If you missed it, two weeks ago climbers Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell made the first single-day free ascent of Yosemite’s so-called “Triple Crown,” a linkup that combines three of its biggest walls—El Capitan, Half Dome and Mt. Watkins. It took them 21 hours and 15 minutes to race up the nearly 7,000 feet of sheer vertical rock face that included 77 pitches up to 5.13a in difficulty.
But yesterday Honnold did it again—this time alone—and finished in less than 19 hours. He started up Mt. Watkins at 4pm Tuesday and topped out on Half Dome at 10:45am yesterday. Along the way, he set a speed record of 2:20 on Mt. Watkins, climbed El Cap’s Nose route in the dark in just six hours and, upon topping Half Dome’s Regular Northwest Face, finally admitted what everyone’s been saying about him for years: “OK, that was a big deal.” Honnold free-soloed (that’s no ropes, folks) 6,500 feet and aid-climbed roughly 500 feet. And, as if to keep things comically light-hearted during his hairy climb, he forgot his chalk bag on El Cap, and had to drop in on some bivied climbers halfway up the wall to bum one.
To put this achievement into context, the fastest solo of The Nose by anyone besides Honnold (he did it in 5:49 in 2010) was 11 hours 41 minutes, set by Hans Florine in 2005. Honnold just did it in six hours…in the dark…directly after climbing Mt. Watkins’ South Face. That’s pretty much twice as fast—like running a two-minute mile or a one-hour marathon. It’s simply off the charts, and we’re convinced there’s no other human on the planet who can do this right now.
Still, many are speculating that this is only a warm-up for some bigger project. But Honnold, who typically plays his cards close to his vest, isn’t saying anything. In fact, we’re pretty sure he’s still sleeping right now. Stay tuned to Yosemite…and read this Q+A in the meantime.