Alex Honnold is having the best climbing year of his life, having achieved a dream that for him was a decade in the making. In June, Honnold became the first and only person to have free soloed El Capitan, ascending all 3,000 feet of this granite monolith in Yosemite National Park without a rope or gear to protect him in the event of a catastrophic fall. This feat crowns Honnold’s already impressive resume of big-wall free solos around the world and cements his legacy as perhaps the greatest free soloist of all time.
Honnold’s uncanny ability to control fear while climbing has been the subject of countless videos and articles. He even graced the May 2011 cover of National Geographic. He is also an outspoken environmentalist, vegetarian, and atheist, whose charity, the Honnold Foundation, has worked on solar-energy and other sustainable projects around the world. He still lives out of his van.
“He’s our secret weapon,” says climbing partner Cedar Wright. “He’s probably the best granite climber in the world. We’re pretty much guaranteed to stand on top of a summit with him.”
- Age: 33
- Years climbing: 22
- Number of expeditions: 15
- Nat Geo Expeditions