Distributor of Ideas
Staff

Would you ever consider that Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Cap — one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of mankind — started with and was fueled by disappointment? In essence, that’s how the 33-year old describes the path that led to his historical climb on June 3, 2017.

“Do better?” was the note he made to himself after a free solo of Yosemite’s Half Dome in 2008. Nobody seemed to bat an eye when he’d made it to the top that day but more importantly, Honnold felt like he’d climbed that 2,000-foot wall with a lot of luck. He’d done little preparation for the climb and more or less decided to wing it, trusting he’d rise to the occasion. At one point, he’d even changed his planned route out of fear and hesitation and found himself alone on the giant wall.

“I was disappointed in my performance because I knew that I had gotten away with something,” he says. “I didn’t want to be a lucky climber. I wanted to be a great climber.”

And that lesson is exactly what stuck with Honnold over the next several years as he prepared himself for the 2017 free solo of El Cap.

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“Doubt is the precursor to fear,” he says about preparing for the El Cap climb. “And I knew that I couldn’t experience my perfect moment if I was afraid.”

If you’re in need of any profound inspiration right now, listen to Honnold share his story about preparing (and not preparing for) some of the most historic climbs known to man.

As part of his training, Honnold free soloed a Yosemite route called Excellent Adventure. Photo: Jimmy Chin/National Geographic

As part of his training, Honnold free soloed a Yosemite route called Excellent Adventure. Photo: Jimmy Chin/National Geographic