‘The Alpinist’ film review, by Tom Livingstone

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The stunning new film about Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc, ‘The Alpinist’, comes to UK cinemas on 24th September, and we asked Piolet d’Or winning climber Tom Livingstone – himself a friend and climbing partner of  Marc-André’s – to review it for Trek & Mountain. Here’s his take on one of this year’s biggest mountain film releases…

Marc-André Leclerc was a young Canadian climber with an incredible talent for soloing. His ascents in the mountains raised standards – and eyebrows – for their boldness, skill and brief news reports.

Marc-André was a relatively media-shy person who didn’t welcome film crews to witness his achievements. Instead, he cherished his experiences on rock, ice and in the mountains, climbing with purity, vision and wisdom far beyond his years. Solos of the Emperor Face on Mt. Robson, The Corkscrew on Cerro Torre and the West Face of Torre Egger are incredibly impressive and must have required such strength of mind.

It seems a little strange to ‘capture’ such a wild and free-spirited climber on film. Of course, it’s a joy to see Marc’s adventures, his routes, and his humour, but I also find it a little uncomfortable to see the film crews ‘chase’ him – whilst celebrating his quiet and humble attitude. However, having climbed with Marc (and felt lucky enough to call him a good friend), I know Marc wouldn’t have felt any pressure to change, or would always ‘keep it real.’

The footage of Marc-André climbing Torre Egger during a Patagonian winter is mind-blowing. It appears casual, but I know it’s very calculated and cautious. Marc also climbed with attention and measure, seemingly ‘in tune’ with the mountains and his movements in a far greater depth than we can understand. He wasn’t reckless – instead, he was incredibly motivated and focussed.

Marc-André had so much in reserve when he climbed, and I was impressed when we tied in together. He was able to deal with anything the mountains threw at us, from bad weather to loose rock. During one attempt on an alpine route, with heavy snow beginning to fall and climbing only by the light of our headtorches, Marc calmly announced, ‘I’m going to have to make a point of aid…’ and stood in a sling attached to a tiny birdbeak. I’m sure I gripped the ropes harder than he held the rock.

Marc was a kind, generous and humorous man. He shared readily, including his beta on how to outsmart the Pick-and-Mix sweet system at the supermarket. His trusty four-wheel-drive car, nicknamed The Red Rocket, would speed us from one objective to the next, and we passed many long drives talking about routes we’d like to try or places to visit. His ambition burned with such passion.

Tragically, in 2018 Marc-André died whilst climbing in Juneau, Alaska, with Ryan Johnson.  At first, I found this devastating news too painful and too surprising to digest. I think this film is a fitting send-off for Marc’s spirit, a celebration of his life which ended far too soon. It’s a testimony to Marc’s afro hair, his raw psyche and his incredible achievements. His life was burning brightly, but this was just his initial spark.

For screening dates and venues, go to www.thealpinistfilm.com

Tom Livingstone is one of the UK’s leading alpinists and mountain writers. To read about Tom’s expeditions and other climbing adventures, go to www.tomlivingstone.com

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