‘The Alpinist’ explores a climber’s essence through his trek

Ivy Secrest

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(Graphic illustration by Robbie Haynes | The Collegian)

In a world laced with an incessant need for credit and validation, the perspective of Canadian mountain climber Marc-André Leclerc was a breath of fresh air. Through the tireless work of Nick Rosen, Peter Mortimer and the contributing film crew of “The Alpinist,” the audience is allowed a glimpse into the life of this true free spirit encumbered only by the limitation of life itself. 

If I said the newly released documentary, “The Alpinist,” didn’t leave me shell-shocked and in need of a late-night trip to Horsetooth Reservoir to ponder life, I would be lying through my teeth.


Fans of “Free Solo” remember how the film built up to a singular climb hinged on the intensity of a ropeless summit and an excess of planning. Leclerc is a completely different type of climber from Alex Honnold of “Free Solo.” “The Alpinist” shared the same intensity over several climbs with none of the preparation and relatively little video footage to commemorate the accomplishment. 

The idea that one man could conquer previously unconquered routes and shake the entire rock climbing world without ever preparing is a testament to humanity.”

When “Free Solo” was released, it shook the world, making climbing more of a spotlight sport ever since. What once was the sport of misfits is now a great way to gain followers and become minor celebrities on the internet. “The Alpinist” focuses on a man who rejects the fame associated with his sport. 

This is the magic of Leclerc. In the film, he is a free spirit with no phone and minimal attachments, and he climbs for the sake of experience rather than exposure and recognition. The purity of his enjoyment of climbing is beyond that of any standard sportsman. 

Watching him document himself scaling Torre Egger in Argentina, switching between different types of boots, climbing ice and rock and even sleeping on the face of the mountain was nerve-wracking. Yet Leclerc seemed unfazed by the daunting tasks ahead of him.

The idea that one man could conquer previously unconquered routes and shake the entire rock climbing world without ever preparing is a testament to humanity. He is a man outside of his time, a being who doesn’t fit into the modern era.

This film allows us to see a man whose spirit and sense of self should serve as a reminder as to why we do anything: to feel alive. Being alive is to experience, not be observed. In this sense, Leclerc’s climbing isn’t meant to be observed. As he describes it, it wouldn’t be soloing if someone was there.

This film chases Leclerc from mountain to mountain and has the audience gripping their seats, hoping he makes it out of every scenario the same upbeat man he went into it as. His love for his girlfriend and fellow climber, Brette Harrington, and the sport will have you enamored with his kind soul and radiant being. 

Though this story doesn’t end with Leclerc being an indestructible force of nature, the impact this film will leave on you is truly indescribable. It isn’t often a person can touch the souls of others through media, but Leclerc and Harrington were genuine in their purpose and goals to the point where leaving the theater uninspired to pump that same spirit into your own life was nearly impossible. 

Ivy Secrest can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.