Free Solo


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Rattlesnake Arch

Social climber
Home is where we park it
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 16, 2018 - 07:03am PT
Why not just have tied her into the rope, or at least a knot at the end. It was shocking to see a mistake like that.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Oct 16, 2018 - 11:36am PT

"Lots of things should have been done better—we should have thought about how long the rope was, we should have been paying more attention, we should have had a knot in the end of the rope. I wasn't wearing a helmet and was lucky to not injure my head—had I landed on my head, it probably would have been disastrous. My belayer had been climbing less than a year. Basically, things were all just a bit too lax."
(Source: Alex Honnold.)


Oct 16, 2018 - 01:41pm PT
”amygdala privilege”

Have they determined what’s cause and what’s effect? Was he born with his amygdala working that way, or did he train it to work that way?

Evolutionary disadvantages kind of manifest themselves in retrospect, no? Glad we haven’t learned of any disadvantages to Alex’s brain functioning. I admire that guy a ton, and I wouldn’t characterize it as a disadvantage, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were more evolutionarily advantageous brain-inspired behaviors than climbing for a living.
Rattlesnake Arch

Social climber
Home is where we park it
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 17, 2018 - 06:32am PT
Legal drone footage of El Cap, I mean c’mon... we would all watch two hours of just that, so this climbing story is just a bonus!

"Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the husband-and-wife team known for 2015’s acclaimed mountaineering movie Meru, made use of drones, fixed cameras, and handheld units to depict the world’s most dangerous outdoor adventure.."

Apparently drones were used in Free Solo. I previously thought they only used a helicopter. Dawn Wall would have also benefited from drone footage, but were apparently unable to get permission, so they used special rigging to get away from the wall.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Mill Valley, Ca
Oct 17, 2018 - 08:51am PT
OK, I thought, we’re working on this project? I’m gonna put in the work to see if it’s possible to freestyle El Cap.

That's a pretty funny misquote.

Edit: They did it twice and "freestyling" is even in the title!

Trad climber
Oct 17, 2018 - 11:33am PT
Apparently drones were used in Free Solo.
Did you draw the conclusion based on the wording from that article? I personally found the quality of reporting in that article very poor. I have no doubt they used drones in Morroco. But Yosemite? It does not make a lot of sense that NPS did not grant permit for the Dawn Wall film, but did so for Free Solo. I tend to believe what I heard near the end of the RunOut Podcast (on iTune) where ... (edited out).
goatboy smellz

Gulf Breeze
Oct 17, 2018 - 11:44am PT
It was a little heavy on the girlfriend drama for me,,

Gotta have some suspense in the film otherwise it's a just another staged event.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Oct 17, 2018 - 12:12pm PT
Hey Alex,

curious as to your ring size, either hand.

Rattlesnake Arch

Social climber
Home is where we park it
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 17, 2018 - 12:25pm PT
Did you draw the conclusion based on the wording from that article?

Yes. I have no first hand information. I assumed the Sierra Club would be a reliable source, but it looks like I will have to listen to the Runout Podcast (despite your spoiler warning).

Freestyling indeed....
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Oct 18, 2018 - 11:15pm PT
"Everybody who has made free soloing a big part of their life is dead now."
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Oct 19, 2018 - 09:18am PT
Visiting parents in SF and tried to take my mom to see the 8pm showing - it was sold out. Went on my own at 1030pm. F*#KING AMAZING. Great story, Alex has a good sense of humor, the shooting was top notch, everything about it was great. Well done!

Did you draw the conclusion based on the wording from that article?

Remember the part in the movie when they talk about "What if something we do kills him?" They mention a drone as one of the things that could.
Good to hear park gave them a permit to use a drone. A qualified film crew shouldn't have a problem with its operation. Especially being aware of all the pressure of not f*#k up with the whole drone ban.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in making this amazing movie. I want to watch it again.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Oct 19, 2018 - 12:38pm PT
Enjoyed it. Great documentary. Jimmy rocks it.

"Everybody who has made free soloing a big part of their life is dead now."

Except Peter Croft, who plays a vital role as the wise old master.

Alex and his girlfriend have a big future in reality TV. They are both very fun to watch on screen but their relationship makes me squirm. Alex could use a class on how to take care of girlfriends (at least that is how he is depicted in films.)
Steven Amter

Washington, DC
Oct 19, 2018 - 03:33pm PT
After watching Free Solo when it opened last month in Telluride, I spent some time thinking and talking to other, climbers and non-climbers alike, about the elements of free solo climbing. Like many long-time trad climbers, this is something I did a bit of "back in the day" (mostly late 1970s through the early 1980s), but no longer do. But I still sometimes feel the attraction. Although I was never particularly deep into it, nor particularly proficient or bold, I did enjoy the occasional long easy solo (up to 5.7/8) or short ones a few bumps harder.

As climbers, many of us have free soloed at various levels of difficulty, even if just on approaches to climbs and, one would think, therefore should have a good understanding of what is involved. But when climbers discuss what makes Honnold, and his free soloing exploits, different, things get muddled. Some of the discussions on this thread illustrate this. So what are the elements of free soloing, and is Honnold's latest exploits all that much different? And what does bode for the future?

In my mind, some of the specific factors that are involved in all free soloingare as follows (note: this is not an exhaustive analysis):

Objective factors

 The physical difficulty of the feat (difficulty rating is a large but not complete part of this).

 The degree of insecurity of the moves. This is different from difficulty. Moves can be hard but secure, easy but insecure, and hard and insecure, etc., and can be related to the type of climbing.

 Types of objective dangers presented by the route. This is outside of the climber's control. Holds and crystals can break, animals and insects can startle or attack. Rocks and branches can fall from above. When ropeless, these not rare encounters can be fatal.

 The effect of weather conditions. Rain, unexpected excessive heat, cold, or wind can all cause serious problems in performance.

 Length/duration of the climb. As the climb gets longer, the risks posed by all of the above factors become magnified.

Subjective factors
(These are the things that a climber uses in an effort to control some of the above factors, and are what Honnold appears to excel at. Here's a link to a Ted Talk he gave on the how he prepared for the Freerider free solo: )

 The climber's physical capabilities at the time. This can vary day to day, even moment to moment.

 The climber's confidence in his or her ability to do the climb. For some free soloists, this comes from preparation and rehearsal.

 The climber's ability to memorize/visualize moves and routes. This is a mental skill.

 The climber's consistency. This one is interesting, because the non-suicidal free soloist should both be a very consistent climber, because therein lies greater safety, and also, based on past experience, have a reasonable belief in his or her consistency, which leads to confidence.

 The climber's lack of fear, the ability to block anxiety and fear, or the ability to push through fear (and not be paralyzed by it). For many of us, this is what we find most impressive about Honnold and other high end free soloists. We can't get out of our head that past experience has shown all of us that as we approach our climbing limits, the chances of falling rises exponentially. And we also know that this is true for everyone.

I would argue that, in essence, all free soloing is the same regardless of difficulty. What Honnold did on Freerider is different only in degree from free soloing that has come before. (Russ Clune soloed the Gunks "Supercrack," 5.12c/d in the mid-1980s!) In fact, one commentator, Austin Howell, said: "Freerider was seen as the obvious "next step" in soloing, but everyone still wondered if it would ever happen. What‘s astounding is that it took so long for it to happen." As discussed above and elsewhere,there have been free solos of comparable difficulty and or length before. But I think, as captured in the film, Honnold's climb of Freerider combines difficulty, length, insecurity, exposure, and iconicness in an overall package that is absolutely stunning. As climbers, we respond to this. It definitely was the next step in the evolution.

I must admit the trend to toward big big budget, big splash, and big reward free solo climbs unsettles me a bit. The film is setting documentary film box office records, and in my opinion is likely to be nominated for an academy award. Honnold was reportly worth $2 million from past films and endorsements before Free Solo even opened. Others may jump on the band wagon, and it may only be a matter of time before someone gets killed pursuing "riches and glory" on some even harder climb.

For me, it would be sad if climbing's future is headed towards some kind of Evel Knievel commercial circus image. On a small scale, we already get a taste of it with skyscraper climbers. But I think most of the great free solos that have been done in the past were done for other reasons. In my gut I feel that at some point, climbing will be degraded.

[Sorry for being so long winded!]


Oct 19, 2018 - 06:31pm PT
I continue to feel what Alex (or anyone else) does is none of my business. Make no mistake however. Alex and Jim's film is a top drawer product.

But the future of our pursuit needs to be open for discussion, I think hard real bottom up trad will continue to be of interest for perhaps 30% of people. But the interface with run out climbing will be determined by sport climbers. If a route is worth repeated ascents some will get top down bolted. Lots of conflict in our future. Just like now.

The media exposure given free soloing will, for a time, be a free for all. But eventually members of Congress will begin to ask if this is what we created the Park System for. The degree to which public lands may be used will eventually be discussed.

Bottom line. Sport climbing is here to stay.

Or so it seems to this observer.

the last bivy
Oct 19, 2018 - 06:47pm PT
I thought it was a GREAT film and good to see what it takes to get at least a small capture of this amazing person Alex Honnald. But the real star of this film is Peter Croft. . word of experience right there.

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
Oct 19, 2018 - 06:56pm PT
Any idea on when a video will be available for distribution on DVD?

Unfortunately is doesn't seem it will be shown in theaters in Little Rock. Sucks. Arkansas has more climbers than freakin' Ohio.

Funny; posted a link to the movie on a backpacking forum and the general consensus was it was like NASCAR where people only watch it hoping for a wreck.

Social climber
The internet
Oct 19, 2018 - 06:59pm PT
But the real star of this film is Peter Croft.
I think he should have been edited out. In the middle of shaming Alex for having a film crew around for his solos and telling us how his own style was so much purer back in the day, he's sure to look right into the very camera he's criticizing and drop that he's solo'd the Rostrum 50 times. Beyond this holier-than-the-film dynamic everyone seemed to play into, he had nothing else to add.
Don Paul

Social climber
Washington DC
Oct 19, 2018 - 08:44pm PT
The hero of the movie was TC Pro. Not so sure I liked the film crew. After hearing Honnold say the cameras made him nervous and he was thinking of just sneaking off and doing it without anyone watching, they hung in there to get the footage. Peter Croft looked uncomfortable, like he might get blamed if Honnold falls off.

The focus on his personal life, his naive girlfiend, and a slightly troubled childhood was mixed in with an MRI of his brain, a doctor saying his Amygdala isnt working right, then Alex says his ex girlfriends didnt really care if he died and some told him he had a personality disorder. It was not as much a biography as studying someone with an abnormality.

I think everyone who saw the movie was rooting for Alex to live. Not just on the Freerider route, but to settle into his house, marry his girlfriend, and realize it is time to leave this realm to those who still have something to prove.

Oct 19, 2018 - 08:49pm PT
A guy goes climbing without a rope.

Then st00pid Americans show up and dissect the living sh!t out him.

This proves you st00pid Americans have no life ......
Steven Amter

Washington, DC
Oct 20, 2018 - 06:07am PT
Werner: the fact is Honnold invited the vampires in. This is now how he makes his living. It's his choice to became a talked-about celebrity with all the idiocy that accompanies...
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