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June 19, 2019
By Simran Sethi
New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) For a rock climber, Alex Honnold, whose ascent of Yosemite’s towering El Capitan without any ropes, was documented in Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo”, people’s recognition for his climb means more than the recognition for the film.
“I’m not an actor, I’m not a filmmaker, I’ve never watched the Oscars… It’s not my world. When I free soloed El Capitan and all my friends texted me saying how impressed they were by the climb, that meant more to me in a lot of ways than recognition for the film,” Honnold told IANS over e-mail.
Free soloing is a form of rock climbing where the climber performs ascends without protective equipments. Honnold has been been performing the sport for over 20 years.
Filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi brought Honnold’s free solo journey on-screen through the film “Free Solo”, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature this year. The film will soon have a TV premiere on National Geographic and Hotstar.
Honnold is the only person to have free climbed El Capitan, the iconic 3,000 ft granite wall, in Yosemite National Park, California.
Fear of death is something Honnold has conquered in his own way.
He explained: “I have the same hope of survival as everybody else. I just have more of an acceptance that I will die at some point. When I first started thinking about climbing El Cap almost a decade ago, it felt like it was something that I needed to do, or it was kind of next on my list.
“But the reality was that when I looked at the wall, I was full of fear. It was horrifying to think about. For many of those years, I would drive in Yosemite, look up and think that is totally impossible.
“There’s no way I’m doing that this year, and then just sort of sit on the idea for another year. So, I think what slowly changed was with a lot of practice, preparations, some training and broadening my experience… over the years, I was eventually was able to look up at El Capitan and not feel overwhelmed by fear. I started to think, maybe that actually could be possible if I put in the right amount of work.”
Otherwise, the 33-year-old says, there is “no mantra” to deal with fear.
“It’s just about being prepared which helps you overcome fear,” he added.
Honnold was all of 10 when he climbed up a gym in his hometown. But he took a deep dive into the sport when he dropped out of university.
“At 19, I dropped out of university and basically started climbing outside all the time. It requires time and work and effort over the course of years, there are no shortcuts.”
Honnold has a great passion for climbing mountains and rocks, but he also believes in giving back to Mother Earth. He runs a Honnold Foundation which supports solar energy initiatives worldwide.
He said: “I am inspired to have a bigger contribution in the world through something other than climbing, like my foundation. I travel to all these rural places, often in the developing world, so I want to do something that is good for the environment and good for the people in those environments, like off-grid solar projects for people’s homes.”
(Simran Sethi can be contacted at email@example.com)