Comment on Honnold Free Solo

Notes to Honnold

From a Supertopo Thread entitled Alex Honnold Soloes Monkey Fingers 12b in Zion, April 30, 2012, including some of his writings about the free solo climb and a video of his climbing.

The Fall

I so hope you don’t fall. You seem filled with authentic joy for the walls and moving on them. Bravo, it’s all that matters. Hope you can enjoy the walls for a long time. A rope adds to the odds you can do so for a longer time, of course. Your choice.


It is humbling to watch you climb. You make it hard for all of us to gab about our climbs and how or why we climb. You make some of us feel we should forever shut up on climbing so small is all by comparison. Take the sport trad bolt and climbing style debate we wrangle about – puff, irrelevant as here we have no protection hardware of any kind placed, no rope tension to work moves, no previewing. Well, I guess you don’t on-sight everything you do solo, but still. Bravo again to your skill and accomplishments.

Your writing gives an inkling of finding an odd truth about climbing: it does not matter if you climb rope less, nude, upside down, every day, 10 days a year, on rock, snow, 5.4 or 5.14; the essence of it is what you gain inside. Preoccupation with feats in climbing obscures this truth, but there it is. As your latest most honest writing on MF suggests, even your level of achievement may or may not fulfill. There is the rub for you, for all of us. Keep an eye on what fulfills. The freedom of soloing, the unobstructed movement is wonderful. So too is looking out to the mountains, rivers, meadows, sky and horizon from a belay, and bantering with a partner about the day. So too is an animal seen, snow, a sunset, color or polish of rock or scent of flowers in the breeze. These may strike you more than a climb. Wonderful. Know that. Keep that.


I’m glad you write. It gives a look into your inner world, whether what you writing goes commercial or stays in a secret journal. Don’t be concerned about criticism of your published or shared pieces. We all blab sometimes well, sometimes poorly whether in journals, on websites or just to friends. We’re human. But the key to rewarding writing is whether it plumbs deeply and honestly, or whether it glosses over the big stuff or is just for effect. It does no good for the writer or audience if the latter. Writing if done well is revelatory. It faces itself. It says to yourself who you are and even shapes who you are, whether put out on the web or kept to yourself. Strive for honest, insightful writing finding and revealing the truth of the moment.


In the video, you say you are in complete control. You say believing you won’t fall insures you won’t. Living by certain fictions in climbing and life generally is important to going forward with verve and hope. But knowing down deep what are fictions is vital. The American Dream is one such fiction. We live by it, we laugh at it. There is no perfect and everlasting control in climbing. Shit happens, strange, unpredictable events having nothing to do with the firmness of our resolve, the calm of your brain, the strength of your body. Ask fellow climbers to tell you about such events and see what you make of them. Catalog and ponder them. Maybe you will decide they don’t apply to you. One of mine? Swallows flying out of a crack into my face on Enduro Corner, sending me off.  


Life and time progress. Making the leap to be with a life partner and kid (if so blessed) means you become a new you. The new you considers how your actions impact your family because hurting them will hurt you and jeopardize what you prize and want to keep. You will give much angst to your life mate and kid sooner or later if you stay with your current way of climbing. So, you must choose between how you are now and how it will be with another. Don’t fool yourself into thinking no choice is needed and nothing will change. That’s a fiction which will doom you to years of unhappiness. I’ve seen it all too often.