Alex Honnold competes in a sport more commonly covered by National Geographic than ESPN. Yet he's likely garnered more media attention than any other climber before him, for an obvious reason: He climbs giant, sheer walls (such as Half Dome and El Capitan) without using ropes or protection. It's called "free-solo," and it's the most dangerous kind of climbing. Photographed extensively by Jimmy Chin, fawned over by Lara Logan in a 60 Minutes special, and subject of an award-winning Peter Mortimer documentary — Honnold is the poster boy of The North Face, the rock star of Yosemite dirtbags, and the doe-eyed heartthrob to even the most callused climbers.
Last week, Honnold added yet another seemingly impossible achievement to his free-solo climbing resume, ascending 1,500-foot limestone wall of El Sendero Luminoso in El Potrero, Mexico. And though Alex "No Big Deal" Honnold might shrug it off as another awesome day of rock climbing, fellow Yosemite virtuoso Cedar Wright dubbed his effort, "one of the most cutting-edge, big-wall solos of all time."
Understated triumphs, simplicity, and humility: This is not just Honnold the climber, but Honnold the global humanitarian. His nonprofit initiative, Honnold Foundation, strives for succinct solutions in providing green energy to gridless populations. The foundation's mission: "Helping people live better, simply."
We met up with Alex at a Sacramento climbing gym back in November, the day after Thanksgiving. Topics included: graduating from "full dirtbag" to only "kind of dirtbag," planning his skyscraper climb in Taipei, his nonprofit foundation, and the surprising backstory behind an iconic photo.
In recent news, you've settled on climbing one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, Taipei 101, in Taiwan. When will you get to climb this behemoth?