Before I get to the part where I explain that this is a mani done in the style of the granite that makes up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – that random enough for ya?! – have you guys seen The Dawn Wall or Free Solo? They’re documentaries ostensibly about rock climbers – with all the gut-churning, straight-down photography your frayed nerves can handle – though really they’re examinations of man’s own relationship to man, nature and the very universe itself. It’s real triumph of the human spirit sort of stuff. With a higher than usual chance of watching said human plummet to their death off the side of a gigantic geological feature. Super lightweight stuff!
And I’ve been obsessed all summer long. The Dawn Wall, a Netflix release, follows professional climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as they scale the infamous Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite. Spend the summer low-grade haunting the online rock climbing world and you too will come to learn that what Caldwell and Jorgeson do – or did; The Dawn Wall was filmed in 2015 – is called free climbing, meaning they use ropes and clips and a buddy belay system, all necessary things when you’re attempting to scale 3,000 feet of one of the world’s most intimidating rock formations. Beset by crap weather, unexpected media attention, a mid-point bitch of a pitch that just refused to be bested and their own considerable demons (early on in his career, Caldwell and some teammates were taken hostage whilst climbing in Kyrgystan; upon returning home, he lost most of his left index finger – one of those crucial bits of anatomy if you’re a rock climber – to a table saw) it took the pair 19 days to summit El Cap, much of it spent pinned to the side of the Dawn Wall in frighteningly flimsy-looking tents.
Free Solo, a National Geographic movie and winner of 2019’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar, follows professional climber Alex Honnold as he also attempts to scale El Capitan, this time in 2017 whilst following a slightly less vertiginous route than the one set by Caldwell and Jorgeson, but without the benefit of ropes, clips or a buddy. That’s what makes Honnold a “free soloist” – he’s free of a rope and climbing solo. I haven’t actually seen Free Solo yet, but I’ve watched a terrific number of videos of Honnold – a really funny, bright and articulate guy – talking about his sport, his charitable efforts, his diet, lifestyle and drive.
It’s all utterly terrifying – anti-social tunnel vision taken to its most extreme limits – and yet also completely compelling. If I wasn’t opposed to living destitute out of a 1991 Dodge Caravan, or partaking in any activity many thousands of feet off the ground that will surely lead to my death, or if I had any aptitude whatsoever in the area of climbing or outdoor sportery, this would be quite attractive to alt-world me. Me-me is hiding under a blanket on her couch (me-me also attempted to hang from her fingertips off the kitchen door frame the other day, in imitation of a climbing training exercise. Probably don’t need to explicitly point out that it didn’t go very well!) It also goes without saying that both of these films are about 1,000 percent easier to hack as a viewer once you know that all parties involved achieved their goals and are now safely on the ground. Oh, who am I kidding – all of these guys got back to climbing just as quickly as they could, and are probably out there right now, spidering across the face of some 2000-foot-tall granite monolith, scouting handholds and footholds and plotting their next record-breaking ascent.
Anyhow, using that ultra easy, brushed-on polish technique I keep promising a tutorial on, I painted this manicure that looks like the granite walls of El Cap. Apparently it’s a total bitch to climb, something I’m really going to have to take their word on! It’s also a very pretty type of stone, burnished orange in hue and streaked with black fissures. I tried to capture all of that here, using a mess of KB Shimmer holographic polishes, including bronzed terracotta, Men Are From Mars-ala, burnished orange, Rust No One, and chocolate brown Oh My Ganache. I then added in those veins of black using Lilypad Lacquer’s Rainbows in Space. I really like how the holographic polishes mimic the glittery look of granite. I bet when the sun hits it just right, the whole rock face twinkles.
Really lovely, and so long as I don’t rip my arms off trying to hang from my kitchen door frame, it’s a look I’m absolutely going to try again.