The 7 Best Documentaries About Climbing In Yosemite

Aug 17, 2023 | Best Of, Sports

One of the best places in the world to experience climbing is Yosemite National Park. Many climbers come from all over the world just to experience this incredible area for themselves. There have been many documentaries made about the amazing climbs that have taken place in Yosemite, capturing the beautiful scenery and thrilling adventures. From long-time veterans exploring new routes to novice climbers conquering their first big wall, these films show what a special place Yosemite is for those who love adventure.


La Sportiva athlete Jorg Verhoeven makes the annual pilgrimage to Yosemite, California to attempt the 2nd free ascent of “The Dihedral Wall” (VI 5.14a) on El Capitan. This time, Jorg brings his wife, Katha Saurwein along, teaching her the ropes on her very own big wall free climb, “The Final Frontier” (5.13-) on the Fifi Buttress. The two of them ascend the imposing walls side-by-side, conquering the intense granite and pushing each other to reach new heights. From their shared basecamp on El Capitan Meadow, Jorg and Katha conquer “The Dihedral Wall” and “The Final Frontier”, reaching for the summit with all their strength and love. Climbing at a frenetic pace, both partners make it to the top in record time – becoming some of the few people to ever scale these magnificent monoliths. The feeling of accomplishment was second only to the admiration felt watching one another carry themselves up such daunting terrain.


The documentary offers us unprecedented access to the breathtaking but perilous climb, while also giving insight into Honnold’s intense physical and psychological preparations for such an extreme feat. The film follows him as he practices long hours on dangerous routes to better understand El Capitan’s unique features. He carefully studies each section, noting every handhold and foothold — until finally feeling ready to complete his dream climb without ropes or protection. As viewers, we share in both his triumphs and also his fears when he confronts sections that seem impossible even for someone with Honnold’s skill level.


What could compel us to abandon our most basic instinct for self preservation? It’s not about adrenaline or thrill seeking. There is something far deeper that drives the world’s most elite group of mountain adventurers to take life threatening risks. For nearly three years, director Dina Khreino interviewed these world-class athletes, listening to what compels them to leave behind families, friends, and everyday comforts, to risk everything for a fleeting glimpse into the unknown. What she found was a tribe, a diverse group of professional adventurers and amateur philosophers, forged by the ultimate test of body, mind, and spirit. At times brutally honest, other times pensive, these athletes’ stories reveal the triumph of the human spirit, and the profound and unique connection formed as they overcome the world’s fiercest physical and mental obstacles. For the adventurers, this documentary is not just a showcase of their own accomplishments, but a portrait of themselves and what it means to take risks for something greater than the self. It’s a gripping exploration into the depths of human courage and its mysterious motivation: the burning desire to seek out danger and find glory in the unknown.


No wonder free soloing is called the “dark art”. There have been numerous accidents, some of them so extreme that it sends shivers down one’s spine just to think about! While it may be considered by many as an extreme and dangerous form of climbing, some still take up the challenge. One such incident happened when renowned climber, Brad Gobright, attempted to climb El Sendero Luminoso in Mexico. He fell over 300 feet while close to finishing the climb and suffered major injuries from his fall. His climbing partner was also injured but managed to survive with only minor wounds.


Jorg Verhoeven was determined to make history in Yosemite Valley. He had set his sights on taking the iconic climb of The Nose on El Capitan, one of the most difficult climbs in the world and a challenge many have failed at before him. After 30 days of grueling preparation, he finally made it. It was a monumental feat that took more than just physical strength – it required mental fortitude and sheer willpower too. The climb up El Capitan is no ordinary rock-climbing experience. The route is an incredible 1,800 feet of vertical granite that has to be maneuvered with absolute precision and near perfect technique. Jorg’s ascent certainly wasn’t easy; but with the help from Tommy Caldwell, one of the most experienced big wall climbers, and Lynn Hill, legendary free climber, he was able to use their insight and expertise to guide him. After 30 days of dedication and hard work, Jorg’s dream became a reality – He had finally completed The Nose on El Capitan. It was an incredible feeling that can only be described as being “on top of the world.” His remarkable ascent made history as the 5th successful free climb ascent in Yosemite Valley and will forever live on in the rock climbing community.


The documentary shows how it takes more than just sheer strength in order to reach the summit. He battles with himself and his own emotions in order to succeed in achieving something that has been deemed impossible by most. It takes focus, determination, strength, and a lot of heart for him to persevere with challenging mental blocks on his way up. Through this emotionally charged experience, we see what’s at stake when attempting such a monumental feat: A dream come true or your life? “Darkest before Dawn” follows Siebe on his quest – testing physical and mental limits – while also discovering himself through the journey. An inspiring story of a man’s passion and perseverance, this documentary will give you goosebumps and have you captivated from start to finish! This is your chance to see how it feels like to climb on one of the biggest walls in the world – with Siebe as your guide. Join him in his fight against fear and fatigue as he strives for something that seemed impossible before. This unforgettable adventure will reveal not only what it takes to reach the top of a mountain – but also what extraordinary courage lies within us all. Be sure not to miss out on this inspiring tale, showing us that anything is possible if we just believe.



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David B