Alex Honnold: “I like climbing easy routes alone”

Always on top. Between world firsts in 2022 and a scientific expedition to Greenland or a full solo ascent of 23 peaks in 32 hours in Nevada, Alex Honnold continues to dream up the climbing world with his extraordinary performances.

six years later Free solo, an Oscar-winning film featuring The North Face climber’s recent solo ascent of El Capitan (with no delays) and his dizzying 900m wall in Yosemite Park, California. il, talks about his projects, inspirations, especially mentions the French Sebastien Bouin, one of the best rock climbers in the world. Although the so-called “easy” routes have a rather personal definition.

“How much has your life as a climber changed (in 2022) by becoming a father?
It didn’t change my risk tolerance or my appetite for climbing, but it did change the way I chose projects based on how much time I was going to spend on them. In the spring, I mostly climbed somewhere not far from home. Now that our daughter is 9 months old, our life is a little more stable. (the interview was conducted in early December)I can go a little further.

Everything is changing at the moment, because it itself is changing very quickly (smile). We go out with him every day, for example, we go for a walk. He is already climbing everywhere, eventually crawling more. My in-laws made him a little wall and he crawls on it great. (laughs).

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I spend less time soloing in the future. But above all, I’ve already done most of the things I wanted to do on my own. »

You are widely known for your historic solo expedition to El Capitan (a 900-meter wall climbed without any belay system, the most difficult in the world so far). Do you solo less now?
I solo less, but that’s mostly because of the way I structure my time. Anyway, last month I did a big solo project closer to home in the Red Rock Canyons (Nevada, 60 km crossing in 32 hours, 23 peaks and 14 routes). It was pretty easy as a solo, but it’s still a solo on big faces. I won’t say that everything has changed since last year, but we will see later. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spend less time soloing in the future. But above all, I’ve already done most of the things I wanted to do on my own.

What motivated you on your Ultimate Rock Traverse project (a 32-hour effort, 23 peaks over 60 km)?
It’s not far from home. It is beautiful to travel this way in these mountains and it is an open line. There is a rare line in the world: big enough to be challenging and inspiring, but small enough to be done all at once. For example, you cannot cross the Alps in one go because it is too big. Here it was only 60 kilometers. What I wanted to do was to create the most natural way to cross these mountains. I was confident, I knew the ways. I tried to choose the most classic, natural, popular routes, so it was not the most difficult. But again, doing them alone, climbing for 20 or 30 hours, you start to find them quite difficult. (smile).

How do you choose your projects now?
I am motivated by things that have never been done before, innovations and challenges. I like to look for the smallest step. Say to yourself, “Well, I’m not sure it’s possible, but it might be.” But I also like to climb easy roads. I can climb 100 meters on an easy route without stopping because I like the feeling. It might be one of my favorite things about climbing, but I can’t do it all the time.

You also took part in a scientific expedition in Greenland this summer (where he climbed one of the highest monoliths in the world, 1140 m, for the first time, notably with Hazel Findlay).
Yes, it’s always a bonus if you can do more than just climb during an expedition. When you go to remote places, as in this case, there is a French glaciologist (Heidi Sevestre) His experience with us gave full meaning to the project. I think I personally learned more about this expedition than any other. Because we were able to help scientists in a work that will be useful later (he especially helped with sensor placement and sample collection). This is huge.

One of the climbers most celebrating the year to return in 2022 is Sébastien Bouin…
Yes, he did Supreme Jumbo Love (Rated 9b+, the route is one of the most extreme in the world and the most difficult in the US) here. This is super impressive! And this is a good boy. He’s one of the best climbers in the world and he’s so cool, laid back! I did not climb with him, we were talking when he came. I don’t know if he remembers because I was an unknown American tourist, but I saw him 5-6 years ago at La Ramirole in Verdon, where he was trying very difficult routes. This was possibly the hardest combo I’ve ever seen! It looked futuristic and impossible, absolutely insane.

Who impresses and surprises you in climbing today?
Someone like Seb (Sebastien Bouin), it is clear. This is very inspiring. And there are many examples. Even without talking about the positives, I have friends who are very strong at bouldering, for example, with such strong fingers! There is always an inspiring side to take from everyone. »

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