El Capitan, the film documents three climbers doing the classic Nose route in 1968 on the largest rock formation in Yosemite Valley, California: El Capitan.
This film is not full of hero shots, not full of free soloing and is humble compared with many modern films on Yosemite climbing (see embedded videos below). But, it documents in amazing detail what it’s like to climb the Nose route on El Capitan, still one of the classic big wall rock climbs on earth by three (four including the cameraman) pioneering and excellent climbers.
The cinematography by Glen Denny is incredible as is the sound reproduction. This climb was made before the invention of “clean climbing” so the climbers are carrying pitons and hammers and a lot of heavy gear and that gear clanks around, and all of those clanks are recorded and in the movie. Of course, Glenn Denny also did the climb with a lot of heavy film and sound gear which was and remains a feat in itself.
Here’s a great history of the project and review of the movie by Michael Ybarra for Alpinist: El Capitan: The Movie. Highly recommended.
I’ve owned the VHS (videotape) version of the movie El Capitan for a long time and I was extremely happy to find that the film was painstakingly transferred to digital video including blue-ray.
I climbed extensively in Yosemite ten years after this movie was shot. For more on my climbing history, see A Climbing Story. Yosemite was a magical place before it got overrun by too many tourists and too many climbers. No doubt it’s still magical but I like to think I experienced it during a more innocent time.
Yvon Chouinard and Glen Denny’s book: Yosemite in the Sixties has photographs of many of the pioneers of Yosemite climbing who were active just before this film was made. You can see more of Glen’s photographs here: Glen Denny.
Buy the DVD or Blue-ray of El Capitan
Western Eye Press
A more modern El Capitan climb of the Nose route by Mark and Janelle Smiley:
The Nose on El Capitan from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.
A french team does the Nose route (the GoPro footage while a bit dizzying is useful for seeing what a climber sees):
The Nose – El Capitan from Capexpe on Vimeo.
Here’s Mark and Janelle Smiley on the Salathe Wall route on El Capitan (a more difficult climb):
Salathe – El Capitan, Yosemite from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.