CLIMB and PUNISHMENT- An Open Telegram to Alex Honnold

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tarek

climber
berkeley
Mar 26, 2010 - 03:03pm PT
Radical,

Yeah, it's all math, I agree. Try multiplying all of the major probabilities...then try multiplying all of their interaction terms, then their bundled interaction terms. But, as you say, it's also a matter of paying attention, something that soloists do extremely well, as a rule.

We've all been in "situations," with a rope where it was basically unplanned soloing. A friend of mine died when rock broke on easy ground and he was way run-out.

The reason I'll stop writing now is that I'm just contributing to the OP's show, and my opinion is that his writing here is lousy, and his motivations stink. But I agree that the issues are worth thinking about.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mar 26, 2010 - 03:08pm PT
Alternate introductions and voiceovers:

Alex: “Hi. I’m Alex Honnold. I am a pretty regular guy who has excelled at rock climbing. I do it because I love it. I love it for the same reasons that all rockclimbers love their sport. This film is not about why rock climbers climb, or why it so much fun, or about technique. It is about me providing you with the entertainment of watching me climb without a rope. Don’t worry; I don’t fall in the movie. I made this introduction afterward.”

Announcer: “Rock climbing requires strength and flexibility and loads of specialized technique, acquired through lots of practice. Roped climbing can be very dangerous. To push yourself physically, you have to control your mind and your fears. Both skills are necessary. Free soloing is a way to test that your mind is completely in control, and when your mind is in control, free soloing is safe. Many more accidents have occurred with roped climbing than with free soloing. Climbing without a rope is a way to reduce the chances of falling, to make climbing very safe. When you climb with a rope, your mind is tricked into thinking that climbing is dangerous; when you take the rope away, your mind is forced to accept that climbing is safe.”

Artful shots of Alex walking to base. Cut away to Alex way off the ground, hands and toes barely touching the rock.

Alex: “You can just get the tips of two fingers in; just a little skin is touching the rock. Your feet are pasted to the smooth wall. About as exposed as you can be.”

Voice over: “Alex has climbed this route before. He knows exactly where to place his hands and feet. He has tested the rock for soundness. He feels very comfortable with the idea that he can make all the moves without slipping to his death. Don’t worry; he won’t fall off in this movie.”

Alex: “Free soloing of the kind I do for these videos is a kind of pure entertainment. Climbing has many aspects, figuring out how to get up really hard moves, learning to fall on to a rope so you don’t get hurt, telling your friends about how cool it was, getting into a physical or mental zone that just makes you feel alive. All of these aspects are part of what I do before I free solo for the camera. In a sense, the climbing is completely done by the time I feel comfortable enough to free solo a route. Sort of like…well I don’t know quite what it is like as compared to ordinary activity. Maybe like reenacting a winning touchdown without any defensive players around. Or dry-humping the pillow after she has left.”

Voice over: “Alex is not going to fall. This is entertainment. Oh, and don’t try this at home.”

Cut away to handwringing old dudes, with vaguely familiar faces and stances that probably once looked substantial.

Old dude One: “I don’t see the point. He has already climbed the route a dozen times. He knows every move. Where is the adventure in that? Royal and Yvon told us to go for adventure; to go for uncertainty.”

Old dude Two (Northern Italian accent): “He is murdering the impossible.”

Old dude Three (Moral accent):” He is selling out. Making climbing porn for plastic pulling wankers.”

Old dude Four (Greek accent): “Come my friends, we must all die. Why moan about it so.”

Old dude Five (SuperTopo accent): “What difference does it make? The human body is a false promise. Life is illusion. Does a falling climber make a sound if no one hears it?”


Cut away to Alex smoothly moving up the rock.

Voice over: “Don’t worry folks, Alex is not going to fall. Free soloing is completely safe.”

Cutaway to twentysomethings, reacting to old dudes:

TST One (TST accent): “Tards.”

TST Two (TST accent): “Super-tards.”

TST Three (TST accent): “Alex knows what he is doing. He has been up there before. Knows the moves cold. He’s not going to fall.”

TST One (TST accent): “Tards.”

TST Two (TST accent): “kkheej kjjheej. Supter-tards”

TST Four (SuperTopo Ascent): “It is just about the moment. The entertainment value. What’s the big deal? Alex can do what he wants.”

TST Five (TST accent): “Smoke a phat one.”

TST One (TST accent): “Tards.”

Cut away to Alex in the same crack. Ground much farther away. Moving smoothly. Looks bored.

Vague off-mike sounds:

Voice one (Suit accent): “This is boring.”

Voice two (Suit accent): “Tell me about it. Who will watch this? Everyone knows he is going to make it. It's just like math. You plug the numbers into a formula and out pops the move.”

Voice three (Suit accent): “That’s it. Wrap it up.

Voice one (Suit accent): "Whaaaat?"

Voice three (Suit accent): "Next time he does it adventure style.”

Voice two (Suit accent): ”You mean sight-unseen?”

Voice three (Suit accent): “That right. We have to restore risk and uncertainty into climbing. No one will watch this façade. Free soloing is completely safe. He never falls.”

Fade to old dude:

WBraun

climber
Mar 26, 2010 - 03:37pm PT
Roger

So hilariously funny.

Tell us what you really think , aside from playing the safe card in your above post.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Mar 26, 2010 - 03:58pm PT
Tards....HA!
Chris Wegener

Trad climber
St. John, Virgin Islands
Mar 26, 2010 - 05:23pm PT
As mentioned, very interesting and entertaining.

Having just seen the discussed videos, I was completely blown away by Alex's performance. I can't even dream of being able to climb like that.

Absolutely, Alex will do what Alex wants. Its freewill.

Many people are missing Ed's main point. No matter what Alex free solos in the end it will pale in significance to the time he spends with his partner, his children, his friends. As one gets older surprisingly each day becomes more precious and life more important.

Dying for a climb, no matter how amazing, snuffs out any chance to experience the future. This reality is often lost on the young.

I have made many mistakes in my life. I have often wondered if there was anything someone could have said to me to make me realize that I was going to make a mistake and let me change my mind. The only answer I can come to is NO. I would not have listened and would not have heard what was being said. I know this because people who loved me did indeed tell me that there were better choices I could make.

I suspect that this reality is true for most of us. So I wish Alex a long and happy life, whatever he may choose to do.

Regards,
Chris
Randisi

Boulder climber
PA
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:30am PT
At the risk of tard-iness:

Roger, that was laugh-out-loud funny!

Not to mention a great satire of the issues.
Fletcher

Trad climber
Just me and three kids
Mar 27, 2010 - 12:27pm PT
Brilliant Roger! Thanks.

I think what interesting here is not so much what Ed chose to put "out there," but what it reveals about others' reactions to it (not a lot gets revealed sometimes). For any creation such as painting, sculpture, novels, essays, poetry, kid's doodlings, Tami's drawings, or Locker's, Peter's and Cosmic's photo transformations, etc. there can be two elements.

There is the creator. They do what they do and their reason, if known to anyone, lies with themselves (and sometimes that is not even clear).

Then you add the observer of the art/expression and the observer's reaction. The latter half is a making entirely of the observer.

A stimulating thread, even the tard parts!

To me (and that's all) Ed's writing is like a deep, rich, heavy and complex port. Can't chuck gallons of the stuff at one sitting. But a small glass, slowly sipped, is a delight. Not everyone likes port.

Happy Saturday!
Eric
Bullwinkle

Boulder climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
Wow Rodger, that's some corney-ass stuff. . .
ll

Gym climber
sacramento, ca
Mar 27, 2010 - 02:00pm PT
From my recollection sometime around the middle of July 2004 Alex's climbing really took off, his interest in the outdoors and his on-sight soloing really came to the forefront of his life.

I have always wondered what caused him to so dramatically change his attitude and his climbing.

~lisa l
jstan

climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 02:05pm PT
This thread and our willingness to intrude is not our highest moment.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 27, 2010 - 02:18pm PT
I'm inclined to agree with that John.
A tall tree however, does tend to acquire wind.

A lot of this is about media exposure, how it is engaged, how we respond.
I don't have a particular attitude toward it; it happens, I say let it play out (engagement of media with our sport, and vice versa, in the big picture), that's what will happen regardless. Certainly can't see it as entirely negative.


As a sport we're still in the infantile stages of media management, such as it is. Probably always a somewhat messy proposition.
MH2

climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:02pm PT
This thread and our willingness to intrude is not our highest moment.

Is there a plot of this somewhere?
Bullwinkle

Boulder climber
Mar 28, 2010 - 12:09am PT
acquire wind? sounds more like you're passing wind. . .
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 28, 2010 - 12:42am PT
Nice jab Dean.
What else is on your mind?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Mar 28, 2010 - 11:15am PT
Ed,

Thanks for your “telegram”, and for initiating one of the better threads in a long time. I met you in Camp 4 long ago and I’m glad you have joined the discussion here.

I disagree with the somewhat hectoring tone of your piece and here’s why.

You have raised what I call the “hero/chump” false dichotomy. Whenever someone dies attempting a climb that is highly risky and succeeds, he or she is considered a hero in the community. But when these heroes miscalculate or “objective” dangers take them, the tendency is to consider them no longer heroes, but chumps, that is, idiots, for losing their lives. I reject this formula.

Whoever tries to solo El Cap would still be a hero, and not a chump as you seem to imply, even if he or she dies trying. It is incredible to think that El Cap was first climbed in 1958 and that someone, whether it is Honnold or someone else, will be able climb it without a rope in the next few years. From being considered an impossible cliff to climb by any means prior to 1958, El Cap will soon be ascended with just shoes and a chalk bag. That is an astounding progression. Who among us is so old or so unimaginative that we haven’t dreamt of having the ability and the courage to solo El Cap?

I do agree with your point that one should not be goaded into soloing for the wrong reasons, that is, to meet the expectations of others. John Long wrote the definitive piece on this subject in “The Only Blasphemy”, a tale most recently retold in the new Stonemaster book. You probably remember it from “Mirrors in the Cliffs:” the story of Long and Bachar soloing route after route in Joshua Tree. It connects forward to Honnold in that Bachar and Long were attempting a “Half Dome” day of soloing, i.e, 2000 feet of unroped climbing, simulating the length of the Northwest Face of Half Dome. At the end of the day, Bachar soloes the 5.11, Left Ski Track, in plain view of Hidden Valley campground and Long describes how he felt the pressure of even a small audience..

“50 hungry eyes gave me the once over, as if to say, Well?”

This pressure almost caused John’s demise and it is a cautionary tale. When El Cap is soloed, my hope is that it will be for a reason other than the virtual applause of millions of “hungry eyes” in the Youtube audience. But I will join in admiring the feat when it is accomplished, regardless of the soloist’s reasons for venturing up there, and I would never presume to tell a brilliant climber to give up his dreams, whether they be a solo of El Cap or the first ascent of the Troll Wall.

Rick
Randisi

Boulder climber
PA
Mar 28, 2010 - 11:26am PT
The Regular Route of Half Dome has many pitches of fairly easy climbing and a relatively small percentage of hard pitches. What is the break-down of 5.9, 5.10, 5.11, etc. on Freerider?

It must be significantly more intense. I think it will be a good while (if ever) before someone seriously attempts such a thing.


All this raises some new (or maybe not) ethical questions:

Is a person truly free soloing if a camera crew is near enough by to help him/her out should they get 'gripped'? (It's a shame this descriptive term has fallen into disuse) Sure their life is still at stake but help is not too far.

Would a person still truly be free soloing if they tie in to bivvy? Or if someone else caches the food and water for the attempt?

(Don't get me wrong. I'm not implying that it wouldn't still be an astoundingly impressive achievement even were these means to be used.)
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Mar 28, 2010 - 11:41am PT
Randisi,

I agree. Someone earlier made reference to the camera crew being "the backup party"

Rick, that was a great post.

I have slowly been changing my mind about this, a bit at least.
My initial thought was how wrong it would be to do this for the media, sponsors, money etc. And I still feel that way about those specific points.

But the thought of someone doing it is sure impressive.

As I age I appreciate the rope more and the protection closer!
klk

Trad climber
cali
Mar 28, 2010 - 12:39pm PT
I think it will be a good while (if ever) before someone seriously attempts such a thing.

Hans-Jorg Auer already soloed the Fish, the 5.12 classic on the South Face of the Marmolada. Not quite as long as Freerider, but a more alpine setting. Lots of very hard, difficult work on slabs with highly inobvious routefinding that often gets experienced parties into trouble.

Randisi

Boulder climber
PA
Mar 28, 2010 - 12:55pm PT



I think it will be a good while (if ever) before someone seriously attempts such a thing.

Hans-Jorg Auer already soloed the Fish, the 5.12 classic on the South Face of the Marmolada. Not quite as long as Freerider, but a more alpine setting. Lots of very hard, difficult work on slabs with highly inobvious routefinding that often gets experienced parties into trouble.


Okay, klk. I'll rephrase that:

I think it will be a good while (if ever) before my feeble mind can comprehend that someone would seriously attempt such a thing!

iep

climber
Mar 28, 2010 - 01:04pm PT
Hans-Jorg Auer already soloed the Fish, the 5.12 classic on the South Face of the Marmolada. Not quite as long as Freerider, but a more alpine setting. Lots of very hard, difficult work on slabs with highly inobvious routefinding that often gets experienced parties into trouble.

the fish route that Auer soloed is 850m / 2800 feet long, 37 pitches -- about as long as freerider.
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