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January 16, 2013
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Free climber Alex Honnold visits Vail

Professional free solo rock climber Alex Honnold took in the Gore Range from atop Vail Mountain on Wednesday afternoon. Honnold is used to taking in sweeping vistas from high vantage points, but generally he exerts himself a bit more to get there.

"It'd be nicer to ski up it, but the lift is pretty convenient and pretty fun, plus its good for me because I'm a mediocre skier," said Honnold who took time away from a ski lesson to chat with the Vail Daily.

But regardless of how he got there, Honnold was happy to be outside, on top of a mountain, a place he clearly enjoys being.

"I'm on top of Vail, and I'm looking at these mountains across the valley and it's really pretty; that's kind of the point," he said.

Having completed the only known solo of the Yosemite Triple Crown and an 18-hour, 50-minute link up of Mt. Watkins, The Nose (El Capitan), and The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, Honnold is considered the world's foremost free soloist, though from his nochalant attitude you'd never know it. His friends call him "No Big Deal."

He's is in town to kick off the Vail Symposium's Unlimited Adventure series. He'll give a presentation tonight at Donovan Pavilion in Vail.

"Unlimited Adventure is an exhilarating showcase of intrepid explorers, daring investigators and athletes who ignore the boundaries of geography and endurance, and Alex Honnold certainly fits within that description," said Symposium Executive Director Liana Moore. "We are very excited to be able to host Alex here in Vail, and to continue this series with athletes who are the best in their field."

Rational in the face of his fears

Born in Sacramento, California, Honnold started climbing when he was 11 years old. At the age of 18, he dropped out of UC Berkeley, where he was studying engineering, and devoted all his time to climbing, choosing to live out of a van rather than stay teethered to any one place. He prefers big walls and sport climbing, but enjoys any climb calling for extreme commitment, Yosemite being his favorite area because of its impressive walls and favorable weather.

Now, at age 27, Honnold is sponsored by numerous companies, including North Face and gets paid a salary and given a travel budget to climb full time. He spends half his time in the U.S. and the other half overseas.

"It's totally awesome," he agreed.

Considering how much time Honnold spends clinging to the side of cliffs, often times without any ropes, one would think he's fearless.

"Not true," he said. "I'm just good at controlling that kind of thing. I'm good at knowing what I can and can't do and not stressing; I'm good at staying rational."

There have been a few times when Honnold was climbing and got scared, and felt like "it was all about to go wrong.

And even then "it was mostly when I've had a rope on," he said. "Even with a rope on, you get into place where you can't get protection, where even with the rope on you're looking at taking a 100 foot or more fall. Just because you have a rope on, doesn't mean you're safe."

Sounds like a good analogy for life.


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 16, 2013 05:44PM Published Jan 16, 2013 05:40PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.