31-year-old Alex Honnold climbed Yosemite's 3,000-foot granite wall El Capitan without one rope and without one piece of safety equipment. It's called "free soloing" and completing this feat at this location is a really big deal.
Gushes National Geographic, "It's hard to overstate the physical and mental difficulties of a free solo ascent of the peak, which is considered by many to be the epicenter of the rock climbing world. It is a vertical expanse stretching more than a half mile up higher than the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. From the meadow at the foot of El Capitan, climbers on the peak's upper reaches are practically invisible to the naked eye."
Previously, we've covered Honnold's climbs in Yosemite, including an effort with Google Maps to map the climb in 2015, and the time he scaled SF's Palace of Fine Arts in 2014. And in January 2015, two climbers, Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell, free-climbed El Capitan's Dawn Wall, but with the use of safety ropes to catch falls.
While lots of local news outlets covered Honnold's climb (here's SFGate and KRON 4) NatGeo (that's fun to say) has a gorgeous inside look at the whole process as the journey was filmed for a NatGeo documentary. Here's how it all went down or rather, up:
Honnold's been training for this for 20 years. He uses a specially equipped van as his basecamp and does all sorts of special exercises and mental training to prepare himself for "free soloing," which again means this guy was hanging from the side of El Capitan by his fingertips, a little bag of chalk, and sticky soled climbing shoes.
Honnold selected the famed 30-section Freerider route, which is THE route for anyone climbing the cliff face. He practiced and practiced, mapped out every move in his head, and then on Saturday, this dude rolled out of bed in his van, ate some chia seeds, et al, and at 5:32 a.m., started climbing El Capitan grab at a time.
3 hours, 56 minutes later, Honnold changed climbing history. And lived.
"Years ago, when I first mentally mapped out what it would mean to free solo Freerider, there were half a dozen of pitches where I was like, 'Oh that's a scary move and that's a really scary sequence, and that little slab, and that traverse.' There were so many little sections where I thought Ughh cringe.' But in the years since, I've pushed my comfort zone and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fell within the realm of the possible," Honnold explained to NatGeo.
The Chronicle reports that Honnold grew up in Sacramento and now lives in Las Vegas. Despite both hometowns, the young climber will probably forever been known by his historic climb in Yosemite.
"I was probably the happiest I've ever been," Honnold told the Associated Press of reaching the top. "It's something that I thought about for so long and dreamed about and worked so hard for. I mean, it's pretty satisfying."