Alex Honnold talks with NPR about overcoming fear after historic climb

The entire outdoor industry has been buzzing since climber Alex Honnold became the first person ever to ascend El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without ropes or safety equipment, a climbing discipline known as “free soloing,” on Saturday.

In the days since, those in the climbing world have reacted with amazement — pro climber Tommy Caldwell called Honnold’s ascent the “moon landing” of rock climbing — and fans have clamored to hear how it all came together.

On Tuesday, Honnold got on the phone with NPR (while standing atop El Capitan, naturally) to discuss his mental preparation for the incredibly dangerous and historic feat.

“This route on El Cap I’ve been sort of dreaming about on and off for maybe the last eight or nine years,” Honnold told NPR’s Kelly McEvers on “All Things Considered.” “I mean it’s always been kind of a vague dream, but then it just seems too daunting. And I mean it’s pretty intimidating.”

The route he climbed, known as “Freerider,” is incredibly difficult. It rises nearly 3,000 feet, and seeing as he was without any safety equipment, any slip or mistake during his ascent would have certainly been fatal.

So stoked to realize a life dream today 🙂 @jimmy_chin photo

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Honnold said that to prep for his climb, he practiced the route many times to memorize every move and maneuver necessary to reach the top. But beyond the intense physical strain required, Honnold told NPR, the reason it took him years to attempt to free solo Freerider was fear. This is particularly interesting given that previous brain studies have shown that Honnold doesn’t process fear like most humans.

“It was fear that has kept me from doing it for so long. I mean I’ve dreamt about this since 2009, and this is the first year I’ve actually felt ready,” Honnold admitted to NPR. “And that’s because I’d always look at the wall and, you know, be full of dread.”

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“But then, over the last few years, that perspective started to shift a little bit,” he continued. “And then this last year, I thought that I could do it. And then — once you believe that it’s possible and you start working towards it — then it sort of becomes inevitable.”

Read the full interview about Honnold’s mental processing over at NPR.

Read more about Alex Honnold on GrindTV

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