Extreme Athletes: Alex Honnold, Master of 6 Lives

//Extreme Athletes: Alex Honnold, Master of 6 Lives
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    Alex Honnold is an extreme athlete best known for free solo climbing in Yosemite and Utah. Photo Taken by Jimmy Chin/Facebook.com

The rock climbing community and world in general was treated to a spectacle two months ago when American free climber Alex Honnold became the first person to scale El Capitan with no equipment.

At about 3,000 feet, or 900 metres, that’s roughly the same height as Angel Falls in Venezuela – something you’re definitely familiar with if you’ve seen the new Point Break. It was at that location where Bodhi and Johnny Utah also scaled a cliff wall without safety gear as part of the final two ordeals of the Ozaki 8.

While I doubt Alex Honnold will kayak Inga Rapids or skydive/BASE jump the Cave of Swallows any time soon, it’s an impressive feat. The climb took decades of training, and forced Honnold to embrace the fact he could die any moment while learning his craft. Here’s a closer look at Alex Honnold – an extreme athlete you could accurately call a Master of 6 Lives.

Name: Alex Honnold

Age: 32

Skills: Rock Climbing, Bouldering, Free Solo Climbing, Sport Climbing

Awards: 2010 Golden Piton Awards (Climbing Magazine) – ‘Golden Piton’

Background: Honnold is American. He was born in Sacramento, California, and started climbing at 11. Honnold was enrolled at University of California, Berkeley, in Engineering, but dropped out when he was 19 to pursue is passion for rock climbing.

While he’s no stranger to climbing walls and traditional ‘aid’ rock climbing (using gear to assist with the climb), he’s most noted as a free solo climber. The latter means climbing with nothing to assist for climbing OR safety.

Yes, that’s the same kind of climbing required for Master of 6 Lives.

Alex Honnold free soloing El Capitan in June 2017. Photo taken by Jimmy Chin/Facebook.com

You don’t become a free solo climber (or more accurately, live long enough) without cutting your teeth with decades of practice. Honnold gained much of his experience climbing through the American southwest – particularly California and Utah. And of course, it was in California where he made his famous ascent just three months ago.

Alex Honnold at El Capitan: Honnold free solo climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on June 3, 2017. This was a first – two other climbers had spoken openly about trying it, one of whom was the late Dean Potter, who spent much time in Yosemite and died there in May 2015.

Honnold was the third to put the idea out there. The fact that he tried and succeeded defies logic. The route he took is called ‘Freerider’. At close to 3,000 feet above the valley, and with 30 pitches (sections), it makes news when a climber completes it with safety gear.

“With free-soloing, obviously I know that I’m in danger, but feeling fearful while I’m up there is not helping me in any way. It’s only hindering my performance, so I just set it aside and leave it be”

Honnold trained a year for the climb, in the US, Morrocco and Europe in relative secrecy. Just a few friends in the rock climbing community knew about his attempt until it happened that day in June, starting at 5:32 in the AM.

The climb took three hours and fifty-six minutes and, as you’d expect, both expertise and ability to control fear. Indeed, Honnold is known for his ability to tune out thoughts of – you know, death – and maintain composure.

As he told National Geographic: “With free-soloing, obviously I know that I’m in danger, but feeling fearful while I’m up there is not helping me in any way. It’s only hindering my performance, so I just set it aside and leave it be”

Other Spots: Alex Honnold was already recognized as a pioneer in the rock climbing world before free soloing El Capitan. In 2008, he free climbed Half Dome, also in Yosemite, and Moonlight Buttress in Utah’s Zion National Park.

Perhaps lesser-known is that he’s also the only extreme athlete to free climb the Yosemite Triple Crown. That’s Mt. Watkins, The Nose, and Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in June 2012.

And he’s got something else in common with the late Dean Potter: he trained in Squamish BC, Canada, and was the first to free solo the University Wall cliff face at The Chief.

Where to Find Him: With binoculars and a plane ticket – Honnold lives out of his van because it allows him to chase good climbing weather. That means he’s likely somewhere in California or the southwestern states. But don’t rule out seeing him in Canada, Europe or climbing through Asia as well.

Barring that, you can also follow Alex Honnold on his Facebook page, where he regularly posts climbing updates, thoughts on rule-breaking, and otherwise waxes poetic about the beautiful art of rock climbing – something you’ll see in abundance in the video you’re about to watch.

By | 2017-09-02T13:10:31+00:00 September 2nd, 2017|Rock Climbing|0 Comments

About the Author:

Steve Hutchings is an extreme sports blogger and adventure traveller with too much time on his hands. He loves shark diving and EDM/trance music. Also, he checks the stock market every 15 minutes.

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