I truly can’t fathom the mindset of someone like Alex Honnold, the world’s best “free climber” of big walls. That means he uses no equipment save his arms, legs, and a bag of chalk to climb up vertical cliffs. (He does scout his routes using ropes and the like.) But once he sets out to free climb a difficult route like El Capitan in Yosemite, as he did four years ago, there’s nothing between him and death save his fingers and toes. One slip and he’s dead.
But he likes it! I can appreciate that mastering something dangerous can give you a real rush, but what he does seems to me to be about the most dangerous thing anybody can do, and takes as well an enormous amount of skill. He lives to climb. Moreover, he’s godless, as this Wikipedia snippet note says, describing his life after he lived in a van for ten years.
In 2017, Honnold bought a home in the Las Vegas area. “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.
Honnold is a vegetarian, and he does not drink alcohol or use other drugs. He is an avid reader with interests in classic literature, environmentalism, and economics, and he describes himself as a militant, anti-religion atheist and a feminist.
His free ascent of El Cap was the subject of a great documentary movie, “Free Solo,” which you’ll probably like even if you’re not into climbing, for it’s not just about climbing but about Honnold himself a fascinating character. He did the Yosemite ascent in a bit less than four hours, and lived to tell the tale. Further, the movie won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary, and deserved it.
But I came across another site by accident (well, I like to watch climbing videos), and it lists ten well known free climbers, along with videos. Click on the screenshot to read:
Honnold, of course, is listed as #1, but it shows a climb that’s truly terrifying (the six-minute video is below). The article precedes his climb of El Capital, so I’m not sure whether the climb below, of a cliff in Mexico, is still “the most difficult rope-less climb in history”, as asserted in the YouTube notes. Still, it’s fascinating (and horrifying) to watch, and if you want the technical details given for non-free climbers, have a look here. El Cap is 2900 feet, while this wall is 1500 feet.
The YouTube note:
Check out the video [below] from The North Face showing Honnold taking on El Sendero Luminoso in Mexico, arguably the most difficult rope-less climb in history.