Solo spirit: ‘The Alpinist’ tells story of shy, nomadic Canadian climber

Marc-André Leclerc in a scene from “The Alpinist.” (Courtesy of Roadside Attractions)


Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen were made for the outdoors.

In fact, the two have paired up once again to tell the story of Marc-André Leclerc in their latest film, “The Alpinist.”

The film follows Leclerc, a free-spirited 23-year-old Canadian who makes some of the boldest solo ascents in history.

Yet he draws scant attention.

With no cameras, no rope, and no margin for error, Leclerc represents the essence of solo adventure.

Nomadic and publicity shy, he doesn’t own a phone or a car and is reluctant to let a film crew in on his pure vision of climbing.

That is, until Mortimer and Rosen step in and embark on a historic adventure in Patagonia that will redefine what is possible in solo climbing.

“We do a lot of films in this world,” Mortimer says. “We both are climbers. I’ve climbed my whole life. When we heard about Marc, we were hearing that he was hardcore and doing some amazing stuff. We found our way to him, and he had seen some of our films. He’s a student of climbing history.”

“The Alpinist” will be released in theaters on Friday, Sept. 10, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Rosen says following Leclerc presented obstacles that didn’t have to do with climbing.

“The Alpinist” directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen.

“He’s so focused on his climbing and moving from one objective to another,” Rosen says. “He liked the idea of making the film so he could share his passion with the world. Trying to do interviews was difficult, but that’s what Pete and I loved about Marc. When everyone is bragging on social media, he didn’t want any attention on himself.”

Rosen says Leclerc’s focus gave way to much better interviews.

“He was always off-script,” Rosen says. “As a storyteller, that’s what you want.”

Mortimer and Rosen spent about two years making the film.

Then tragedy struck.

On March 5, 2018, Leclerc and his climbing partner, Ryan Johnson, completed a new route on the north face of the Mendenhall Towers, just north of Juneau, Alaska.

The pair were expected to make it back to base camp by March 7, but never arrived.

The search by the Juneau Mountain Rescue discovered ropes at the bottom of the climbers’ descent route – which suggests that the climbers were struck by an avalanche, falling rock or cornice from above.

“We were deep in postproduction when the tragedy struck,” Mortimer says. “We felt like we needed to include this in the story.”

Rosen says that although the film is focused on climbing, it’s for everybody.

“If you’re going to go to climb, there are so many ways you can push yourself,” Rosen says. “It’s also about something very simple. We’re talking about a (man’s) journey.”

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