At 31, Alex Honnold has cemented his place as one of the world’s best climbers last weekend, when he climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope (or any other safety gear, for that matter).
The 914-metre granite wall has been climbed by others in the past, however Honnold’s climb is unique in its daring and speed.
Where most other climbers have taken days to complete El Capitan with gear, Honnold managed the feat in around four hours.
“At the bottom I was slightly nervous,” he told National Geographic. “I was slightly tense, but felt really good.”
“I didn’t have much of a backpack, and the climbing just felt amazing.
“Not dragging 60 meters of rope behind you for the whole mountain, I felt so much more energetic and fresh.”
The most challenging part of climb arrived at around 700 metres up, where the handholds are only large enough for a thumb to fit.
Honnold credits his years of training for his success (he began climbing when he was 11), saying he began training for the feat two years ago.
“I could see how for a non-climber it might seem completely insane,” he said.
“But I’ve devoted 20 years to climbing and probably six or seven to this particular project.
“It’s not like I’m just some crazy kid who in the spur of the moment decided to do this crazy thing. It took years of effort.”
However, there may be much more to the mental component of Honnold’s accomplishments than practise, with a recent MRI of his brain showing he lacks what could be considered a ‘normal’ fear response.