The Alpinist: Pure Passion

On my flight back to Switzerland I watched a documentary called The Alpinist. I gathered that it was a documentary about climbing, and given that I was out doing a via ferrata with Motaz and Janis a few weekends ago, the documentary caught my eye.

I expected the documentary to be entertaining to watch, and it was, but what I didn't expect is how this documentary triggered me emotionally, and how I felt that there was a lot to take away from it.

The documentary talks about the life of a then relatively unknown climber called "Marc-Andre Leclerc". This climber had, for some time, been quietly doing some crazy "solo onsite" climbs (i.e. alone, without ropes, and having never done the route before). He was the first person to ascend a number of very difficult peaks, solo. The danger he put himself in on these routes was nothing short of jaw-dropping.

So far, this is what I'd somewhat expect from a documentary on climbing. What really resonated with me emotionally though is how passionate Marc was about climbing, and the tragedy of him dying in pursuit of that passion. I can go as far as saying that watching this documentary made me rethink what passion really means.

Marc's passion for climbing felt.. just.. so very pure. Marc was not at all interested in competing with other climbers nor in even publicizing his climbs. He had no social media and for a long time he didn't have a phone. He started becoming known via word of mouth within the climbing community. The film crew actually bought him a phone, and even then he'd disappear randomly and often try to avoid filming. I felt that he genuinely had no extrinsic motivation to show people what he was doing, despite all the attention/fame this could bring him. What came across to me was that, for Marc, climbing was a state of mind - a form of meditation, and the intrinsic reward he got out of climbing far outweighed any external rewards. His passion for climbing seemed solely intrinsic - in other words, a "pure passion".

Marc's partner Brette is also a climber who shared the same passion, and together they were doing what they loved doing. At times they were living in a stairwell because they didn't have much money, and other times they were living in a tent in a forest in their town in British Colombia.

I was really moved towards the end of the documentary when I learned that Marc died at the age of 25. An avalance burried him as he was repelling down a summit near Juneau in Alaska. So sad.

It's a story of someone who lived and died doing what he loved. He only lived till 25, but he arguably lived more moments than many of us do in a lifetime.

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