Alex Honnold Set To Solo Skyscraper on Live TVby Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Jul/2013
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American climber Alex Honnold is one of the most famous climbers in the world, due to his audacious ropeless ascents on many hard and huge routes. Word is out that Alex is to star in a live TV show for National Geographic in which he will climb a skyscraper. Although the final details are not yet public, it is likely that Honnold will free solo the building.
Alex has just completed a link-up of all the 14,000ft peaks in California travelling between the peaks by bicycle, teamed up with Cedar Wright. We caught up with Alex to ask him about his recent link-up, his recent trip to Alaska and of course, his plan to climb a skyscraper...
Jack: The big link up you've just done - what was that, and why did you want to do it?
Alex: Cedar Wright and I did a bike tour of all the 14k ft peaks in California. 4267m doesn't seem as impressive, but 14ers are sort of an established thing in the US.
Anyway, I've actually always wanted to do a sport climbing bike tour across Europe, but that seems like a long undertaking and Cedar and I didn't have a ton of time this summer. We wanted to do the Pacific Northwest [Cascades, etc], but the weather was supposed to be bad during the time we both had free. So we sort of settled on climbing all the biggest mountains in California. Neither of us had climbed them all and they have big granite faces that make for fun scrambling.
Jack: And did you learn anything on that mission? Or discover that you want to do more of that sort of thing?
Alex: I learned that if you're going to bike 700mi you should maybe prepare a bit beforehand or else face serious knee pain. I also learned that multiple 17 hour days of hiking in the mountains make you really sore. No, but seriously we both learned a lot about bike touring - how to pack, how to pace, things like that. It was all quite an adventure since neither of us had ever done anything remotely like it.
I'm not really psyched for another bike tour very soon, but I'm sure in my life I will probably do more of it. It was a lot like alpine climbing [see below!], something I will probably do more of in my life but will never be my primary love.
Jack: And you recently were in Alaska, doing some alpine stuff? How did that pan out? Any plans for more of the cold suffering?
Alex: Surprisingly, I was never cold in Alaska, which greatly increases my chances of going back some day. Weather wise the trip was quite pleasant and we got to climb a bunch of cool routes. The rock in the Ruth Gorge ranged from mediocre to terrible, which wasn't ideal, but it was all a very good learning experience for me. I probably will do more alpine climbing at some point, if nothing else just to see Patagonia or the Karakoram or something. But like I said, it will never be my main thing. I just like real rock climbing too much to sit in a tent that long.
Jack:This building climb that is going on Television - how will that work - are you roped up? Will you know the route prior to doing it? Or is it onsight?
Alex: I'm actually not sure how much I can talk about this stuff, just because there are so many moving parts in a project like this and I'm not sure if all the details are totally set. My preferred style is obviously to solo it, though we've talked to the building a lot about making sure that they are comfortable with my safety. I will almost certainly rehearse it beforehand, just so that everyone is comfortable.
I'm excited about climbing the building - all the details are between Sender Films, the building, the network, etc. We'll see how it all plays out.
Jack: And it's being filmed, where can we watch it? Will it be online?
Alex: It should be showing live on National Geographic, though I don't know how that works in Europe or what happens to the footage afterward. Like I said above, I only concern myself with climbing well. All the details of filming aren't really for me to worry about. As far as I'm concerned I'll just be climbing a really big, cool cliff [albeit man made] and some of my friends will be hanging nearby shooting video. Which is exactly the same as all the other climbing films I've been involved with.
Jack: One last thing... Are you the next Alain Robert??!
Alex: I wish . . . he was soloing 8a+/8b in the 80s and early 90s. I've seen photos of him doing a one finger one arm pullup off a small edge. I would be psyched to ever be that strong. . .
But seriously, it is kind of a cool opportunity to get to legally climb something so big and vertical. And to be frank, we all have to work for a living. He's raised 3 kids. I'd like to be able to have a house and family and all that someday as well. I can't think of a more fun way to go to work. ..
Jack: Thanks Alex, good luck on the TV show!