Great Wide Open

If you like climbing docs from a national parks angle, here’s a treat.

“Great Wide Open” is a series of 6 doc shorts (about 12 to 15 min. each), directed by Jared Leto looks at 5 climbers and one other adventurer as the explore National Parks.

“Great Wide Open” is so good that it currently ranks #6 on my Best National Parks Documentaries list.

Episode 1: Conquistador

In this episode, Jared’s mainly hanging with Tommy Caldwell to discuss the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California (the famous rock formation known for its steep, smooth surface).

Tommy knows this place.

Afterall, he’s the guy who free-climbed the Dawn Wall with Kevin Jorgeson in 2015.

The episode’s a cool 14 minutes, but it’s packed.

Tommy (on the ground) looks like a scrawny guy next door.

But on the rock, he climbs like a superhero. He prepped seven years for the Dawn Wall.

Then, boom, 19 days, and he’s up and down with Jorgeson. They’re the first to do it without ropes. They go viral.

Tommy’s humble about it, though, and says: “I want to inspire folks to set big goals, visit National Parks…”

He also drops a bombshell story from a National Park on the other side of the world:

Earlier in his career, he and fellow climbers Beth Rodden, John Dickey, and Jason ‘Singer’ Smith were climbing in the Pamir-Alai mountain range of Kyrgyzstan.

They were climbing the Yellow Wall when they got taken hostage by an Islamist group.

Tommy literally throws a guy off a mountain to escape.

Six months later, he’s living like every day’s his last. “Incredible life-driving force,” he says.

Episode 2: The Dirtbag

In “The Dirtbag”, Jared and Renan hit a simul climb in Yosemite.

It’s a love letter to Yosemite and the legendary Camp 4.

Think grandeur, think granite.

Renan is more than a climber (he was the cinematographer for the 2015 hit doc “Meru”!).

He’s the guy who nailed the Shark’s Fin on Meru Peak with Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker.

And yes, he brushed off a stroke up there.

Renan shows off Yosemite from his unique perspective as climber and filmmaker.

Episode 3: The Rockstar

Yes, we have more Yosemite!

This time, it’s none other than Alex Honnold, Mr. Free Solo himself.

This guy climbed El Capitan without ropes, and now he’s with Jared at Matthes Crest in Tuolumne Meadows, right in the heart of Yosemite.

Matthes Crest isn’t just any ridge. It’s a mile-long fin of sheer adrenaline in Yosemite’s Cathedral Range, part of the majestic Sierra Nevada.

It’s like Yosemite’s showing off its rock star.

The crest’s got a name with history. It’s named after François E. Matthes, the cartographer who decoded its geology. It used to be Echo Ridge, but Matthes Crest has a nicer ring, don’t you think?

And get this, the crest is a nunatak. That’s a peak that was chilling above glaciers during the last ice age. Yosemite’s not just about beauty; it’s a walk through history.

Honnold goes deep, sharing stories about climbing with his dad in Yosemite and how his dad’s death shaped him.

And, true to Honnold’s style, he cracks one-liners such as this one:

“Oh sh!t! You have a knife? What’s that for? Nah, I don’t even hold knives! Sh!t is dangerous!”

Classic Honnold – dodging ropes and knives but embracing Yosemite’s epic climbs.

Just another day in the park, literally.

Episode 4: The Wolfman

Now we’re off to Yellowstone National Park where Jared links up with Douglas Smith, the “Wolfman” in the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley.

This valley, nestled in the heart of America’s first national park, is a wildlife watcher’s dream.

Douglas Smith, a seasoned wolf biologist, is a fixture in Yellowstone.

His two-plus decades of studying wolves have made him a legend in these parts. Lamar Valley, often called America’s Serengeti, is a spectacle of nature. Imagine thousands of bison roaming free – it’s a sight right out of the wild west.

But Yellowstone’s wonders don’t stop at Lamar Valley.

The episode features stunning footage of the Grand Prismatic Spring, the third largest spring in the world.

This natural marvel is bigger than a football field, with a kaleidoscope of colors. The deep blue center surrounded by vibrant bands of orange, yellow, and green is a visual feast.

As Jared and Doug explore, they uncover the true narrative of Yellowstone’s wolves, far from their misunderstood villainous portrayal. The backdrop?

A family of wolves, playful pups included, in the midst of Yellowstone’s diverse ecosystem. 🦋🌻🎶🍀❤️

This journey isn’t just about Lamar Valley’s wildlife.

It’s an homage to Yellowstone’s grandeur, from its roaming bison herds to the surreal beauty of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Yellowstone is a testament to the wonders of the natural world, a place where conservation and beauty coexist in harmony.

Episode 5: Independence Day

Sasha DiGiulian, rock climbing prodigy, teams up with Jared Leto on this one.

They hit up Devils Tower, or Bear’s Lodge, in Wyoming. This place isn’t a National Park but it is America’s first national monument, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt.

Devils Tower isn’t any old butte; it’s a towering, sacred monolith, rising like a sentinel above the Belle Fourche River.

It’s part of the Black Hills, and man, does it dominate the landscape. 1,267 feet of sheer, awe-inspiring rock.

This place is steeped in Native American history. It’s called Bear’s House, Bear’s Lodge, you name it. The Lakota, Cheyenne, and more – they all see it as a sacred spot.

Sasha, born in ’92, is a climbing powerhouse.

She’s grabbed gold at the World Championships, dominated the US scene, and has been making first female ascents like it’s her day job.

We’re talking about big walls in Brazil, the Misty Wall in Yosemite, and even the Eiger’s Magic Mushroom.

But Sasha and Jared are there for more than climbing.

They’re reflecting on life, death, and filling the voids left by others. It’s deep stuff, against the backdrop of this massive, mystical rock on the Fourth of July.

Episode 6: Grand Tetons

This time, we’re off to Grand Teton National Park, another jewel in Wyoming.

Jared joins Peter Popinchalk, a mountain climber with a knack for high peaks.

Grand Teton? It’s not just another park. It’s a jewel in Wyoming, with its iconic, jagged peaks cutting into the sky like nature’s own skyscrapers.

The Tetons are unique – they rise abruptly from the valley without foothills, a rarity in mountain ranges.

Towering peaks, pristine lakes, and wildlife galore.

As they hike, Peter spills the beans on what makes the Tetons special.

It’s more than just climbing; it’s about connecting with nature, feeling alive.

Watch Great Wide Open’s episodes for free on YouTube here:

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac of Daily Doc