Rock climbing isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if you plan on scaling a mountain without any ropes or harnesses. However, if you’re Alex Honnold, it’s just a typical day at work. The acclaimed climber – who always seems to keep his cool – is the subject of the new documentary, Free Solo, which chronicles his historic ascent up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Honnold is the only person to ever climb the towering formation free-solo style.
“That’s one of the best days of my life,” Honnold says of his journey up the “big frickin’ wall.” “Watching in all its glory on the big screen is kind of amazing.”
For anyone who wants to get into climbing, Honnold suggests starting out at a climbing gym, a place he called home for eight years before tackling the outdoors. He also encourages beginners to hone their technique and work on their skills prior to making the leap to more adventurous climbs.
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“Anyone who’s even remotely interested in climbing, I would encourage them to go to the climbing gym and try,” says Honnold. “And I always tell beginners to focus on their footwork, focus on their technique and body position, how they move as opposed to just being strong. It’s all about learning how to be a good climber, how to move well.”
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you might want to plan a trip to one of the Free Solo star's favorite climbing locations around the globe – just make sure to stay safe and use the appropriate gear, especially if you’re beginner.
Free Solo star Alex Honnold on his favorite climbing spots
The Free Solo star has a lot of love for the Patagonia region.
“Doing the Fitz Traverse with Tommy Caldwell in Patagonia. Basically we climbed these seven summits… in Argentina. It was amazing,” he says. “It was like a four-and-a-half backpacking trip with Tommy, except that it’s up vertical rock faces for four days. It was really cool.”
“In the same place, I did a traverse at these other four summits behind that with another partner Colin Hayley, the Torre Traverse, in a day and that was also big adventure,” Honnold adds. “I like climbs that provide a big experience where at the end you’re like, ‘Whoa. I can’t believe we did that.’”
Of course, Yosemite is another favorite, but it’s definitely not suited for newbies to the game.
“Yosemite is one of the best climbing areas in the world, hands down,” says Honnold. “And it’s an American treasure. It’s a really special place. But to really appreciate Yosemite, I feel like you have to be, not an experienced climber, but have some degree of skill, just because it’s big walls.”
While the west coast climber doesn’t do too much exploring in the northeast, fhe does have a few suggestions for adventurers in our neck of the woods, including the Shawangunk Mountains, Adirondacks and Rumney.