Big Deal – Alex Honnold Free Solos El Cap

Alex “No Big Deal” Honnold becomes the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite, via Freerider (5.12d).

By Hayden Carpenter | June 5th, 2017

He’s done it—Alex “No Big Deal” Honnold has become the first person to ever free solo the Big Stone. On June 3rd, Honnold cruised Freerider’s (5.12d) 3,000 feet on the Southwest Face of El Cap, Yosemite in just under four hours.

“Honestly, I think this is the most satisfied I’ve ever been,” Honnold said in a post-climb interview with National Geographic. “It was exactly what I hoped for. I felt so good. It went pretty much perfectly.”

Tommy Caldwell called it “a generation defining climb, badass, and beyond words,” and added, “I sure am glad it’s over.”

Alex Honnold – El Cap Free Solo Interview


A post shared by Jimmy Chin (@jimmy_chin) on


Freerider, first freed by Alex and Thomas Huber in 1998, is a four-pitch variation to Salathé Wall and the most popular free route on El Cap. Honnold had been planning this solo for years, and climbed the route many times to get the moves down—especially the “Boulder Problem” V7 crux.

He left the ground at 5:32 a.m. and began his blitz to the summit. Along the way, he stopped to rest on ledges, rehydrate from pre-stashed water bottles, and wake up a team of sleeping climbers on the Lung Ledge—one climber crawled out of his sleeping bag in what appeared to be a chicken-suit onsies.

Honnold topped out El Cap at 9:28 a.m., with plenty of time to return to the Valley floor, call his mom—who hadn’t told about the project—and get in a hangboard workout.

When asked if he had any moments of doubt on the climb, Honnold told Nat. Geo., “Not any real moments of doubt. The Freeblast,” the slabby and slick first 10 pitches of Freerider, “was still engaging for sure. And the first roof (at the start of the third pitch), I’m always a little bit tense there because you’re just starting up the route. And the Boulder Problem was the crux. That was the main thing probably.”

He continued: “It felt much less scary than a lot of other solos I’ve done. Probably all of them,” specifically, “because I put so much work into this one. I was so dialed.”

Honnold has free soloed countless routes in his lifetime, including Astroman (5.11c), The Rostrum (5.11c) and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome (5.12a) in Yosemite; Moonlight Buttress (5.12d) in Zion; and El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d) in El Potrero Chico, Mexico [ watch the video here].

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun limiting my soloing to routes that I really care about,” he previously wrote for Rock and Ice. “I do much less soloing-for-the-tick; I reserve it for special occasions and special routes.

“Ultimately, I think the biggest appeal of soloing is to find my limits, to test my mastery of climbing. And that is a complicated thing, since I can’t push forever without accidentally finding my limit.”


Read Steep Learning Curve: Alex Honnold On His Early Free-Soloing Days


Check out for Tom Evans’ stunning images of Honnold’s ascent. Honnold’s journey to free solo El Cap will showcase in a feature film by Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi. Stay tuned for more.

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