Do you want to know what it is like to face death directly, and alone, to truly feel alive? Do you need to erase all doubts about your courage to take. . .total. . .responsibility?
Then you may be like Alex Honnold. On June 17, 1971, he climbed the 3000 foot sheer granite wall of El Capitan in Yosemite valley. He did this by himself, using only his hands, talcum powder, and feet, crawling up the cracks and holds of rock face, with no protective ropes, one slip from falling to his death. It took him 3 hours and 45 minutes. It was the greatest climb in human history.
He did it after prolonged training and practice. Calm like a Zen Master, tenacious like a samurai.
“I had deliberately visualized everything that might happen on the climb. Including breaking a hold, or just losing it and falling off. I saw myself bouncing off the ledge below and going all the way to the ground.”
At 2000 feet it takes 15 seconds to fall, enough time to reach terminal velocity – 120 mph- before impact.
“Slipping without rope would mean a long, terrible slide to the ground, plenty of time to process the fact that I was about to die and there would be nothing I could do about it.”
His training was physical. . . And mental. Anxiety is uncertainty about the future. Panic, on the rock, can kill you, preparation is what keeps the future known. Concentration and attention are as important as your hand and feet holds. You train to focus on. . . NOW, and you don’t look down.
”When I’m free soloing, even on the easier pitches, I’m totally focused on what’s in front of me. The universe shrinks down to me and the rock. You don’t take a single hold for granted. “
On the Thank God Ledge of Half Dome:
“I could have looked down and saw my pack sitting at the base of the rock 1800 feet below, but it would have pitched me headfirst off the wall.”
He is built like a swimmer. He is tall, slender, and gangly. His arms are swing low. His torso is elongated. His hands and fingers are. . . Muscular. He does pull-ups with two fingers.
“It’s like swimming in the ocean and realizing there’s a bottomless abyss below you”.
One can get used to danger. He notes that most people don’t realize the dangers they are used to, like pulling onto a busy freeway, where one slip of the steering wheel could mean death.
He choses to live intensely.
On Moonlight Buttress in Zion Canyon: “At any given moment, I had only a tiny amount of skin inside the crack – like half of two fingers – and my toes weren’t on holds, but just pasted to the wall. S0 little of my body was actually touching the rock. There was air all around me. I felt like I was stepping into the void, and yet it was an amazing sensation. I was one hundred percent certain I wouldn’t fall off, and that certainly was what keep me from falling off.”
”Nothing is as interesting as climbing. I can’t live without it.”