One of the most important insights into Alex Honnold’s nearly-decade-long obsession with climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope occurs deep in the film Free Solo. His girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, wants to know if Honnold feels a need to avoid death. “Would putting me into the equation ever actually change anything?” she asks. “Would you actually make decisions differently?” “If I had some kind of obligation to maximize my lifespan, then yeah, obviously I’d have to give up soloing,” the climber replies. She presses the point. “Is me asking you - do you see that as an obligation?” “No. No,” he bluntly replies. “But I appreciate your concerns,” Honnold continues, cracking a smile. “I respect that, but I in no way feel obligated, no.” “ . . . to maximize life time.” “No. No. But you saying, ‘Be safer,’ I’m kind of like, ‘Well, I’m already doing my best,’” says Honnold.“So I could just not do certain things, but then you have weird simmering resentment because the things you love most in life have now been squashed. Do you know what I mean?” His girlfriend nods unconvincingly, looks away and blinks repeatedly, as if to hold back tears. Most of us feel an obligation to maximize our lifespans. Most of us, if we climbed, consider a rope an essential part of “doing our best” to be safe in the endeavor. Before being able to appreciate the high-performance lessons of Free Solo, which won the Academy Award last weekend for best documentary and makes its TV debut on Sunday, we have to chalk up Honnold’s decision to climb untethered to a peculiar calculus about risk and reward.