Alex Honnold secured his place as the best rock climber on the planet on Saturday when he free soloed a 3,000-foot towering granite rock without the aid of safety equipment or a rope. yes, Alex Honnold climbed El Capitan without a rope and lived to talk about it.
Honnold became the first person to ever free solo El Capitan, a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park in California. The feature is one of the most famous climbs in the world, but no one had ever done it without a rope until the 31-year-old made history in secret on Saturday.
Most serious rock climbing is done with safety equipment, especially ropes and often in groups. But free soloing is done without the use of ropes — just a climber scaling the rock alone. It’s extremely dangerous, and few climbers do it on long routes like El Capitan because one slight mistake or slip means sure death.
Honnold has secretly trained for the harrowing climb for more than a year and it was actually his second attempt. The first one he aborted in November after about an hour when conditions didn’t feel right to him. And it’s important for conditions to feel right when climbing anything on El Cap.
Here’s a better look at the route Honnold used.
El Capitan can be climbed on a number of different routes, some more difficult than others. In 1958, “The Nose” route was climbed for the first time by not-president Warren Harding and two other men. It took 47 days, and the men hammered bolts into the rocks so they could set up ropes to help them move up and down the rock face.
On Saturday, Alex Honnold climbed a route called Freerider in 3 hours, 56 minutes.
The route usually takes about four days to climb. It’s actually considered one of the easier climbs on El Capitan that scale the entire structure, but that’s with ropes and helmets and a healthy fear of death. Professional climbers were quick to rave about Honnold’s achievement. Sasha DoGiulian called it “nauseating” and “insane,” among other things.
Legendary rock climber Tommy Caldwell called it a “generation defining climb” on Facebook and was quoted in the National Geographic story as saying it’s the “moon landing” of free solo climbing.
Caldwell is famous for climbing both The Nose and Freerider routes in a single day, but that was free climbing, with ropes and someone belaying you to prevent falls. Free solo climbs—done with nothing more than a chalk bag and a pair of climbing shoes—are considered some of the most remarkable climbing achievements. And definitely the most dangerous.