Alex Honnold burst onto the climbing scene in Fall 2007 with a splash of headlines. He drew attention from the press by his audacious one-day free solo link-up of The Rostrum followed by Astroman – two demanding multi-pitch Yosemite 5.11+ free routes.
The newcomer made headlines again in Spring 2008, with a first-ever rope-less free ascent of the long Moonlight Buttress, 5.12, in Zion National Park. He was only 21-years-old.
But now, looking back on those impressive feats, he eschews the attention those climbs have gotten him. He’d rather tout the less-headlined free ascent he made of El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, a seldom-free-climbed 5.13 testpiece requiring 3,000 feet of climbing. He and his partner did it in three days. To the now 27-year-old, that’s more noteworthy.
The Rostrum and Astroman were “leisurely,” he explains in his sincere, understated tone. “I climbed Astroman, then came down and ate lunch. Then I went over and solo’ed the Rostrum. Each one took about an hour or so.”
As for the tougher Moonlight Buttress, with its soaring finger-width cracks and dizzying 1,100 feet of relief, he modestly passes that off by explaining that he’d rehearsed the moves on prior ascents.
“Exposure doesn’t bother me,” he says when addressing the reality that on a free solo ascent, if you fall, you die. “It’s easy not to be scared if you know you won’t fall.”
The Sacramento-born climber took to the sport at age 11, when his parents introduced him to a local climbing gym. “They figured that since I was always climbing trees, I would like the gym,” he recalls. “Soon I was going there five days each week, and riding my bike seven miles to get there. I would traverse back and forth across the walls for two hours at a time, never stepping down.”
Now a professional climber, Alex looks forward to continuing to travel and climb all over the world.
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Words to Live By/Personal Mantra: Go big!
Three Things You Always Pack: Shoes, harness, chalkbag. Or keys, wallet, phone, depending on the situation. Or sometimes all 6.
Training Nutrition: I try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. And I’ve stopped eating meat. But I eat too many cookies… training isn’t THAT important to me…
Favorite Movie: Not sure, there are tons of movies I like, but no particular one that jumps to the front.
Favorite Book: As a child, Ender’s Game. As an adult the list gets a lot more varied. It’d be hard to narrow down.
Proudest Sporting Moment: Maybe summiting Half Dome after soloing the Triple? I was very tired and very satisfied.
Most Humbling Moment: Too many to narrow down. Soloing has a way of making you feel small sometimes.
Favorite North Face Product: The Cinder pack right now. Cotton hoodies are probably my favorite piece of technical gear… And I’ve slept in a Green Kazoo every night for years now, I’m pretty psyched on it.
How I Relax: Spending time with friends and family I guess. Eating out. Strolling outside. Basic stuff.
Weakness/Guilty Pleasure: Cookie dough.
Inspiration Within the Sport: Tommy Caldwell and Peter Croft. Or El Cap, depending on what kind of inspiration you mean.
Dream Vacation: I’m living my dream vacation.
Causes You Are Passionate About: Energy accessibility and solar power.
Favorite Destination for Your Sport: Yosemite. Or sport climbing in Spain.
Favorite Piece of History in Your Sport: Maybe John Bachar and Peter Croft doing the first El Cap/Half Dome link up. Or maybe Lynn Hill freeing the Nose in a day.
Three Things People Should Know About Me: I generally climb with a rope. I like the saying “safety first, fun second, speed third.” And I like to eat sweets.