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First and only to free solo El Capitan First and only to free solo Half Dome Big Wall Free Soloing Alex Honnold (born August 17, 1985) is an American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls. He is the first and only person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and holds the fastest ascent of the Yosemite triple crown, an 18-hour 50 minute link-up of Mount Watkins, The Nose, and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Honnold says he likes tall, long routes and that he tries to do them quickly. He is the author (with David Roberts) of the memoir Alone on the Wall and the subject of the BAFTA and Oscar award-winning 2018 biographical documentary Free Solo.
Alex Honnold at the Trento Film Festival (2014)
|Born||(1985-08-17) August 17, 1985 (age 33)|
|Education||UC Berkeley (dropped out)|
|Occupation||Professional rock climber|
|Type of climber|
|Known for||Free soloing El Capitan|
First and only to free solo El Capitan
He is the first and only person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and holds the fastest ascent of the Yosemite triple crown, an 18-hour 50 minute link-up of Mount Watkins, The Nose, and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Honnold says he likes tall, long routes and that he tries to do them quickly. He is the author (with David Roberts) of the memoir Alone on the Wall and the subject of the BAFTA and Oscar award-winning 2018 biographical documentary Free Solo.
Honnold was born in Sacramento, California. He started climbing in a climbing gym at the age of 5, and was climbing "many times a week" by age 10. He participated in many national and international youth climbing championships as a teenager.
"I was never, like, a bad climber [as a kid], but I had never been a great climber, either," he says. "There were a lot of other climbers who were much, much stronger than me, who started as kids and were, like, instantly freakishly strong––like they just have a natural gift. And that was never me. I just loved climbing, and I've been climbing all the time ever since, so I've naturally gotten better at it, but I've never been gifted."
After graduating from Mira Loma High School in 2003, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley to study civil engineering. His maternal grandfather died and his parents got divorced during his first year of college, and Honnold skipped many of his classes to boulder by himself at Indian Rock. He described the experience as "heinous. ... I didn't live in a dorm. We had a family friend who let me sublet his two-bedroom apartment in town. In my one year at Berkeley, I never met anybody. I never spoke to anybody."
After a year, he dropped out of Berkeley and spent time living at home and driving around California to go climbing. "I’d wound up with my mom’s old minivan, and that was my base," he said. "I’d use it to drive to Joshua Tree to climb or I’d drive to LA to see my girlfriend. My orbit was tiny and really cheap. I destroyed that van fairly quickly; it died on me one day, and for the next year I lived just on my bicycle and in a tent."
According to a 2011 Alpinist profile:
In the mind of the climbing world, Honnold emerged from the goo fully formed. In 2006 nobody had heard of him. In 2007 he free soloed Yosemite's Astroman and the Rostrum in a day, matching Peter Croft's legendary 1987 feat, and suddenly Honnold was pretty well-known. A year later, he free soloed the 1,200-foot, 5.12d finger crack that splits Zion's Moonlight Buttress. The ascent was reported on April 1. For days, people thought the news was a joke. Five months afterward, Honnold took the unprecedented step of free soloing the 2,000-foot, glacially bulldozed Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Croft called this climb the most impressive ropeless ascent ever done.
In November 2011, Honnold and Hans Florine missed setting the record time on the Nose route on Yosemite's El Capitan by 45 seconds with a time of 2:37. On June 17, 2012, the two set a new record of 2:23:46 (or 2:23:51) on that same route.
In 2014, Clif Bar announced that they would no longer sponsor Honnold, along with four other climbers, mostly free soloists. "We concluded that these forms of the sport are pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go," the company wrote in an open letter.
On June 3, 2017, he made the first free solo ascent of El Capitan, completing the 2,900-foot Freerider route in 3 hours and 56 minutes. The feat, described as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever," was documented by climber and photographer Jimmy Chin and documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi, as the subject of the 2018 "Best Documentary" Academy Award and 2019 Bafta winning documentary Free Solo.
On June 6, 2018, Honnold teamed up with Tommy Caldwell to break the speed record for the Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite. They completed the approximately 3,000-foot route in 1:58:07, becoming the first climbers to complete the route in under two hours.
Honnold has lived in a van for over a decade. "I don't think 'van life' is particularly appealing," he says. "It's not like I love living in a car, but I love living in all these places. I love being in Yosemite; I love being basically wherever the weather is good; I love being able to follow good conditions all over. And be relatively comfortable as I do it. And so that pretty much necessitates living in a car ... If I could, like, miraculously teleport a house from place to place, I'd prefer to live in a nice comfortable house. Though, honestly, the van is kind of nice. I like having everything within arm's reach. When I stay in a hotel room––like, sometimes you get put up in a really classy hotel room, and it's really big, and you have to walk quite a ways to the bathroom, and you're like, 'Man, I wish I had my [pee] bottle.' Who wants to walk all the ways to the bathroom in the middle of the night when you could just lean over and grab your bottle and go?" The van he lives in is custom-outfitted with a kitchenette and cabinets full of energy bars and climbing equipment.
Honnold bought a home in the Las Vegas area in 2017. "I didn’t have any furniture at first, so I lived in the van in the driveway for the first couple weeks. It felt more like home than an empty house did." Around the same time, he replaced the Ford Econoline van he had lived in since 2007 and put 200,000 miles on with a new 2016 Dodge Ram Promaster, which he still lives and travels in for most of the year.
He is an avid reader with interests in classic literature, environmentalism, and economics, and he describes himself as a militant atheist, and a feminist.
In 2010, Honnold was awarded the "Golden Piton" for his climbing achievements.
In 2015, Honnold together with fellow climber Tommy Caldwell was awarded the Piolets d'Or for the first full traverse of the Fitz Roy Range in Patagonia, Argentina.
In 2018, the American Alpine Club awarded Honnold the Robert and Miriam Underhill Award for excellence in various fields of climbing.
In July 2018, Honnold was awarded the special mention of Piolets d'Or for his outstanding contribution to climbing during 2017.