/ ARTICLE: Honnold - The Art of The Dark Lord

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
UKC Articles - on 19 Jun 2017
Alex Honnold making a rope-less ascent of the famous Separate Reality., 3 kbTwo weeks ago the masses were informed about one of the greatest climbing pieces of art that we have heard about. Alex's free-solo of El Capitan - The 3000ft granite wall in Yosemite. I say 'art', because that is how I see it. I see 'art' as an act that provokes some kind of emotion, so in fact we're probably producing art more than we actually think. A pianist smashing out some incredible symphony, a dancer executing incredible moves, a magician defying death, a piece of writing, a painting, that winning tennis shot at Wimbledon - all are an act and if the viewer is interested, they will provoke some kind of emotion, producing art.

Read more
SuperLee1985 - on 19 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great piece of writing, thanks Pete!
1poundSOCKS - on 19 Jun 2017
In reply to SuperLee1985:

> Great piece of writing, thanks Pete!

Yeah, I think it did a really good job of explaining what Alex did and why it was so remarkable. I find stuff like this inspiring, not to solo El Cap , but to put a bit more effort into my own goals.
pasbury on 19 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Honnjedi more like.

I like this attempt to demystify that actually makes the thing entirely more mystical.
1
tistimetogo on 19 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good article.

But can't resist. "there* chosen subject"

*their
9
SenzuBean - on 19 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

I thought it was a really good article. I would like to know which pitches these refer to:

For all those UKC'ers who love a good E grade, the cruxes of the free-solo revolve around two very delicate E4/E5 6a pitches, one tensiony pitch of E7 6c and a long pumpy pitch of E7 6b. They are certainly hard, but in terms of climbing standards, not close to current limits.

E7 6b = Enduro Corner?
E7 6c = Boulder problem pitch?
E4/5s = ?

Could you compare each of these pitches to a comparable UK climb? e.g. "Soloing the boulder problem pitch is like soloing Strawberries"?
1
aln - on 19 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

It's an OK peice of writing, but loose rather than lose? No editor?
16
Michael Gordon - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to aln:

Don't you mean 'piece' of writing? i before e except after c!
planetmarshall on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> i before e except after c!

Yes, what a weird mistake to make, given it's such an ancient rule.
1
aln - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Hoisted by my own petard!
Offwidth - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to planetmarshall:

A rule with more exceptions than examples.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_before_E_except_after_C

Its great to see grammar pedants tripping over their own words; back to Pete's paint analogy its like looking at a painting and complaining the artist used the wrong blue on a bit of the sky.

I've not come across this idea of relaxed mind before, is this a common definition? I guess it's the normal soloist state but when most climbers start to lose full focus on solo and the mind starts drifting, they have a rest. The engaged mind sounds like being in 'the zone': that rare occasion of heightened awareness when things flow beautifully and you arrive at the top of something hard for you almost without realising. Most climbers can't just switch to being in 'the zone', its something that happens to them, just occasionally.
tom84 - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to aln:

its just 'hoist' on your own petard, thought id join in- its the thing i hate the most about the website. pete writes a brilliant OP about honnold and the thread descends into a spelling contest.
sparkass - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to SenzuBean:
I think you've got the first two right, I presume the E4/5s are the 2 slab pitches low down.
Post edited at 13:09
gtwd14 - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Or perhaps his ability to enact such a feat is in part due to the physiological structure of his brain (which has been scanned) and his personality traits:

http://nautil.us/issue/39/sport/the-strange-brain-of-the-worlds-greatest-solo-climber

Even with 'mind control' training I really doubt most folks could switch off the mind as some of the top soloists do.
Michael Hood - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to gtwd14: I'm not so sure you need to have a special mind to do this. I think maybe you need to have a special mind to get to the point were you're seriously thinking of doing this.

The way I look at it...
I solo single pitch (mainly grit) routes. They'll either be easier than my technical limit, or the hardest bit will be low enough down for it to be similar in risk to bouldering or highball bouldering. I also occasionally solo multi-pitch routes which are significantly easier than my technical limit (which means they're really easy ).

So with my soloing experience I can appreciate how it's possible for people who are much better climbers than me to solo routes which are way above my limit but for it to feel as safe to them as it feels to me when I solo. This applies to both single & multi-pitch. So I can understand how some seriously impressive stuff gets soloed in the UK.

What I think AH does, is manage to get an El-Cap size/difficulty route to feel the same to him as a UK multi-pitch solo would feel to a UK climber. He does this by 1) solo climbing well below his technical limit, 2) climbing lots of big walls so that his body and brain are both ok with the endurance demands and the exposed positions, 3) meticulous preparation, and 4) he seems to have a mind-set that is not so limited by what might be possible; most of us would go "no way can that be done" where he's probably thinking "why not" and "how would I make this happen". Also most of us would probably whimper out somewhere in 2) or 3) above rather than seeing it through.

I must point out that none of the above is intended to belittle his achievements, what he does is phenomenally impressive, but I think it is understandable.
Anoetic - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

The relaxed mind concept is no different to when you are playing golf at a high standard. You only need to concentrate when you take the shot, and then relax in between when you are walking.
Michael Gordon - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

> I'm not so sure you need to have a special mind to do this. I think maybe you need to have a special mind to get to the point were you're seriously thinking of doing this.
>

I think that unless the person is completely unhinged, the former is necessary for the latter. It's only because he knows his mental strength that this reached the point of being a solo he would contemplate. And having made the decision, when he sets off on the solo that mental strength obviously becomes rather important...
ashtond6 - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

It's not comparative though. An 8c climber soloing 7c is wayyyy harder than a 6c climber soloing 5c. in so many ways.
althesin on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to Anoetic:
Comparing Alex's achievement to great art is entirely appropriate, although I haven't actually seen a painting to match the breath taking awesomeness, maybe a symphony or a Hendrix guitar riff. Anyway, I just want to say that using golfing analgies on UKC is a bit like the S in Peak, and the E1 in three pebble slab, please don't.
8
ashtond6 - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to althesin:

> Comparing Alex's achievement to great art is entirely appropriate, although I haven't actually seen a painting to match the breath taking awesomeness, maybe a symphony or a Hendrix guitar riff. Anyway, I just want to say that using golfing analgies on UKC is a bit like the S in Peak, and the E1 in three pebble slab, please don't.

Nice to see you have something useful to add
1
Max factor - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

I had a cheeky browse of YouTube climbing videos and enjoyed some adventures with Jacob Cook and Bronwyn, including them on Freerider with another bloke.

I saw very good climbers struggling and falling off, and then I tried imagine doing the whole thing in 4 hours without a rope. Feck me.
Wry Gob - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

Why?
ashtond6 - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to Wry Gob:

If you can't see why then there is no point in explaining
2
1poundSOCKS - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to ashtond6:
> If you can't see why then there is no point in explaining

Despite the fact I'm not exactly sure what an 8c climber or 6c climber is, I think basically what you're saying is correct, but I wouldn't necessarily be able to explain it. I can see why people wouldn't be able to see it. Depends or experience to some degree, and I think an explanation would be really good to see?

I remember watching a youtube vid and the guy explains that when you start climbing, you think that being stronger in the future will make a 7a feel like a 6a. Basically this isn't true, the 7a still feels like a 7a but your tolerance for the effort and pain is increased. This made sense to me.
Post edited at 13:06
felt - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> and the guy explains

Yeah, it's a sort of reverse Greg LeMond remark.
Michael Gordon - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

The main reason I can think of is that, with no further information given, generally 'a 6c climber' is more likely to refer to onsight, while 'an 8c climber' is more likely to refer to redpoint. So obviously a 6c onsighter is much more likely to be able to solo a 5c after practice than an 8c redpointer solo 7c after practice.

If you allow for both being defined the same way though, then the only other explanation I can come up with is that very good climbers climb much closer to their physical limit than punters. So for a punter to solo a route a few grades easier than their top grade after practice, the climbing is likely to not actually be that hard for them. In contrast, for an 8c climber a 7c is probably still going to have some moves they would find pretty difficult, even with a rope on.
1poundSOCKS - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> The main reason I can think of is that, with no further information given, generally 'a 6c climber' is more likely to refer to onsight, while 'an 8c climber' is more likely to refer to redpoint. So obviously a 6c onsighter is much more likely to be able to solo a 5c after practice than an 8c redpointer solo 7c after practice.

That occurred to me, but obviously not a consistent definition, so perhaps not very helpful in illustrating the difference.

EDIT: So to translate...

"An 8a+ onsight climber soloing 7c onsight is wayyyy harder than a 6c onsight climber soloing 5c onsight"

Seems more obvious if that's the intention.

> If you allow for both being defined the same way though, then the only other explanation I can come up with is that very good climbers climb much closer to their physical limit than punters.

I think that depends as much on style as grade. If you regularly redpoint then that's more likely to be true, whether it's 7c or 8c. But it's true that if you try hard, you will likely get better and climb higher grades, and that'll make you a better climber overall.
Post edited at 15:41
ashtond6 - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Fair point. Ok then...
Well firstly we are talking redpoint grades - honnold has redpointed 8c+ and this is considered 7c+

I believe 6c redpoint climber soloing 5c is easier mostly because many people can climb 6c RP off the couch or after a period out if climbing. This doesn't apply to 7c so firstly to solo 7c you already need to be fit. 5c you definately don't.

Amongst other reasons that are very hard to explain
1poundSOCKS - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to ashtond6:
> I believe 6c redpoint climber soloing 5c is easier mostly because many people can climb 6c RP off the couch or after a period out if climbing. This doesn't apply to 7c so firstly to solo 7c you already need to be fit. 5c you definately don't.

Thanks. I thought we were talking about just the actual solo itself, not the prep. I agree though, obviously to get fit enough to solo 7c takes a lot more effort, many years to actually get fit enough and good enough at climbing. And not everyone will be able to get in good enough physical shape to redpoint 8c, whatever effort they put in.

> Amongst other reasons that are very hard to explain

Yeah, and not all of them grade related. I think you need some appreciation of how insecure the climbing on Yosemite granite can be (I've only ever climbed really low grade stuff), and how big and intimidating El Cap is.
Post edited at 21:20
Michael Gordon - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

>
> I believe 6c redpoint climber soloing 5c is easier mostly because many people can climb 6c RP off the couch or after a period out if climbing. This doesn't apply to 7c so firstly to solo 7c you already need to be fit. 5c you definately don't.
>

OK, so the 8c climber would have to be fit
1
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

I've climbed a few 8a's and one very soft 8a+, but there are 7c's that I've done that I could quite easily conceive of soloing safely without a huge amount of practice, certainly nothing like the time Alex put into freerider. I've got a good soloing head but nothing like Alex's obviously. But then the 7c's i'm thinking off are long, secure, sustained, with no really hard moves and good places to rest. I think most people who get into soloing and push themselves a bit with it at some point would choose routes like the ones I'm thinking of to solo. The hard pitches of free rider are nothing like that, they are SO insecure as to make the experience incomparable. To me that's what is really impressive/ disturbing/ amazing about what Alex does, is keeping his head cool on really on/off territory, rather than just having to keep pulling on finger jugs. I really struggle to conceive of soloing anything like that, and the one time I accidentally did, I swore I never would do again.
1poundSOCKS - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to bensilvestre:

> there are 7c's that I've done that I could quite easily conceive of soloing safely

But have you actually soloed any of them? I think imagining what you could do and actually doing it are 2 very different things, for me at least.
1
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
I don't feel the difference as strongly as you do. Climbing dangerous routes safely (whether soloing, headpointing, or onsighting bold routes) is entirely about perceiving accurately what you are capable of, and I think I'm quite good at that.
Post edited at 11:10
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:
But the point I want to emphasise is that to my mind soloing a 7c that just requires being in good physical shape is worlds apart from soloing a delicate 7b. I would consider the former but not the latter
Post edited at 11:12
1poundSOCKS - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to bensilvestre:

> I don't feel the difference as strongly as you do. Climbing dangerous routes safely (whether soloing, headpointing, or onsighting bold routes) is entirely about perceiving accurately what you are capable of, and I think I'm quite good at that.

I'll take that as a no.
Patrick Roman - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

> It's not comparative though. An 8c climber soloing 7c is wayyyy harder than a 6c climber soloing 5c. in so many ways.

Whether this translates to rock climbing I'm not sure, but if you ask someone whose fastest mile run is say, 7 minutes, to run a 7.30 min mile, it'll be more of an effort than asking the 4 min miler to do a 4.30 min mile.

A world-class athlete only needs to lower his mile pace by about 14 seconds per mile in order to go from half marathon to marathon. A club runner would need to lower their pace hugely to double the distance run.

Obviously there's more scope for the club runner (or 6c climber) to make gains than the world-class runner (or 8c climber), but that's not the point. The question was how things would feel based on their abilities at that very moment. The world-class runner (8c climber) is far better conditioned - physically, technically and mentally - to deal with a long hard effort than the club runner (6c climber) is.

But like I said, not sure if the analogy is accurate. I know more about running than I do hard rock climbing!
Michael Hood - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to bensilvestre:
> But the point I want to emphasise is that to my mind soloing a 7c that just requires being in good physical shape is worlds apart from soloing a delicate 7b. I would consider the former but not the latter

Bit like why Indian Face has had so few ascents even though it's technically pretty easy for today's top climbers.

And with respect to Freerider, it's the crux boulder problem pitch and the delicate slabby stuff low down that is harder to solo than the sustained corner/crack pitches.
Post edited at 12:14
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
Oh, it's definitely a no, I don't mean to hide that. But I stand by my point that the headspace required to solo a secure, athletic 7c wouldn't be that hard to achieve with a bit of work and good form, whereas I can't conceive of being confident enough to solo an insecure granite slab of a slightly easier grade

Edit- let alone an insecure granite wall/ crack of harder grade
Post edited at 13:14
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

Exactly
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to Patrick Roman

Sounds pretty intuitive to me, good analogy with the running
Patrick Roman - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to bensilvestre:

Ah, thanks! By the way, for anyone who's interested, Rock and Ice did a good interview with Alex in which he talks about his preparation and how he felt on some of the harder sections on the route:

http://www.rockandice.com/climbing-news/alex-honnold-el-cap-free-solo-interview
TobyA on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Not climbed there but I've climbed a lot on granite in Europe. What makes Yosemite granite particularly insecure?
2
bensilvestre - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to TobyA:

For the most part its glassy smooth, and massively lacking in edges, very smear intensive. I've not sampled the delights of mello/ orco, but its very different from things in the chamonix area, in my very limited experience
1poundSOCKS - on 22 Jun 2017
In reply to TobyA:

> What makes Yosemite granite particularly insecure?

I'm not sure it is particularly insecure for granite. It's very smooth and featureless, and requires a lot of confidence in friction. Obviously the cracks will be more secure.
BrainoverBrawn on 23 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Well Pete, the difficulty you face writing about this is that you could solo it and were fitter to drag bags up the same route. I am interested to read however that after the ascent various people were jumping to point out it is is relatively easy for many bar a couple of serious sections but you come in a state it is solidly difficult across many sections. You have it, but though I was interested to get the media of you ascent it is like who needs a partner when they are soloing?? i'd certainly prefer to see Alex Honnold with a few more partners for safety of course.
3
C coldwell-storry - on 23 Jun 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Liked that Pete.

Without climbing the route and the individual pitches themselves it's hard to comprehend the acheievmemt.
Like Ben said it's the insecure nature of the climbing that makes Alex's effort so outstanding.
The feet on the Boulder problem pitch are aweful. At one point your stood on glassy smears in a double thunderclig. Gulp. It's the kind of pitch you'd TR 30 times fine....then have one slip and destroy your confidence completely.

Imagine a hard grit slab....20 pitches up/in the heat/and with a lot less friction.
1

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.