Rising to the top on fearless determination and nail-biting feats
The film ‘Free Solo’ documents Alex Honnold’s unprecedented 2017 free solo ascent of Freerider, a route up El Capitan, the 3,000ft granite cliff in Yosemite
After a decade of living in a van, getting moved on by security guards, surfing on other people’s Wi-Fi and eating dinner straight from the saucepan, life for Alex Honnold is suddenly a little different. In a smart hotel in London’s West End, his huge climber’s hands fumble with a silver tea strainer. “Hold on, what’s this thing for?” he says in a soft Californian lilt. “I just started drinking green tea like a week ago — seems classy, you know?”
Honnold, 33, is the most famous climber alive, right now the biggest star in the wider world of adventure and extreme sport, celebrated for cheating death on pioneering ascents made without a rope or safety net of any kind. He has 1.1-million followers on Instagram and for fans represents something far beyond athleticism. “In a world of BS artists — and in a country led by one — Honnold is modelling something else, a kind of radical truthfulness,” the New York Times wrote in an opinion piece last year.