It's just kind of weird helping your friend do something that you know could potentially lead to his death."
So says videographer and climber Cedar Wright, as the camera pans over a graveyard in the Mexican town of El Portrero Chico. It's January 2014, and Wright is in Mexico to watch his friend, the famous climber Alex Honnold, attempt a free-solo ascent—i.e., climbing without a rope—of a terrifying 2,500-foot limestone wall known as El Sendero Luminoso.
If all goes well, Honnold will have started the year by completing one of his most ambitious free-solo climbs to date. With Camp4 Collective on hand to document the ascent, it will also turn out to be a nice short film for The North Face.
If it doesn't go well, you'll see it on the evening news.
Free-soloing is insane, and Alex Honnold, a 28-year-old from Sacramento, Calif., is its premiere daredevil. (He's the one who's already had the 60 Minutes profile.) Frankly, the stuff is hard to watch, even if you don't have a fear of heights. (If you do, this spot certainly won't be for you.) Yet it is, of course, undeniably compelling. And it's a perfect fit for The North Face.
The brand's very name evokes rock climbing, and its high-performance gear is used by top climbers. And while the risks for Honnold are obvious and very real, sponsoring one of the world's most daring humans doesn't really have much of a downside—aside from the obvious caveat that your endorser could expire at a moment's notice with one wrong move.
"It felt pretty straightforward," Honnold told Outside magazine after the El Sendero Luminoso climb. "Once I started up, I was like, This is awesome. I didn't blow a single foot—like a ballerina."
The guy has no fear. While he's still with us, that's worth celebrating.
Client: The North Face
Production Company: Camp4 Collective
Director: Renan Ozturk
Camera: Cedar Wright
See the full credits at the end of the video