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The long awaited film about Marc-André Leclerc is on its way, and Red Bull Media House alongside Sender Films has released the trailer. Leclerc was one of the best alpinists of his generation—soloing Mt. Robson, Cerro Torre, and Mt. Slesse, to name but a few—before his tragic death in 2018.
Climbing reached out to filmmaker Austin Siadak, who, while on an expedition in Kyrgyzstan, generously used his limited connections to answer our questions. Read on for Siadak’s stories and the trailer below.
What was your role in the film?
SIADAK: I was a cinematographer for the Patagonia section of the film, and filmed with Marc on Torre Egger to capture re-creation footage of his solo of Titanic. I also gave feedback on storyline and edits as the film progressed through the editing process.
Why did you want to work on this project?
I wanted to work on this project because Marc was a friend of mine and I had a lot of respect for his climbing and really just for him as a friend and human being. I also have climbed a lot in Patagonia personally, and love spending time in that part of the world. It was a treat to be able to work in a place that I enjoy so much with a good friend alongside. I’ve worked a lot with Sender Films and I was excited that they didn’t want Marc and I to go “full Hollywood” with our filming on Egger, with a huge production team and helicopters and whatnot. In the end I flew by myself down to Argentina and we did everything as a small team of two, capturing what we could given the limitations of such a small crew. But I felt that we stayed closer to the authentic nature of the way Marc approached his climbing, which comes across in the film in moments that are very real.
Can you describe your time climbing and filming with Marc in Patagonia?
Honestly it was very real. In the end we climbed Torre Egger over two days, filming along the way. Egger is a pretty tough mountain to climb under any conditions, but especially when you are stopping to pull out the camera, get into position, and film someone re-climbing pitches. There was little room for error or mistakes, but I felt that we operated really well and efficiently as a team. I remember laughing a lot during the climb, it was pretty cool to be so far out there, but feeling capable and psyched with such an amazing partner. We summitted in a growing storm, and rappelled in high winds and clouds through the night. I was definitely pretty scared at a couple moments. It definitely didn’t feel like we belonged there anymore. But Marc was so in his element.
One time a rope got stuck during the descent. And while I fumbled around for my GriGri to belay him up to free it, he simply unclipped from the anchor and soloed 5.8 in his boots and crampons at 2am, 2000 feet up Torre Egger, freed the rope and down climbed back to me. We landed back down on the glacier as the sun rose over the Fitz Massif to the east, our second sunrise of the day, and we smiled and hugged and passed out in our tent.
It was surprisingly not that nerve wracking to film him solo. I know how solid Marc was, and the pitches we filmed on were very much within his wheelhouse. Also when you have a job to do, and are concerned with being in the right position, making sure your composition and settings are all correct, etc, it kind of removes you from the reality of the situation. But I do remember being able to take a step back at some points and think “Wow, this is fucking nuts.” In retrospect I’ve been more concerned long after the fact, when I think about how little room for error there was. If Marc had fallen at any point, I would have been stuck way up Egger with a small rack and only one rope, and I likely would have instantly been in a fight for survival to even get off the mountain myself.
What is your favorite part of the film?
My favorite part of the film is the fact that it acknowledges Marc’s death in a way that is somber but not depressing. The story celebrates his life and how he approached his life in a way that is inspiring and aspirational, and I feel just about anyone can relate to it, and so I am excited to see how audiences respond when it comes out. Also, the soloing footage is just mind bending. I thought my hands were sweating when I watched Free Solo, but The Alpinist has moments where it is truly edge-of-your-seat, jaw-dropping disbelief.