Alex Honnold, 2019
|Born||August 17, 1985|
Sacramento, California, U.S.
|Education||Mira Loma High School, UC Berkeley (dropped out)|
|Type of climber|
|Known for||Big wall free soloing|
The only person to free solo El Capitan
Alexander Honnold (born August 17, 1985) is an American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls. His accomplishment of free soloing El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park, is regarded as one of the greatest athletic achievements of all time. 
Honnold is the only person to free solo 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. Honnold says he likes tall, long routes and that he tries to do them quickly. He is the author (with David Roberts) of the memoir Alone on the Wall (2017) and the subject of the 2018 biographical documentary Free Solo, which won a BAFTA and an Academy Award.
Life and work
Honnold was born in Sacramento, California, the son of community college professors Dierdre Wolownick and Charles Forrest Honnold. His paternal roots are German and his maternal roots are Polish. He started climbing in a climbing gym at the age of 5 and was climbing "many times a week" by age 10. 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."
After graduating from Mira Loma High School as part of the International Baccalaureate Programme 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."
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."
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.
In November 2011, Honnold and Hans Florine missed setting the record time on the Nose route on Yosemite's El Capitan by 45 seconds. At the time the record stood at 2:36:45, as set by Dean Potter & Sean Leary in November 2010. On June 17, 2012, the two set a new record of 2:23:46 (or 2:23:51) on that same route.
In November 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.
On June 3, 2017, he made the first free solo ascent of El Capitan, completing the 2,900-foot Freerider route (5.12d VI) in 3 hours and 56 minutes. The feat, described as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever", was documented by climber and photographer Jimmy Chin and documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi, as the subject of the documentary Free Solo. Among other awards, the film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (2018).
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.
Making the most of his training sessions at climbing gyms, he invents challenges for himself, like attaching heavy weights around his waist and suspending himself from a ledge by his fingers.
Honnold 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?" The van he lives in is custom-outfitted with a kitchenette and cabinets.
In 2017, Honnold bought a home in the Las Vegas area. "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." 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 Ram ProMaster, which he still lives and travels in for most of the year.
Honnold is a vegetarian, and he does not drink alcohol or use other drugs. He is an avid reader with interests in classic literature, environmentalism, and economics, and he describes himself as a militant atheist and a feminist.
Between climbs, he runs or hikes to maintain fitness.
Honnold met Sanni McCandless at a book signing in 2015; they became a couple soon after. Sanni and her relationship with Honnold feature prominently in Free Solo. On December 25, 2019, Honnold announced, via social media, that he and McCandless are engaged.
- Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold and the Ultimate Limits of Adventure. London: Pan, 2017. Co-authored with David Roberts. ISBN 978-1447282730.
- The Sharp End (2007)
- Alone on the Wall (2008)
- Progression (2009)
- Honnold 3.0 (2012)
- Valley Uprising (2014)
- A Line Across the Sky (2015)
- Showdown at Horseshoe Hell (2015)
- Africa Fusion (2016)
- Queen Maud Land (2018)
- Free Solo (2018)
- The Nose Speed Record (reel rock 14) (2019)
- 2010: Golden Piton award from Climbing magazine, for endurance climbing
- 2015: Honnold together with Tommy Caldwell was awarded the Piolets d'Or, for the first full traverse of the Fitz Roy Range in Patagonia, Argentina.
- 2018: Robert and Miriam Underhill Award from American Alpine Club, for excellence in various fields of climbing
- 2018: Special mention of Piolets d'Or for his outstanding contribution to climbing during 2017
Selected notable climbs
- 2007, Freerider (VI 5.12d, 37 pitches), Yosemite, California – One day free ascent with Brian Kimball
- 2007, Astroman (5.11c, 10 pitches) and The Rostrum (5.11c, 8 pitches), Yosemite, California – Second person after Peter Croft (1987) to free solo both in a day
- 2007, Salathe Wall (VI 5.13b/c), Yosemite, California – Eleventh free ascent
- 2008, Bushido (5.13+) and Hong Kong Phooey (5.13b–5.14), Utah – In the space of 3 days
- 2008, The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, Yosemite, California – First free solo
- 2008, Moonlight Buttress (V 5.12d, 1200 ft), Zion, Utah – Free solo
- 2012, The Nose (5.14a/b), Yosemite, California – Former speed record of 2:23:46 with Hans Florine
- 2012, The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, Yosemite, California – Speed solo in 1:22
- 2012, Yosemite Triple Crown – Mt. Watkins, El Capitan, and Half Dome, Yosemite, California – Solo in 18:50, free soloing 90% of the link-up
- 2014, El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d V, 1,750 ft, 15 pitch), El Potrero Chico, Mexico – First free solo ascent, in a little over 3 hours
- 2014, University Wall (5.12a C2, 8 pitch), Squamish, British Columbia, Canada – First free solo
- 2016, Complete Scream (E8 6b), Northern Ireland, United Kingdom – Free solo
- 2017, Freerider (5.12d VI), Yosemite, California – First and only free solo on El Capitan
- 2018, The Nose (VI 5.8 A2), Yosemite, California – Speed record of 1:58:07 with Tommy Caldwell
- 2011, The Mandala 8A+(V12), Bishop, California – A repeat of Chris Sharma's classic boulder
- 2010, Ambrosia 8A(V11), Bishop, California – Second ascent of Kevin Jorgeson's highball problem
- 2012, Too Big to Flail 7C+(V10) or 8b(5.13d), Bishop, California – First ascent of a 45-foot highball
- 2008, 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
- 2010, The Green Mile 8c+(5.14c), Jailhouse crag, San Francisco
- 2010, Rainbow Arch (5.12+, top-roped), Ennedi Desert, Chad – First ascent
- 2011, Heaven (5.12d) and Cosmic Debris (5.13b), Yosemite National Park – Free soloed (Repeated Heaven twice in one day in 2014.)
- 2011, The Phoenix (5.13a), Yosemite National Park – Free soloed. The Phoenix was the first 5.13a of the United States.
- 2019, Arrested Development 9a (5.14d) Mount Charleston, Nevada, second ascent after Jonathan Siegrist. His hardest sport climb to date.
- 2009, Unnamed (VI 5.12 A2) Low's Gully, Borneo – Attempted first free ascent
- 2014, The Fitz Roy Traverse (5.11d C1 65 degrees, 5000m), Fitz Roy massif, Patagonia – Completed over five days with Tommy Caldwell
- 2016, Torre Traverse, Patagonia – Second ascent. A north-to-south traverse of Cerro Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, and Cerro Torre. Completed in under 21 hours with Colin Haley.
- "Alex Honnold – Athlete Profile". Black Diamond Equipment. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- "The World's Greatest Free-Solo Climber Isn't Interested in Adrenaline". Exploration & Adventure. March 1, 2018. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- Synnott, Mark (October 3, 2018). "Exclusive: Alex Honnold Completes the Most Dangerous Free-Solo Ascent Ever". National Geographic. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
- "Honnold's Biggest, Baddest Solo Yet". Climbing. June 15, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Glionna, John M. "Rock star rock climber". Las Vegas Review Journal.
- "Alex Honnold – Interview for Mountain Portal". mountainportal.com.
- Duane, Daniel (March 12, 2015). "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
Honnold could afford to buy a decent home, if that interested him. But living in a van – a custom-outfitted van, in his case, with a kitchenette and cabinets full of energy bars and climbing equipment – represents freedom.
- Legendary Rock Climber Alex Honnold's Vegetarian Diet (video). Munchies. December 7, 2015. Event occurs at 4:20–4:35. Retrieved October 16, 2018 – via YouTube.
- Lowther, Alex (Summer 2011). "Less and Less Alone: Alex Honnold". Alpinist. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- "To Be the Best Rock Climber Is to Earn As Much As an Orthodontist". Wealthsimple Magazine. March 20, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
- Alex Honnold's Van Life. Outside Online (video). July 28, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold (video). National Geographic. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- "Climbing without ropes: A series of remarkable feats increases the appeal of a niche sport". The Economist. June 8, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- Roy, Adam. "Honnold and Florine Break Nose Record". Outside Online. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Hobley, Nicholas. "Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell climb The Nose in under 2 hours to set new El Capitan speed record". planetmountain.com. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
- "New Nose Record – 2:23:51 (Florine and Honnold)". Mountain Project. Archived from the original on May 31, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Potts, Mary Anne (June 25, 2012). "Climbers Alex Honnold and Hans Florine Claim Speed Record on the Nose, El Cap – Interview". National Geographic Exploration & Adventure Blog. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Weatherl, Joshua (June 17, 2012). "Honnold and Florine Break Nose Speed Record". Alpinist. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Branch, John (November 16, 2014). "A Sponsor Steps Away From the Edge". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- McCarthy, Tom (June 4, 2017). "Rock climber makes historic ropeless ascent of California's El Capitan". The Guardian. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
- Duane, Daniel (June 9, 2017). "Opinion: El Capitan, My El Capitan". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". National Geographic. June 3, 2017. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "The 91st Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
- "FREE SOLO WINS 2019 OSCAR FOR DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)". oscar.go.com. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- "Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell Set Sub-2-Hour Nose Speed Record". Climbing. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
- An Inside Look at Alex Honnold's Adventure Van (video). Outside. April 2, 2017. Retrieved October 18, 2018 – via YouTube.
- "TE Exclusive: Alex Honnold Talks About Why He Does What He Does". TrailsEdge.com. October 17, 2011. Archived from the original on January 5, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Alex Honnold [@alexhonnold] (February 24, 2017). "I'm a feminist!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- John, Caroline. "5 Facts about Alex Honnold's Girlfriend". www.earnthenecklace.com. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
- "ALEX HONNOLD'S MOM IS THE OLDEST WOMAN TO SUMMIT EL CAPITAN". www.tetongravity.com. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- "About – Honnold Foundation". Honnoldfoundation.org. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Banff Mountain Film Competition – 2015 Award Winners" (PDF). Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Banff Centre. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- "Peliculas Premiadas". Bilbao Mendi Film FestivalBilbao Mendi Film Festival. Bilbao Mendi Film Festival. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- "Festivals Awards". International Alliance for Mountain Film. International Alliance for Mountain Film. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- The Sharp End (2007)
- Alone on the Wall (2008)
- Progression (2009)
- Valley Uprising (2014)
- Africa Fusion (2016)
- "2010 Golden Piton Awards". Climbing. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- "ABD Awards". The American Alpine Club. 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- "Piolets d'Or Press Release July 2018" (PDF). Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- Luke Bauer (October 30, 2007). "Honnold's Yosemite Year: A Free-Climbing Extravaganza". Alpinist. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold free solos two big wall classics in a day". Rockclimbing.com. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Parks, Megan (March 21, 2008). "Honnold Rapid-Fires Two Desert-Crack Testpieces". Climbing. Archived from the original on October 18, 2008. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Erik Lambert (September 9, 2008). "Updated: Honnold Free Solos Half Dome 5.12". Alpinist. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Roth, Justin (April 8, 2008). "Honnold Makes a High-Stakes Solo in Zion". Climbing. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010.
- Bacon, Sean (June 6, 2012). "Honnold's Biggest, Baddest Solo Yet". Climbing. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- Parker, Chris (January 16, 2014). "Honnold Free-Solos the 1,750-Foot El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d)". Rock and Ice. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
- Cameron, Gwen (September 2, 2014). "Honnold Free Solos Squamish's University Wall". Alpinist. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- "Alex Honnold Solos Univesity [sic] Wall 5.12 in Squamish". Gripped Magazine. September 2, 2014.
- "Alex Honnold Solos The Complete Scream (E8 6b)". Climbing. June 6, 2016. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- "Alex Honnold Solos Hard Ireland Route The Complete Scream". Gripped. June 9, 2016. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- Berry, Natalie (June 6, 2016). "Alex Honnold Solos The Complete Scream E8 6b at Fair Head". Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- Synnott, Mark (June 3, 2017). "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". National Geographic.
- McPhate, Mike (June 6, 2017). "California Today: An 'Incomprehensible' Climb in Yosemite". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
- Skenazy, Matt (June 6, 2018). "Honnold and Caldwell Break Two Hours on El Cap's Nose". Outside Online. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
- Clarke, Owen. "Honnold and Caldwell Break Nose Record (Again!), Blaze Up in 2:01:50!". rockandice.com. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
- Larssen, Jens (October 5, 2011). "Alex Honnold – Interview". 8a.nu. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold Gets the 2nd Ascent of Ambrosia". Dpmclimbing.com. February 18, 2010. Archived from the original on February 1, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold: Too Big to Flail". dpmclimbing.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Hobley, Nicholas (January 27, 2009). "Alex Honnold climbing interview". Planetmountain.com. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Alex Honnold Scorecard". 8.nu.
- Gwen Cameron (July 20, 2011). "Chad's Ennedi Dessert: A Google Earth Adventure". Alpinist. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Synnott, Mark (December 3, 2010). "2010 – Ennedi Desert, Chad – Trad in Chad: The Mysterious Towers of the Ennedi". marksynnott.com. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "More Solos In Yosemite By Alex Honnold – Updated | Climbing Narcissist". Climbingnarc.com. September 27, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Chin, Jimmy (January 12, 2017). "Behind the Scenes of the Alex Honnold SquareSpace Presents". Jimmy Chin's Blog. Archived from the original on January 12, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- Strege, David (October 24, 2014). "Alex Honnold climbs Heaven at Yosemite twice". Men's Journal. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- Fox, Amanda (June 15, 2011). "Honnold Free Solos The Phoenix (5.13)". Climbing. Archived from the original on June 19, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Ozturk, Renan. "The Borneo Dispatches". Climbing.
- "Borneo Big Wall". Borneobigwall.blogspot.fr. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- Roy, Adam (June 19, 2009). "First ascent attempt of a massive big wall in Borneo". Matador Network. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "The mother of all traverses: The Fitz Traverse". SuperTopo. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Caldwell, Honnold Finish 5k Fitz Roy Traverse – Alpinist.com". www.alpinist.com.
- MacDonald, Dougald (February 2, 2016). "Patagonia's Torre Traverse in Under 21 Hours". Climbing. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
- Bethea, Charles (September 7, 2018). "Dispatch: Alex Honnold Climbs Halfway Up a New Jersey Skyscraper". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Dean, Josh. "His Life in His Hands". Men's Journal. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Duane, Daniel (March 11, 2015). "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Lowther, Alex (Summer 2001). "Less and Less Alone: Alex Honnold". Alpinist. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Official website
- Worrall, Simon (January 3, 2016). "Alex Honnold Isn't Fearless—He Just Accepts Death". National Geographic.
- Alex Honnold 3.0 (video)