El Capitan a film by Fred Padula


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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.
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