Alex Honnold And The Relativity Of Risk

Alex Honnold, writing for Alpinist about his free solo of El Sendero Luminoso:

That meant five more people who’d flown down and who were now waiting for me to solo a big wall. And despite everyone’s assurances that I should only do what I felt comfortable with, and that they could film any other, easier route if I changed my mind, it was hard not to feel a little pressure.
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I’ll be curious to hear him talk about this and more tonight at the Boulder Theatre as part of The North Face’s Speaker Series.
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 You can tune in live at 7 PM MDT for a live feed from the event.

Posted In: Asides, Free Solo


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3 Responses to Alex Honnold And The Relativity Of Risk

  1. Higglif August 20, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    The sea of difference between Honnold and some of sports other tops athletes (Read, “the day I sent ___”) is pretty astounding. In general, a lot of his writing reads like a mid 20th existentialist novel, while many of his peers write like high-schoolers describing what they did over summer break; with key climbing buzzwords thrown in. Stories authored during the golden age of Yosemite are literary masterpieces when compared to many of their contemporary counterparts, especially when you consider the access to information and education in the 1960’s vs now, not to mention the drugs.

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    • Matt August 21, 2014 at 5:22 am #

      I concur. reading some blog posts or listening to a majority of notable climbers speak on videos is pretty brutal. I feel as if I’m watching Zoolander in a climbing context. You wonder if the parents should have been more focused on education than getting their kid to the climbing gym. there’s only a few climbers who have made it a full time profession past the age of 35, and even that pool is shrinking. What happens to an inarticulate pro without an education when they’re 40? Revert to dirt bagging? I guess we’ll see in the next 10-15 years.

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  2. j August 21, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    Not sure why this it titled ‘The Relativity of Risk’ here (as risk is certainly not the central theme), but as noted above, this a pretty solid essay. Honnold conveys intimate thoughts and feelings about the process by which he made his name; ones that the general public would never know existed, nor could conjure up on their own.

    As Honnold is a pretty astute guy, I assume the following general consideration has not escaped him, though it is not really dealt with in his essay: There seems to be a false dilemma operating here, such that the only two options he considers are soloing big walls, replete with camera crews, support, and the inherent exploitation (environmental and metaphysical) they entail, or not doing such things at all. There are certainly other options available to Honnold, and I would assume that some might ultimately be more in line with his ideals and aspirations.

    To consider just one, at this point in his career, Honnold could certainly take measures to not make such a media production out of some (or all) of his major solos. His track record speaks for itself, and simple reports would suffice as documentation for his accomplishments, similar to most alpine accents (and I recognize that he’s not setting out for accolades in the first place). The process of re-climbing sections of the route after the fact for film crews must be particularly soul-sapping for a guy like this.

    Honnold does seem to imply that the films that are made of such events allow him to do them (presumably, financially). Again though, I am making this argument based upon his current value in the industry, which is quite high and will not evaporate if he became more reticent to have major accents documented/filmed. Perhaps he has contractual obligations with certain sponsors to due so. Still, this is a choice he (may) be making, and one that could presumably be changed or eliminated. Even the average poorly funded full-time climber manages to be able to travel to most major climbing areas (at least in North America) and based upon what is publicized about his rather frugal lifestyle, it is clear that Honnold does not require much to “get by.”

    The coolest thing is that this “issue” even exists for Honnold. The futuristic aspects of his climbing accomplished are certainly notable, but combined with his very forward-thinking, holistic approach to large-picture issues and questions, serve to make Honnold easily the most compelling figure in modern rock climbing. Pretty much no climber could or should aspire to such feats in climbing, but every one can benefit by following his lead in thinking and taking seriously the “big picture” questions in such an honest and insightful fashion.


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