Alex Honnold at the Trento Film Festival (2014)
|Born||August 17, 1985|
|Education||UC Berkeley (dropped out)|
|Occupation||Professional rock climber|
|Type of climber|
|Known for||First and only to free solo El Capitan|
First and only to free solo Half Dome
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 (2017) and the subject of the 2018 biographical documentary Free Solo, which won a BAFTA and an Academy Award.
Life and work
Honnold was born in Sacramento, California, the son of Dierdre (Wolownick), a writer and educator, and Charles Forrest Honnold. He is of Polish descent. 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 as part of the International Baccalaureate Programme 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 go 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 November 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 documentary Free Solo. Among other awards it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (2018).
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.
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 Ram ProMaster, which he still lives and travels in for most of the year.
Between climbs, he runs or hikes to maintain fitness.
- Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold and the Ultimate Limits of Adventure. London: Pan, 2017. Co-authored with David Roberts. ISBN 978-1447282730.
- 2010: Golden Piton award from Climbing magazine, for endurance climbing.
- 2015: Honnold together with Tommy Caldwell was awarded the Piolets d'Or, for the first full traverse of the Fitz Roy Range in Patagonia, Argentina.
- 2018: Robert and Miriam Underhill Award from American Alpine Club, for excellence in various fields of climbing.
- 2018: Special mention of Piolets d'Or for his outstanding contribution to climbing during 2017.
Selected notable climbs
- United States
- Yosemite (California)
- Freerider (VI 5.12d, 37 pitches) in May 2007 at age 21, in one day
- Salathe Wall (VI 5.13b/c) in October 2007 at age 22
- Freerider: First and only free solo ascent on El Capitan on June 3, 2017; time: 3:56
- The Nose of El Capitan: Former speed record with Hans Florine on June 17, 2012; time: 2:23:46
- The Nose of El Capitan: Former speed record with Tommy Caldwell on May 30, 2018; time: 2:10:15
- The Nose of El Capitan: Former speed record with Tommy Caldwell on June 4, 2018; time: 2:01:50
- The Nose of El Capitan: Current speed record with Tommy Caldwell on June 6, 2018; time: 1:58:07
- Solo of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in May 2012; time: 1:22
- Solo of Yosemite Triple Crown – Mt. Watkins, El Capitan, and Half Dome – free soloing 90% of the link-up; time: 18:50
- Free solo of Astroman and Rostrum in Yosemite Valley in September 2007, becoming the second person after Peter Croft (1987) to do so in one day
- Free solo of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome on September 6, 2008.
- Yosemite (California)
- Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
- Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
- Free solo of Squamish's University Wall. He was the first person to completely free solo this wall.
- The Mandala: 8A+(V12). A repeat of Chris Sharma's classic boulder in Bishop, California.
- Ambrosia: 8A(V11). Second ascent of Kevin Jorgeson's highball boulder problem in Bishop, California.
- Too Big to Flail: 7C+(V10) or 8b(5.13d). First ascent of a 45-foot face in Bishop, California.
- The Green Mile: 8c+(5.14c). Alex Honnold's most difficult sport climb on a rope at the Jailhouse crag near San Francisco.
- Free solo of Heaven (5.12d) and Cosmic Debris (5.13b) in 2014 in Yosemite National Park.
- Free solo of The Phoenix, the first 5.13a of the United States.
- Repeats of Parthian Shot, New Statesman, Meshuga (solo), an on-sight of Gaia (and subsequently repeated it solo), and an on-sight solo of London Wall during a trip to England at the end of 2008.
- First ascents of the Rainbow Arch (5.12+, top-roped) and multiple small towers (free solo) in the Ennedi Desert, Chad, in 2010.
- First ascent of the Low's Gully gorge face of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo in April 2009.
- The complete traverse of the Fitz Roy massif in Patagonia. Completed over five days with Tommy Caldwell in February 2014.
- Completion of Patagonia's Torre Traverse in under 21 hours with Colin Haley in February 2016.
- Synnott, Mark (October 3, 2018). "Exclusive: Alex Honnold Completes the Most Dangerous Free-Solo Ascent Ever". National Geographic. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
- "Honnold's Biggest, Baddest Solo Yet". Climbing. June 15, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold – Athlete Profile". Black Diamond Equipment. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Duane, Daniel (March 12, 2015). "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
Honnold could afford to buy a decent home, if that interested him. But living in a van – a custom-outfitted van, in his case, with a kitchenette and cabinets full of energy bars and climbing equipment – represents freedom.
- Legendary Rock Climber Alex Honnold's Vegetarian Diet (video). Munchies. December 7, 2015. Event occurs at 4:20–4:35. Retrieved October 16, 2018 – via YouTube.
- Lowther, Alex (Summer 2011). "Less and Less Alone: Alex Honnold". Alpinist. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- "To Be the Best Rock Climber Is to Earn As Much As an Orthodontist". Wealthsimple Magazine. March 20, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
- Alex Honnold's Van Life. Outside Online (video). July 28, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold (video). National Geographic. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- "Climbing without ropes: A series of remarkable feats increases the appeal of a niche sport". The Economist. June 8, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- "El Capitan record attempt likey (sic) has to wait". Archived from the original on January 3, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- "New Nose Record – 2:23:51 (Florine and Honnold)". Mountain Project. Archived from the original on May 31, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Potts, Mary Anne (June 25, 2012). "Climbers Alex Honnold and Hans Florine Claim Speed Record on the Nose, El Cap – Interview". National Geographic Exploration & Adventure Blog. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Weatherl, Joshua (June 17, 2012). "Honnold and Florine Break Nose Speed Record". Alpinist. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Branch, John (November 16, 2014). "A Sponsor Steps Away From the Edge". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- McCarthy, Tom (June 4, 2017). "Rock climber makes historic ropeless ascent of California's El Capitan". The Guardian. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
- Duane, Daniel (June 9, 2017). "Opinion: El Capitan, My El Capitan". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". National Geographic. June 3, 2017. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "The 91st Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
- "Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell Set Sub-2-Hour Nose Speed Record". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
- An Inside Look at Alex Honnold's Adventure Van (video). Outside. April 2, 2017. Retrieved October 18, 2018 – via YouTube.
- "TE Exclusive: Alex Honnold Talks About Why He Does What He Does". TrailsEdge.com. October 17, 2011. Archived from the original on January 5, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Alex Honnold [@alexhonnold] (February 24, 2017). "I'm a feminist!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "About – Honnold Foundation". Honnoldfoundation.org. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "2010 Golden Piton Awards". Climbing. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- "ABD Awards". The American Alpine Club. 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- "Piolets d'Or Press Release July 2018" (PDF). Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- Luke Bauer (October 30, 2007). "Honnold's Yosemite Year: A Free-Climbing Extravaganza". Alpinist. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Synnott, Mark (June 3, 2017). "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". National Geographic.
- Mcphate, Mike (June 6, 2017). "California Today: An 'Incomprehensible' Climb in Yosemite". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
- Skenazy, Matt (June 6, 2018). "Honnold and Caldwell Break Two Hours on El Cap's Nose". Outside Online. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
- Clarke, Owen. "Honnold and Caldwell Break Nose Record (Again!), Blaze Up in 2:01:50!". rockandice.com. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
- Bacon, Sean (June 6, 2012). "Honnold's Biggest, Baddest Solo Yet". Climbing. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold free solos two big wall classics in a day". Rockclimbing.com. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Erik Lambert (September 9, 2008). "Updated: Honnold Free Solos Half Dome 5.12". Alpinist. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Roth, Justin (April 8, 2008). "Honnold Makes a High-Stakes Solo in Zion". Climbing. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010.
- Parks, Megan (March 21, 2008). "Honnold Rapid-Fires Two Desert-Crack Testpieces". Climbing. Archived from the original on October 18, 2008. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Parker, Chris (January 16, 2014). "Honnold Free-Solos the 1,750-Foot El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d)". Rock and Ice. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
- "Alex Honnold Solos The Complete Scream (E8 6b)". Climbing. June 6, 2016. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- "Alex Honnold Solos Hard Ireland Route The Complete Scream". Gripped. June 9, 2016. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- Berry, Natalie (June 6, 2016). "Alex Honnold Solos The Complete Scream E8 6b at Fair Head". Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- Cameron, Gwen (September 2, 2014). "Honnold Free Solos Squamish's University Wall". Alpinist. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Larssen, Jens (October 5, 2011). "Alex Honnold – Interview". 8a.nu. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold Gets the 2nd Ascent of Ambrosia". Dpmclimbing.com. February 18, 2010. Archived from the original on February 1, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold: Too Big to Flail". dpmclimbing.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- "More Solos In Yosemite By Alex Honnold – Updated | Climbing Narcissist". Climbingnarc.com. September 27, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Fox, Amanda (June 15, 2011). "Honnold Free Solos The Phoenix (5.13)". Climbing. Archived from the original on June 19, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Hobley, Nicholas (January 27, 2009). "Alex Honnold climbing interview". Planetmountain.com. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Gwen Cameron (July 20, 2011). "Chad's Ennedi Dessert: A Google Earth Adventure". Alpinist. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Synnott, Mark (December 3, 2010). "2010 – Ennedi Desert, Chad – Trad in Chad: The Mysterious Towers of the Ennedi". marksynnott.com. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Borneo Big Wall". Borneobigwall.blogspot.fr. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Roy, Adam (June 19, 2009). "First ascent attempt of a massive big wall in Borneo". Matador Network. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "The mother of all traverses: The Fitz Traverse". SuperTopo. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- MacDonald, Dougald (February 2, 2016). "Patagonia's Torre Traverse in Under 21 Hours". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
- Bethea, Charles (September 7, 2018). "Dispatch: Alex Honnold Climbs Halfway Up a New Jersey Skyscraper". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Dean, Josh. "His Life in His Hands". Men's Journal. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Duane, Daniel (March 11, 2015). "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Lowther, Alex (Summer 2001). "Less and Less Alone: Alex Honnold". Alpinist. Retrieved October 14, 2018.