“Marc-André Leclerc climbs alone, far from the limelight. The free-spirited 23-year-old makes some of the boldest solo ascents in history. With no cameras and no margin for error, Leclerc’s approach is the essence of solo adventure.”

Directors: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
Release Date: September 10, 2021

Rock climbers are a different breed. Movies like The Dawn Wall (2018) and Free Solo (2018) highlight the unique state of mind these aliens of physical capability have. Even among the crazy talented and determined, there are those who are extra eccentric. The Alpinist (2021) shines a spotlight on one such man. The one and only, Marc-André Leclerc.

The Alpinist follows the isolated and eccentric Marc-André Leclerc. This young 23 year old is one of the best climbers in the world, even at a young age. He tends to do all his crazy peaks away from the limelight. For this documentary directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen were able to track down Marc and convince him to have his story told. The cooperation wasn’t always there, but in the end it was a remarkable story. Come the end, it becomes and unforgettable one.

With this being a documentary, there are no spoilers.

While Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen were editing together the documentary, they got word that Marc and his climbing partner Ryan Johnson could not be reached on their descent from the narrow peak of the Mendenhall Towers near Juneau, Alaska. They were supposed to return to base camp, but never did, resulting in a search mission. The helicopters found one small rope that was peaking through hardened snow and ice. It is heavily believed that Marc and Ryan died in an avalanche. Their bodies was never recovered.

The ending comes as a gut punch to everyone watching. Marc-André Leclerc seemed invincible, soloing up mountains and creating new routes that many deem still unremarkable and unmatchable. Marc was only 25 years old when he died, and for such a short life he left an indelible impact on those he knew and the rock climbing community. He was a man who stayed away from the limelight, but The Alpinist gives the man a platform so everyone can know who he was.

Credit has to be given to Peter Mortimer. I have now seen two of his work, and both are remarkable. The Dawn Wall and The Alpinist both explore the world of rock climbing through inspiration. In The Dawn Wall, it is about Tommy needing to conquer the impossible to prove something to himself and to distract himself from the pain. It is his escape. In The Alpinist, it is about Marc needing to go where no one has gone before. it is about getting lost, in the best way possible. Lets also mention how beautiful each of these movies are.

Those who are watching the now more main stream rock climbing documentaries knew that Alex Honnold was going to appear in this story. The intrepid and truly unique spotlight of Free Solo comments on how Marc and he approached climbing differently, yet Alex saw what Marc so magical. There is a fantastic little tid-bit on how Marc broke one of Alex’s free soloing times at a park, but then Alex went back to it and broke Marc’s new record by like 20 minutes. Marc never tried it again.

One other aspect I just have to touch on is the truly unique relationship between Marc and his girlfriend Brette Harrington. Rock climbers at heart, they both had an adventurous hearts and they shared it together. They would spend months away from each other while Marc was climbing the most dangerous mountains in the world, but they would reunite in a small tent and have a home base. She was Marc’s base camp, and he was Brette’s.

At the end of The Alpinist you will have a new immense sense of respect for these crazy mountain climbers and Marc-André Leclerc himself. They have more courage, confidence and conviction than any normal human. The Alpinist combines this sense of beauty and amazement along side the perils that his hobby and profession possesses. It is a beastly beauty to hike these mountains and Marc-André Leclerc was, and still is too many, the perfect hero to tame those trails.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)


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