Alex is a legend in the climbing world, Honnold holds a lineup of insane firsts and nobody-will-evers.
Most famously known as the only person to have ever scaled El Capitan without protective equipment, of which the film about his climb recently won both an Oscar and a Bafta.
Born in 1985 in Sacramento, California, it wasn’t long before he found his feet in the sport of climbing.
His first visit to the walls was at the mere age of 5 and by 10 he was climbing many times a week.
A few years later he began competing in various national and international youth climbing championships.
He notes that he was never a talented climber as a child, with others being able to climb faster or further than him due to better natural strength, but his passion for it meant that he climbed anywhere and at any time that he could.
Struggling through his first year of university in California, he regularly skipped classes to boulder by himself at Indian Rock and later dropped out of Berkeley to focus on climbing.
Switching between his mum’s old minivan and a bike with a tent on the back, he drove all around the state to climbing sites and expanded his repertoire.
In 2006 he was still an nobody within the climbing world – but not for much longer.
In 2007 he bought his first Ford van to live in and follow the best weather to his favourite climbing sites.
In late 2007, Honnold free soloed Yosemite’s Astroman and the Rostrum in a day, matching Peter Croft’s legendary 1987 feat.
Heads started turning and his name became internationally recognised with climbers.
In 2008 he free soloed the 1,200-foot finger crack that splits Zion’s Moonlight Buttress – a feat so impressive that many people thought it was fake news.
Five months later, he took then took on the 2,000-foot, glacially bulldozed Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome without any equipment – dubbed “the most impressive ropeless ascent ever done” by fellow climber Peter Croft.
His 2012 free solo ascent of the Northwest Face of Half Dome was featured in the mainstream film ‘Alone on the Wall’, gaining him further notoriety alongside various records he was setting on Yosemite speed climbs.
By now he was becoming known by climbers and non-climbers alike.
However, nothing would come close to the record he smashed in the same national park years later.
In June 2017, when he free-soloed the freerider route on El Capitan, the New York Times described it as “one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, ever”.
He was the first person to scale El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley on the Freerider route without rope or protection.
Honnold completed the 2,900-foot Freerider route in just 3 hours and 56 minutes.
It defied logic and what was thought to be physically possible.
In 2018, Honnold teamed up with Tommy Caldwell to break the speed record for the Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite, and they became the first climbers to ever complete the route in under two hours.
As well as being a vegan, avid reader and feminist, he founded the Honnold Foundation in 2012 to support small social and environmental organisations that have concrete and sustainable project goals.
To this day, this world-famous record-breaker maintains his simple “dirtbag-climber” existence, living out of his van and traveling the world in search of the next great vertical adventure.
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