Alex Honnold's death-defying ropeless cliff climbs


I love how all these articles ignore the fact that almost everyone that does what he does ends up dead eventually.

Or they realize the insanity and quit.

I use to climb with some crazy motherfuckers, and I stopped for about 5 years…trying to get back into it and maybe find a safer crew to do this with. Most of the people like this are young, don’t have families, and are adrenalin junkies. When you look at most other sports, almost all of them have safety as the #1 priority and incorporate safety into their sport. Climbing? Always seems to be the guys that are looked at as the best are the ones that decide that safety slows them down and its sad as it encourages others to try to do the same thing. There is nothing that equipment is going to do to stop them from doing what they do – except slow them down a little.

But I guess it is all about the adrenalin rush.


Yea, but so do the rest of us. Linger in a nursing home? Or Plummet to Glory?


Even the most substantial cliff face is in the process of eroding. The combined action of water and freezing is relentless. Then the climber comes along and grabs a flake or knob that pops right off. Also, a climber is likely to get smacked by a falling pebble doing 100+ mph.


Yeah, while it’s ok with me that people do stupid shit, I don’t like to see it glorified. I climb with my kids, and if I thought they’d ever consider emulating this I would stop immediately.

The cool part about climbing is the fact that the inherent danger is surmountable. You can push way beyond what your lizard brain thinks is safe, but with intellectual confidence that you aren’t going to die. You know that a redundant set of eyes checked every redundant piece of gear and that every single piece of that redundant gear would be able to hold up an SUV.

Willfully breaking away from safety culture because it’s sexy is stupid bullshit. You don’t see Formula 1 drivers out there without helmets on because it feels good, and you don’t see pilots say to themselves “ah fuck that preflight checklist, it’s just slowing me down and ruining the purity of flight!”

You’re going to die if you do this long enough. There’s a million things outside your control rock climbing. But it’s fine if you want kill yourself and hurt everyone you love. You’re an asshole, but everyone’s an asshole about something.

Very much NOT fine to do it this way when there are lots of people looking up to you as a role model. Shame on any company that gives him money in exchange for plastering his photo on their products.


There has to be a happier medium between these examples! My dad lived a full and exciting life…he took risks, made it to a good 60-some years…and dropped dead of a heart attack after having a great day.

Looking at the wiki site of notable idiots that died, looks to be late 20s, early 30s that most of them do.

What do I know, I ride fast motorcycles and date married women. I’m lucky there isn’t a wiki page for idiots like me!

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A pretty big sponsor did stop giving him, and four others, money.


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The funniest thing is that you’ll see companies like Black Diamond sponsoring them! I wonder if the tag line is “Should have used the products we were sending over for free!!!”


Cue the NOPE badger!


People die stupid and then recreational areas get fenced off because they are “dangerous.” Also, when the thrillseekers get hurt it puts rescuers at risk.


I have always been amazed at what some humans are willing and able to accomplish, getting their monkey minds to ignore the warnings from their lizard minds. Alex’s accomplishments are amazing, and the risk is 100% on himself and nobody else. If he fails, there will be no need for rescue. For those who look up to him and see him as a role model, great! But the actions you take and the decisions you make are purely your own. If you are foolish enough to attempt what he attempts without the skill, strength and control to back it up, your mistakes are your mistakes not his. It offends me that anyone would call him a poor role model. That label belongs squarely on people like Ray Rice, Michael Vick, Alex Hernandez, Kim Kardashian (and company), Chris Brown, 90% of politicians, General Petraeus… Does Alex Honnold seriously belong in a list with these and others like them?

As an addendum to those who look up to him, know that in most cases Alex practices these seemingly idiotic climbs WITH GEAR over and over again until there is (almost) no chance of error. He builds that sureness under safe conditions, then attacks the wall without gear knowing he has already done so many times. Anyone willing to try what he does needs to follow that same route, to earn the right to be on that wall without gear.

Is it still dangerous? Yep. But he has minimized the risk to a level he is willing to tolerate. His actions have no negative impact on anyone, aside from that weird feeling I get when watching him work. I swear some of his videos are damned uncomfortable to watch!

“He has trained very hard and he is unbelievably gifted.”


“There are old climbers and bold climbers, but no old and bold climbers”

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Well yes, if he’s doing it to be on television, that would make him just one more giant douche nozzle media whore. More athletic than most, but there it is.

Some of this nonsense revolves around the erroneous idea that we can be in complete control. You didn’t have to watch Jurassic Park to know this is crap. But it’s epidemic in our culture, even to people who think that if you get sick you did something wrong. Shit happens, and to choose to die if it does seems foolish. Throwing away safety gear makes as much sense as refusing medical attention.

My extreme sport was whitewater kayaking, and I would see people take foolish risks there too. Land a tall waterfall wrong and you crush your vertebrae. Paddle a steep creek after a big rain, the only time to do it usually, and a surprise tree down in the water could be all for you. There was a WW film a few years ago with a couple with a toddler who still paddled the extreme edge, believing their skill was all it took. WW Pioneer Walt Blackadar died in a tree on a river he had paddled often. Nice essay on sport risk, WW and him here

Just leaving the house we all choose experiences that are not utterly safe, but we don’t deliberately make them less safe to get chuckles. We don’t fly “Crash and Burn Airlines”, known for poor maintenance and pilot training, just for a thrill. People who do this should not be encouraged. My son is a beginner climber, this is not who I want him to idolize.

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If you die climbing, it’s not up to you what happens next. If Alex falls and dies, his family may very well try to sue the landowner. Then the cliffs are closed to everyone. I view free solo climbing as incredibly selfish for that reason – thinking only of one’s own enjoyment, the rest of the climbing community be damned.

That’s a problem with the people who are left behind, not the one who dies. Sure it happens, but that’s not the climber’s fault. We can’t hold back from doing what we love because of what others might think or do.

[quote=“gellfex, post:14, topic:53608”]
My son is a beginner climber, this is not who I want him to idolize.
[/quote] He should idolize you first. As parents we all hope to set our children up for success. We hope that we’ve taught them to know better, and we hopefully trust them enough to make the right decisions.

What do I know, I ride fast motorcycles and date married women. I’m lucky there isn’t a wiki page for idiots like me!

Hey, you’re in luck, maybe not just one, but two! For the fast motorcycle thing…did you grow up around cats?

I’ve read–here on Boing Boing in fact–that there’s a very high occurrence of finding people who died in motorcycle accident with toxo in their brain.

(Oh, and for the “dating married women” thing, there’s this one you might want to at least consider…)

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I used to hear that argument from my friends who rode their motorcycles without helmets. I always thought I’d rather still be riding in my late 70s like my grandparents than die in my 20s.


That’s not a badger. This is a badger.

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