303Adventure: Chris Weidner: The outrageous simplicity of Alex Honnold, the world’s boldest climber

Photo – Sustainable Play

From the Daily Camera

By Chris Weidner For the Camera

Alex Honnold and I shared a table at the Trident Cafe on Pearl Street. I ordered a double espresso. He had water.

“Soloing goes with being a total loser,” he told me at the time, back in 2007. “I have no social skills. You show up at a crag with no friends and you do your thing.”

Free-soloing — climbing alone, no ropes, no gear — made sense to Alex from the beginning. He was 19 when his father (and sole belayer) died from a heart attack. “All of a sudden I had the opportunity,” he said.

“Do you think you’ll free-solo El Cap?” I asked (I recorded our conversation for a climbing magazine profile).

“No,” he replied. But then a smile betrayed him, and his eyes grew wide. “I mean, I think I’d love to someday because like, how rad would that be?” He sounded giddy. “I mean, that would be so cool! You could probably climb it in four hours.”

A decade later, on June 3, he did exactly that. Well … just about.

It took precisely three hours and 56 minutes for Alex to free-solo Freerider (5.12d, 3,000 feet) on El Capitan — an ascent that has been called not only the greatest achievement in rock climbing, but a mental performance that transcends climbing, sports and even our imagination.

That he predicted his time within four minutes 10 years ago astounds me. It also reminds me that Alex has been fantasizing about and, later, obsessively planning, the world’s boldest climb for a long time.

Free-soloing is simple, minimal. It’s like an extension of Alex’s personality. He shuns caffeine and alcohol. He eats a vegetarian diet. He owns relatively few possessions. He donates a full third of his income to humanitarian and environmental causes.

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