Las Vegas Sun

June 26, 2019

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Las Vegas climbing star basks in record-setting El Capitan feat


Corey Rich / Reel Rock / Novus Select via AP

In this June 3, 2018 photo provided by Corey Rich, Alex Honnold, right, and Tommy Caldwell pose for a portrait at the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, Calif. Days after two of the world’s most celebrated rock climbers twice set astonishingly fast records on the biggest wall in Yosemite National Park, they did it again Wednesday, June 6, 2018, breaking a mark compared with track’s four-minute mile.

Las Vegas-based rock climber Alex Honnold has crushed another record.

Alongside climbing partner Tommy Caldwell, the duo on June 6 speed-climbed the nose of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park in less than two hours. The official time was 1 hour, 58 minutes and 7 seconds.

“This is special because it’s the climbing version of a 4-minute mile or a sub-two-hour marathon," said Bill Ramsey, president of the Southern Nevada Climbing Coalition.

“I’m pretty excited about the Nose,” Honnold said via text message. “I’m proud that we saw it through to the end and actually went sub two hours.”

He and Caldwell prepared by climbing the route 11 times this season. Honnold says he has climbed the route “25 times or so over the years,” including a previous speed record he set in 2012. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the route, which I think is the most important kind of practice.”

Click to enlarge photo

Elite professional rock climber Alex Honnold gives a talk titled Alone on El Capitan about his experience in becoming the first to solo climbwithout the use of ropesYosemite National Park's El Capitan at The Refuge Climbing Center, Thursday, March 16, 2018.

Honnold is famous for his steel nerves. Last summer, he garnered international headlines for free-soloing the 3,000-foot wall of El Capitan. That is, he did so without any ropes or safety devices — error would mean certain death. Still, even though it uses ropes, speed climbing is not without its dangers. “On El Cap, speed is achieved by using less protection and taking greater risks,” Ramsey says. “You have to be not only really strong and technically efficient, but also really gutsy.”

Just a few days before Honnold’s record-making ascent, two other climbers died in an attempt to speed-climb a different route at El Capitan. “This achievement is tempered by a tragedy,” Ramsey says. “There is a consensus forming that Alex and Tommy’s record will (and should) stand for a long time.”

Honnold celebrated his achievement with a two-day backpacking trip through Yosemite. After such a concentrated effort to the goal, he doesn’t have any particular plans for the rest of the summer. “[I’ll head] back to Vegas in a week or two to sport climb at (Mount) Charleston, I think.”

The Sacramento, Calif., native settled in Las Vegas so he could be near the year-round climbing — from Red Rock Canyon in the winter to Mount Charleston in the summer. Although he’s a world-class talent, Honnold stays connected to the local community by giving lectures and being a regular at local climbing gyms.

This fall, a feature documentary about his ropeless ascent of El Capitan, titled Free Solo, will play in a couple hundred theaters around the country. Honnold plans to go on tour in support of the film. The climber says he’s “probably keeping it pretty chill until then.”