Alex Honnold: How I climbed a 3,000-foot vertical cliff -- without ropes
Alex Honnold is a professional rock climber whose audacious free-solo ascents of America's biggest cliffs have made him one of the world's most recognized climbers. Full bio
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30 seconds of the best day of my life.
in California's Yosemite National Park,
known as free soloing.
of a nearly decade-long dream,
2,500 feet off the ground.
dreaming about soloing El Cap
as a walk in the park,
were doing in Yosemite that day.
how I was able to feel so comfortable
of how I became a climber,
of my two most significant free solos.
which is why I'm here.
the most fulfilling day of my life.
you'll see my process for managing fear.
when I was around 10 years old,
has been centered on climbing
of climbing mostly indoors,
and gradually started free soloing.
bigger and more challenging walls.
many free soloists before me,
inspiration to draw from.
most of their previous solos in Yosemite
breaking into new terrain.
the lords over the east end of the valley.
for a potential free solo.
and have an adventure.
was not the best strategy.
roped up with a friend two days before
that I knew roughly where to go
by myself two days later,
want to go that way.
one of the hardest parts of the climb.
and take the variation,
in the dead center of a 2,000-foot face,
pretty much the right way
I was pretty rattled,
bother me too much
climbing was up at the top.
and as I climbed higher,
chatting and laughing on the summit.
the normal trail on the back,
for my descent.
lay a blank slab of granite.
or edges to hold on to,
up a slightly less than vertical wall.
between my climbing shoes
between the small smears.
that I didn't quite trust.
stepped right up on it,
would stay on if I weighted it.
which seemed worse.
a foot further out.
on the summit just above me.
but I was too afraid to do it.
I accepted what I had to do
of the hardest climbing.
towards the summit.
of climbing gear on you,
flock around you for photos.
shirtless, panting, jacked.
that was too close to the edge.
talking on cell phones and having picnics.
and started hiking back down,
That's so hard-core."
I duly noted my free solo of Half Dome,
and a comment, "Do better?"
as a big first in climbing.
gotten away with something.
I wanted to be a great climber.
off from free soloing,
make a habit of relying on luck.
I wasn't soloing very much,
as the obvious crown jewel of solos.
that I'm going to solo El Cap."
look up at the wall, and think,
I wanted to test myself against El Cap.
or barely squeak by.
of vertical granite.
up a wall of that size
a chalk bag seemed impossible.
hand and foot movements,
through sheer repetition.
over the previous decade with a rope.
method of rehearsing the moves.
with over a thousand feet of rope
that felt secure and repeatable,
so deeply ingrained within me
if I was going the right way
is a largely physical effort.
to hold on and make the movements upward.
plays out more in the mind.
and performing at your best
any mistake could mean death
but if it is, it is.
the entire experience of soloing the wall.
remember all the holds,
was about feeling the texture
reaching out and placing my foot just so.
dance thousands of feet up.
was called the Boulder Problem.
physical moves on the whole route:
with very small, slippery feet.
of a pencil but facing downward
of an adjacent corner,
of precision and flexibility,
a nightly stretching routine
make the reach with my leg.
to the emotional component
and it was too scary?
while I was safely on the ground,
actually making the moves without a rope,
my perfect moment if I was afraid.
enough to remove all doubt.
visualized how it would feel
I was afraid to try?
in such an exposed position?
that I would put in the work and find out.
with an empty backpack.
in the middle of the wall
difficult and potentially dangerous,
might knock a rock to the ground
loaded them into the pack
how ridiculous it feels
just to fill a backpack full of rocks.
a pack full of rocks around.
but it still had to get done.
the route without a rope.
toward a potential free solo of El Cap,
and foothold on the whole route,
breakfast of muesli and fruit
of the wall before sunrise.
given me so much trouble on Half Dome,
hundreds of feet of wall to either side.
and how to do it.
I just climbed right through.
sections passed by with ease.
below the Boulder Problem
practiced so many times with the rope on.
on the left without hesitation,
the experience that I wanted.
mountain was offering me a victory lap.
swooping around the cliff.
of glorious climbing.
and it felt like mastery.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERAlex Honnold - Rock climber
Alex Honnold is a professional rock climber whose audacious free-solo ascents of America's biggest cliffs have made him one of the world's most recognized climbers.
Why you should listen
A gifted but hard-working athlete, Honnold is known as much for his humble, self-effacing attitude as he is for the dizzyingly tall cliffs he has climbed without a rope to protect him if he falls. Honnold has been profiled by 60 Minutes and the New York Times, featured on the cover of National Geographic, appeared in international television commercials and starred in numerous adventure films, including the Emmy-nominated Alone on the Wall. He is the subject of the documentary feature Free Solo, which was released by National Geographic Documentary Films.
Honnold is the founder of the Honnold Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes solar energy access worldwide. To this day, he maintains his simple "dirtbag-climber" existence, living out of his van, donating a significant portion of his income to the Honnold Foundation and traveling the world in search of the next great vertical adventure.
Alex Honnold | Speaker | TED.com