The Alpinist | Documentary
Directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen have been making documentaries about climbing in nature for two decades with their company Sender Films. Among them, “The Dawn Wall,” which won several awards at the SXSW Film Festival and San Francisco DocFest. “People were saying there was this guy really pushing the level of alpinism in unheard of ways, but that he didn’t like to publicize his climbs. He didn’t post on Facebook. He didn’t do media. He just went out and did unbelievable first ascents and solos without much fanfare,” Mortimer reminds. The gifted boy wasn’t climbing for fame, but for pure passion. And anyone who wanted to know how and why he did it had to try to keep up with him.
So while climbing is becoming an absolute trend sport, Marc-André Leclerc climbs alone and far away from the limelight. His climbings of remote steep walls – free soloing – are among the most daring in history.
Away from the media, with no rope and no margin for error, Leclerc’s climbing activities are the epitome of solo adventure.
“One of the coolest feelings a human can experience is to feel so small in a world that’s so big.” – Marc-André Leclerc
Canadian mountaineer and alpinist Marc-André Leclerc got into climbing when his grandfather gave him the book “Quest for Adventure” by Chris Bonington. His passion for the sport broke through early. When he joined the British Columbia Mountaineering Club and started competing, he won age group competitions such as the Canadian Nationals in 2005.
After graduating from high school, Marc-André earned a living doing landscape and maintenance work while pursuing mountaineering. In 2012, he met his girlfriend Brette Harrington, an experienced climber herself. From now on they shared their burning passion for climbing. This led Marc-Andrés to reach new heights. On the Grand Wall in Squamish, British Columbia, he broke Alex Honnold’s speed record and attracted the attention of the climbing scene.
In 2015, the climber made several solo first ascents in Patagonia and on Mount Slesse in the Cascade Range in Canada. He then completed his first solo ascent of “The Corkscrew” on Cerro Torre. Later that year, after more free solo ascents in Patagonia, he conquered Torre Egger. Marc-André also completed the first solo ascent of the route “Infinite Patience” on the Emperor Face line of Mount Robson in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, methodically working his way through snow, ice and rock, once again causing excitement in the climbing world. Word of his impressive and boundary-breaking performance spread quickly.
“As a young climber it is undeniable that I have been manipulated by the media and popular culture and that some of my own climbs have been subconsciously shaped through what the world perceives to be important in terms of sport. Through time spent in the mountains, away from the crowds, away from the stopwatch and the grades and all the lists of records I’ve been slowly able to pick apart what is important to me and discard things that are not,” Marc-André Leclerc once pointed out on his own blog. Even as the world took notice of him, the exceptional climber stood out from the crowd by placing more emphasis on spirituality, self-discovery and philosophy than on media coverage and competition within the sport.
On March 5, 2018, Marc-André and his climbing partner Ryan Johnson successfully completed a new route on the north face of Mendenhall Tower, north of Juneau, Alaska. The duo was expected to return to base camp within two days of reaching the summit. They never arrived. A partially buried rope was later found, but the climbers were not recovered. At the age of only 25, one of the brightest lights in the alpine world disappeared.
Marc-André Leclerc’s achievements in alpinism:
- Winner of the Guy Lacelle Pure Spirit Award 2015.
- First soloist on all three Torres in the Chaltén Massif, Patagonia, including The Corkscrew on Cerro Torre in 2015, Titanic on Torre Egger in winter 2016
- Tomahawk to Exocet link up solo in winter on Torre Standhardt, Patagonia, 2016.
- First ascent of the Reverse Torre Traverse, Patagonia
- First ascent and solo ascent of the northeast buttress of Slesse Mountain in winter, BritishColumbia
- First ascent of Psychological Effect on Mount Tuzo in the Rocky Mountains, Canada
- First ascent and solo ascent of Infinite Patience in the Rocky Mountains, Canada
Filmmakers change direction
In March 2018, as filming on The Alpinist was nearing completion, news reached Mortimer and Rosen that Marc-André Leclerc was missing in Juneau, Alaska.
All that is certain is that he had climbed the Main Tower of Mendenhall Towers with Ryan Johnson without incident. Leclerc posted a rare live photo on his Instagram account that showed seemingly flawless weather. What exactly had happened remains a mystery. Leclerc and Johnson are believed to have been caught in an avalanche during the abseil to the starting point. They were probably hurled deep into the interior of the glacier.
As healing slowly set in after the grief, everyone involved agreed that the film should be finished. While working on the final edit, the two filmmakers focused on reducing the story to its essence. “Originally, we had woven in more about the history of alpinism, but it was clear that the core of the story was always Marc-André,” Rosen says. “We went back and poured through his interviews, looking for his most revealing moments.”
Shortly before the release of The Alpinist, there was another delay due to the worldwide Corona pandemic.
The Alpinist starts in theatres
After the film’s release on Netflix in 2021, the documentary will now be seen on the big screen. A delight for all who appreciate the true greatness and power of nature.
The Alpinist is an intimate portrait of the visionary solo climber Marc-André Leclerc, driven by his love for the mountains.
The documentary shows how much Leclerc appreciated the landscapes and intellectual worlds, Mortimer and Rosen make perceptible with their documentary The Alpinist. Interviews with companions and mountaineering greats, such as Reinhold Messner and Alex Honnold, underline the important footprint that Marc-André Leclerc has left in the world of alpinism.
Soon playing in German theatres:
More information on: IMDB
Produced by Red Bull Media House in cooperation with Sender Films, The Alpinist was in the official selection of Telluride and SXSW Film Festival 2020.
Bildmaterial: (c) Sender Films / Red Bull Media House / Scott Serfas50 Likes