You don’t often hear Alex Honnold say he feels like “a total beginner” on a rock wall…but those were the climbing legend’s sentiments when he set up a new route on Yosemite’s Leaning Tower. Honnold named the line A Gift From Wyoming. It’s a tough, 180-foot slab climb with tiny holds that he rated a 5.13b.
Honnold set out to create the route as a tribute to free climbing visionary and motivational speaker Todd Skinner. Over the course of his career, Skinner claimed many first ascents around the world, including The Salathe Wall on El Capitan and the Northwest Direct Route on Half Dome in Yosemite. Skinner died in 2006 when he fell during a rappel down a new route on the Leaning Tower. Rangers later learned the accident occured due to a worn belay loop on Skinner's climbing harness.
Free climbers—athletes who take on hard, big-wall climbs without ropes or a harness for protection—are a small, niche group of climbers. Honnold became the most famous free climber in the world with his ascent of Half Dome’s Regular Northwest Face in 2008. He has since followed up with even more difficult feats, including a speed record of the Yosemite Triple Crown.