Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Aug. 22–Thurs., Aug. 28. Not rated. 95 minutes.
Seattle is full of climbers like me who perhaps once dreamed of ascending the fabled Nose route on Yosemite's El Capitan, but that requires years of big-wall training, superb athleticism, much planning, many vacation days, considerable courage, and the ability to lead well past 5.10. How much easier, then, to watch a movie about it. Bavarian brothers Thomas and Alexander Hüber have all those requirements on their alpine résumés and then some, though this documentary never quite addresses why—other than as a gimmick and a convenient, condensed subject for the doc itself—they opted into Yosemite's recent speed-climbing fad, which makes the Nose into a vertical racetrack. (Purists may scoff, though local guides do the same on Mt. Rainier.) Rehearsing their moves in 2005, on a route that typically takes three to five days, the Hübers prepare for a sub-three-hour effort and ruminate on risk around a campfire. Speaking in German (with subtitles), they are not the most gregarious souls, and director Pepe Danquart does a remarkably poor job of supplying biographical details. (And a dream sequence? Dude needs to be slapped.) These sibs are taciturn superstars in their sport, long-haired, well-muscled granite gods who look like twins (again, Danquart offers no help in distinguishing them). Seattle filmgoers fresh from Vertical World or Stone Gardens will try to study their simul-climbing and multi-"block" approach to pitches (instead of swapping each lead). There too the film frustrates. But as an often gorgeous travelogue, with some awesome footage of the Hübers' speedy, steel-fingered confidence on the sheer stone face, To the Limit may inspire a road trip to Yosemite. Or, given the price of gas, the Snow Creek Wall.