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Thursday June 8, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Alex Honnold becomes the first climber to free-solo Yosemite's famous granite rock and does the climb in under 4 hours.

It was quite a nail-biting climb at Yosemite National Park, in California.

On Saturday 3rd June, 31-year old Alex Honnold became the first ever climber to free-solo Yosemite's famous rock face, El Capitan.

El Capitan is an iconic climbing destination, considered by some to be the finest big-wall on earth.

For the novices, free-solo means he scaled the sheer face of the wall without any safety harnesses or ropes... apart from his climbing shoes and the vital bag of chalk.

It took him 3 hours, 56 minutes, to reach the top, and it seems he took the final moderate pitch at a near run.

At 9.28am local time, he pulled his body over the rocky lip of the summit and stood on the sandy ledge, which is about the size of a child's bedroom.

Now this makes us feel dizzy at PlanetSKI as some of us fear heights and the thought of scaling a 3,300-foot granite wall makes us literally, light headed - that's approximately 1,000m.

His ascent will no doubt be ranked as one of the greatest rock climbing achievements of all time.

Here's a short teaser video below showing Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan:


In this free-solo attempt, Alex Honnold demonstrated a remarkable ability to control his fear, he showed unassailable stamina and incredible endurance.

The route Honnold chose to reach the top of El Capitan, known as Freerider, is one of the most prized big wall climbs in Yosemite National Park, and is possibly the hardest climb in the world.

The route has 30 sections and is so difficult that even in the last few years, it was a news story when a climber was able to summit using ropes for safety.

As Honnold moved up the wall, he pulled on handholds the width of a pencil, he wriggled through narrow chimneys, and he smeared the soles of his shoes against spots of polished granite, all the while staying calm with hundereds of metres of air beneath his toes.

Honnold faced two pitches of steep, undulating expanse of rock about 183m up.

These stretches were smooth polished granite, offering no holds, forcing him to walk up with his feet only.

We understand that Alex Honnold used a delicate technique called ‘smearing' which involves pressing his rubber shoes against the rock to create enough grip to support this weight.

Alex Honnold commented, "At the bottom I was slightly nervous. I mean it's a freaking big wall above you. It's like-it's something. And then on the Freeblast (glass-smooth slabs of granite without handholds), I was slightly tense, but felt really good."

He had to keep his weight perfectly balanced and maintained enough forward momentum to avoid sliding off.

"It's like walking up glass," Honnold said.

A few days before his momentous climb, Honnold hiked to the top of El Capitan to make sure that a recent rainstorm had not washed off the marks he had made with dabs of chalk to mark the route's key holds.

Luckily he found it dry and in perfect condition, and was reassured to continue with the planned ascent on Saturday.

He attempted his first free-solo climb on El Capitan in November 2016, but abandoned the attempt after an hour or so as it did not feel right.

On his facebook post, featuring the photograph below, Alex Honnold commented, "So stoked to realize a life dream today".

Alex Honnold posted this image on Facebook (by Jimmy Chin)Alex Honnold on El Capitan - posted on Facebook (by Jimmy Chin)




















Taken moments after rock climber Alex Honnold scaled El Capitan in Yosemite (photo: Twitter/Jimmy Chin)Taken moments after rock climber Alex Honnold scaled El Capitan in Yosemite (photo: Twitter/Jimmy Chin)

















Comparing El Capitan to the height of SkyscrapersComparing El Capitan to the height of Skyscrapers













Climber and writer, Mark Synnott's (MS), interviewed Alex Honnold (AH) shortly after he completed the ascent on Saturday.

Here's part of his interview below:

MS: You just had the best day of your life. Or you're having the best day of your life.

AH: Honestly, I think this is the most satisfied I've ever been. It was exactly what I hoped for. I felt so good. It went pretty much perfectly.

MS: Did the mountain look scary this morning?

AH: I don't think the mountain looked that scary this morning. Everything felt the same. I didn't have much of a backpack, and the climbing just felt amazing. Not dragging 60 meters of rope behind you for the whole mountain, I felt so much more energetic and fresh.

MS: How did you feel at the start?

AH: Not perfect. Maybe I didn't drink enough yesterday. I kind of had a headache when I went to bed. I didn't feel that stressed because in a way I had already committed to autopilot and just put everything aside.

Walking to the base, it was still quite dark. I started slightly earlier than I had been because I wanted to make sure I was the first (climber) at the base. I saw a bear running away on the walk in. I think I flushed him.

MS: So tell me about your state of mind.

AH: At the bottom I was slightly nervous. I mean it's a freaking big wall above you. It's like-it's something. And then on the Freeblast (glass-smooth slabs of granite without handholds), I was slightly tense, but felt really good.

MS: Has it sunk in yet?

AH: Honestly even now I feel like I could go do another lap right now. I feel so amped.

MS: Another lap on the cliff? Yikes!

AH: I feel so good.

MS: Are you going to climb more?

AH: Probably not. But today is hang-boarding day. I'll have to hang board in a bit. (Editor's note: climbers regularly practice dangling from fingertip holds on a hang board to improve their grip strength.)

MS: So it's still just game on?

AH: I think so. I mean I still want to climb hard things someday. I mean you don't just retire as soon as you get down.

MS: (Laughing) That's the quote of the day so far. I think you're good.

AH: Noooo.

MS: There were a few groups on route. Did you talk to anyone?

AH: I passed five people asleep on the Heart and Lung ledges, but I didn't really chat with anyone.

See the full intereview here.

Strengthening his grip - hanging from a finger board (photo:Jimmy Chin)Strengthening his grip - Alex hangs from a finger board in his camper van - (photo: Jimmy Chin)















All photographs and the video were shot by Jimmy Chin for a forthcoming documentary to be featured in National Geographic.

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