CLIMB and PUNISHMENT- An Open Telegram to Alex Honnold

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Bullwinkle

Boulder climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 09:30am PT
Wow Rodger, that's some corney-ass stuff. . .
mt10910

climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:56am PT
does anyone miss the irony:
If Ed hadn't once climbed hard and told folks about how he climbed hard/dangerous,
many folks would dismiss anything he said simply because of his lack of known "big ticks."
So Ed gets to "earn" his desire for a audience, but Alex doesn't?

I of course still think a true solo is the one you don't tell anyone about.
ll

Gym climber
sacramento, ca
Mar 27, 2010 - 11:00am 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 - 11:05am PT
This thread and our willingness to intrude is not our highest moment.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 27, 2010 - 11:18am 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 - 05:02pm PT
This thread and our willingness to intrude is not our highest moment.

Is there a plot of this somewhere?
Bullwinkle

Boulder climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 09:09pm PT
acquire wind? sounds more like you're passing wind. . .
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 27, 2010 - 09:42pm PT
Nice jab Dean.
What else is on your mind?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Mar 28, 2010 - 08:15am 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 - 08:26am 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 - 08:41am 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 - 09:39am 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.

mt10910

climber
Mar 28, 2010 - 09:52am PT
jump jump jump

you'll be a hero

you'll be a Martyr

your mom will be so proud
Randisi

Boulder climber
PA
Mar 28, 2010 - 09:55am 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 - 10:04am 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.
Studly

Trad climber
WA
Mar 28, 2010 - 10:42am PT
Some people climb "Because its there." I say as climbers we give Alex the benefit of that line of reasoning, and give our encouragement and support to such a gifted climber in whatever endeavor he embarks upon with out the negativity or BS.

mt10910

climber
Apr 1, 2010 - 08:24am PT
jump
bump
bmacd

Trad climber
Beautiful, BC
Apr 8, 2010 - 07:25pm PT
Honnold himself sez this about soloing freerider

http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200905/el-capitan-no-ropes.html
"If I consider it, it's hopefully not going to be an attempt," Honnold says of El Cap. "Of course I've thought about it, but I'm not anywhere close [to being ready]."
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Apr 8, 2010 - 07:42pm PT
I saw Alex unroped up on Half Dome last Friday when the Banff Film Festivel came to Bishop. It's been a long time since watching someone climb gave me the creeps like this did.

The doubters might ponder the following:

"And don't criticize what you can't understand." - Bob Dylan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 8, 2010 - 07:53pm PT
Liking Eric Beck’s (old friend) comment just above.

As a soloist, you are completely on your own calendar. Especially if others aren’t keeping track of your every move as some are with Alex. When someone starts writing poetry about your theoretical and vastly hideous demise on a route you don’t even plan to unrope ever, it surely doesn’t have a place in your worldview and such a purview (Ed's) is actually creepier than the horror of watching you unroped 1,000 feet out. You climb, you are in your hay-days of youth with no dependents and at the opening of your adult life, you truly truly know what you are doing and at times just go out and express yourself in these pieces of great virtuosity with the angels.


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