in this clip is

that he seems to have a backup line clipped into him

which intuitively makes sense to have something to back you

up just in case.

But in this case, it’s not really clear what it would do

because if the main white rope that he’s hanging from broke

it’s like, yeah, he’s clipped into this other rope

but he’s going to take this horrendously long swinging fall

back into the cliff that he came from.

So it’s not really making him any safer.

It’s just gonna make it easier for them to

haul his body back up or something.

Either way he’s going to be catastrophic injured

if the white rope breaks.

I kind of think that the backup rope

in this particular shot, is there more to add drama to it,

basically to have more things just like hanging

and dangling in space because it looks crazier.

[mellow music]

Again, this looks good.

I mean, he’s rappelling nicely.

He’s moving nicely.

The view’s incredible.

Everything about this is kind of awesome.

I mean, they chose this improbable looking wall.

It’s hard to imagine how you would rappel down this

but it looks amazing and he’s doing it well.

Thing about rappelling is that

you have a fixed anchor at the top, say like a piece

of climbing equipment with a chain link or something,

and then you run your rope through the link.

And so you have both strands of the rope coming down.

And so you’re holding onto both strands

and when you get to the bottom,

you can just pull one strand

and the other strand goes up to the anchor

and comes back down to you.

So you do have to leave something

behind as the actual anchor point,

but the rope comes down every time you pull it

which is what he’s doing and it all looks good.

[Ben] Hey, why don’t we just call it a climb the way it is

and take the escalator down?

I’m pretty sure this is on Navajo lands

in Monument Valley.

They got permission to climb the totem pole, which is one

of the most iconic towers in the desert.

It’s really hard to get permission,

but for Clint Eastwood, it happens.

It’s all a little bit weird because

they were climbing and then Tyroleaning

and then rappelling, and now they’re climbing a tower again.

But again, it’s like in the spirit of a training montage,

you’re like, this is great.

And this is kind of old school, the way he’s

hammering a piton into the sandstone crack like this, but

for the day, and for the technology that was available,

this is totally realistic.

Nowadays we use different equipment, but this was fine then.

[mellow music]

It’s kind of classic that they’re cropping his head out

in this shot because almost surely

this is a real climber doing this,

’cause the piton work looks good.

And in the shot where it showed Clint Eastwood’s rack,

like all the carabiners and pitons hanging off of it,

that predates when I started climbing.

So I’ve actually never climbed with that type of equipment

but I think that’s a pretty realistic depiction

of the sort of rack that somebody would carry.

I mean, for a sandstone tower,

it seems like maybe he wouldn’t need quite that much

but certainly when you see pictures of the first ascents

of El Cap and things like that, that’s exactly

the organizational system that people were using.

[Jonathan] Give me some slack.

[intense music]

So I think one of the things that I’ve always really liked

about The Eiger Sanction is that it shows

the proper struggle.

He’s having a hard time.

He’s having a hard time getting his feet in.

He’s fumbling around with things.

His partner looks like he’s never climbed before, but

this is what a day out looks like.

Basically, the speed isn’t turned up.

A lot of Hollywood depictions of climbing,

everything happens faster because it has to fit

into this little movie.

This is like a nice, slowly drawn-out,

this is a day of climbing.

[mellow music]

This is called mantling like when you

press over the lip of something.

That might not be quite the most

graceful mantle I’ve ever seen

’cause he’s about to sort of belly flop/roll over

the lip of this thing, but it’s not bad

and he’s doing it and it looks good.

A real climber would probably have just tried to

surmount that little bulge more

to the left or more to the right, basically not gone

on the part where his feet had to dangle like that.

To be fair, he is practicing for the Eiger, you know?

So it’s like, maybe he is just choosing

to do the harder line.

[dramatic music]

One of the coolest things about desert spires

like that is that there’s such a pinnacle.

It’s like when you pull onto the summit,

you really get that satisfaction

of being on the tippy top of your surroundings,

like nothing but air around you.

You see it in the summit clip there,

that Clint Eastwood pops over and he’s like, Whoa.

It’s not just the feeling of satisfaction,

but also the feeling of fatigue,

like you finally finished doing this really

hard thing that you’re trying to do

and then you get to sit there and be like, oh, so amazing.

Now we just have to go down.

Actually, interesting thing with that particular summit is

that there wasn’t any kind of clear anchor for him

on the top there.

So it’s not really clear how they’re

gonna get back down afterward.

Maybe on one side of that summit,

there’s some kind of fixed anchor.

Yeah, I don’t know how they’re going to get off that

but they’re intrepid mountaineers.

They’ll figure something out.

Next up, we have Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.

I feel very confident in saying that there are no such thing

as magnetic climbing glove things.

There are things like suction cups

and stuff that people do use on the sides of buildings

where you can crank it and it suctions on

and then you can uncrank it.

But I think they’re slow and laborious

and they’re not something that you would ever use

to just solo a building.

[dramatic music]

Okay, so he’s climbing up the outside of the Burj Khalifa,

which is the tallest building in the world.

I’ve actually scouted the outside

of the Burj Khalifa a couple times

for a potential TV thing.

So I’ve rappelled down the outside

of this building and climbed it.

[dramatic music]

The experience that he’s having right there

where all you see is yourself

and the exposure behind you actually is incredibly unnerving

because instead of be like, oh, I’m climbing,

all you see is the 2000 foot drop behind you.

This is all totally realistic.

It is like mirrored glass.

And it’s crazy ’cause Dubai has something

like 50 of the tallest buildings in the world.

But the Burj is so much taller

than all the other buildings around,

that they look like little toys below you.

And you’re like, those are some of the tallest buildings

in the world, it’s totally insane.

[dramatic music]

It’s not that unusual to encounter weather issues

when you’re climbing.

I think in this case, having a giant sand storm come in

probably reflects a failure of planning

’cause if the sandstorm is that big,

obviously it shows up on the weather forecast.

So it’s not like it just sneaks up on you.

In this case, he probably should have looked at the weather

before he started free soloing the outside of the building.

But weather is such an important part of climbing.

You’re always looking at the temperature

and thinking about whether or not you’ll be

in the sun versus the shade, thinking about

whether or not you’ll get wet from rain or not.

I mean, yeah, you think about weather all the time.

That’s a long way off, Ethan.

Shouldn’t be a problem.

[loud beep]

Ah!

It’s a little weird because

having the magnetic thing on his glove come off,

it wouldn’t shoot him off like that.

I mean, they would just stop sticking.

This is actually a sort of legit technique actually.

I mean, this is the way I climbed the Burj basically.

I mean, so his hands are sticking

to the wall, which is unrealistic

but the way he’s pushing his feet as counter pressure

between the two beams is totally realistic.

And those little chrome fins that stick out,

those really shiny metal things on the sides of him,

the way I was climbing the Burj was

that I could span tip from tip.

I could basically pinch one of the chrome beams on one side

and then hold my fingertips behind the other side of it

and then kick my feet the way he’s doing.

And the technique is pretty close actually.

And then you see right above him is that little

tiny metal lip.

The technique for climbing the Burj is,

you hold the two beams, you move twice.

You catch the down pulling little metal lip

right above them, and then you do

three moves on the little lip

and then back to pinching the chrome beams.

It’s actually quite a hard sequence for climbers out there.

I thought it was like V4ish, but the thing is

it’s 112 floors until you get a break.

So you do the same V4 Boulder problem, 112 times in a row.

It’s incredibly pumpy.

It makes you very, very fatigued.

He doesn’t get tired though ’cause he’s Tom Cruise.

[dramatic music]

That’s like a little comedy scene to add some levity

of like, oh, his thing got stuck,

but that’s actually not that uncommon.

I’ve been on the side of El Cap

and had my hat blow away and you’re like, oh my hat,

and then you see it drift away above you.

And then you see it like land on a ledge

out to the side and you’re like, huh?

‘Cause there are updrafts up the side of the building.

[dramatic music]

The way he’s chimneying in this,

he’s kind of counter pressuring,

using his back on one side and his foot on the other.

That is a legitimate climbing technique.

In this case, on the Burj it doesn’t work

because the little chrome fins

that he’s pushing against, one, they slope away from him,

and two, the dimensions don’t really work,

they’re too small.

His back is too big to push against it evenly.

Basically it’d be like a tiny fraction

of the shoulder blade and a tiny part

of one foot.

There’s too much of the rest of his body

pulling him outward.

As someone who tried to do this,

I can tell you it doesn’t work, but it looks great.

And it is like a realistic principle.

[device humming] [loud zap]

Ah!

I feel like he may have broken the window

if he came into it that hard,

but it’s hard to say.

[dramatic music]

He looked kind of comfortable standing there for a second.

And that actually is somewhat realistic because the thing

about buildings is that they’re perfectly vertical

so anytime you get a little foothold,

you basically can stand over your foothold

and kind of relax.

Even though it’s very difficult climbing

and it’s this crazy position,

there are definitely moments where if you have a foothold

that’s an inch and a half wide, that’s pretty

good to be able to lean in and relax quite a bit,

though what it looks like he’s about to do

is obviously less relaxing.

[glass shattering]

I love Mission: Impossible.

I love this clip.

I love the Burj Khalifa.

I think this looks amazing.

I mean, yeah, the climbing gloves, totally unrealistic.

This couldn’t literally happen

but the movements that he’s using

and the way he moves on the wall is realistic enough.

If gloves like that did exist,

then this clip would be great.

Next up we have Wonder Woman.

[dramatic music]

There’s a bit to get into here.

I mean, it’s kind of hard to judge superhero climbing

because if you can jump 150 feet

or whatever she just did to get to the wall,

presumably you’re gonna climb in a totally different way.

If you can do 150 foot jumps, I think you’re fine.

She can just climb however she wants.

She makes this huge jump.

She catches this ledge, looks cool.

She looks all content with herself.

The look on her face of like,

I’m just hanging here from one hand, isn’t this cool?

I was like, yeah, I’m gonna empathize with that,

like that’s cool.

[dramatic music] [rock shattering] [Wonder Woman screams]

A week ago I broke a hold very similarly to that and

tumbled down this gully.

I mean, technically I was kind of hiking/scrambling

up this mountainside near my home.

And so it wasn’t strictly rock climbing

but I broke this hold off really unexpectedly,

hit my face against the wall, which is like just healed

I guess, though I was slightly worried I broke my nose,

and then tumble down this thing and got super banged up

and then sat there for a while and was like, oh,

I guess I’m not technically injured

and then carried on up the peak.

But yeah, I mean it happens.

I mean, things break for sure.

That’s one of the biggest risks in climbing.

[Wonder Woman screams] [stone crunching]

She seems to have just shoved her hand into solid rock.

And this is where the realism

with real climbing sort of disappears

’cause where you can just punch your fist into the wall,

it really changes the need for technique and things.

I think in the future

I’m just gonna try the punch straight into the rock

and just climb off my fist.

We’ll see if it works.

So one-arm pull-up, sick.

She just punches into the rock, makes herself a handhold.

She’s very strong.

Another one arm pull-up.

Now she’s not even bothering to hammer,

she’s just putting them straight in.

Funny enough, that actually is basically

how people ice climb.

It’s totally outrageous, but the thing is

when you ice climb, you hammer your ice tool

into the ice and it is totally the same principle

as what she was just doing

’cause she was just pulling her hand up

and then punching her other fist into the rock.

But that is a fairly similar technique

to how people use ice tools.

It’s like you hit one,

you pull up on a little bit, you hit the other,

it’s kind of like you make your own holds as you go.

I actually love climbing at night.

The thing is climbing at night, you use bright headlamps.

I mean you still see all the holds the same way.

And sometimes it’s actually easier to see some of the holds.

Sometimes the shadows look like little highlights

and you can actually tell where little edges are.

The biggest difference with night climbing is that

because you’re climbing with a headlamp,

you have say a 15 foot radius of light around you.

So you just don’t really see the like 2000 foot

abyss below you, let’s say.

And so in some ways you can get more sort of in the zone

’cause you’re like living inside this little bubble

of light, so you’re really focused on

just the couple moves above and below you, and that’s it.

And there’s much less thought

about the whole rest of the wall.

But when you get to the top, it’s always slightly surreal

’cause you’re like, what’d we do last night?

It’s a really different experience

because you don’t see the view the whole time.

So you’re just like, did we do anything last night?

I sure feel tired.

I feel like I did something.

It’s cool though.

It’s just its own thing.

Next up is Captain Fantastic.

[climber grunting] [tools jingling]

I’m not sure exactly what they’re climbing on or where.

They’re also cutting wildly between different clips

and this suddenly has way more exposure

than the last shot where it looked

like they were just scrambling close to the ground.

But I don’t know, it looks modern.

They’re using normal equipment, they have helmets, ropes,

good shoes, everything looks safe.

Okay, so there are basically three styles of climbing.

You can either be climbing without a rope,

which could be bouldering or free soloing or whatever

but you’re just climbing by yourself on a cliff.

You could be climbing with a rope on lead, which means

that you’re in the front and you’re taking the rope up.

Or you could be climbing on a rope in the second

which means that you’re top roping.

Top roping is when you’re tied into one end of the rope

and the rope already goes up and over

the top of whatever you’re trying to get to.

You’re totally secure the entire time.

It means that somebody else is pulling the rope in.

And so the rope is tight in front of you

the whole time that you’re climbing.

[climber screams]

Okay, it just went from zero to 100 in Hollywood style.

In theory, when you’re top roping, if you fall,

the only distance that you fall is the stretch of the rope

which depends on how much rope is out.

But basically it’s not that much.

If somebody has you on a really tight top rope, if you fall

you basically don’t even move.

You just sort of sag down onto the rope

and you’re like, oh, okay, I fell off.

And then you just grab back on and keep climbing.

So like in theory, top roping is the safest

and most casual form of climbing.

Instead he took this like crazy sideways,

I don’t even know what just happened.

It’s a little bit weird ’cause even the fall that they show

and he like, goes through space.

You’re like, okay, that looks scary.

He’s falling through space.

But then to swing back into the wall that hard.

Yeah, it’s possible, but it doesn’t really make sense.

The physics don’t work, ’cause if you’re falling

cleanly through space,

you’re not just gonna hammer back into the wall super hard

unless he had started from a really steep over,

it just doesn’t totally work.

Ah, [bleep]

Rell?

Can you flex your fingers?

[Rell winces]

So there’s a lot to unpack in this scene.

This is confusing, ’cause the kid a second ago

was top roping, he just had his rope tied into his harness.

Now he’s hanging on a belay device.

So he’s basically rigged as if he’s rappelling,

but there’s still a rope behind him as if he’s top roping,

so none of this makes any sense

and it’s not realistic at all.

I will say that the whole like hitting the wall

and breaking your wrist thing is relatively realistic.

I’ve actually broken my wrist three times

through the course of my life,

once falling in the climbing gym,

twice falling off of like play structures when I was a kid.

And so it is pretty common to fall off things

and break your wrist when you land.

So I’m like, yeah, I feel bad for this kid.

S-T-O-P.

stay calm, think, observe and plan.

If you hit the rocks below you,

you’ll die from blunt force trauma.

Okay, ignoring what all the kids

are yelling at each other,

I’m like, why are there three sets

of people climbing on different parts of the wall?

And why are they all tied into weird things?

Why is Viggo Mortensen tied there like a weird spider?

None of this looks like climbing.

It’s like they’ve hung dolls

to make the set look nice.

This all feels like it got storyboarded,

it was like, and then this thing’s gonna happen.

But you’re like, how does that happen?

That makes no sense.

There’s no cavalry, no one will magically appear

and save you in the end.

The whole idea of, oh, I just fell and broke my wrist.

Why don’t you swing over and keep climbing?

It makes no sense, because if you actually broke your wrist

you should probably go to the hospital and take care of it.

Yeah, there’s something to be said

for building toughness in the outdoors,

but if you broke your arm, you should probably treat it.

[Alex laughing]

I think that they’re taking the wrong lessons

from this whole weird little accident scene.

All right, let’s go.

This is totally insane looking.

I mean, the vista is amazing.

The scenery is spectacular,

but I think I count seven people on the wall.

I don’t understand who they are

or why they’re all spread out across the face,

’cause typically there are a couple of routes

up a wall like that, and people would be

following those specific routes.

They wouldn’t just be fanned out all over the rock.

Obviously they hired some climbers to sort this out

and put all the ropes up and get everybody in position.

I’m curious which climbers,

and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s people

I know in some way, ’cause the industry is not that big,

how they found a section of wall where they were like,

no one’s gonna see this

and no one’s going to make fun of us for doing this.

If you were a real climber and you walked up

to the cliff and you saw this going on, you’d be like WTF?

And then you would mercilessly tease

whoever was in charge of the rigging

for the rest of their life.

[thunder rumbling] [rain pouring]

I will say this at least is somewhat realistic,

everybody looking dejected and cold in the rain

’cause that is one thing about climbing in the Northwest

is that it rains a lot, everybody gets wet.

Everyone gets cold.

Climbing in the outdoors, it’s tough sometimes.

Presumably they should have brought jackets though.

So overall thoughts on Captain Fantastic?

I mean, it’s a horrendous clip of climbing.

It makes no sense, but I think that overall

it’s being used as sort of this metaphor for teaching kids

toughness or whatever and I’m like, cool.

I’m sure that kid is gonna be pretty tough

after he broke his wrist and rappelled in the rain

and then, who knows what’s going?

All right, next up, The Big Bang Theory.

You afraid of heights, Cooper?

Hardly.

A fear of heights is illogical.

Fear of falling, on the other hand,

is prudent and evolutionary.

[audience laughing]

That is actually totally true and I say that

to people all the time

’cause the vast majority of people who say

that they have a fear of heights

aren’t actually afraid of being up high.

If they’re in a hotel

or like they’re riding an elevator,

or if they’re in an airplane, they feel totally fine.

But it’s when they’re standing

on the edge of a cliff, they’re deeply afraid.

And that makes sense because they’re afraid of falling

off the cliff and dying, which is totally appropriate.

I’m afraid of dying too.

If I thought I was going to fall off a cliff,

I would find that very scary.

The key is to make sure you don’t fall off.

Climbing indoors is more realistic than people might think.

Obviously climbing indoors is totally different visually

and it’s like not the cool big mountains and everything,

but the actual movement of it, the way you move your body

and the way you use your fingers to hold

onto holds and all the rope work, all the techniques,

everything translates directly.

You can learn everything you need in a climbing gym.

And then when you have the opportunity

and you take it outside, you have all the skill

that you need to climb real mountains.

What would you say is the minimum altitude I need to

achieve to cement our newfound friendship?

Come on, they have birthday parties here.

Little kids climb this.

[audience laughing]

Little kids climb this, birthday parties.

My first job was belaying birthday kids

at a place like this.

I mean, I basically was the person

holding the rope there, being like, come on kids,

you can do it.

Raise your feet, raise your feet.

You’re doing great.

It’s like a whole day of just belaying birthday kids.

[Sheldon] Harness seems to be secure.

This is slightly weird

’cause he’s got elbow pads, knee pads, a full body harness,

And what seems to be a backup rope

coming off the back of him.

Don’t totally understand,

And they’re climbing incredibly low, but this is a comedy

so I suppose it’s supposed to look totally insane.

but it looks like he’s gonna go off a big BMX jump

or something with a body harness on.

It makes no sense, but here we go.

So what’s the plan, Cooper?

Well, it’s not exactly a plan,

but I think I’m going to pass out.

[audience laughing]

That’s a not totally unrealistic depiction

of some people’s first time climbing.

Now I see why they had that weird backup line so

that when he goes into a pass out mode, they can keep him

from hitting his head against the wall, which makes sense

from a rigging and safety and shooting perspective.

I’ve never seen somebody pass out or like faint

while climbing indoors.

But you do see a lot of beginners freeze.

And actually when I was a kid and I was

belaying birthday kids all the time,

you’d get kids to get to the top of the wall.

And then occasionally you’d basically have to climb up next

to them and coach them down or like hold them

and help them rappel.

The person belaying lowers you back to the ground.

It’s basically like rappelling, but you don’t have to

control it yourself.

You definitely see all kinds of outrageous fear response

at the climbing gym.

All right, next up, we have Cliffhanger,

which is among my favorite films.

I can’t wait.

This way!

[bang]

All right, the ledge is too far.

Take this rope and pull it apart and tie it together.

Okay, so first off, he just fired a bolt straight

into the rock, which sounds cool

but sadly doesn’t exist.

Climbers even still to this day

joke about having a bolt gun

which kind of comes from things like this.

Like I wish I had a bolt gun,

and you can just make yourself safe

anytime you shoot into the rock.

In reality, to get bolts into the rock requires

a laborious process of drilling the bolt in.

We’re gonna rappel down.

This rope is 60 years old, will it hold?

Don’t think so.

Bad answer.

That’s all pretty legit.

60 year old rope, will it hold?

You’re like, who knows?

‘Cause ropes do degrade over time,

especially really old ropes

like that are made of hemp and things, like pre-nylon ropes.

Also, the film Cliffhanger is supposed to take place

in the Rockies in the US,

but I know for a fact it was all shot

in the Dolomites in Northern Italy.

That’s why this rock has really beautiful limestone walls,

really cool spires is ’cause the Dolomites

is way more dramatic.

The American Rockies is just like

big piles of dirt, basically.

There’s nothing like this in the American Rockies,

but who cares?

This looks amazing.

They were just doing what’s called simul rappelling

where they’re each rappelling on one strand of the rope.

Conventional rappelling is one person goes down

both strands and then gets off the rope.

And then the other person goes down.

Simul rappelling, you have one person on each strand

so they’re kind of counterweighted.

So it was a little bit more dangerous, totally realistic,

especially if things are about to explode and you’re

in the middle of an action movie, it definitely makes sense

to simul rappel because it’s just faster.

[Gabe] Okay, now swing as hard as you can!

Push!

[dramatic music]

Okay. I take it back.

That’s not realistic.

I’m not totally sure what they’re showing now.

I’m slightly disappointed, ’cause for a second

I thought that Cliffhanger did have one point of realism

but it doesn’t.

On closer inspection, they’re actually both together

on one rope, which is slightly weird,

but it makes it more dramatic

because it shows the one rope

sawing back and forth across the rock.

So it’s like, obviously the rope’s gonna break.

It’s all gonna be dramatic.

They’re gonna come flying off the rope.

You also could see that they had rappelled

almost to the end of the rope, so

no matter what happens, they’ve got to figure something

out pretty quick because they’re out of ropes.

The other thing that was deeply unrealistic about this is

that you see in this shot, that they’re dangling way

out in space, but he was just kind of

running on the wall to get momentum going.

But if they’re dangling out in space,

there’s obviously nothing for him to push

against to get a swing going.

[intense music] [rope tearing]

In this clip, they’re running back and forth

across the wall, which does happen in climbing sometimes.

Typically it happens more as you’re climbing

up a face and you get to a point where

your crack runs out, let’s say,

and then you lower back down a little bit,

and then you do what’s called the pendulum,

where you run back and forth and you make a pendulum shape

to access a different feature

or get to a different crack or something.

And then occasionally if you rappel and you find yourself

in no man’s land and there’s nothing near you,

then you can kind of like run back

or forth and try to get to somewhere else.

In this particular case,

it’s pretty unrealistic because they’re running

all the way around this mountainside.

The distance you can run is limited

by the length of the rope.

They’re on like a 150 foot piece of rope.

There’s no way they can move more than like 20 feet

in either direction because the angles don’t work.

[intense music] [rope snapping] [Jessie screams]

Okay.

I don’t even know what’s happening here.

I mean, yeah, so the rappel line

was sawing back and forth on the rock.

That actually is realistic.

I mean, that stuff does happen if you’re running back

and forth, but it’s not normally such a chintzy old rope.

But occasionally ropes do cut like that.

If they knew that they were gonna be rappelling

to one side or the other,

they would have just put their rappel anchor somewhere else,

especially ’cause he was using this fake bolt gun.

He can literally shoot the thing in anywhere

rather than wrapping down into space

and then running back and forth and hoping for the best.

One of those classic examples where an ounce

of preparation is worth a pound of cure.

Though, to be fair, there’s a timer going.

There’s a helicopter.

Things are about to explode.

Maybe he’s a little stressed.

[intense music] [Gabe grunting]

Okay, again, this is slightly weirdly unrealistic

because the wall was vertical and they were kind of

running back and forth and he’s like on a vertical part

of the wall, but then when she’s hanging,

she’s hanging out in space

which would imply that the wall is undercut below him.

Her body should basically be leaning

against the wall as well,

and she should just scamper right back up to rejoin him.

But this does make it a lot more dramatic and

it highlights Sylvester’s physique.

Let’s see him curl this small woman.

[intense music] [multiple explosions]

So I haven’t actually been around

that many giant explosions in the mountains

so I’m not totally sure how this is all gonna play out

but it’s very dramatic

and they are doing some things on the side of the cliff.

[explosion] [rocks rumbling]

That actually might be one of the more realistic things

in Cliffhanger is there are tons of little tucks

and folds in cliffs, and anytime there’s avalanches

or rockfall or things happening above you,

it does make sense to sort of tuck yourself

into a fold and hunker down and pray for the best.

But that might be the only thing in Cliffhanger

that’s kind of realistic. [laughs]

Next up we have K2.

[dramatic music]

K2 is the deadliest summit in the Himalaya basically,

much more difficult than Everest,

much more severe.

Actually K2 just got climbed in winter

for the first time, this winter, which was a really big deal

for international mountaineering.

And excitingly, it was done by an all Nepalese team,

which is cool because it’s their local mountain.

This clip is some sort of like a training climb

not actually climbing K2

because K2 is a huge snowy mountain.

And in this clip, they’re basically practice rock climbing

on like a granite spire.

And that’s actually pretty legit.

What they’re doing in this clip is the type

of rock climbing practice that you would do to

learn the rope skills to go to a big mountain, like K2.

[dramatic music]

I’m not sure when K2 was made

but all the equipment in this is really dated.

Even the way he taped his hand looks kind of old school.

He’s wearing tights, which looks old school.

The climbing shoes are quite old school.

This is like maybe early 90s

or maybe 80s type of gear.

You mostly judge the age by the colors and the style

but you can see that his shoes are like relatively flat.

I mean, in this case, his foot is all bent against the rock,

But the type of the shoe is

like a relatively flat rigid shoe.

Nowadays, for gym climbing and for climbing steep caves,

you’d be wearing a much softer

more downturn shoe, something more shaped like a talon

so that you can toe in and pull with your toes.

But this is all totally appropriate for the time.

So again, the equipment looks super old school

and the way he’s doing just two carabiners

onto the old rigid cam that he put in, basically everything

about this is old school, but it looks cool.

What he’s doing in this clip is lead climbing.

It’s totally legit; he’s going a little bit,

he’s putting in pieces of gear.

When people say that they go climbing,

that’s what they’re talking about.

[dramatic music]

So this is really dramatic and a little over the top.

When he did that swing,

he probably could have kept his foot on the back wall

’cause you can see the physical distance.

isn’t so far that his body doesn’t span it.

So in theory, he could have engaged his core

and toed in a little bit and basically kept his foot on

and would have saved him having to swing.

But if he’s holding onto some gigantic hold,

sometimes it’s just joyous to let go

and swing around and have fun.

So I mean, if he’s up there having a good time,

it’s like, yeah, this is all fine.

And you can actually see that his rope

is clipped into gear right below him,

so he’s totally safe as he does this.

If he’s hanging off something that’s super positive,

than swinging around on it is no problem.

I’m super curious where this is.

I kind of wanna go climb here.

I’m also curious who they got to do the climbing

’cause it looks good.

He’s moving well, climbing nicely,

this all looks great.

[dramatic music]

It’s a little bit of a weird scene

with having the four guys hanging in hammocks

underneath a ledge there.

It happens for sure.

People in hammocks like that was more common

in like the sixties and seventies.

But I think by whatever date this clip was made,

people had invented portaledges, which are rigid-framed

flat ledges, which are much more comfortable.

On the other hand, I actually just came home

from a month long expedition climbing in the jungle

in Guyana where we literally stayed

in the hammock for a month.

So yeah, people do still use hammocks on the sides

of the cliffs, for sure,

when that’s the most efficient thing.

[dramatic music]

This is probably shot with him laying

on the freaking ground.

And is he wearing gloves or is his hand

just really dirty?

[dramatic music]

Okay, this is starting to get hokier for sure.

It’s a little bit overdramatic.

His big jump is stylized of course.

And it looks a little bit stupid

because the wall you can see is low angle.

So you can see how his body

drags on the wall basically when he jumps to the thing,

and because the wall is low angle,

it means that he probably could have just raised his foot

and push off the foot and not had to jump.

It doesn’t really make sense, but it looks awesome.

I mean, I’m into it.

This is fine.

I would give this a solid B for Hollywood filming.

It doesn’t totally make sense, but that’s fine.

Thanks for watching these clips with me.

I really enjoyed breaking down some climbing scenes.

Till next time, cheers.

[upbeat music]

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