Rock Climbing / June 6, 2012

Q&A: Alex Honnold on his Solo Triple

Everyone knew it was on the horizon after he accomplished the feat with Tommy Caldwell on May 18, but it’s now official: Alex Honnold just wrapped up his solo triple of Yosemite’s El Capitan, Half Dome and Mount Watkins in under 24 hours.


Alex just atop the sumit of Half Dome on Wednesday after finishing his solo triple. (Photo: Reel Rock Film Tour)

We (TNF) chatted with Alex (AH) as he made his way from topping out back to a car that would hopefully be taking him to eat. Finally.


TNF: Hey Alex. What’s up?

AH: Hi. I’m just walking down. I have interviews still to do.

TNF: So you’re basically just squeezing me in while you walk to the car?

 AH: Yeah, basically, while everyone walks to the car.

TNF: Ok, so, how would you explain soloing a Triple Crown to someone to let them know what it is and what it takes?

AH: I have got to say, I don’t really like the term Triple Crown. I’ve always just called it the triple.

TNF: So, you would just call it the triple instead?

AH: Yeah. When you do two it’s just a double, so three should be a triple.

TNF: I guess that makes sense for continuity’s sake. So, back to the original question?

AH: You’re basically just climbing three walls by any means you have and anything goes. You just have to seamlessly switch back and forth between different styles and you have to keep moving forever.

TNF: What time did you start at?

AH: We started hiking at 1:30 yesterday and then climbing at 4 p.m. so… I dunno, what time is it right now?

TNF: It is… 2:24.

AH: It’s 2:24? Oh that’s pretty cool, so it’s only 25 hours including everything. I finished at 11.

TNF: At 11 this morning?

AH: Oh yeah, and I just got down and I’m so pooped. My body hurts. It was kind of hardcore. It was probably more hardcore than the other one.

TNF: What would you say is more hardcore about it?

AH: Well, just the fact that if you fall off most of it, you will die. It makes it more exciting. I free soloed about like 95 percent of it.

TNF: You did?

AH: Yeah. That’s how I solo things. I just use gear on the hardest parts. So I free soloed probably 6,500 5-10 and 5-11 and I did other things for the other 500 feet or so. You get more and more fatigued free soloing. The thing is, I could rope solo them, but it’s just so laboriously slow that it’s not very practical. You just can’t climb that much.

TNF: Well, now I understand why this one was more intense.

AH: Also, just being by yourself through the night can get kind of scary and kind of lonely when you’re on this big old wall, and also it dumped rain a day or so ago. This whole climb was scheduled but it was sunny yesterday morning, so I thought it would be ok. Then some different routes were wet. So everything about it was a little more hardcore.

TNF: Tell me about the scary parts

AH: Not scary, just lonely. Climbing through the night you’re always more tired than you should be because of the time and being by yourself, it’s weird. I was climbing in a hybrid style where I had to keep switching back and forth between using a rope and not. Hang on one sec… (Yelling to people) Sorry, everyone is coming down right now and it’s a total gong show with all our cars all over the valley.

TNF: So, it’s lonely?

AH: It’s boring and you lose track of time. You’re adrift on a wall in the dark and it’s weird. A lot of the time when you’re climbing with a partner through the night, you climb all night and think, “oh it must be midnight, we’re getting near the top” and then you top out and the sun comes out and you think, “Oh my god, where did the whole night go?” Climbing through the night alone isn’t that cool.

TNF: Interesting, because people commenting on the photo of you atop Half Dome that’s on Facebook seem to think it’s pretty cool.

AH: What picture? Did something get posted to Facebook already?

TNF: Yeah! They posted it on the Reel Rock Tour page and we posted it on The North Face.

AH: That’s funny. They didn’t think anything was going through so we didn’t know anything was up.

TNF: So, you accomplished it. Huge deal? Chance to feel?

AH: To get stoked? I haven’t even gone to eat yet. I’m hungry.

TNF: So the hunger is keeping you from feeling the accomplishment?

AH: It’s cool, but I’ll be way more psyched after I eat something.

TNF: Well then, what are you going to eat?

AH: I think we’re going to a pizza place. That’s just where everyone goes after a big mission… but we only have an hour and a half. Ahhhhhhhhhh. And I’m totally going to fall asleep as soon as I stop moving.

TNF: Maybe you’ll feel better after you eat?

AH: I don’t know… We have to drive to Fresno in a couple hours.

TNF: You seem really rushed, like you have a lot on your plate even though you just finished up what was arguably already having a lot on your plate.

AH: Yeah. Yeah… I want to chill for five days.

TNF: So, you chill for five days and then what?

AH: Well, what I’m really looking forward to is going to climb anything I want with my friends. Just climb the normal way where you wake up and say, “Oh, it’s kind of warm today. Maybe let’s climb something in the shade.”

TNF: So, all in all you would say this is both a mental and physical challenge.

AH: A logistical challenge, yeah. It’s just hard.

TNF: Anything else?

AH: Um… (inaudible.)

TNF: Alex, you’re cutting out.

AH: That’s ok because I want to go eat.


That’s where things cut out, but here’s hoping Alex got that slice.


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