Alex Honnold cordless on Astroman, Yosemite Valley, CA
While Paul and I were climbing the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, a historic feat was happening across the Valley. Alex Honnold, a 22 year old climber from Sacramento, was making the first free solo ascent of the Regular Northwest Face (VI 5.12a, 23 pitches) on Half Dome. Honnold completed the climb in 2 hours 50 minutes. To put that in perspective, most parties take 2 or 3 days to climb the route (on aid) and even super-strong free climbers take 12+ hours. To my knowledge, this is the first free solo ascent of a legitimate big wall.
This is a mind-blowing and insanely dangerous feat. I’ve written about free soloing before — it’s a controversial form of climbing with the ultimate stakes.
During our climb on Middle Cathedral, I met a guy named Brad that works for Black Diamond. I’ve exchanged a few emails with Brad since then and it turns out that he is a long time partner of Honnold’s and did a free ascent of Half Dome with him two days prior to the solo attempt. Brad knew that Honnold was soloing Half Dome that day and was thinking of him all day.