Alex Honnold has been scaling walls since he was a child, but not just any walls. Some of his feats include Yosemite’s Half Dome, El Capitan, and Mount Watkins. What sets this climber apart is his disregard for climbing ropes in many situations that could have quickly resulted in a deadly fall. Most of his climbs are characterized by free solo ascents of large-scale walls and he holds a number of records, most of them regarding his speed. He is considered one of the best climbers in the world.
“There’s no protection – nothing. There’s no room for error,” he said in First Ascent: The Series.
He has been featured in several short films and documentaries and is accustomed to being referred to as crazy. Whether it’s criticism or admiration that people express after seeing what Honnold has accomplished, it’s clear he is continuing to attract attention and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Growing up in Sacramento, California, Honnold began climbing at age 11. Since then, the now-professional rock climber has spent years traveling around the world for the sole purpose of exploring new climbing destinations, but admits now in a short film by the National Park Foundation (included below) that Yosemite holds his heart.
“I’ve pretty much climbed all over the world – a little bit in Asia, a little bit in South America and Latin America, a tour in the Mediterranean, quite a bit in Europe, a couple places in Africa,” he said in the film. “The irony of it is that I’ve traveled all over the world trying to find perfect, big walls to climb on, and the best that I’ve found are three hours away from my childhood home in … Yosemite National Park.”
“My experience in the park has pretty much run the entire gauntlet from, you know, a recreational camper who just walks around and looks at pretty rocks, and now … to a pretty dedicated outdoors person who goes into the back country and climbs remote walls and really explores the park,” he said.
To Honnold, Yosemite offers what he considers to be the best big walls in the world as well as the perfect climate, giving him inspiration he said he hasn’t been able to find elsewhere.
“One of the most memorable experiences in Yosemite National Park was climbing Mount Watkins, El Cap, and Half Dome in a single day, which required almost 24 hours of climbing and hiking,” he said in the film. “I just saw so much of the park and climbed so much vertical granite. And then ending the day on top of Half Dome and looking down across the valley and all the different things that I climbed. It’s a pretty powerful experience to be in that kind of a place.”
Honnold’s life revolves around an outdoor sport than many people simply consider a hobby, but his work does not end on the wall. He is a North Face Athlete along with more than 20 others who help develop content for the running blog, Never Stop Exploring, and act as representatives of the brand.
“I’m aspiring to make it through my whole life without ever having to work,” he joked in a video profile. But truly, Honnold does not stop his efforts when his climbs end.
Last month, he held the launch for the Alex Honnold Foundation for Sustainability and Simpler Living, which is a non-profit geared toward living better through clean and accessible energy. It is focused on low-impact living and travel, transitioning the climber’s environmental concerns into something that can spark change. It is a division of the Tides Foundation, a non-profit public charity that gives a platform for a number of charitable organizations. While the organization is still relatively new, stay tuned to the website for updates.