For the past three years or more, Alex Honnold’s life has been turned upside down. While preparing for his now famous free-solo climb up El Capitan in Yosemite, he was completely focused on becoming better at his craft. And once he completed that amazing feat, he suddenly found himself at the center of plenty of media attention.
And not just the normal attention he would typically get from the climbing community. Instead, mainstream outlets, network news programs, radio shows, periodicals, podcasts, and other media that has absolutely nothing to do with climbing were interested in chatting with him. And all fo that happened well before the Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo took us up El Cap with him.
The release of that film brought on an even bigger whirlwind, as the media tour supporting it took Honnold across the U.S. and to other parts of the world. The blitz continued for months and only barely slowed down after the film took the Oscar for Best Documentary earlier this year. Now, as things begin to quiet down at long last, the question on everyone’s mind is an all-too common one. What does Alex Honnold do for an encore?
That’s a big part of a new interview with Alex that was released late last week by ESPN. The climber was recently featured in that outlet’s annual “Body Issue“, which looks at the shape of an athletes body from a wide variety of sports. Naturally, Honnold looked lean and muscular in the photos take by Cory Richards.
But the accompanying interview may have revealed even more. For Honnold, who has chased and found climbing greatness for years, may be moving into a new stage of his life. One that requires him to readjust his thoughts on how and why he climbs as it starts to dawn on him that he now has more to lose at this stage of his career.
Before, it was just the thought of dying from a fall. Now, it’s about the people he would leave behind, the impact that would have on their lives, and the legacy that he has built.
The ESPN interview/profile takes us into Honnold’s daily life, which is as weird and humorous as we saw in Free Solo. He lives with his girlfriend Sanni, now mostly in Tahoe rather than Las Vegas, and wrestles with stardom. He is easing back into his climbing routine, yearning to be back on the rock and out of the spotlight. And yet, the demands on his time remain.
He’s now an Academy Award winner, as well as one of the best rock climbers of his – or any other – generation. Still, after the media tour is over, he is refocusing on becoming a better climber.
He is working on improving his speed and agility, and learning to be more well-rounded. That may sound ridiculous for a guy who has pulled off some of the most audacious feats the sport has ever seen, but it is as much of a window into his psyche as you could ever ask for.
For those who have followed Alex’s career, seen Free Solo and marveled as how far he has come, both on and off the rock, this interview will especially be of interest. He’s still growing, improving, and learning.
His El Cap climb is hardly the end. Whether or not he ever does anything else to rival that climb remains to be seen, but then again what else is there that comes close? Still, there is always something “next” for Honnold and you know he isn’t done yet.
Check out the full, insightful interview here.
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