A reader quotes an earlier one:
Almost all solos are done after climbing the route many, many, many times beforehand, to the point where the climbing is so easy, it would be like you climbing a ladder to change a light bulb.
Allow me to relate a first-hand story about Mr. Honnold. Back in 2012 I was in the midst of a career switch, living in Chile for the winter (southern summer), and climbing nearly every day. Alex visited the area where I was staying and I was able to spend a few days in close proximity to one of the world’s greatest athletes. A new route had been established on a 1000+ foot wall and had been completed only twice (this is significant, since new routes are more prone to have footholds break off, etc):
This is a difficult route of 12 pitches with an overall grade of 5.11c/d (only slightly easier than the Rainbow Wall or Half Dome). Alex began an “on-sight” free solo—meaning a free solo [without a rope] of a route he had never climbed.
The confidence to undertake something of this magnitude is difficult to comprehend, but even more impressive was his discipline and humility. Five pitches up, at the most difficult section, he found the climbing too insecure and decided to reverse the route, climbing back down through several 5.10 and 5.11 pitches. He joined back up with his friends (who were using a rope) and finished the route that same day. I was deeply impressed that he not only had the ability to do the things that he does, but also the wisdom to know when not to.
Personally I was happy to have a rope, since when I climbed the same route two days later, I promptly fell off the section that had given Alex pause.
An amazing, apropos story like this one gives me lots of hope for the Notes section. Other climbers have tales to tell? Please drop me an email. Update from a reader:
“The Radical Calm of Alex Honnold” is one of the most insightful articles that I’ve read about him. Money grafs from the piece: