I have to admire free-solo climbers: those courageous (some would say foolhardy) souls who tackle huge rock faces without ropes or protection. Last night’s 60 Minutes, the only television show I watch regularly, featured a segment on the best of the free climbers: Alex Honnold, a 27 year old wunderkind from California who lives in a van.
Honnold has set many free-climbing records, both first ascents and speed records. For example, he soloed the Nose of El Capitan, also in Yosemite, in a bit under six hours; it takes regular rock climbers two to four days to do the same route. There is absolutely no room for error in this endeavor: if you fall, you die.
You should definitely watch the 13-minute 60 Minutes segment, featuring the first free-solo climb of the 1600-foot north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite, here. Even if you don’t like rock climbing, this video will make you gasp. The show set up several cameras, including several affixed to the rock itself, to record Honnold’s ascent.
This is Sentinel Rock:
Here’s a video of Honnold free-soloing El Capitan. He climbed this and Half Dome on the same day.
I suppose if I had my life to live over again, I’d climb big mountains as an avocation; it will be one of my unrealized life’s dreams to summit Everest (I’ve stood at its base twice and had that regret). But I’d never do anything like this.