Alex Honnold Up For Nat Geo’s Adventurer Of The Year

Alex Honnold Up For Nat Geo’s Adventurer Of The Year

National Geographic is now accepting votes for their People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year award.  What does this have to do with rock climbing you might ask?  Well, none other than Alex Honnold is nominated and you can vote for him until January 15th of next year.

While adventurous might not be the first word you’d think of when you think of Honnold’s exploits on the rocks it certainly isn’t a bad way to describe someone who has free soloed Zion’s Moonlight Buttress, free soloed Half Dome, soloed El Cap and Half Dome in half a day, and done countless other things that most of us would never even consider doing.

The North Face Promo video featuring Alex Honnold

One of the more truly adventurous things that Honnold has probably ever done would be his recent The North Face sponsored expedition to the central African nation of Chad.  Along with James Pearson, Mark Synnott and the Camp 4 Collective team of Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk and Tim Kemple, Honnold spent 3 weeks exploring vast expanses of desert in search of climbable rock.

Photo:  Renan Ozturk on Twitter

As the trip progressed the team filed a few dispatches from the field with amazing photos which are well worth checking out:

  • Dispatch 1:  Alex Honnold updates us on the travel it took to reach Chad
  • Dispatch 2:  James Pearson updates us on their first taste of climbing
  • Dispatch 3:  Tim Kemple talks about the difficulties of keeping cameras working the desert and driving around looking for new routes
  • Dispatch 4:  Alex Honnold talks about his ascent of “The Delicate Arch Of Chad” which was “the most disgusting route” of his life due to the poor rock quality and at the same time “the most satisfying pitch of the trip”.

With terabytes of media captured during the trip and the talented Camp 4 Collective group on the case expect to see a lot more about this trip in the coming months.

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26 Responses to Alex Honnold Up For Nat Geo’s Adventurer Of The Year

  1. guillermo December 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Am I missing something or is it highly irresponsible for a huge company like North Face to promote an obviously dangerous activity like soloing?!

    Alex’s reason’s for doing what he does are his own, and I respect that. But why promote it commercially and through a media like National Geo? Are we encouraging young climbers to take up soloing? Is it ‘cool’ now to risk certain death like big wave surfing and land luge? Are National Geo and NF ready for the lawsuits that will follow after a 15 year old gym climber falls soloing a route?

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    • haterade December 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

      I tend to agree with this. It’s tempting to vote for Honnold and support climbing, since his accomplishments are mind-boggling and deserve recognition.

      On the other hand, serving up Honnold to Nat Geo and the general public as the representative of the climbing community’s best is misleading. It also gives ambitious unknown climbers incentive to free solo, given Honnold’s rise from obscurity. While I’ve seen enough from Honnold not to worry about him, I can’t say the same about all the other young guns out there clamoring for the spotlight.

      Besides, Honnold alleges he doesnt solo for recognition, so if he doesn’t want it why should we give it to him? Let the man be.

      Maybe we should refocus our attention to his truly adventurous contributions to climbing – like his recent trips to Mexico and Chad – which are both interesting and exemplary.

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      • Jasin December 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

        I agree with you guys. Honnold is a P.I.M.P and i love his stuff, but ‘adventurer of the year’ sends the wrong signals.

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  2. Pete December 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    So wait, the most satisfying pitch from Alex Honnold’s trip to Chad was on toprope? Or did I read that wrong?

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    • Narc December 10, 2010 at 6:59 am #

      I think you read it right. Is toproping so wrong??

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  3. Ryan J December 9, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    So you guys think that people are going to rush out and do some gnarly backcountry first descents or sign up to run some ultramarathons because of this award?

    These people are being honored not because they are doing things that other people should also aspire to do, but doing things that most people say “fucking hell, i would NEVER do that!”

    even reasonably accomplished climbers are not going to solo things that are way out of their comfort levels because of Honnold’s CV. The argument that the fringe adventurers that are pushing the mental, not necessarily physical, boundaries of their respective activities should be hidden for the safety of the general public doesnt really hold water IMHO.

    RJ

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    • haterade December 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

      The argument isn’t that free soloing should be hidden from the public, but rather that it should not be portrayed as the pinnacle or most progressive form of it. If ‘Adventurer of the Year’ goes to a free soloist, it says to the public (or at least the rest of the outdoor community) that our best climbers are the best because they put their lives on the line.

      As for causation, I’m not saying this award will lead droves of newbies to solo, but when you give something exposure, people who want exposure take notice. If someone wants recognition as a badass climber, it would probably seem more approachable to solo a 5.12 than to put up a 5.15 FA. Which may lead people to solo for – in my opinion – the wrong reasons.

      I’m not an expert on the history of free-soloing, but my impression is that Honnold is the first (or at least the most extreme case) to reap the benefits of doing so, in terms of sponsorships and publicity. I don’t think its inappropriate to question and consider the ramifications of that development on the climbing community and how we are perceived.

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      • DK December 9, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

        I don’t know about sponsorship, but guys like Bachar, Dean Potter, and Dan Osman received plenty of recognition for their free-solo exploits.

        Honnold winning “adventurer of the year” for free soloing a bunch of stuff might give the public a false impression of climbing . . . but who gives a shit what the general public thinks? People who don’t actually climb are never really going to understand it anyway.

        I don’t think anyone is trying to portray free soloing as the most progressive form of climbing. Why shouldn’t we give recognition to a climber who is doing things that are completely unheard of and light-years ahead of anyone else in terms of commitment and mental focus?

        As climbers, we have to make our own decisions about what we do and how safe we are. If some 15 year old kid goes out and free solos to imitate Alex Honnold and falls and dies, it’s his own damn fault. Don’t blame the climbing media or any such nonsense. If you are old enough to go climbing without your parents, you should be smart enough to not get yourself killed doing stupid stuff.

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        • haterade December 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

          Free-soloing is bigger than the individual – the soloists’ friends and family will be devastated by the loss.

          Free-soloing is also bigger than the climbing community, because free-soloing threatens ACCESS. Fact is, if climbers start dying in increasing numbers due to soloing, state and federal administrative agencies (like the BLM or National Park Service), politicians, and private landowners who manage our crags will get involved and take action. And while free-soloing should be distinguished from roped climbing, those groups may not be aware of the distinction. Further still, they might not care: bureaucracy, politics, and legal liability is as much about perception as it is reality. My guess is that if climbing deaths became a real issue, the culprit would be “rock climbing” instead of “free-soloing.”

          Advancing a free-soloist as the leader of the climbing world only helps to blur that distinction. Thats why I give a shit what the public thinks.

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          • Narc December 10, 2010 at 6:55 am #

            Climbing injuries and deaths are already becoming a huge issue in several prominent areas in the past year and they have nothing to do with free soloing

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  4. joe December 9, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    Valid points, Haterade, and I definitely think your last sentence deserves some serious consideration, but more within the context of the climbing community. This award is for “ADVENTURER of the Year”, and when I think of adventure I want to be inspired by hair-brained ideas and mind blowing epics, and people truly pushing themselves and the boundaries of the discipline. Especially from National Geographic, who has been publishing amazing stories of cutting edge explorations for 100+ years. When I think of “Adventurer of the Year”, I expect that person to be doing things one a whole other level from my outdoor experiences, doing things I would never imagine doing myself.

    There may need to be more of an examination of the influence Honnold may have on younger, ambitious climbers, but I don’t think this nomination is the forum for it (and I day this as a father of two daring little children…).

    Although a strong case could be made that if climbers should have been nominated, Caldwell and Jorgenson might have been good candidates as well.

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  5. guillermo December 10, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    Good point. What Caldwell and Jorgenson are doing IS adventure. Honnold, is repeating routes without a rope. The danger of loose rock makes repeating necessary. Sure, having the huevos grandes to solo is mental adventure, but the terrain has been done many times, even by Honnold.
    also, what does pushing soloing to the next level look like? Are we ready to support sponsors and media that promote their climber that has bigger huevos than he next guy? (and i say guy bc women have better sense).
    i agree that access could and will be affected by this type of promotion.

    imo, soloing is a solo mission, not a public one.

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    • the dirtbag December 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

      No doubt what Caldwell and Jorgenson are on an adventure, but it doesn’t seem like that adventure is over. One thing that I really dug about Alex being included is that his adventure was the essence and looked a little different. I mean if you look at the rest of the adventurers highlighted — they did big things, which required a bunch of money for the most part. They climbed 8,000 meter peaks (really…we are still highlighting this), crossed the ocean made in a boat of plastic bottles (awesome), etc. Alex found something in his backyard and did something truly incredible without having to fly half way around the world or raise $100,000. That’s the spirit of adventure. And while it must have felt awfully exposed and out there to be in a boat made of water bottles in the middle of a pacific storm, damn, Alex managed to find that same smallness, and in the process make us feel a little smaller right in the most heavily visited national park on a face we’ve all seen a thousand times. That’s pretty rad.

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    • Greg December 13, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

      While this is true, still deserves recognition. If Alex was placed into Kevin’s shoes, he probably would have done just as well as Kevin. Or at least fairly close. If Kevin was placed into Alex’s, he probably would have stopped about 40 feet up the moonlight Buttress. Therefore, Alex is still much more worthy.

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  6. Neil December 10, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Didn’t Dean Potter when Adventurere of the Year about four of five years back?

    I don’t see many people emulating his free base approach to climbing.

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    • haterade December 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

      Well, for one, base jumping is illegal in the US. And getting into freebase climbing isnt as easy as picking up free-soloing since you have to have some expertise in a second sport and then design a specialized base rig.

      My point isnt that this award will greatly increase soloing, I’m just pointing out the potential consequences of exposure and sponsorships.

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      • djbiggs December 11, 2010 at 1:15 am #

        To name a few soloist that have been in the eye of the public
        Wolfgang Gulich
        Kurt Albert
        John Bachar

        All showed themselves up to the Mental challenge of soloing… if you know you can up and down climb something… like a ladder then it is just not that dangerous, the only challenge is the mental, yes people still die falling from ladders roped climbing and soloing. Deal with that fact. For a guide of death from falls (in australia) have a look at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/F6A8AD4BC9D7CAF5CA2576F600124349?opendocument .
        Watch out for those flat surfaces; they are the real killer.

        In the past media loved and ramped all leading climbing figures exploits especially soloing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmRsGqII01Q …Gullich won the medal of germany or some such, and did we see a spate of Darwin award winners? http://www.darwinawards.com/

        Not to my knowledge.

        Half arse climbers who haven’t the mental control to do such things, is akin to your grandma commenting on the dangers of you climbing a sport route.

        If anyone can establish even a correlation with media hype/awards and soloing death stats, be my guest. Robert Alain would be the perfect figure to see if he is followed by a spate of soloing accidents as he travels the world.

        Honold is mentally one of the best adventurers , he either doesn’t perceive the risk as others do (perhaps due to physical command)… like your grandma saying sport climbing is dangerous (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventure)
        or deals with it differently.

        I think as a climber of course he should get the award, the other contenders undertake just as ludicrous and life endangering situations, where as their untimely demise is normally the result of a series of small errors over time, soloing deaths are just instantaneous and hence shocking.

        Haterade to worry about your point of is he a good role model for potential darwin award winners is moot, they won’t be at it for long.
        And if deaths do affect access then you will just have to be more adventuresome; happy with a higher level of perceived risk getting to the base of a climb, such as getting arrested or shot at.

        Political correctness, has no place in adventure.
        Rant over.

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  7. guillermo December 11, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Djbiggs,
    Your ‘rant’ proves my point better than i could have said myself. Thanks.

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    • SP December 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

      Doesn’t look like it to me. Djbiggs point about Robert Alain pretty much ended this discussion in my eyes.

      I hereby declare that due to safety reasons, no awards should be given at the Xgames, and all trad areas are to be closed until proper bolts are in place and loose holds removed. Furthermore, an enclosed sidewalk should be built along the length of the Amazon, so no kids try to repeat that nominees’ achievement.

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  8. djbiggs December 12, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    “Am I missing something or is it highly irresponsible for a huge company like North Face to promote an obviously dangerous activity like soloing?!” says Guillermo

    I say yes you are missing the point; the last paragraph of my rant is unsubstantiated by you or me.
    I left a definition of adventure for a reason and stats to back up the fact that more people will kill themselves falling from a ladder than soloing… hence your statement of “obviously dangerous” and perception of the risk is false and your opinion on the risk is like your Grandma’s. ( With all respect I doubt she is an octogenarian crusher about to school you or me in the finer points of safe climbing.)

    Guillermo it seems to me, your issue is with notion of adventure, not the fact that people undertaking them and companies are promoting what they do.

    If you had real issues with Companies promoting crazy shit, take them up on their micro-camalots that could be used by climbers to give them the psychological crutch to do roped ascents…but really it would be like soloing…..

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  9. dan December 12, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    NARC, i have a question, something ive been trying to figure out for a month now, in all the recent videos, in cluding this one(alex honnold) i’ve seen climbers have been wearing these yellow shows that look immense. Can you tell me what they are???
    Thanks

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  10. dan December 12, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    Correction : not in this video, the ones Nalle wears in his rocklands video
    Thanku :)

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  11. cd December 16, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    Do you drive a car? If so, then you can’t really say much about how dangerous, reckless, selfish, etc soloing is. The only difference is one is socially acceptable while the other is not (and driving is a lot more dangerous).

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    • thedirtbag December 17, 2010 at 10:44 am #

      I don’t want to start some diatribe, but the thinking that soloing is as equally as dangerous as driving a car is completely sloppy thinking. Seriously. If it were, Alex Honnold wouldn’t be up for adventurer of the year. I would be — because I sent my evening commute. Just cruised it. It was so gnarly. I saw danger everywhere. I almost got rear ended at 10 miles an hour. The air bags might have deployed in my government approved and consumer reports endorsed Volvo station wagon. The really crazy thing is that my kid was in the back. He is six years old and still in a car seat it’s so dangerous out there. Frickin gnarleee.

      Yes, driving is the most dangerous form of mechanized transportation. And yes, the consequences of someone running a red light can be just as harsh as falling free soloing, but think about it. Hey even try both in the same day. Your body and common sense will let you know which is more dangerous. I’ve known a few people who have survived from serious auto accidents. Serious soloing accidents — not so much.

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  12. josh December 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    I’ll be honest: I really admire what he does. It think it’s pretty amazing what he can do up there. That is a mindset that only a few people will ever be able to have.

    But is it irresponsible to highlight Alex Honnold for Adventurer of the Year?

    Maybe. I think soloing is one of the most personal things you can do as a climber. Unfortunately this is probably what gets lost most when the act of soloing is filmed and broadcast for the world to see. It would be almost impossible for any film-maker to adequately portray what goes into a big solo, and that is probably the biggest reason it might be irresponsible to both make Honnold (or any climber) Adventurer of the Year. The story that surrounds a big solo, why the climber climbs a route with such risk, how he prepares, what he feels, is meaningful and powerful to climbers. But I don’t think that non-climbers would ever understand it by watching a 22 minute episode on it. And anyone who solos without understanding what they are doing should not be doing it.

    Non-climbers who watch the film don’t necessarily see that soloing is (or should be) ultimately about a mental dialog with oneself. They probably see it as “crazy” or “rad” but they miss the nuances of it. I recently had a discussion with students who were reading Into Thin Air about risk from a climber’s perspective (they were non-climbers). My co-presenter and I tried to portray soloing as the ultimate expression of risk in climbing. I don’t think many will argue with that. But more importantly, soloing is done by those who know the danger they undertake, And it is (should) only be done for very personal reasons.

    I saw a huge, ten foot tall banner-ad at the North Face Store in Madison some months ago. “Alex is Calm” it read, with a picture of Honnold soloing Half Dome. Personally, I don’t agree at all with that level of commercialization. I see hard soloing as a sacred undertaking. Its meaning truly understood only by those who have partaken of it, even if the route is very easy. Ideally, soloing should probably not be filmed at all, it should mean more than that. And broadcasting such things to those who have not the tools to comprehend what they see is ultimately irresponsible.

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  13. Bobcat2 January 31, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.”  We will all die and that’s a fact.  Most of you fatso’s will die before Alex most likely anyways.  Quit whinning about trying to make life safe and wanting to protect people from death.  Go climb, go pray, go away, go do whatever silly pointless thing you need to do to feel alive while you can.  Stop trying to act like you can save anyone or yourself.  Yes, you will die too and you don’t know how no matter what safe or unsafe act you do!!!  Smile your not dead yet but you will be soon…

    p.s. anyone deserves the award they feel fit giving it too!!!!!!!

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