The reader who suddenly found himself climbing next to Alex Honnold in Chile follows up:
Alex is simultaneously inspiring and polarizing, even within the climbing community. My interactions with him up close left me quite confident he has a long life ahead of him, but I’m not sure the films always convey the same. I’m glad to see you cover this in more detail than the simple shock value of what Alex is doing!
When I asked him why Honnold is polarizing among climbers, he replied:
Particularly when the videos first started coming out, some felt that the attention on free soloing unfairly cast climbing as excessively risky. It accounts for probably less than one percent of climbing activity but seemingly 99 percent of the media coverage (which is understandable). Every climber I know got a call from their mother after the 60 Minutes segment on Alex.
There is also certainly the camp that feels his death is imminent—not an unreasonable position, given the history (Derek Hersey—died 1993; Michael Reardon—died 2007; John Bachar—died 2009; Michael Ybarra—died 2012). You can see some older discussion in one of the climbing forums at Mountain Project. 8a.nu, which is sort of a “Strava” or “MapMyRun” for elite climbing, has a policy of refusing to publish reports of free solo ascents.