Free solo climbing
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Free solo climbing, also known as free soloing, is a form of free climbing where the climber (the free soloist) forgoes ropes, harnesses and other protective gear while ascending, and relies only on his or her physical strength, climbing ability, and psychological fortitude to avoid a fatal fall. Free solo climbing should not be confused with general free climbing, in which gear is typically used for safety in case of a fall, but not to assist the climb.
Reasons for free soloing given by high-profile climbers include the simplicity and speed with which one can climb, for example Alex Honnold's two hour and fifty minute ascent of the 2,224 foot Regular Northwest Face route on Yosemite's Half Dome, a route normally demanding multiple days. Other reasons given are the intense concentration required and, for some, the adrenaline rush. The practice is mostly confined to routes familiar to the climber, whose difficulty lies well within the climber's abilities. However, inherent risks such as loose rocks or sudden change in weather are always present. Some high-profile climbers have been killed free soloing, including John Bachar, Derek Hersey, Vik Hendrickson, Robert Steele, Tony Abbott, Dwight Bishop, Jimmy Ray Forrester, Jimmy Jewell, Tony Wilmott, John Taylor. The challenge of free soloing typically lies in the mental difficulty of staying focused, not in the physical difficulties of the climbing itself.
The sport has produced a number of well-known practitioners, made famous by remarkable photos of a climber totally alone and unprotected on sheer cliffs. One of the most famous is Frenchman Alain Robert ("spiderman"), who has scaled dozens of skyscrapers around the world — a sport known as buildering (not to be confused with bouldering) — and many rock walls, without using any safety equipment.
Some of the driving forces in rock climbing and free soloing from 1900 to today are: Pierre Allain, Hansjörg Auer, John Bachar, Henry Barber, Patrick Berhault, Katie Brown, Renaldo Clarke, Peter Croft, Steph Davis, Bill Denz, Catherine Destivelle, Patrick Edlinger, Wolfgang Güllich, Colin Haley, Derek Hersey, Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, Alexander Huber, Kevin Jorgeson, Dave MacLeod, Reinhold Messner, Dan Osman, Dean Potter, Paul Preuss, Andreas Proft, Herbert Ranggetiner, Michael Reardon, Alain Robert, Chris Sharma, Chris Sierzant, Tobin Sorenson, Ueli Steck and Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla.
- Paul Preuss, 3 October 1913, on an attempt to make the first ascent of the North Ridge of the Mandlkogel free solo, fell a thousand feet to his death.
- Tobin Sorenson died from a fatal fall during a solo attempt of the Mount Alberta's North Face on 5 October 1980.
- Derek Hersey died on 28 May 1993 in an accident while soloing the Steck-Salathé Route free solo, on Sentinel Rock in Yosemite National Park.
- Michael Reardon was reported missing at 5pm IST on 13 July 2007, after being hit by a wave and swept out to sea; from climbing down 180 metres (590 ft) (Fogher Cliff, )
- John Bachar died 5 July 2009, in a free solo accident at Dike Wall near Mammoth Lakes, California.
- Akihira Tawara died 13 September 2011 while free solo climbing the Directissima 5.8 route on Yamnuska
Alternatives to free soloing include:
- Free climbing with the use of ropes to prevent a fall.
- Bouldering: climbing at heights low enough that a fall would normally be safe, typically making use of a bouldering mat to cushion a potential fall.
- Deep water soloing: climbing over a body of water.
- Free BASE: a combination of free solo climbing to ascend a structure, and BASE jumping with a parachute to descend.
- Honnold Free-Solos Half Dome's NW Face
- Perrin, John (2006). The Climbing Essays. Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd. p. 320. ISBN 1903238471, 9781903238479 Check
- Pearsons, Neil. "Abandon all rope part 2". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "Jimmy Ray Forester Killed in Solo Fall". Rock and Ice. 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Ghiglieri, Michael Patrick (2004). Off The Wall: Death in Yosemite. Puma Press. p. 608. ISBN 0970097360, 9780970097361 Check
- Staff (25 July 2004). "Dwight Bishop, 48". The Montana Standard. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
Further reading 
- The High Lonesome: Epic Solo Climbing Stories, John Long. ISBN 1-56044-858-X
- Ament, Pat (2001). A History of Free Climbing in America
- Edge of Oblivion - Free-solo rock climbers feel spiritual lure, Sheila Mulrooney Eldred. Fresno Bee, 8 April 2004