‘Super intense’: says climbing enthusiast of scaling El Capitan without rope

What kind of person scales a 3,200-foot sheer granite cliff without a rope by themselves?

Turns out American rock climber Alex Honnold, 33, who became the first person to make his way up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in a historic free solo climb, doesn’t feel fear like the rest of us.

There’s even a scene from the nail-biting documentary, Free Solo, detailing his El Capitan climb (in Toronto theatres beginning Oct. 12), featuring a brain scan of his fear centre, also known as “the amygdala.”

“It was just kind of interesting seeing how brain chemistry ties into lifestyle — (and) basically (me) needing a higher level of stimulus to get excited about things,” said Honnold, a native of Sacramento, Calif.

I caught up with Honnold at TIFF where Free Solo won the people’s choice award for best documentary.

This handout photo obtained October 3, 2018 courtesy of National Geographic/Jimmy Chin shows Alex Honnold as he holds all of his climbing gear atop the summit of El Capitan,in Yosemite National Park, becoming the first person to climb El Capitan without a rope. – A new documentary follows Alex Honnold as he attempts a free solo ascent of El Capitans Freerider in Yosemite National Park in California. Imagine climbing a 900-meter (3,000-foot) granite wall without ropes and almost nothing to grip, moving slowly and perilously upward for four hours.

Do you have a lucky shirt, pants or shoes when you climb?

“This is literally the (red) shirt I was wearing on El Cap. It’s not superstitious. I just own six things and I just wear them all the time.”

How big of a concern was it that the mere presence of the filmmakers might lead you to make a fatal mistake on El Capitan?

“Over the two years that we were filming that was definitely something that we constantly evaluating. But I think part of what made it such a great experience for me was by the end, by the day I actually did the free solo, the camera crew was so dialled, we had basically practised together so much, that it was perfectly executed.”

But even one of the DOP’s had to look away at times while filming your climb?

“I totally understand. Nobody likes watching free soloing because it’s scary. It’s hard to watch. And so it’s not surprising that he prefer not to. It was super intense. I wouldn’t want to be watching somebody else.”

In this Sept. 10, 2018 photo, climbers Sanni McCandless, left, and Alex Honnold, subjects of the documentary film “Free Solo,” pose for a portrait at the InterContinental Hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto.

Do you still not tell your mother when you’re going to free solo?

“(Laughs) Yeah, for sure. But I haven’t done any big free soloing since (El Capitan) really. Free soloing is a pretty small percentage of my climbing in general. Like I’m normally climbing with a rope. I’m normally climbing with partners. In the last year I’ve probably soloed a handful of times.”

Do you still live in Las Vegas in a home you share with your very understanding girlfriend Cassandra ‘Sanni’ McCandless about whom you say some questionable things in the film?

“Yes. I think that’s one of the hard things for me watching the film, there are a lot of lines in there that make me cringe. Like, ‘That’s grossly insensitive. Maybe I should have phrased that differently.’ I think that’s an honest portrayal of two years. I’m pretty uncensored. And it’s all there for better or for worse.”

Does Sanni’s presence in your life mean less free soloing for you going forward?

“It could be a factor. Maybe we’ll have a family someday. And maybe that’ll change my perceptions on risk-taking or who knows? Though honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if I do less free soloing just because I don’t know what I want to solo now. For eight or nine years, El Cap represented the pinnacle of soloing to me.”

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies