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Video: Alex Honnold on Deep-Water Soloing in Oman, His 2014 Plans

We recently launched a new weekly video series called Zero to 60, a 60-second edit of cinematic adventure video released every Tuesday in partnership with our friends at Camp 4 Collective. This week’s video features climber Alex Honnold deep-water soloing in Oman, which is the subject of a feature story in the January 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine. Here Alex answers a few questions about deep-water soloing and his plans for 2014.

Adventure: We know climbing without ropes is your focus. Does that include deep-water soloing? Do you go deep-water soloing very often?
Alex Honnold: I wouldn’t call ropeless climbing my focus—I’d call it my hobby. Deep-water soloing is just sort of another kind of climbing that I get to do on occasion. I’ve only done two deep-water soloing trips, so it’s kind of like vacation climbing for me. It’s a fun change of pace.

A: Is the mental game different when you are climbing above water instead of the ground?
AH: Yeah, very much so. Deep-water soling isn’t really soloing, because you expect to fall on each attempt. It’s more like highball bouldering—you expect to fall, but try to minimize the pain of landing. So you’re always trying to make sure you don’t backslap or land on a rock or a shelf or something. When you’re soloing over the ground you just make sure you don’t fall—ever. Deep-water soloing has a lot more going on since you know you’ll fall at some point.

A: What’s the biggest challenge in deep-water soloing?
AH: I think the hardest part is trying your hardest, knowing that if you blow it you might wind up falling sideways from 40-feet up. Sometimes the climbing positions in deep-water soloing can be quite serious, so it’s hard to give a maximum effort since you’re afraid.

A: What is unique about the climbing in Oman? Is experiencing a different culture part of the draw for you?
AH: For sure the cultural side of the trip was a huge draw. Or in the case of Oman, just the fact that we were living on a boat the whole time was quite exciting for me. I’ve never spent that much time on a boat before, so it was kind of an adventure. The climbing was unique just because of the landscape —it was quite a rugged set of limestone mountains just falling into the ocean. The rock quality wasn’t the best, but the formations were beautiful.

A: Have you ever encountered what you would consider the perfect rock formation?
AH: El Capitan, in Yosemite! Clean, beautiful, inspiring. I haven’t really seen much better.

A: You have done a lot of different adventures in 2013, from biking and climbing California’s 14ers with Cedar Wright to alpinism in Alaska with Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson. Looking back, which adventure was your favorite?
AH: Hard to say. I also did a cool river trip, rafting down the Green River in Utah and putting up new routes. I sort of made an effort to do a bunch of adventurous trips this year instead of the typical climbing destinations. The bike tour might be the most memorable, just because it was the most work and lasted the longest.

A: What are you looking forward to in 2014? Climbing and otherwise?
AH: I’m already booking some pretty fun climbing trips for the spring. I think I’m going to Patagonia for the first time. And I’m planning another bike adventure with Cedar, except that this time it might be a joint project with the Honnold Foundation doing some solar work on the Navajo Nation. Basically it should be another fun year of adventures. We’ll see.

A: What’s the piece of gear you take on every expedition?
AH: Probably my iPhone. I guess climbing shoes and chalk bag as well, but they don’t play music or take pictures.