El Capitan a film by Fred Padula


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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!
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