The atmosphere changes, the tempo of the music increases and the clip continues with a voiceover saying ‘this is the wildest wild climb of them all’. It feels like a matrix world of climbing has opened up where the rules of the usual universe are not quite the same and only a chosen few can cope.
These are two of the world’s most extreme free-climbers – where you use nothing but the rock face to ascend, and ropes are attached to the wall in case of a fall. One of them, Jason Pickles, says: ‘The Fly’s about to ascend the crack.’
Then ‘The Fly’ – better known as mercurial British climber Leo Houlding – starts his ascent. His ﬁngers delve into a crack, searching for a grip as his feet hold him glued to the wall. He ﬂicks himself up move by move, but falls a couple of times and dangles by the thread of his rope (more like a spider than a ﬂy) as he swears to himself. The third time he makes it further. He pauses before taking on the one of the hardest parts of The Prophet with a very tricky move. He goes for it but loses his grip and suddenly falls 20ft to the portaledge below, knocking Pickles into space. They both dangle in the abyss. Houlding balances himself with his head in his hands, deep in concentration,ready for another go. The clip ends.
Even if you have no interest in climbing – even if it’s the last thing you think you will ever try – I guarantee watching this footage will give you an adrenalin rush from your armchair. It’s utterly compulsive viewing – a real, live action movie (The Prophet by Alastair Lee can be downloaded from www.posingproductions.com).
In fact, it took nine years and 60 days of climbing to get to this point – and they ﬁnally made it all the way to the top – one of the great endurance free-climbs of all time, built up with years of knowledge of this route up the east side of El Cap. As Houlding says: ‘The Prophet was my Olympics in terms of climbing – it could well be the pinnacle of my career.
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