This short film is a meditation on fear — the particular fear that comes from that wholly unnatural and exhilarating act of climbing upward from the safety of firm ground.
Seele aus Stein (German for “Soul of Stone”) finds Bernd Arnold in his 67th year as he reflects on a life that has seen nearly 1,000 first ascents and a lifetime dedicated to the intoxicating pursuit of the truths found on steep stone. Long before climbing entered the popular consciousness and Alex Honnold’s free soloing adventures in Yosemite garnered attention from the mainstream media, there was Arnold.
Before major climbing sponsorships and magazine covers, Arnold climbed steep rock faces without ropes, without a chalk bag, without shoes, without sponsors, without any pomp and circumstance. Why? Because there was vividness and meaning in that narrow space between life and death. And that was everything.
Ever since Cesare Maestri claimed to ascend Patagonia's iconic Cerro Torre in 1959 with Toni Egger and again in 1970 via his controversial Compressor Route, climbers have been obsessed with the imposingly sheer peak.
Climber Jim Bridwell (lionized in the Yosemite big wall climbing film Valley Uprising) claimed that nobody could ever free climb Cerro Torre, just as Yosemite's Dawn Wall was once declared too difficult to ascend without aid. Enter David Lama, the son of an Austrian alpinist mother and a Nepalese Sherpa father, and his climbing partner Peter Ortner. The duo set out to do what many deemed impossible: free climb a route on Cerro Torre’s southeast face.
To many, the feat was unimaginable, and the peak shut down the climbers more than once. But watching Lama free climb Cerro Torre feels like destiny, and the achievement is an edge-of-your-seat thrill, as well as a climb for the history books.