Interview With An Athlete: Alex Honnold on Climbing with No Fear
Alex Honnold, a 24 year old from Sacramento California, has become a big name in rock climbing in the past three years with numerous free ascents of El Capitan, and ropeless climbs on the Regular Northwest Face of Halfdome (5.12) as well as Zion's Moonlight Buttress (5.12d). He began climbing at the gyms in Sacramento and Sacramento Pipeworks was one of his first sponsors. He still "loves" Pipeworks and gets in the gym from time to time, especially now that his mother has started climbing there as well. Honnold took some time out of his latest adventure- bouldering in Bishop's Buttermilks, to answer a few question about training for El Cap free climbing and how to keep a solid head through dangerous situations.
Alex Honnold Ropeless on The Rostrum (5.11c)What's your training like? How do you train for El Capitan free routes?
My training is a little bit haphazard, I'm not really sure what the best way to train is. But I try different things.
I used to climb in the gym a lot more, when I was actually living in Sacramento. I would do 4x4s or multiple routes back to back, just random endurance training like that. I trained for Freerider [my first El Cap route] by doing 20 routes a night at the gym. Mostly 12s with a few 13s, and maybe a few 11s as I got totally worked. I guess it worked out well enough.
But honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing. I just like to climb a whole lot.What are you doing these days?
Bishop has been fun this winter. I'm trying to build some power, in the hope that I won't always fall off of the hard moves on routes. I think I'm naturally more of an endurance climber, so I guess I'm just trying to train my weakness.
But after about 6 weeks of bouldering I'm starting to get kind of into it. It's so fun and chill. Super mellow. I see why so many people love to boulder. But I'm still fantasizing about walls. . .
You've soloed Yosemite's Regular Northwest Face of Halfdome (VI 5.12), Zion's Moonlight Buttress (V 5.12+) and climbed some serious highballs like the Buttermilks' Ambrosia and the Full Evilotioun. How do you manage your fear?
I don't think it's so much about managing my fear, as not getting fearful to begin with. With routes like Ambrosia and long solos you deal with all the uncertainty and fear before you start. You manage all that stuff on the ground. Then when you climb the route it's already taken care of. So while you're climbing, you don't get scared.
But sometimes when I'm onsight soloing or even just doing stuff on gear I'll get gripped for whatever reason. Then I just do what everybody else does, take some deep breaths and try to keep it together.
Alex topping out Ambrosia, a v10 highball or 5.14 freesolo
What can people do to climb better through heady situations?
I think the book The Rock Warriors way gives a lot of good advice on keeping your head together. One of the really useful things I think was to approach things mindfully. As in to be fully aware of what you're doing and why. So if something is dangerous, you evaluate it and decide whether or not you actually want to proceed. And if it seems to dangerous, you retreat with no doubts.
Labels: Alex Honnold, Ambrosia, free solo