TRAVERSE CITY — Welcome to Alex Honnold’s world.
Called the boldest free soloist rock climber of his generation, the 27-year California native will be in Traverse City tonight as part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at the State Theatre. Honnold is featured in one of the short, action-packed films, on the tour — Reel Rock 7: Honnold 3.0. He’ll be in attendance to talk about the 33-minute take.
The film centers on Honnold’s mostly free solo climb of Yosemite National Park’s Triple Crown — Mt. Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome. A feat — climbing about 7,000-feet of vertical on three rock faces — he accomplished in under 19 hours.
“This film shows the solo triple,” Honnold said. “I’m not (totally) free soloing the routes. I’m using gear for about five percent of it. But it’s the important five percent, the really hard part. That cuts down the commitment quite a bit since I do have protection when I need it. When you’re free soloing, you’re using just your hands and feet to climb the whole thing.”
The film will give viewers a glimpse into what makes Honnold’s climbing feats so spectacular.
Honnold, who has relatives in the Traverse City area, started climbing in gymnasiums as a pre-teen. He moved outdoors after high school.
“Growing up in California, there’s a culture for that kind of climbing,” he said. “There’s a history of it, partially because of the type of rock in California — really nice granite with lots of cracks that lends itself to that kind of stuff.”
Yosemite, with its massive granite cliffs, became his playground.
“It’s an inspiring place to climb,” he said.
Honnold said he never envisioned taking on Yosemite’s Triple Crown.
“Five years ago, I wouldn’t have even thought that was possible,” he said.
What appears scary to viewers — a man scaling a vertical cliff a couple thousand feet in the air without ropes — is exciting to Honnold.
“If it was really scary, you wouldn’t do it,” he said. “I’m doing it because it’s cool. It’s exciting for sure.”
Honnold drew attention to his skills in 2008 when he free soloed Half Dome.
“I did it in about three hours,” he said. “It was super intense ... difficult rock climbing. It’s basically just you clinging to the rock beds.”
So did this skill come naturally?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve spent 15 years working on it. I don’t know if that’s considered natural or not. I’ve always enjoyed climbing. I’ve enjoyed the whole process. I’ve been climbing five to six days a week for 10 to 15 years so there’s been a fair amount of practice.”
The Banff tour features the best action, environmental and adventure films from the 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival.
The Vasa Ski Club will curate tonight’s event. It’s a fundraiser for the club’s youth Nordic programs. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.