TV Review: Nat Geo’s “Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold” is Stunningly Beautiful and Anxiety-Inducing All at Once

Alex Honnold became a household name with the incredible success of National Geographic’s award-winning documentary Free Solo. But reaching the top of El Capitan was not the end of Honnold’s climb. As one of the best climbers in the world, he is always looking for the next challenge.

Nat Geo’s Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold sees the famous climber lead a six-week expedition to eastern Greenland to make a first ascent of one of the highest unclimbed rock faces in the world, but this is much more than a climbing trip. With the help of glaciologist Heidi Sevestre, Alex and the team investigate the impact of climate change on the glaciers, ice caps and fjords in this remote part of the Arctic.

First and foremost, Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold is incredibly nerve-racking. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Free Solo, but what these climbers are doing is unbelievable dangerous and you can’t help but feel some of their fear. On top of that, some of the shots delivered by this series will make you feel as though you are about to fall out of your chair yourself.

And of course, it’s those same shots that make this series stunningly beautiful. As Nat Geo so often does, this series provides seemingly impossible visuals that will mesmerize an audience and have you doubting these are real places on this planet. From other-worldly crevasses to breathtaking rock faces, the imagery featured here is sure to impress. Even if you take nothing else away from this series, it’s worth the watch just for that.

Nat Geo has also recently produced dozens of projects hosted by celebrities and entertainers. This is not one of those. If you come into Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold looking for entertainment value from the “hosts” of this series, you’re not going to find much of it. Honnold and his team are professional climbers and scientists doing a very serious job during the making of this show. You’re not going to get a bunch of laughs or be drawn to their personalities necessarily, because that is simply not their objective. However, with that being said, there is a fair amount of drama and intrigue within the team, beyond just the danger and beauty of their mission.

It is also nice that Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold provides a great deal of educational value. This is not just a survival story or a look at one man’s passion to push himself to his limit, but also a scientific look at a melting glacier and its environmental impact. National Geographic is of course known to educate its viewers with most of its programming and that is certainly not lost here.

Overall, Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold may not quite live up to Free Solo but it hits all of those same notes that made it so wildly popular. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, fidgeting uncomfortably until a beautiful view from an oceanside cliff suddenly puts you at ease, almost burying the overwhelming sense of doom you had just seconds earlier. It’s both entertaining and educational and certainly worth a watch for anyone even remotely interested in National Geographics typical programming.

Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold premieres February 4 on National Geographic and streams the next day on Disney+ and Hulu.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."