Sublime Freeclimb
July 11, 2011 7:15 PM   Subscribe

"The man in the saffron robe accompanying Catherine to her starting point is a witch doctor who's modernized. Under his robe he's got a jazz trumpet. He's going to blow a magic cadenza or two to bless her on her way" of the ancient burial chambers of the Tellen Pygmies; although some of the skeletons she notes are more recent than that, the sort of place for a failed freestyle climber, perhaps."

Catherine Destivelle's gravity-defying freeclimb of Mali's Bandyagara (SLYT)
posted by obscurator (39 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I feel so inadequate right now.
posted by Dasein at 7:32 PM on July 11, 2011

Whoa. *sweating palms after the first few seconds, but fascinated
posted by nickyskye at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2011

posted by yarly at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2011


I love that there was no music except for the trumpet at the beginning and the end. I love that I can watch footage like this - especially the parts where she's negotiating an overhang - and my brain is going:

"That's impossible,"
"Yeah, but you're watching it. You can see it happening."
"Don't care. Impossible."

Freestyle climbers are completely nuts. I'm really glad they exist.
posted by rtha at 7:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh my god, 4:30 onward is some serious Spiderman shit. If I hadn't known she finished the climb successfully, I wouldn't have been able to watch, because how did she not die.
posted by bewilderbeast at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2011

Metafilter: Christ, what an asshole.
YouTube: what a beautifull ass!!!

posted by Ian A.T. at 7:52 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've always wondered how they film a climb like this, especially the close-ups. Is it just lenses with high magnification? Or are there cameramen dangling from ropes?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:53 PM on July 11, 2011

I've never gotten the heebies like that watching a climbing video.

That rock face just looks so crumbly. I just kept holding my breath thinking one of those hanging holds was just gonna snap off.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:55 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, look! Skeletons! There's an encouraging sight!

Seriously, how weird is it to climb with (a) an admiring entourage, (b) a cameraman, and (c) the remains of of previous "inhabitants?" For an effort that is (I imagine) so intensely personal and internal, it's strange to have an audience.
posted by SPrintF at 8:02 PM on July 11, 2011

That freaked me the fuck out.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I imagine the route has at least been cleaned and checked for loose rock (and probably tried out with a rope) but still, some of that rock looks like it'd always be pretty suspect. That is some gripping footage.
The camera people are all hanging on ropes or bits of hanging scaffolding,set up before she starts climbing.
This is pretty old, by the way - probably 1988-1989, judging by those wild La Sportiva Mariacher 'boots'. Also her hot pants.
posted by Flashman at 8:23 PM on July 11, 2011

A magic credenza?
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:25 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

A magic cadenza.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:34 PM on July 11, 2011

"What's this? Some 800 year old ruins that almost no one has seen up close except for me? Fudge it."
posted by 1adam12 at 8:37 PM on July 11, 2011

"pants" is stretching it a bit, I think
posted by bumpkin at 8:39 PM on July 11, 2011

Wow, impressively hot.

I wonder how much, relatively, body type drives good climbers and how much climbing lots drives body type.

Also, typically how much reconnaissance is done ahead of time with enhanced optics? How much planning is usually involved; like plan A, A1, A2, B, C, D, D1, D2, etc. for different stages?
posted by porpoise at 8:41 PM on July 11, 2011

As someone whose arm gets tired holding a wrench above my head to work on a car, watching her lift her body weight seemingly without effort with one arm, wow.
posted by maxwelton at 9:00 PM on July 11, 2011

I knew she was going to make it or else this post would have either not existed or been framed way differently. And yet, I was still just incredibly tense watching her, especially those moments when she was hanging on just by her fingertips and swinging back and forth. I love scaring myself silly watching videos that trigger my fear of height.
posted by marsha56 at 9:06 PM on July 11, 2011

I want that witch doctor's CD.
posted by spasm at 9:20 PM on July 11, 2011

Oh, sorry. There was indeed no magic waist-height TV stand in this video. *^_^*
credenza CANDENZA. But, glad you are all sharing the thrill of watching!
posted by obscurator at 9:27 PM on July 11, 2011

The only other climbing video that's made me just as sick in my guts is Ueli Steck doing a speed solo up the north face of the Eiger (previously). Totally different reasons to have my stomach doing flip-flops ("How in God's name can he trust those little ice axes?") as well as aerial photography that would set off some acrophobia by itself.
posted by komara at 10:27 PM on July 11, 2011

I think I'm in love.

porpoise: "I wonder how much, relatively, body type drives good climbers and how much climbing lots drives body type."

I used to do a lot of bouldering at a gym in westside Portland, and the common wisdom was that women were "naturally better climbers." Men instinctively rely on superior upper body strength, fatiguing quickly, while women are inclined to distribute their weight to their legs. The arms are the first thing to go (and they go fast!). I'm a strong, wiry, athletic male, but I was humbled by many a female on the boulder wall. It is really amazing how much refinement your muscles require beyond everyday levels to excel in the sport - finger strength, grip strength, wrists, abdominals, shoulders, back, overall endurance (i.e. hell, everything).

At these gyms the boulders have arrays of color-coded grips that denote a "course." The courses range in difficulty from B (beginner) to 0 through 10 (12 in all). The difficulty level is basically determined by the grips: the shape, the distance between, and the distribution. A "B" level course would be comprised of large divoted crags (maybe 2 crags per vertical foot) arranged more or less like a winding ladder, while a level 12 would have some combination (distributed at perhaps 1 crag per 4 vertical feet) of complex single-finger hangs or a smooth bulbous projections that wick you off the rock face like a drop of water off gortex. In my time there, I managed to complete a level 2 course.
posted by troll at 10:51 PM on July 11, 2011

A spectacular human being. Most of us have possibilities we've never tapped but this woman ...

My god.

I'm oh so glad to have the life we have now, where we can easily see human beings acheiving at such high levels. With the photography and sound tech we have in our homes (I'm typing these words on a laptop as I lie across my bed -- I mean, really, how cool is that?) we get to damn near experience it all with them.

I'm with rtha -- these people are completely insane and I'm ever so glad they are among us.

An amazing human being.

Great post, thx.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:01 PM on July 11, 2011

This is a cut-down of a 26-minute film, shot in 1987.

Here's a 1991 interview with Destivelle.
posted by progosk at 11:24 PM on July 11, 2011

To be honest, this is just a regular old human being that has the emotional, physical, and mental strength to get the shit done that is necessary to survive.

The rest of us?

We are weak humans that are still here despite biological evolution because of our use of technology.

Now I'm going to go hunt her down and start sending pizzas to her house. We'll see who's evolutionarily stronger when I can do it online!
posted by hal_c_on at 12:58 AM on July 12, 2011

That's pretty awesome, hadn't seen it before. Watching her solo those sandstone overhangs was a little freaky, it's not too hard to break a hold on stuff like that. Some clarification: free climbing is climbing using only your hands and feet, so no resting/using gear for upward progress. Usually free climbing is done with a rope. Soloing is climbing alone, with or without a rope. Freesoloing is climbing alone ropeless. Also, I find this video difficult and stressful to watch.
posted by alpinist at 1:16 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

What gets me about the climber in the video that alpinist links to is that he hasn't even tied the ice axes to his body somewhere. If he drops one then he's stuffed. This gets especially obvious when he has to hold one in his teeth in order to make it through a particular section on the first climb!

I suppose he had cameramen there who must have been roped up, so backup was at least very close at hand.
posted by pharm at 1:53 AM on July 12, 2011

Holy shit. I could watch these videos all day...
posted by ph00dz at 5:52 AM on July 12, 2011

After that video I needed a bag of chalk just so I could type this comment.
posted by bwg at 6:37 AM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always wonder if they pick people up with a helicopter for the ride down, or if they climb back down.
posted by odinsdream at 8:07 AM on July 12, 2011

Based on the single scene between the summit and her back in the village, she RAN back down.

1987, that explains the narration.
posted by warbaby at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2011

This woman has an interesting relationship with gravity.

Meanwhile, my jaw is still hanging.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2011

I went bouldering in the Hudson Valley a few weeks ago, up Breakneck Ridge. It's an amazing and horrifying climb for an amateur, with 800-foot-drops, scrambles you need a running start to accomplish, and moments in which you realize your foot is somehow next to your head. I had it done no less than three times, with no real fear or panic.

But then I hit 30. Mortality time, I guess.

This last time, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. In one of those moments of OH MY GOD MY FOOT IS NEXT TO MY HEAD AND I DON'T KNOW HOW I'M GOING TO FOIST MYSELF UP ANOTHER INCH, my vision suddenly went absolutely white and I had an eerily calm thought: "What if I just stayed here. I can just stay here in this precarious little pose. That's fine." Followed by, "What the hell, what?! No, you can't stay here, you idiot."

I remember almost nothing of the rest of the climb, and when I reached the summit I fell over, shaking. What got me back down the mountain was the promise of brunch and a huge Bloody Mary. A huge one.

Watching this video made my nerves physically ache. My fingers and toes actually hurt now. I may have PTSD. Excuse me while I go find a Bloody Mary.

Also, she's so, so amazing.
posted by functionequalsform at 9:33 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm disappointed that I didn't get to see the crowd react along her way--which parts really impressed them?

Showing the man resting his chin on his arm when saying " a feat not even the men would try" or whatever ---ugh....1980's "storytelling".

Great climb though!
posted by vitabellosi at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2011

That was quite something.
posted by ersatz at 11:14 AM on July 12, 2011

The bit where she's just hanging there from the overhang by one hand and one foot, and she decides she needs more chalk, so she just casually reaches behind her with her free does she even HAVE a "free hand"?
posted by biscotti at 4:12 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

kinnakeet: "This woman has an interesting relationship with gravity.

Meanwhile, my jaw is still hanging.

Careful, she might try to climb it.
posted by bwg at 4:50 PM on July 12, 2011

Wow. That made my palms sweat.
posted by homunculus at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2011

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