El Capitan (film)

Last updated
El Capitan
Directed byFred Padula
Produced byFred Padula
StarringGary Colliver
Richard McCracken
Lito Tejada-Flores
Release date
  • 1978 (1978)
Running time
60 minutes
CountryUnited States
Language English

El Capitan is a film by filmmaker Fred Padula that captures one of the earliest ascents of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California. [1] It has won several awards at film festivals around the world.



The film follows three climbers as they do the 3000-feet (900 m) vertical ascent of The Nose, the classic first big-wall climb on El Capitan. A fourth climber follows the group and films their ascent but is never seen in the movie. The climbers need three days to reach the summit, which means they have to spend two nights sleeping on steep ledges, waking to magnificent views. Several minutes of the film are filmed in the pitch black when the climbers are caught by nightfall before reaching a ledge to spend the night. The screen is dark when one climber is heard trying to belay another when a bolt breaks loose and the climbers fall, luckily unharmed.


Climbing techniques

The climbers use accepted climbing practices and state-of-the-art techniques appropriate to their climbing era. For example, they wear tubular nylon webbing "swami belts" around their bodies and tie the rope into them rather than harnesses clipped to the rope with carabiners. Also, though they use familiar hex nuts they can also been seen hammering pitons into cracks for protection.


Filming in 16mm format started on the wall 20 May 1968 and lasted through June, with additional scenes shot in the Fall and Spring 1969. The project was initially funded with the help of The North Face founder Doug Tompkins, who brought in his friend Peter J. Avenali, as well as by climber Glen Denny and the filmmaker. Subsequent funding came from the American Film Institute. The completed film eventually premiered at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1978. An early version of a digital remaster of the film was shown at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2007 [2] In early 2013, the filmmaker finished a Kickstarter-funded digital restoration and re-issue on Blu-ray and DVD. [3] The DVD and Blu-ray are being distributed by Western Eye Press [4] a company owned by Lito Tejada-Flores, one of the climbers featured in the film.


The film has received awards at the following film festivals:


  1. "2005 Barry Corbet Film Festival". Alpinist.com. Alpinist Magazine. March 2005. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  2. Alpinist No. 40, p. 84ff.
  3. "El Capitan Film Restoration".
  4. "El Capitan, the film". Archived from the original on 2014-01-11. Retrieved 2014-01-11.

Related Research Articles

Hans Florine American rock climber (born 1964)

Hans Florine is an American rock climber, who holds the record for the number of ascents of Yosemite Valleys El Capitan and is known for holding the speed record on The Nose of Yosemite’s El Capitan 8 different times. Hans' last speed record on The Nose was accomplished with Alex Honnold for climbing The Nose in 2:23:46, on June 17, 2012. In addition to climbing El Capitan over 175 times, Hans also holds the record for the number of ascents of The Nose climbing it more than 111 times.

El Capitan Vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park

El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is about 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face and is a popular objective for rock climbers.

Alexander Huber Germany Mountaineer

Alexander Huber, is a German climber and mountaineer. He became a professional mountaineer in 1997, and was one of the most successful climbers and mountaineers of the 2000s. While being an all-round climber, Huber is most famous for his bold free ascents of big walls, and his expeditions in the Pakistan, Antarctica, and Greenland.

In rock climbing and ice climbing, a pitch is a steep section of a route that requires a rope between two belays, as part of a climbing system. Standard climbing ropes are between 50 and 80 metres long, so a pitch is always shorter, between two convenient ledges if possible; longer routes are multi-pitch, requiring the re-use of the rope each time. In free climbing, pitch refers to classification by climbers of the difficulty of ascent on certain climbing routes.

Yvon Chouinard American mountain climber

Yvon Chouinard is an American rock climber, environmentalist, and outdoor industry billionaire businessman. His company, Patagonia, is known for its environmental focus.

Steve Roper

Steve Roper is a noted climber and historian of the Sierra Nevada in the United States. He along with Allen Steck are the founding editors of the Sierra Club journal Ascent.

Tommy Caldwell American rock climber

Tommy Caldwell is an American rock climber accomplished in sport climbing, hard traditional climbing, big-wall speed climbing, and big-wall free climbing. Caldwell made the first free ascents of several El Capitan routes in Yosemite National Park.

Warren Harding (climber) American rock climber (1924–2002)

Warren Harding was one of the most accomplished and influential American rock climbers of the 1950s to 1970s. He was the leader of the first team to climb El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, in 1958. The route they climbed, known as The Nose, ascends 2,900 feet (880 m) up the central buttress of what is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world. Harding climbed many other first ascents in Yosemite, some 28 in all, as well as making the first true big-wall ascents in the Sierra Nevada range of California.

Jim Bridwell American rock climber and mountaineer

Jim Bridwell was an American rock climber and mountaineer, active since 1965, especially in Yosemite Valley, but also in Patagonia and Alaska. He was noted for pushing the standards of both free climbing and big-wall climbing, and later alpine climbing. He wrote numerous articles on climbing for leading sport publications. He was an apprentice to Royal Robbins and Warren Harding (climber). He was the unofficial leader of the Stonemasters.

Held every Memorial Day weekend since 1979, Mountainfilm is a documentary film festival that showcases nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political and social justice issues in Telluride, Colorado.

Jimmy Chin American mountain climber

Jimmy Chin is an American professional mountain athlete, photographer, film director, and author.

Dean Potter American climber and BASE jumper

Dean Spaulding Potter was an American free climber, alpinist, BASE jumper, and highliner. He completed many hard first ascents, free solo ascents, speed ascents, and enchainments in Yosemite National Park and Patagonia. In 2015, he died in a wingsuit flying accident in Yosemite National Park.

<i>The Nose</i> (El Capitan) Rock climbing route in Yosemite National Park, USA

The Nose is one of the original technical climbing routes up El Capitan. Once considered impossible to climb, El Capitan is now the standard for big-wall climbing. It is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America and considered a classic around the world.

Tom Frost American rock climber (1936–2018)

Thomas "Tom" M. Frost was an American rock climber known for big wall climbing first ascents in Yosemite Valley. He was also a photographer and climbing equipment manufacturer. Frost was born in Hollywood, California, and died in Oakdale, California.

Chuck Pratt American rock climber (1939–2000)

Charles Marshall Pratt was an American rock climber known for big wall climbing first ascents in Yosemite Valley. He was also a long-time climbing instructor and mountain guide with Exum Mountain Guides in the Grand Tetons.

Alex Honnold American rock climber (born 1985)

Alexander Honnold is an American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls. Honnold rose to prominence in June 2017 when he became the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a feat that one commentator described as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever." Honnold also holds the record for the fastest ascent of the Yosemite triple crown, an 18-hour, 50-minute link-up of Mount Watkins, The Nose, and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.

Sender Films

Sender Films is an American film production company based in Boulder, Colorado. Productions include outdoor adventure films, television shows, and commercials.

Brette Harrington is an American professional rock climber and alpinist based in Lake Tahoe, California and British Columbia, Canada. She was featured in the 2021 film The Alpinist alongside her late partner, Marc-André Leclerc. She is best known for the first free solo of the 760 meter (2,500-foot) Chiaro di Luna (5.11a) in Patagonia, for her development of new alpine climbing routes, and as the star of Brette, a Reel Rock Film Tour short film.

Hansjörg Auer Austrian mountaineer

Hansjörg Auer was an Austrian mountaineer, noted for his free solo climbs, particularly of "The Fish" in the Italian Dolomites. National Geographic described him as "one of the boldest and best climbers in the world." He died in an avalanche while climbing on Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies.