In the wake of the vertigo-inducing sensation of Free Solo, renowned climber Alex Honnold now aims for one of the planet’s most formidable unclimbed cliffs, all while intertwining a poignant message about climate change. Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold operates on multiple levels, offering viewers a thrilling ascent while subtly nudging them to ponder the precarious state of our environment.
Divided into three segments for airing on National Geographic and subsequently on Disney+ and Hulu, Arctic Ascent unfolds as a captivating documentary, employing distinct chapters to narrate Honnold’s latest expedition: a 4,000-foot sea cliff in Greenland, towering a staggering thousand feet higher than his conquest of El Capitan and posing even greater challenges.
Yet, the journey to the climb is itself a perilous odyssey across a desolate landscape, exacerbated by shifting conditions wrought by the climate crisis — an issue Honnold seeks to spotlight through his post-Solo endeavors, enlisting the expertise of glaciologist Heidi Sevestre as part of his team.
Beyond environmental shifts, Honnold has undergone personal transformations, embracing fatherhood — a fact that his infant, blissfully unaware of his father’s extreme pursuits, remains oblivious to. Collaborating with seasoned climbers Hazel Findlay and Mikey Schaefer, Honnold strategizes for the ascent, navigating the fine line between enthusiasm and prudent risk assessment, especially given the danger of falling rock fragments.
Arctic Ascent once again dazzles with breathtaking visuals, weaving aerial footage of Greenland’s majestic landscapes while casting a light on the psychological toll of such endeavors, prompting discussions on acceptable risk levels.
Honnold’s understated demeanor may seem at odds with the flamboyance of daredevil legends like Evel Knievel, yet they share a common thread: individuals who embrace extraordinary challenges for the entertainment of others. While Arctic Ascent may lack the revelatory allure that propelled Free Solo to an Oscar, Honnold’s gravity-defying feats still manage to quicken the pulse of even the most unflappable viewer, proving that those who dare to scale such heights possess a unique blend of courage and audacity.