Wampler’s Ascent to Become a Legend


In the fall of 2010, 42-year-old Stephen Wampler, who has cerebral palsy, slid into a specially designed chair, and then, using an ingenious rope-and-pulley system, began a six-day climb up the side of El Capitan, the 20,000-foot granite monolith in Yosemite National Park. From cinematographer Corey Rich’s beautifully framed footage, Wampler’s wife, Elizabeth, making her directorial debut, has assembled a stirring film that’s part documentary, and part promotional tool. That’s intended as an observation, not an insult, particularly when Stephen’s goal in climbing El Cap was to raise funds for the California summer camp he and Elizabeth run for kids with disabilities. If the filmmaker skews the story toward uplift, she also displays an eye for small, intimate moments. Before the climb, the Wamplers’ young daughter peers out nervously from the car, and there’s real tenderness in the way climbing guide Tommy Thompson feeds Stephen each night. Later, Tommy’s eyes will grow fearful when a seizure paralyzes Stephen’s left arm, leaving him hanging in midair. If Wampler survives the moment, and reaches the summit, he’ll be a legend; if he’s forced to give up, he’ll merely be one of the bravest humans on the planet.