El Capitan a film by Fred Padula


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Trad climber
Long Beach, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 10, 2011 - 04:23pm PT
Any one have it/watch it? Here's a video about the making of it:


Pretty cool film. Watch Lynn Hill Nose in a Day after, followed by Alex Honnold free soloing Half Dome... and that about puts it all into prespective.
the Fet

Feb 10, 2011 - 05:00pm PT
Is Fred Padula an alias of Glen Denny?

Trad climber
electric lady land
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:10pm PT

the shot of the climber
with the receding moon
was amazing.

how does one get to
see the entire
ron gomez

Trad climber
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:11pm PT
Saw a film YEARS ago by Lito Flores on El Cap, some of that footage looks like the film. It was a great film and story.

Feb 10, 2011 - 05:17pm PT
The King Swing footage is fantastic, as are the waterfall shots.

Where can we see/buy the entire film?



Social climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:27pm PT
Some nice footage in that clip.

This seems to be it:


It's doesn't appear to be listed at IMDB.

A long way from where I started
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:35pm PT
I've got a copy on video tape. Love it (and should get it transferred to digital, I guess).

Showing it to young climbers just in the process of graduating from the gym to real rock, or to people too young to remember the good old hippie era, is always fun.

Trad climber
Long Beach, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 10, 2011 - 05:43pm PT
Where can we see/buy the entire film?

I bought the retail VHS tape BITD. I just dusted it off and converted it to DVD. Not sure if you can still buy it, or what the copyright laws are on posting it up...

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:46pm PT
I talked to Glenn about the moon shot and he said it was a fake, a put together shot of two different shots... Still pretty powerful stuff!

Social climber
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:52pm PT
I met Fred Padula in Banff some time in the '80's ( 84 I think ) and he was a really nice guy. Very humble that I remember.

El Captian is a great film. Captures the wall feel.........or so I recall. I haven't seen it in many years.

Glad to see it's making the rounds of new viewers.....

Trad climber
Swimming in LEB tears.
Feb 10, 2011 - 05:54pm PT
My all time favorite climbing movie.

Feb 10, 2011 - 08:27pm PT
Is that the one where there's a scene that is in total darkness with stuff bashing around with human voices and grunts, etc?
It has to be. I remember that King Swing footage. Isn't there some hammering up the Stovelegs and a hilarious scene of them chowing on canned goods with dirty paws?
Fun film. I saw it within the first couple of years I started climbing. I was scared of El Cap after that. Definitely didn't make me want to sleep up there.

Bob J.

Trad climber
e350 / Bishop
Feb 10, 2011 - 08:48pm PT

"I bought the retail VHS tape BITD. I just dusted it off and converted it to DVD."

Great idea, my VHS copy doesn't do me much good. Inspiring stuff.....
james Colborn

Trad climber
Truckee, Ca
Feb 10, 2011 - 09:07pm PT
Just found my DVD copy a couple of days ago. It is by far my favorite climbing film. Lido is a fricking crack up throughout the film. " I have you on belay now, or at least I'm paying attention now". The footage of him standing in the mail bag untied and his reaction is priceless. Those guys were badasses.

The water bottle caught in the thermal is awesome . "It's coming back up"

It truly captures the warped reality of wall climbing.

Feb 10, 2011 - 09:12pm PT
Best climbing movie ever! Wish I had a copy.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 10, 2011 - 09:18pm PT
If any of you are interested, Glen can be reached on his website: www.glendenny.com--- it has email contact, actual phone number and address as well. He is here in San Francisco.

Bronx, NY
Feb 12, 2011 - 08:15pm PT
El Capitan was shot by Glen Denny (which several posters seem to know) but he didn't have enough money to edit it. A TV network was interested but insisted that some of the language be deleted. Glen wouldn't. Lito worked on editing for a while, and finally Fred Padula put it together. I remember when Glen was filming, he had a big Ampex tape recorder (eight track, I think) at the base because he had line of sight to the miked climbers. Pretty radical for those days. I also remember seeing a 16mm print of the film, and the detail was much better than on the later videotape, and Glen's artistry really came through. There's no doubt--the film really captures the experience of big wall climbing in those days.

Boulder climber
East Side
Feb 12, 2011 - 08:19pm PT
Was this the film where the haul sack went on a sailing pendulum on the last pitch?

My stomach was in my throat just watching it!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 12, 2011 - 08:37pm PT
It was black and white; probably the only film on EC out there in B&W. Thanks for the explanation Joe on the video quality; I thought it was quite bad and always wondered about it.
The Larry

Moab, UT
Feb 12, 2011 - 08:49pm PT
"It's coming back up!"

I use that line all the time.

That movie actually changed my life.

Feb 12, 2011 - 08:51pm PT
There was a 35th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Nose held in the Valley. That would have been '93, I don't recall the venue. Warren, Wayne and George were there, all beaming but totally low key. Warren creaked out a sheepish explanation about how they virtually stumbled into the project and really had no clue what they were doing. Fred was there, too, and the film was shown. It was a super chill gathering; sparsely attended but spirited. Were you there?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 13, 2011 - 12:45pm PT
Fred has completely restored this ground breaking film frame by frame and it should be available commercially by now. It was premiering several years ago.
The Wolf

Trad climber
Friend of Dope Miller
Feb 14, 2011 - 02:48pm PT
I believe Mr. Pedula was a film instructor at San Francisco State. In the 70's & 80's there was a ad in every issue of CLIMBING advertising the film for sale.

Trad climber
portland, or
Feb 14, 2011 - 03:41pm PT
I bought the VHS from Michael Chessler Books decades ago. It still plays great, although I'd love to have a digital copy.

Some of my favorite lines are:
(from way up high on the route) "Go back, it can't be done!"
"You're doing it again. You're sending dirt onto me. You need me (as a belayer)". And my all-time favorite: "Hey Lito, I'm getting ready for you to give me a belay".

The summit scene was great where they were slicing a watermelon with a granite flake. This was the reality to the dream that one of the climbers said during the climb.

That crashing noise in the dark was one of the climbers ripping a bolt and falling with all that iron (i.e. pitons & biners).

Social climber
Feb 14, 2011 - 04:30pm PT

You can rent it for $240 on 16mm.
I called a couple years ago about buying a copy and they didn't have any available. Maybe if everybody starts calling and emailing, they will release a dvd copy.
Rick McLaughlin

Trad climber
Arvada Colorado
Dec 6, 2011 - 04:12pm PT
My VHS of El Capitan is lost.
I am interested in purchasing, or renting copying and returning, yours or a copy of, El Capitan by Fred Padula. I will pay $$.
If anyone can give me advice on where to get a copy, on any format, I would be really psyched.
Thanks, RM

Trad climber
Bay Area
Dec 6, 2011 - 05:44pm PT
I'd suggest someone speak up concerning the copyright issues. I'd hate to see these guys not get their payments.
It's a terrific film. I only saw it once, at Pacific Film Archive BITD and I still remember several scenes.

Trad climber
Dec 6, 2011 - 06:30pm PT
pretty much the best climbing film ever. I got mine from Chessler books in the mid 90's. my climbing buddy lost it. oh well. I probably watched it 50 times tough. tried to get a dvd copy from chessler a couple years ago, but i guess they never got them in


Dec 6, 2011 - 06:45pm PT
Del Cross,

Depending on how many VHS tapes you have, you should consider going to your local Best Buy or whatever and get a converter that you hook up to your computerator. $80 or so...


Dec 6, 2011 - 06:50pm PT

Good questions for which I have no ready answers.


Boulder climber
Dec 6, 2011 - 06:54pm PT
I transferred my copy to DVD relatively cheaply ($60) 5 or 6 years ago, and burned a few extra copies just in case. There were a number of video reproduction companies in Sacramento able to convert the VHS to DVD format.

Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Dec 6, 2011 - 06:58pm PT
This looks awesome.
I'd buy a copy too if it were available.
ron gomez

Trad climber
Dec 6, 2011 - 06:59pm PT
Did some digging and found my VHS copy! I have a VHS to DVD machine and it worked no problem. Great film, also have a copy of Bridwell/Long crossing of Borneo and a film of Jeff Lowe and Catherine Destiville on some Himalayan route filmed by Bridwell......classic stuff.

Trad climber
Hilly, but no rocks Folsom, California
Dec 6, 2011 - 08:33pm PT
Pretty sure I have a digital file of this. I'll check when I get home.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Dec 6, 2011 - 08:35pm PT
I recall two things about this movie in particular - the musical score was haunting and Lito jumping up and down in a haul bag on a ledge and someone asks him 'Are you tied in?"

He wasn't.


Dec 6, 2011 - 08:48pm PT
I'm definitely a fan of El Capitan. I use it to teach about existentialism and the Absurd in my high school English class. Besides being a trippy, existential metaphor, it also answers the age-old question: "how'd they get the ropes up there?" And the sleeping in mail bags and eating canned tuna with lost arrow pitons sans Ipod, laptop or cell phone...it freaks the kids out, man.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 6, 2011 - 10:00pm PT
It was an odd one, in that it was filmed in the late 1960s or so, but wasn't finally shown in Vancouver until the late 1970s. We had most of the usual mountain speakers and films when they were on tour, but for some reason it just never got here. Quite a poetic film.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Dec 6, 2011 - 10:07pm PT
digital copies? links? must see!

man that film looks awesome!


Dec 6, 2011 - 10:10pm PT
I've got an .avi file of it, but it is fairly poor quality.

All time favorite climbing movie. Next to Eiger Sanction, of course.


Trad climber
Sh#t Hole, Brooklyn, NY
Dec 6, 2011 - 11:22pm PT
El Capitan is my favorite climbing movie.
Although I've only seen it a couple of times in quick succession (in an employee's tent in the Valley immediately after my first El Cap wall) it comes to mind often. It's poetic, evokes the grandeur and resonant moods of classic bigwall climbing that for some reason is conspicuously missing from so many bigwall documentaries. The film renders bigwall climbing and expands the experience by indulging in artistically generated mood rather than reducing climbing to a concept of 'sport' with uninspired commentary and mediocre music selections substituted for artistic weight.

Occasionally I've searched for online footage but without success. I've never seen it offered for rental. Would love to see it again.

Trad climber
Starlite, California
Dec 6, 2011 - 11:59pm PT
The link to "Canyon Cinema" is important!

Fred Padula taught at the SF State cinematography dept during, at least, the '70's (cheap shot @ when I got started...climbing...and filming)

I spoke with him during a personal presentation of "El Capitan" at Wheeler Hall on the Berkeley campus (where I endured many a weary Comp Lit lecture with 10 pages due next day). I can't recall if that was before, or after, the central lecture hall got firebombed out by the SLA. After, I think.

Fred was kinda vague when I asked, from the front row during the Q&A session that used to follow these public displays, if he would be so kind as to answer my personal technocrat about that "Moonshot" sequence.

Some kinda carney smoke and mirrors looked like to me.

Anyway, before the Q&A, Fred had screened another film, and this one should still be available through Canyon Cinema on a rental basis:

According to Fred, Glen Denny was a student of his at SF State cinema classes, who'd shot, as a student project, a very nice 16 mm called: "Nayala" or, similar, title. About 15 or 20 minutes running time.

It's quite good. Gary Colliver free solos the S Buttress of Cathedral Pk, up in Tuolumne Meadows. Seems like an autumn light, at least in B&W. There are no people, nor their vehicles, in evidence as the film walks us from the Meadows up to the base and onto the stone.

A long way from where I started
Dec 7, 2011 - 12:09am PT
A few years ago when one of my sons was visiting, we watched this film. I expected him to be totally bored, or at least to laugh at the hippy-trippy nature of the thing. But he really liked it. Stupid kid.

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Dec 7, 2011 - 12:32am PT
I have a copy on my laptop.
I played it a dozen times at least for other climbers while in C-4 this fall. Total classic !
I got to see it when it first came out at the Robbins shop ;)


Trad climber
Hilly, but no rocks Folsom, California
Dec 8, 2011 - 03:37am PT
Hey Roxy,

Where are you one the central coast? Im in san luis obispo. I could give it to you. There's no links to it online, I just have a copy on my comp.


Trad climber
Dec 8, 2011 - 11:15am PT
Saw the film and bought a copy in 89, right after my first trip up El Cap (3D). I have always liked it. It's so well photographed that watching it totally revives the feelings of being up on the wall. The red shirt that Lito is wearing in the film was saved by someone, and was presented to him at a slide show a few years back. I saw a photo of the presentation, and the look on his face was great.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Dec 8, 2011 - 05:03pm PT
PM sent to Sonic.

You are on the verge of making my Holidays : )

dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
Dec 8, 2011 - 06:40pm PT
Does anyone know why this film isn't available for purchase? Seems like a lot of climbers would buy it.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Jan 2, 2012 - 11:55am PT
hey Sonic you ever get my PM?

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jan 2, 2012 - 02:57pm PT
I spent an afternoon with Fred recently. The remastered DVD looks about 100% better than the VHS version. He's putting the finishing touches on it before releasing it. He's also putting together some bonus footage about what some of the climbers have been up to recently, although a couple, notably Glen, declined to take part. The full story about how the movie got made is really fascinating.

Trad climber
Jan 4, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
that's great! any idea on how long? months? years away?


Jan 5, 2012 - 12:06am PT
Mike from Chessler Books

We sold the El Capitan film on VHS for 20 years, hundreds it seems. Then when the world converted to DVD Fred Padula stopped selling it, and said at the time (10+ years ago) that he was working on converting it to DVD. There was a comment above that he was re-doing it for higher quality, which is what we heard too.

But it never happened. I phoned him many times and left messages, but he never responded. For some reason he either lost interest, or perhaps felt it would not sell well enough to be worth the cost of production, but I think costs on making DVDs have fallen so low that can't be a valid reason anymore.

In the real world only three types of film can make money: Hollywood films, children's films, and porn. Most documentaries end up losing money, no matter how good they are. Everest on Imax and a few other climbing films have sold well.

El Capitan does show up at film festivals on 16mm, it was shown at the Taos Mt Film festival a few years ago.

There are many great climbing films that should be re-released: Rebuffat's three films, West Face of Sentinel Rock, and the Nameless Tower with Destivelle, Lowe and Bridwell mentioned above. Leo Dickinson has a new bio film of Don Whillans he won't sell in America because some previous distributors ripped him off.

You can buy an all region DVD player from Amazon for under $100, and then buy and play many European films that will never be released in the USA. I heard that Destivelle and Edlinger made dozens of films for French TV that we have never seen.


San Francisco
Feb 12, 2012 - 03:31pm PT
The El Capitan film is showing in Louisville, KY, on Feb. 15. Glen Denny will be there to introduce it and answer questions. (He'll also do a slide show there on Feb. 16.) See links:


ron gomez

Trad climber
Feb 12, 2012 - 04:06pm PT
Riley, you mentioned up thread about buying a copy of the disk? Somehow I think that would be a copyright violation...don't know if I GAVE one to you if it would pass the legalities? Look into it and let me know, I would guess written permission from the owners of the film would circumvent that.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Feb 12, 2012 - 05:22pm PT
I 2nd the interest in that DVD release date projection


Trad climber
Feb 12, 2012 - 06:50pm PT
Hey midzone, thanks for the heads up! I just got tix and will be going! hopefully we can buy the film again sometime soon.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 12, 2012 - 07:22pm PT
An absolute classic! Wish I could see it again.

Feb 12, 2012 - 07:41pm PT

Lousy quality - cool soundtrack.

And I might as well embed the link from the top of the thread:

As this was shot on film seeing a print would be classic.

Was it shot on 16mm? If so, a 16mm projection is pretty darn close to a 1:1 reproduction.

This is like real photography and stuff. SF State's film department was first rate - I worked with a bunch of them.

And it's only $240 to rent? Might be a fun thing to do for a benefit.

Social climber
Aug 31, 2012 - 04:25am PT
Hey guys I happened to come across a vhs copy of this rare hard to find film and will be listing it on Ebay on the late afternoon of August 31,2012.

Trad climber
East Coast US
Aug 31, 2012 - 06:56am PT
"It's coming back up!"

I use that line all the time.

"We have to go back!" - Lito Tejada-Flores (joking around while finishing the Great Roof pitch)

I use that line all the time; and I never joke.

Ice climber
Aug 31, 2012 - 07:36am PT
Pam here. We used to show that film practically every other month when I worked at Neptune's (for 9 years!)....I have seen it so many times, and could watch it a million more. All those lines you guys have quoted take me back.......indeed, it's sooo great, funny, inspiring, beautiful. Why, like climbing can be!
Allen Hill

Social climber
Aug 31, 2012 - 08:23am PT
I honestly think it's the best American climbing film ever made. The crap that's rolled out theses days (Sender Films comes to mind) has no heart and soul, just commercial value via product placement. Conversely "El Capitan" is nothing but heart and soul. Optical printed moon and all. Absolute art.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Aug 31, 2012 - 10:00am PT
Great film with a lot of soul. Lito lives a half mile from us in Chilean Patagonia. He doesn't climb anymore but his stories complimenting the gourmet meals his wife Linde provides are memorable.

Social climber
San Francisco
Oct 7, 2012 - 08:22pm PT
This classic film has been restored in HD from the original film positive and it is being released on DVD and BluRay!! You can get a copy if you search for El Capitan FIlm on Kickstarter.com

This new release looks and sounds better than the film has ever looked before. It is also going to include audio commentary with the original climbers and also some short videos with them.

Here is a link:


Social climber
San Francisco
Oct 7, 2012 - 08:25pm PT
Here is a note from the filmmaker:

EL CAPITAN, the classic 1968 movie is on Kickstarter

Google: Kickstarter, El Capitan

With the money that I hope to raise from Kickstarter contributors, I will be able to complete the El Capitan film restoration, and finish preparing the new HD digital master.

After being out of distribution for over 10 years, with your help, the classic film, El Capitan, will finally be available again, restored in HD and looking better than ever.

If you would be inclined to pass this information on to your friends by way of Twitter and Facebook, it would really help.

Thank you for your support.

Fred Padula
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Oct 7, 2012 - 08:42pm PT
A nicer person would have just put the old version on youtube for free.

Trad climber
Fumbling towards stone
Oct 8, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
Afternoon bump.

Oct 8, 2012 - 08:04pm PT
A nicer person would have just put the old version on youtube for free.

I'm surprised it already isn't, I guess climbers are a more honest bunch than I thought.

Trad climber
Bristol, UK
Oct 9, 2012 - 12:00pm PT
I coughed up the $30 for the DVD and other goodies.

Looking forward to seeing proper, sharp, HD transfer version of the 16mm colour film.

I have a feeling the difference is going to be staggering.

The extras sound interesting too.

Trad climber
Oct 10, 2012 - 01:42am PT
This is awesome! Can't wait to get my Blu-ray!

Oct 10, 2012 - 08:24am PT
This IS awesome.

El Capitan is my favorite climbing film of all time. No idea how many times I've seen it - but it's a lot. I was always bummed that such a great movie was only available in such poor quality. I've only been hoping it would get remastered for about the last 20 years.

Bump for more kickstarter pledges. Pretty excited to see (and hear) it in HD.


Seneca area
Oct 10, 2012 - 10:40am PT
They've got a long way to go in just 3 weeks. Hope they make it as I'd like to see them be able to finish this. Seems a reasonable amount to pledge for getting a copy. The thing is with Kickstarter is if they don't make the goal, they get none of the pledged money... My son is a film maker and recently tried to raise money via Kickstarter for a pilot episode for a cable series and didn't make it. He got zilch!

Com'n folks help'm out! This is a great climbing flick and time's a tick'n!

Social climber
Oct 10, 2012 - 12:41pm PT
El Capitan and Johnny Dawes' Stone Monkey are the two best climbing movies ever made.

Which, coming from someone who is a good friend of Pete Mortimer, Nick Rosen and the whole Sender crew, is saying a lot (and might get me into a lot of trouble).

No sponsors, no corporate backers. No desire to make something pleasant, successful or easy on the eyes. No narrative, no explanation, just raw, unprofessional, personal vision: Here's my take on climbing, take it or leave it.

Pledge made....good luck!

Oct 10, 2012 - 12:52pm PT
Do people get their money back if the project doesn't meet its goal?

Big Wall climber
Oct 10, 2012 - 01:03pm PT
You are not billed until it meets its goal. If the deadline passes without meeting it you are never billed at all.

Oct 10, 2012 - 09:35pm PT

Trad climber
OAK (nee NH)
Oct 10, 2012 - 11:09pm PT
bumpasaurus rex

this is so very worthy. pony up!
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Oct 11, 2012 - 12:04am PT
Donate for a great cause!

I watched the movie once while having to put up with a lot of second party internet,invade my computer, bottomfeeder BS.

These guys are trying to deliver a reasonably costed hard copy disk of a very cool work of art. This is an honest deal in a age of owning digital things that reside in the "cloud".

All the documentation that was taken for granted 30 years ago is disappearing.

Remember when it was something to do at night in the Valley to watch that film of the West Face of Sentinel? "Like walking on eggshells"... So much of what floated ordinary imaginations has been replaced with beyond reach examples.

Trad climber
Nov 11, 2012 - 01:11pm PT
don't you just hate it when things go BUMP in the Belay...

Hello all.. just an update.. it was funded!

Thanks for doing this Fred... I missed my chance to get my own copy back in the day.. I'm looking forward this re-release. Can't wait for it to start shipping!

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