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Five Amazing First Free-Solos by Alex Honnold

From big limestone walls, to classic sandstone splitters and famous granite routes in Yosemite and Squamish

Alex Honnold has once again stunned the world with his most recent Yosemite solo, but his “alone on the wall” time goes back more than a decade. Below are five first free-solo ascents by Honnold that will go down in the history books.

Freerider: On May 3, 2017, Honnold became the first climber to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite. He climbed the 30-pitch 5.12d called Freerider that was established in the 1990s by the Huber brothers. In 2007, Honnold climbed Freerider in one day at the age of 21. His solo only took three hours and 56 minutes. His climb quickly went viral and will be talked about for years to come.

University Wall: In 2014, Honnold made the first free ascent of University Wall to the top of The Chief via the Roman Chimneys in two hours car to car. University Wall has a series of difficult 5.12 friction moves and both routes together adds up to 12 long pitches. “It’s always represented that burly crack climbing style to me. It’s like the hard-man version of Astroman,” said Honnold.

El Sendero Luminoso: In 2014, he made the first free solo of El Sendero Luminoso, a 15-pitch 5.12d on El Toro in El Potreror Chico, Mexico. He spent a few days cleaning it up and making sure the small limestone holds were solid before soloing it in three hours.

Half Dome: In 2008, Honnold made the first free-solo of the 22-pitch Regular Northwest Face 5.12 on Half Dome in Yosemite. Four years later, after repeating the solo a number of times, he did it in one hour and 22 minutes. “Hey, we’ve all gotta die sometime. You might as well go big,” said Honnold.

Moonlight Buttress: In 2008, Honnold free-soloed Moonlight Buttress in Moab, Utah, a popular nine-pitch 5.12+. “The grade doesn’t reflect the difficulty because it’s pure endurance 5.12c,” said Honnold. “It’s a matter of having the fitness for a general, sustained pump.”

Other Honnold Free-Solos: In 2007, Honnold free-soloed Astroman 5.11 and Rostrum 5.11 in Yosemite, becoming only the second person after Peter Croft in 1987 to do it. He has soloed a number of 5.13s in Yosemite, including Heaven and Cosmic Debris. Also in Yosemite, he linked El Cap, Half Dome and Mount Watkins in a day, free-soloing 90 per cent of the big walls. Back in Squamish, he holds the record for soloing the Grand Wall and Roman Chimneys in only 38 minutes. In 2020, he free-soloed the famous 13-pitch Epinephrine 5.9 in Red Rock in only 34 minutes.

Free-soloing can be extremely dangerous and should be left to only the most experienced climbers.