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Alex Honnold’s Middle Name is “J” and He Prefers Cake

Alex Honnold, one of the world’s most famous climbers, recently answered Mountain Project user’s questions on hangboard training, cookies, the environment, injuries, favorite routes and more.

This was part of the Ask a Badass series from REI. Its a collaboration between Mountain Project and Black Diamond, in which a Black Diamond athlete hangs out in the forum answering users questions.

For more on the HonnoldFoundation visit here.

Below are some of Honnold’s answers to the questions noted.

Hobo Greg: What’s your middle initial “ J” stand for?

Alex: It’s actually just the letter J. My parents thought I needed a middle initial but also that my name was already long enough.

Tristan Mayfield: What are your thoughts on style relative to free-soloing? I bring this up thinking about stories from Peter Croft of adventures completely by himself, undocumented and almost John Muir-like in their sincere adoration of the outdoors versus something like your most recent solo of El Cap with camera and safety lines. It almost seemed like it was the opposite end of the spectrum. To be clear, I’m a huge fan and think you’re doing super rad stuff. I just wonder about the evolution of climbing style in general and also wonder how the style in which you’ve been doing these cutting-edge free solos could potentially effect that evolution.

Alex: That’s a legit question, and I often think about things like that. My golden rule is to try not to be douchey, which means posing too much or making too much of a production about climbing or simply over-hyping things.

In a general sense, I don’t think that “good style” has changed over time. Peter Croft and John Bachar and people like Patrick Edlinger certainly free-soloed routes for TV or film, and occasionally for commercials—and that was back before cameras were ubiquitous. They had tons of “pure” adventures, but they also had to make a living in various ways.

A while back, I counted all the free solos that I was proud of and what percentage were filmed or re-shot later. I’d filmed or taken photos on between one-third and one-half of the things I was proud of, which is a ratio that I can live with. For example, for a long time my to-do list of hard soloing was: Romantic Warrior, University Wall, Sendero Luminoso and Freerider. Of those four, I shot on two of them. The other two were personal experiences that almost no one knows about. I’m happy with that. Style does matter, I do care, and I’m happy with how I’ve done things.

For everyone telling me to stick to climbing – here’s a climbing pic. And here’s something else to think about: sometimes standing up for your convictions can be harder than overcoming physical fear. Being at the Women’s March made me appreciate the uphill struggle that so many marginalized communities face. They are courageous in a way that I can’t imagine, the least I can do is support their struggle for equality. All humans have the same inherent dignity and rights. Sure, some signs at the rally might be offensive. Some might even be vulgar. But who cares?! Freedom of speech is one of the things that makes this country great but too many people have had to wait far too long to be heard. I, for one, was glad for the opportunity to go and listen. Pic: @jimmy_chin

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King Tut: Cake or pie? Also, Serenity-Sons? Is that route combo the best “pure fun” day in Yosemite Valley?

Alex: Cake, for sure. Serenity-Sons is one of my favorite routes, no doubt. I once went to solo the Steck-Salathe and then just sat in the parking lot all unmotivated until I decided to bail over to Serenity-Sons instead. And I once went to rope solo Lurking Fear, made it up four or five pitches, decided aid climbing sucked, and went and soloed Serenity Sons in the afternoon instead. I do love that route.

David Kerkeslager: Your consistency in hangboarding every other day, even on the day you soloed Freerider, has inspired me to do the same (the hangboarding part). What does your hangboard workout look like and do you do any training for power?

Alex: During Valley season this spring, I was just using the Beastmaker app workouts. They might not be the best for fully high-end training, but they were more than enough for me.

But then in the summer I’ve eased off the hangboarding, since I’ve been sport climbing more, and have been using my fingers a lot more. For me, the whole point of hangboarding a bunch in the Valley was because the climbing there isn’t very finger-y, and I didn’t want to lose too much strength.

I switched to doing one-arm pull-ups and one-arm negatives (lowering as slowly as possible off an edge) as a way to work “power” more. But my training is all pretty unscientific. And I travel around too much for a real, calculated program.

Read the full Ask a Badass with Honnold here.

In 2016 @thenorthface started measuring the carbon emissions of athlete expeditions – our Antarctica expedition this winter marks the first time that those emissions are all being offset through a tree planting project with The Conservation Fund. I personally have been offsetting my travel through @mossy.earth but I’m excited that The North Face as a brand is also trying to lower its impact on the world. It’s easy to criticize offsets in various ways, but my basic feeling is that we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Carbon offsets aren’t a perfect solution, but it’s always better to do something than to do nothing and then complain about how helpless we are to affect positive change in the world. I’m glad that The North Face is offsetting all expeditions moving forward. Certainly a great first step. @jimmy_chin photo of @conrad_anker up high on Ulvetanna from #tnfantarctica17.

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