Alex Honnold

Rock Climber

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 Astro Man – two demanding multi-pitch Yosemite 5.11+ free routes. He made news again in spring 2008, with a first-ever ropeless free ascent of the long Moonlight Buttress, 5.12, in Zion National Park. He was just 21.

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 Alex, that’s more noteworthy.

The Rostrum and Astroman were “leisurely,” he says in his sincere, understated tone. “I climbed the Rostrum, then came down and ate lunch. Then I went over and soloed Astroman. Each one took an hour.”

As for the tougher Moonlight Buttress, with its soaring finger-width cracks and dizzying 2,000 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, California born climber took to the sport at age eleven, 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 a 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.”

On a student field trip to Yosemite, one look at El Capitan firmly planted the climbing bug in his head, though he’d be diverted by a year of engineering at UC Berkeley before committing himself to full-time climbing.

Now, with 2011 before him, he’s a professional climber and North Face athlete, recently profiled in Climbing Magazine. At 25 he’s already accomplished a lifetime’s worth of vertical feats, but with an appetite for rock and raw talent like his, he’s certain to push the frontiers of adventure even further.

Allfrey, Honnold Become Fastest to Wrestle Alligator Route

November 21 2013
Source: Alpinist Newswires

On November 9, twenty-eight-year-olds Dave Allfrey and Alex Honnold climbed El Cap's Excalibur (VI 5.10 A3+) in 16 hours, 10 minutes, marking the route's fastest ascent and first in under 24 hours. Excalibur, made notorious by its incessantly wide cracks, was described by its first ascensionist Hugh Burton as an "alligator route" requiring much wrestling.

Burton and Charlie Porter completed the route in 1975. In 1998, Steve Schneider, Willie Benegas and Andreas Zeger set the previous speed record at 39 hours, one minute. Pitch 5 follows a thin seam that was briefly graded A5 and called 'the hardest pitch in Yosemite," according to Supertopo: Yosemite Big Walls. On the first ascent, Burton and Porter stacked RURPs and knifeblades to surmount that section.

Earlier this month, Allfrey and Honnold moved quickly using an 80-meter rope and no hauling, and by a combination of Honnold's free-climbing and Allfrey's aid-climbing prowess. Ultimately, they cut a sizable 23 hours off the 1998 time.

"I couldn't even do the pitches that [Allfrey] was aiding, and he couldn't (efficiently) do the pitches I was freeing.... He's like a magician with his pouches of pins," said Alex over the phone. "I've never placed any of that shit, I don't even know how to use it."

Though their rack, heavy with wide cams and iron, was the largest either of them had carried, it was still light considering the nature of the route. They brought a double set of cams to #6, beaks and hooks, sawed angles and Lost Arrows.

"I was climbing with a [big cam] in each hand. I wasn't using aiders or daisies," Honnold said. "I would have one leg wedged in the crack [and] getting the 5.11 offwidth experience. I was getting pretty wicked pumped from pulling on cams. My leg is all bruised from offwidth-ing."

Reaching Pitch 5, "[t]he crack petered into a seam," Allfrey said. "I had to tap beaks fast and gentle to get them in. I was concerned that I'd take a 50-footer into a ledge. Alex told me I had a 15-foot margin of error, which was not enough margin of error for me." Near the top of the route, in the dark, both climbers experienced difficulties.

"The second-to-last pitch [Pitch 27] is a glassy slab," Allfrey said. "There's no gear, and it's some of the weirdest [terrain] I've ever climbed. I could sit down on this slab and set gear but I can't walk across it. All I had were two cams that would fit, and I climbed through a whole 40- to 50-foot section and then it got hard. It was really bizarre that the FA went that way. Maybe they were over the wide climbing at this point."

Honnold took the lead for Excalibur's final pitch and nearly fell out of the offwidth. "I started slipping out [and began] squealing in the night—'Watch me Dave!' I was just tired," he said. "When I see a topo that says 5.11, I think it won't be a problem. But that particular offwidth was a 10-inch slot, and there was no gear to pull on. I threw myself into it, and I was like, 'Holy fuck!'"

Allfrey and Honnold first met in September 2012 at the North Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley. Honnold was driving his white van out of the campground when Allfrey, still brushing his teeth, flagged him down to convince Honnold to climb with him. After hearing him out, Honnold asked him one more time if he really knew how to aid climb and admitted his own weakness in the techniques. They tested their rope partnership on Lunar Eclipse soon after, and have set four speed records in Yosemite since: Lunar Eclipse (VI 5.8 A4) at 11:22; Wet Denim Daydream (V 5.6 C3F or A3) on Leaning Tower at 2:55 and 20 seconds; West Buttress (VI 5.10 A2+) at 7:01 and now Excalibur.

After the wall, Allfrey drove back home to Vegas, though he'd been intending to solo Zodiac. "Excalibur took a lot out of us," said Honnold, who left for Sacramento to spend time with his family.

Honnold Free Solos Cosmic Debris and Heaven

September 26 2011
Source: Rock and Ice
On September 22, Alex Honnold kicked off his day by free soloing Cosmic Debris (5.13b) for what is thought to be the hardest free solo ever completed in Yosemite Valley. Still feeling strong, Honnold then celebrated with a ropeless flash of Heaven (5.12d). After belaying Mason Earle on the climb, Honnold fired Heaven first go, sans rope, capping off a historic day of climbing. Honnold commented about Cosmic Debris on his 8a.nu scorecard, "Solo. Felt super locker. But pretty freaking cool to do." Of Heaven he wrote, also on 8a.nu, "Solo!! Thanks to Mason for working out the perfect beta. What an adventure! And such an amazing position." Cosmic Debris is located on the Chapel Wall in Yosemite Valley and was first free climbed in 1980 by Bill Price. The climb was featured in the film Dosage V with Beth Rodden making a free ascent. Heaven is a 40-foot overhanging crack located on Glacier Point in Yosemite Valley. It was first climbed by Ron Kauk, a leading Yosemite climber and part of the Stonemaster crew, in the mid 1990s. The route was first free soloed by Dean Potter in 2006. For a photo of Honnold soloing Cosmic Debris taken by Mikey Schaefer, check out the upcoming Rock and Ice issue, 199.