Alex Honnold makes his way up The Nose (VI 5.9 C1, 31 pitches) on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. Honnold completed the route in just under six hours after climbing Half Dome’s Regular Northwest Face (VI 5.12a, 23 pitches) in 2 hours and 9 minutes. Combined, the two ascents amount to about 5,000 feet of climbing. [Photo] Tom Evans
Prolific climber Alex Honnold broke several Yosemite Valley speed records on Wednesday, June 22, with his one-day solo enchainment of two Grade VI routes, first The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome (5.12a, 23 pitches) and then The Nose of El Capitan (5.9 C1, 31 pitches).
No stranger to high commitment solos, Honnold made headlines with his one-day free solo link-up of Astroman (IV 5.11c, 10 pitches) and The Rostrum (IV 5.11c, 8 pitches) in 2007. Then on April 1, 2008 he free soloed Moonlight Buttress (V 5.12+, 9 pitches) in Zion National Park, a feat that, when announced by climbing media, was thought by some to be an April fools prank. In September of the same year, Honnold completed the first free solo of The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Just this April, he free soloed The Original Route (V 5.12b, 1,000′) on Rainbow Wall and Prince of Darkness (III 5.10c, 700′) at Red Rocks in Nevada before downsoloing Dream of Wild Turkeys (III 5.10a, 700′).
In a characteristically nonchalant email, Honnold described his impressive day of climbing: “I woke up at 4:45ish but it was too dark to do anything really. I think I started climbing for real at about 5:30.” Honnold topped out Half Dome after about 2 hours and 9 minutes of climbing, though he says that his timing was “a little imprecise”–he started the timer when he reached his food stash in the middle of the first pitch, and spent ten minutes trying to remove a fixed cam on Thank God Ledge, 21 pitches off the ground.
For Half Dome, Honnold brought a “thin rack for the Zig Zags,” a short rope–which he never used–and a small backpack to carry approach shoes, water and food.
After reaching the base of El Cap, Honnold started up The Nose, beginning his timer on the top of the first pitch to avoid the “gong show” at the base. In his email, Honnold said that the whole route took 5:49, but is “calling it an even six, all told.”
For his solo of The Nose, Honnold carried a larger rack, a 60-meter rope, and a single “jug/aider.” Honnold used the rope for the pendulum on Pitch 2, and again above Sickle Ledge. He was only on belay twice all day: while rope-soloing to get up to the Boot Flake and at the Great Roof.
Honnold explained that he was not preoccupied with free climbing any of the pitches of The Nose: “None [of the pitches] were truly free since I stood on bolts and pins as much as I could. But I pretty much French freed everything except the first 25 feet of The Glowering Spot and a little section getting to the Boot [Flake].”
Honnold on June 22, 2010, between his solo ascents of Half Dome and El Capitan. [Photo] Tom Evans
Alex claimed that “the whole timing thing is not a strong point for me…I stopped to look at two amazing birds on the way down from Half Dome. I’d hate to have to hurry.” Still, he admits that he “was hoping to break the speed record on [Half Dome], which is 1:50 or something.”
In total, both routes–from the base of Half Dome to the tree that marks the official summit of El Cap–took him just over 11 hours, from 5:30 a.m. until 4:40 p.m. Honnold said these ascents break the solo climbing speed record for both routes, the solo link-up record for El Cap and Half Dome, and the partner link-up record for El Cap and Half Dome.
Honnold’s free solo philosophy is available in the June 25, 2008 Feature.