Alex Honnold has just become the first person to ever complete a death-defying free-solo climb up the 3,000 foot face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California.
The California-born climber has spent two years preparing for the feat, which he finally completed in a little less than four hours on Saturday.
El Capitan is a sheer granite rock face that is even taller than the highest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. Though climbers have maneuvered the cliff with ropes and safety gear, no one has ever made the journey with just their hands. The cliff is so sheer, in fact, that many of the rock points that Alex used during his climb were no bigger than his thumb, according to the Associated Press.
Honnold scaled El Capitan with safety rope several times before Saturday, marking every handhold and crag with chalk so he could find them during his final climb. For weeks, he would train for the climb by spending hours hanging by his fingertips and doing one and two-armed pull-ups in his van, says National Geographic.
Though Honnold has been practicing for the climb over the course of the last two years, he has dreamt of the feat for eight years. He even dropped out of the University of Berkeley in order to pursue free-solo climbing. Ever year, he would approach the daunting gray face of El Capitan and be too overwhelmed by its figure to seriously consider it. Then, in November, he began the free-solo climb only to turn back an hour in because the conditions didn’t feel appropriate.
But now, as news of his accomplishment spreads on social media, the congratulatory comments have begun to pour in. Rock climbers from around the world have called Honnold’s climb the greatest and most impressive climbing feat in the world to date. Oscar award-winning actor Jared Leto even created a special congratulatory video during a 30 Seconds to Mars concert in Nashville.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the well wishes I’ve received post El Cap,” wrote Honnold in response. “I’m moved by all the messages from friends and the greater climbing community. It’s been incredible. But this text from [Jared Leto] might take the cake…”
National Geographic photographer Jimmy Chin was there to witness the “moon landing of rock climbing” firsthand – and his team’s footage will help to create an exclusive documentary of Honnold’s journey in the coming year.
(WATCH the video below)
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Reprint (Photo by Jimmy Chin)