Alex Honnold

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Alex Honnold
Alex Honnold - Trento Film Festival 2014.JPG
Alex Honnold at the Trento Film Festival (2014)
Personal information
Born (1985-08-17) August 17, 1985 (age 33)
Education UC Berkeley (dropped out)
Occupation Professional rock climber
Climbing career
Type of climber
Highest grade
Known for First and only to free solo El Capitan

First and only to free solo Half Dome
Big Wall Free Soloing

Speed record holder on The Nose of El Capitan

Alex Honnold (born August 17, 1985) is an American rock climber best known for his free-solo ascents of big walls.

He is the only person to have free-soloed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and holds the fastest ascent of the Yosemite triple crown, an 18-hour 50 minute link-up of Mount Watkins, The Nose, and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.[1] Honnold says he likes tall, long routes and that he tries to do them quickly.[2] He is the author (with David Roberts) of the memoir Alone on the Wall and the subject of the 2018 biographical documentary Free Solo.

Honnold says he is inspired by such noted climbers as Peter Croft, John Bachar and Tommy Caldwell and even more so by the stark simplicity and beauty of El Capitan.[3]


Honnold was born in Sacramento, California. He started climbing in a climbing gym at the age of 5, and was climbing "many times a week" by age 10.[4] He participated in many national and international youth climbing championships as a teenager.

"I was never, like, a bad climber [as a kid], but I had never been a great climber, either," he says. "There were a lot of other climbers who were much, much stronger than me, who started as kids and were, like, instantly freakishly strong––like they just have a natural gift. And that was never me. I just loved climbing, and I've been climbing all the time ever since, so I've naturally gotten better at it, but I've never been gifted."[5]

After graduating from Mira Loma High School in 2003, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley to study civil engineering. His maternal grandfather died and his parents got divorced during his first year of college, and Honnold skipped many of his classes to boulder by himself at Indian Rock. He described the experience as "heinous. ... I didn't live in a dorm. We had a family friend who let me sublet his two-bedroom apartment in town. In my one year at Berkeley, I never met anybody. I never spoke to anybody."[6]

After a year, he dropped out of Berkeley and spent time living at home and driving around California to go climbing. "I’d wound up with my mom’s old minivan, and that was my base," he said. "I’d use it to drive to Joshua Tree to climb or I’d drive to LA to see my girlfriend. My orbit was tiny and really cheap. I destroyed that van fairly quickly; it died on me one day, and for the next year I lived just on my bicycle and in a tent."[7]

In 2007, he bought a 2002 Ford Econoline E150 van, allowing him to focus on climbing and follow the weather.[8][6]

According to a 2011 Alpinist profile:

In the mind of the climbing world, Honnold emerged from the goo fully formed. In 2006 nobody had heard of him. In 2007 he free soloed Yosemite's Astroman and the Rostrum in a day, matching Peter Croft's legendary 1987 feat, and suddenly Honnold was pretty well-known. A year later, he free soloed the 1,200-foot, 5.12d finger crack that splits Zion's Moonlight Buttress. The ascent was reported on April 1. For days, people thought the news was a joke. Five months afterward, Honnold took the unprecedented step of free soloing the 2,000-foot, glacially bulldozed Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Croft called this climb the most impressive ropeless ascent ever done.

He gained mainstream recognition after his 2012 solo of The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome was featured in the film Alone on the Wall[9] and a subsequent 60 Minutes interview.[10]

In November 2011, Honnold and Hans Florine missed setting the record time on the Nose route on Yosemite's El Capitan by 45 seconds with a time of 2:37.[11] On June 17, 2012, the two set a new record of 2:23:51 on that same route.[12]

In 2014, Clif Bar announced that they would no longer sponsor Honnold, along with four other climbers, mostly free-soloists. “We concluded that these forms of the sport are pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go,” the company wrote in an open letter.[13]

On June 3, 2017, he made the first free-solo ascent of El Capitan, completing the 2,900-foot Freerider route in 3 hours and 56 minutes.[14] The feat, described as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever,"[15] was documented by climber and photographer Jimmy Chin, and was the subject of the 2018 documentary Free Solo.[16]

On June 6, 2018, Honnold teamed up with Tommy Caldwell to break the speed record for the Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite. They completed the approximately 3,000-foot route in 1:58:07, becoming the first climbers to complete the route in under two hours.[17]

Personal life

Honnold has lived in a van for over a decade. "I don't think 'van life' is particularly appealing," he says. "It's not like I love living in a car, but I love living in all these places. I love being in Yosemite; I love being basically wherever the weather is good; I love being able to follow good conditions all over. And be relatively comfortable as I do it. And so that pretty much necessitates living in a car ... If I could, like, miraculously teleport a house from place to place, I'd prefer to live in a nice comfortable house. Though, honestly, the van is kind of nice. I like having everything within arm's reach. When I stay in a hotel room––like, sometimes you get put up in a really classy hotel room, and it's really big, and you have to walk quite a ways to the bathroom, and you're like, 'Man, I wish I had my [pee] bottle.' Who wants to walk all the ways to the bathroom in the middle of the night when you could just lean over and grab your bottle and go?"[18] The van he lives in is custom-outfitted, with a kitchenette and cabinets full of energy bars and climbing equipment - represents freedom.[19]

Honnold bought a home in the Las Vegas area in 2017. "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."[7] 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 Dodge Ram Promaster, which he still lives and travels in for most of the year.[18]

Honnold is a vegetarian, and doesn't drink alcohol or caffeine or use drugs. "Basically, I'm Mormon, except for the God thing," he jokes.[5]

He is an avid reader with interests in classic literature, environmentalism, and economics, and he describes himself as an atheist.[20]

Between climbs, he runs or hikes to maintain fitness.[3]


In 2012, he started the Honnold Foundation, which "seeks simple, sustainable ways to improve lives worldwide," and is currently focused on promoting solar energy in the developing world.[21]


In 2010, Honnold was awarded the "Golden Piton" for his climbing achievements.[22][7]

In 2015, Honnold together with fellow climber Tommy Caldwell was awarded the Piolets d'Or for the first full traverse of the Fitz Roy Range in Patagonia, Argentina.

In 2018, the American Alpine Club awarded Honnold the Robert and Miriam Underhill Award for excellence in various fields of climbing.[23]

In July 2018, Honnold was awarded the special mention of Piolets d'Or for his outstanding contribution to climbing during 2017.[24]

Selected notable climbs

Big Wall

  • Yosemite
    • Freerider: First free-solo ascent on El Capitan on June 3, 2017. Time: 3 hours, 56 minutes[25][26]
    • The Nose of El Capitan: Former speed record with Hans Florine on June 17, 2012.[27] Time: 2:23:51[12]
    • The Nose of El Capitan: Former speed record with Tommy Caldwell on May 30, 2018. Time: 2:10:15
    • The Nose of El Capitan: Former speed record with Tommy Caldwell on June 4, 2018.[28] Time: 2:01:50
    • The Nose of El Capitan: Current speed record with Tommy Caldwell on June 6, 2018.[29] Time: 1:58:07
    • Solo of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in one hour, 22 minutes. May 2012.[30]
    • Freerider in Yosemite Valley in one day in May 2007 when he was 21 years old.[31]
    • Solo of Yosemite Triple Crown—Mt. Watkins, El Capitan, and Half Dome—in 18 hours, 50 minutes, free-soloing 90% of the link-up.[30]
    • Free solo of Astroman and Rostrum in Yosemite Valley in one day in September 2007, becoming the second person after Peter Croft (1987) to do so.[32]
    • Free solo of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome on September 6, 2008.[33]
  • Utah
    • Free-solo of Zion's Moonlight Buttress on 1 April 2008.[34]
    • Bushido and Hong Kong Phooey, in Utah, between March 9–11, 2008.[35]
  • El Potrero Chico
    • Free-soloed the Grade V big-wall route El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d) in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. The climb rises 1,750 feet up the limestone face of El Toro (The Bull), and sports 15 pitches, 11 of which are rated 5.12. Honnold climbed the route in a mere three hours.[36]
  • Squamish
    • Free-solo of Squamish's University Wall. He's the first person to completely free-solo this wall.[37]
  • United Kingdom


Single Pitch

  • Sport
    • The Green Mile: 8c+(5.14c). Alex Honnold's most difficult sport climb on a rope at the Jailhouse crag near San Francisco.[38]
  • Solo
    • Free-solo of Heaven (5.12d) and Cosmic Debris (5.13b) in 2014 in Yosemite National Park.[41]
    • Free-solo of The Phoenix, the USA's first 5.13a.[42]
    • Repeats of Parthian Shot, New Statesman, Meshuga (solo), an on-sight of Gaia (and subsequently repeated it solo), and an on-sight solo of London Wall during a trip to England at the end of 2008.[43]
    • First ascents of the Rainbow Arch (5.12+, top-roped) and multiple small towers (free solo) in the Ennedi Desert, Chad, in 2010.[44][45]



  1. ^ "Honnold's Biggest, Baddest Solo Yet". 15 June 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  2. ^ "Alex Honnold". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Alex Honnold – Athlete profile". 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011.
  4. ^ Duane, Daniel (2015-03-11). "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  5. ^ a b Professional Rock Climber Alex Honnold's Vegetarian Diet. Munchies. 2015-12-07. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  6. ^ a b * Lowther, Alex (Summer 2001). "Less and Less Alone: Alex Honnold". Alpinist. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  7. ^ a b c "To Be the Best Rock Climber Is to Earn As Much As an Orthodontist". Wealthsimple Magazine. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  8. ^ "Video:".
  9. ^ "Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold".
  10. ^ "Climbing without ropes: A series of remarkable feats increases the appeal of a niche sport". The Economist. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  11. ^ "El Capitan record attempt likey (sic) has to wait". Archived from the original on January 3, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
  12. ^ a b "New Nose Record – 2:23:51 (Florine and Honnold)". Mountain Project. Archived from the original on 2015-05-31. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  13. ^ Branch, John (16 November 2014). "A Sponsor Steps Away From the Edge". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  14. ^ McCarthy, Tom (4 June 2017). "Rock climber makes historic ropeless ascent of California's El Capitan". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  15. ^ Duane, Daniel (2017-06-09). "Opinion: El Capitan, My El Capitan". Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  16. ^ "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". 2017-06-03. Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  17. ^ "Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell Set Sub-2-Hour Nose Speed Record". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  18. ^ a b An Inside Look at Alex Honnold's Adventure Van. Outside. 2017-04-02. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  19. ^ "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". 2015.
  20. ^ [1] Archived January 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "About — Honnold Foundation". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  22. ^ "2010 Golden Piton Awards". Climbing. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  23. ^ "ABD Awards". The American Alpine Club. 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Piolets d'Or Press Release July 2018" (PDF). Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". 3 June 2017.
  26. ^ Mcphate, Mike (2017-06-06). "California Today: An 'Incomprehensible' Climb in Yosemite". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-06.
  27. ^ Mary Anne Potts. "Climbers Alex Honnold and Hans Florine Claim Speed Record on the Nose, El Cap – Interview". Beyond the Edge. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  28. ^ Owen Clarke. "Honnold and Caldwell Break Nose Record (Again!), Blaze Up in 2:01:50!". Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  29. ^ Skenazy, Matt (June 6, 2018). "Honnold and Caldwell Break Two Hours on El Cap's Nose". Outside Online. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  30. ^ a b Bacon, Sean (6 June 2012). "Honnold's Biggest, Baddest Solo Yet". Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  31. ^ Luke Bauer (2007-10-30). "Honnold'S Yosemite Year: A Free-Climbing Extravaganza". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  32. ^ "Alex Honnold free solos two big wall classics in a day | Rock Climbing Articles". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  33. ^ Erik Lambert (2008-09-09). "Updated: Honnold Free Solos Half Dome 5.12". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  34. ^ [2] Archived November 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ "Honnold Rapid-Fires Two Desert-Crack Testpieces". Archived from the original on October 18, 2008. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  36. ^ Parker, Chris (16 January 2014). "Honnold Free-Solos the 1,750-Foot El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d)". Rock and Ice. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  37. ^ Cameron, Gwen (September 2, 2014). "Honnold Free Solos Squamish's University Wall". Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  38. ^ a b "GLOBAL". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  39. ^ "Alex Honnold Gets the 2nd Ascent of Ambrosia. - Rock Climbing & Bouldering Articles". 2010-02-18. Archived from the original on 2016-02-01. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  40. ^ "Alex Honnold: Too Big to Flail". Archived from the original on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  41. ^ "More Solos In Yosemite By Alex Honnold – Updated | Climbing Narcissist". 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  42. ^ [3] Archived June 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  43. ^ "Alex Honnold climbing interview –, climbing, News, mountaineering". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  44. ^ Gwen Cameron (2011-07-20). "Chad's Ennedi Dessert: A Google Earth Adventure". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  45. ^ "2010 – Ennedi Desert, Chad Climbing Expedition". 2010-12-03. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  46. ^ "Borneo Big Wall". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  47. ^ Roy, Adam (2009-06-19). "First ascent attempt of a massive big wall in Borneo". Matador Network. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  48. ^ "The mother of all traverses: The Fitz Traverse. :: SuperTopo Rock Climbing Discussion Topic". Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  49. ^ MacDonald, Dougald (February 2, 2016). "Patagonia's Torre Traverse in Under 21 Hours". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2018-09-29.

Further reading

  • Bethea, Charles (2018-09-07). "Dispatch: Alex Honnold Climbs Halfway Up a New Jersey Skyscraper". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  • Dean, Josh. "His Life in His Hands". Men's Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  • Duane, Daniel (2015-03-11). "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  • Lowther, Alex (Summer 2001). "Less and Less Alone: Alex Honnold". Alpinist. Retrieved 2018-10-14.

Notable videos

  • Africa Fusion (video) Alex Honnold and Hazel Findlay rock-climbing in Namibia and South Africa.
  • Alex Honnold 3.0 (video)
  • The Ascent of Alex Honnold (video) by reporter Lara Logan on 60 Minutes.
  • Alone on the Wall (video) from National Geographic Adventures TV series First Ascent. Alex Honnold solos of Half Dome in Yosemite and the Moonlight Buttress in Zion
  • Alone on the Wall Interview January 3, 2016
  • First Ascent: Alone On The Wall released 2010, ascent of 2,000-foot wall of Half Dome
  • Valley Uprising

External links

  • Official website
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