Alex Honnold free-climbing

Rock climber Alex Honnold has scaled some of the world’s toughest mountains, and he’s done it without a rope or harness. The Sacramento native and former UC Berkeley engineering student earned international renown for climbing one of the steepest parts of Yosemite’s Half Dome in world record time — 82 minutes — and later won Climbing Magazine’s “Golden Piton,” one of the sport’s highest honors. Honnold joins us to talk about tackling some of the world’s scariest climbs, and his plans to scale one of the world’s tallest buildings in Taiwan.

Watch Alex Honnold free-solo El Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path) in El Portrero Chico, Mexico:

Alex Honnold Free Soloing in Yosemite

Alex Honnold, professional rock climber

  • Cal M

    Can Dave ask Alex whether the majority of free-climbers like him have an abnormal LACK of fear of heights or if instead they have a natural fear of heights but view that fear as “buzz” & part of the attraction of the climb?

  • erictremont

    The most fascinating “60 Minutes” episode I’ve seen over the past 30 years is the segment about Alex that was filmed a couple of years ago. I am too old to climb rocks so I live vicariously through Alex—he is an inspiration to all of us who are stuck in front of a computer all day in soul deadening jobs. Somebody should make a movie about Alex.

    • jeffJ1

      I’m sorry you find your life so empty in comparison to his!

    • Taavi Kuusik

      Hey. While you might not get to climb on the level of Alex Honnold, I know a whole bunch of climbers who started late and are succeeding at their craft. Climbing is way more mental and technique-based that most other sports, so age is less of a factor. Also, a lot of seriously big walls are not necessarily ridiculously difficult, most people south of 60 years (and probably a whole bunch over that) could, with some practice climb things like Cathedral Peak for example. Check out these 2 articles, before you decide it’s impossible: and

  • Alison

    Hi Dave and Alex. Alex Dave mentioned that you started climbing in a gym. How old were you when you started and when did you make the transition to outdoors? Also, how do you train? Techniques? 🙂

    • Brian

      I second this question. I’m comfortable climbing off-rope up to about fifteen feet with no protection other than a spotter and a pad – but how do you mentally turn off the need for protection and keep your technique as you climb past the point that a fall will kill you?

      • Robert Thomas


        • CheekyStoat

          He’s talking about a crash pad. Kind of sort of like a mattress but designed specifically for falling on.

      • Shaun Gregg

        I’m assuming a paradigm shift in the way you view risk and consequence would be a good start.

  • Max Z.

    I broke my ankle in 2009 attempting a hard free solo, partly inspired by Alex’s endeavors. At the time Alex wrote to me commiserating and saying that he thinks about falling all the the time. Recently, climbing has lost a number of high profile climbers due to accidents; Sean Leary, notabley. Do you ever think your responsibilities to friends and family will ever outweigh the risks? I.E., if you ever have children, do you think you’ll stop soloing?

    -Max Z.-

    • Robert Thomas

      Around 1973 or 1974, I was climbing with older fellows at Pinnacles NM on a rock face called the “axe” when a chock came loose, an experienced climber swung through a forty foot arc and suffered compound fractures of both ankles. I wasn’t competent to judge, but my recollection is that all believed that no one had made any technical error. We rescued our friend ourselves and removed him (screaming in pain until it drove him from consciousness) to the hospital in Hollister.

      I can tell you, it was a horrifying experience. It affected me greatly and it forced the enthusiasts who were my older hosts to seriously re-evaluate their attitude toward personal and collective responsibility.

  • William – SF

    Have you, do you ever, dream of flying?

  • Colleen

    Question for Alex: If you had to call one particular route “home,” which one would that be?

  • Robert Thomas

    As a pre-adolescent, I was swept up with rock climbers about 1970, with my older sister’s friends.

    In those days, climbers were less likely to be well employed, well educated and well healed sons (all were male) of privilege than they have since become. They were freaking bums. Some were also psychos. Some played with guns.

    Their appreciation for a pleasant vista and of the grandeur of nature was universally surpassed by their desire to subdue it. Their inability to carry on an interesting conversation was complemented by the lack of opportunity to so do while attached to a rock. Perhaps this diffidence isn’t valued any longer?

    These historical dudes were adamantly opposed to “free” climbing as an irresponsible imposition on friends who might be called upon to provide heroic rescue, to park personnel or other government workers who might be similarly pressed in the event of accident and so on. Along with all kinds of other niceties of civic responsibility ignored these days, this seems anachronistic now.

    In any case, it’s reassuring to note that an air of undeserved self-importance, self-congratulation and self-admiration hasn’t been entirely abandoned.

    • xmarkwe

      Well, Robert, don’t you sound like a nice person.
      An allknowing superior being, perhaps?

      • Robert Thomas

        We tells it as we done seen it, honeychile…

      • Robert Thomas

        I’m not particularly nice, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn.

        But reminiscing on my experience in those days reminds me of details about the reason I decided to post on this segment.

        My exposure to these guys and this activity lasted from age nine to age fourteen or so and ended over forty years ago. That may have been at the time of the accident at the Pinnacles I recounted in this thread or a little after that.

        To say that these guys were of the “strong, silent” type was an understatement. They didn’t treat women very well, they treated each other a bit better and generally went easy on me. But after watching one man put an arrow from a compound bow into a tree ten inches from his own brother’s head at the end of an argument while on a bouldering trip in Pine Valley of the Ventana, I decided to keep an eye open at night. I continued to do so even though all hostilities were forgotten the next morning.

        My sister and her husband and their friends had reason for instilling in me strong attitudes about “free” climbers. They and their friends worked in the ’60s and ’70s as seasonals in the Park Service – Ostrander Lake in Yosemite; Sequoia; Dinosaur NM in Utah; Devil’s Tower NM; Wind Cave NP in South Dakota etc. Every year there were human remains one or another of them were required to scrape off rocks. My brother in law told me once of a particularly difficult time picking bits of cranium and mandible from a crevice that had been parts of a nineteen year old free climber who’d fallen the previous season.

        The climbers I knew then weren’t the most responsible people. They were disappointments to their parents. But even they considered “free” climbing foolish – it was for showboats and knuckleheads. I never saw one of those corpses myself but I saw the faces of guys who had to pack remains out of wilderness areas as they recalled the grim task.

        So, why did I put up with this if it wasn’t so much fun? Sometimes, it was fun; it was always more fun than setting salmon rigs on my dad’s fishing boat for the crummy tips of blotto day fishermen.

  • Moderate Republican

    I think what most people don’t appreciate is how hard it is to get to this level. He worked years and years and years on his climbing. He has climbed these routes roped up many, many times to scout them. He climbs within his ability (5.13b) He makes it look easy because he has practiced his rear end off to get there, physically and mentally. Same as any discipline. There is no magic, folks.

    • Chris Erwood

      I’m fairly sure Honnold’s climbed harder than 13b, I think his top so far is 5.13d but not 100% on that.

      • Deon

        He means his ability to Free Solo at 5.13b, obviously on trad he would climb harder.

  • Guest

    Love that Honnold questioned the interviewer on the writer’s name. The cat is meticulous.
    Go check out the Honnold Foundation if you can. They’re doing some great work.

  • hanntonn

    So that’s his way to meet God. I prefer just to go to mass. I hope he never falls.

  • John Richard Moakes

    Hi Alex, fellow climber here. I just wanted to thank you for basically, doing what you love to do. It’s people like you who first pushed the human race to leave the caves, to explore, experiment and wonder! Through your love for this sport, you’re going to be pushing a generation further than they would have ever believed they could have gone without witnessing your feats. I wish you all the best in your future adventures – Cheers!

  • Kdoc1

    A very brave guy. My stomach heaves just watching him.

  • annaweltman

    how does he get down?

  • jonathan__c

    Alex is great… but the interviewer is not, and unfortunately doesn’t have any background understanding. I can just visualize his eyes glassing over every time Alex answered a question

    “So tell me how AFRAID you are when you climb?”
    “I’m really not because my solos are well within my ability.”
    “Wow, amazing, so tell me how AFRAID you are when you climb?”

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