In the climbing community the name Honnold is rather well known. In some circumstances it can be synonymous with crazy, reckless, even idiotic. At the same time it is also synonymous with amazing, daring, even inspiring. I find it rather amusing that the semi-private world of climbing shares a lot of the same sentiment as the general public when it comes to this figure. Those in my life that know little to nothing, or just nothing about the climbing community express a similar same range of emotion when he is brought into conversation. Granted, they (non-climbers for lack of a better term) are only exposed to the exploits that make the media headlines, so that conversation typically revolves around the free-solo achievements. It takes a bit of time to explain the subtle differences behind all of the different styles of free-climbing. Usually, those people have a bored look in their eyes by the time I finish explaining the differences between sport and trad (traditional ) climbing and I have to tell them what they ultimately want to hear: “look, don’t worry, while it’s cool it isn’t what I do. I always have a rope”.
The timing of this piece happens to fall near an important milestone in Honnold’s climbing career: his (and the first ever) free-solo climb of the Free Rider route of El Capitan. If you follow this blog and haven’t heard of it, here you go. While this climb is historical, ground breaking, inspiring, and a pivotal moment in climbing, it’s not really all that surprising to me. In the short span of my current climbing career I have enthusiastically spectated several instances that have left me with plenty of stoke for my own achievements. The first ever free climb of the Dawn Wall, and then having it repeated by another party shortly after. The proposed introduction of the V17 bouldering grade. Locally, a female climber snubbing conventional thinking and crushing 5.14d, making history with it in the process. Globally, another female climber pushing back against the gender boundaries and bagging the send on 5.15a.
The list goes on.
It has been exactly one year since I picked back up a pen and paper exclusive for creative purposes. I felt like I wanted this one to be a bit subtly unique. While I doubt I could have chosen a less-recognized subject, I want to explain why:
The inspiration for this piece comes primarily for what Honnold is doing with his accomplishments, not necessarily as a result of them. In a recent interview on the Enormocast, he takes a break from spraying about the recent massive achievement to discuss issues that are important to him, that really have nothing to do with climbing. He discusses his non-profit, The Honnold Foundation, the reasoning behind its founding and mission and why it is important. In a world where mainstream professional athletes have a public expectation of an earning potential in the tens of millions of dollars, Honnold still lives most of his life out of his van. There is no tour bus, no limousine. At the end of the day, he just really seems to want to climb. That’s a mindset that I can get behind.