Could Alex Honnold have climbed back down to escape?


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'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Mar 11, 2019 - 01:04pm PT
On the aborted first attempt, he grabs a sling down on Free Blast and calls it because the move was too sketchy. There were cameramen dangling all over the place, and he was able to get down with their assistance on that occasion. He didn't downclimb, he didn't have to.

He later went back while roped up and worked out an alternate series of moves for that sketchy bit.

BUT the crux of the climb - the Boulder Problem - was filmed with remote control camera. He didn't want a dangling cameraman there to distract him in any way. So if he were to have blown it there, no possibility to reverse as far as I know.

What always blows my mind is that he returned to the summit a few days later, to climb the final few pitches so the cameras could shoot him from different angles. "I'm wearing the same clothes, Pete...."

It didn't occur to me at the time what this required - rapping down in harness, disconnecting from rope, taking off harness, and soloing back up - yikes!

Mar 11, 2019 - 02:14pm PT
Right, like thatís the yikes thing about it. Like after having accomplished it and having free soloed it, why put yourself at more risk and tempt fate like that after you already accomplished what you set out to accomplish?

But his brain just works differently than that I think where itís just not necessarily that scary for him - where for him rapping down and taking off his rope and harness and giving fate a poetic second chance at chopping him after he already defied fate is just no big yikes. For him maybe thereís a range of ďrightĒ reasons to free solo, and free soloing to get some better shots is a good enough right reason for him to do it and to be successful at doing it.

But downclimbing the boulder problem??!! Yikes! To most of us. Maybe to all of us. Maybe.
the Fet

Mar 11, 2019 - 06:15pm PT
Like after having accomplished it and having free soloed it, why put yourself at more risk and tempt fate like that after you already accomplished what you set out to accomplish?

The last 3 pitches are 10d, 10d, 5.6.

Probably not much risk for him. Getting the killer helicopter shots was worth it.

Trad climber
Mar 11, 2019 - 06:28pm PT
he free soloed moonlight butt (2nd time march 2013 ) twice!

linked with shunes and monkeyfinger

not for a camera...for fun

yes he also went back and did it for a camera on el cap


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Mar 12, 2019 - 08:06am PT
He could, as long as heís careful not to make the Tangerine, Trip!
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Mar 12, 2019 - 06:32pm PT
I watched Free-Solo again last night and went away thinking that doing the slab pitch with a headlight may have freaked him out. It seems like you would want to be able to see more easily if things went south. I led those pitches back in 1972 if they are the same as the ones for the Triple Direct. I liked the movie better the second time knowing where the meat is - I could relax and enjoy the rest of it.

Trad climber
Mar 12, 2019 - 09:38pm PT
he could, but as Hersey said (once you start) " you either do it or you don't"


Mar 14, 2019 - 04:28pm PT
Probably not much risk for him.

Sure, in retrospect, no risk. Yet for some reason when we think about it, when we think about rapping down and taking rope and harness off, we experience a yikes even just thinking about it.

I could relax and enjoy the rest of it

Itís funny for me (too?) it was kind of hard to relax watching him do it, even knowing that he was successful at doing it and knowing that he didnít fall and that he wasnít going to plummet off the boulder problem to his death. Even knowing it, it was still kind of stressful for me to watch.

But itís almost the opposite for him I think. Even not knowing the outcome, heís maybe not as stressed doing it as I am watching, even when I do know the outcome.

Thatís I think why itís so hard to honestly say what HE is capable of. You can say, if you want to say, based on what you think, based on what youíre capable of, based on what you might imagine the experience would be like for you.

But him? Who knows. All I know is that what heís capable of doesnít match what I think.

The first time in the dark on free blast when he grabbed the sling - what was that sling doing there? There just happened to be a sling there to grab at the crux of that pitch when he decided to bail out by grabbing the sling? Was that just an option he had in case he got to that point and wanted to bail out by grabbing a sling? I didnít really understand that.

Ice climber
hartford, ct
Mar 14, 2019 - 05:52pm PT
I for one am glad that the sling was there.....
another nickname

Social climber
Yazoo Ms
Mar 14, 2019 - 09:35pm PT
I assumed, watching movie just now, that when he bailed the first time he somehow rapped down using stuff the filmmakers had on hand.

Hadn't really intended to watch.

It's certainly all very impressive and OK, but on the whole, I think the world would be a slightly better place without the movie.

Mar 14, 2019 - 11:30pm PT
He didn't pull on a sling. In Enormocast 133 Alex says that, in his aborted attempt, he pinched and stepped on the bolt hangers to reduce the cruxy slabs from 5.11 to 5.10. Then he borrowed a double length sling and biner from the camera crew to rap a thousand feet on a Munter hitch.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Mill Valley, Ca
Mar 15, 2019 - 05:57am PT
Without harness?

Mar 15, 2019 - 08:45am PT
Hey thanks. In the movie he says he cheated on the slab and they show him with the sling - thought thatís what he meant. Yea agree about the sling - Iíd much prefer to have him alive than have him having free soloed el cap.

Even the peripheral stuff freaks me out - the idea of climbing that slab with a headlamp, or rapping down and reclimbing the last few pitches for better camera shots.

But if in our computations we decide that 5.10d doesnít hold much risk for him, when 5.11 caused him to cheat and give up (for the moment) on his dream, ok. Weíre free to believe whatever we want about whatís true for him. Maybe our mental computations match whatís true for him, and maybe they donít. Kind of true for everything for all of us I think, but that never seems to stop us.

Mar 15, 2019 - 08:49am PT
Without harness?

You don't need a harness to rap.

A sling around your waist works too.

Tucker Tech did El Cap routes without a harness; just one rap 1 inch webbing around his waist with no leg loops ....

Mar 15, 2019 - 09:10am PT
There is a huge difference in the security of a 5.10d crack and a 5.11 slab.

Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Mar 15, 2019 - 10:11am PT
Chuck Norris would have made El Cap turn upside down, so that he could up-climb back down.
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