London - Alex
Honnold, a big wall climber who has conquered a series of intimidating
rock faces on his own and almost without equipment, could on Sunday add
the Oscars to his conquests for his central role in the documentary
Honnold, who was born in Sacramento, California, came to
international attention with a series of solo ascents without ropes or
other safety gear up legendary climbs.
As Honnold, who is famous for living in Yosemite National Park in a
van, ticked off the famous routes, he became famous himself.
In June 2017, escorted by a film crew of other expert climbers,
Honnold attempted one of the most daunting routes, known as 'Freerider',
which zigzags up a 2 750 feet (840m) cliff to one of the tallest
parts of Yosemite's famed El Capitan.
The documentary of that climb, as scary as any horror film, has
already won a British Bafta award and is nominated in Sunday's Oscars.
It has, Honnold said, altered his life.
"Nothing immediately changed in me," the climber told AFP.
"The day I did the climb, it was just like a normal day. What changed
is with the release of the film and the five months talking about it
and seeing reactions to it and time spent talking about the climb, I
think that has slowly changed me."
"It's not as if when you finish the climb suddenly you are a new man.
I think that finishing the climb has maybe sated my hunger a little
bit. I mean, I achieved this big dream of mine and there is nothing else
I feel quite the same about."
In the film, Honnold scales the rock face, finding finger and toe
holds invisible to the camera, some, according to National Geographic
which produced the film, just one eighth of an inch (3.1mm) wide. As he
hangs hundreds of feet above the valley floor, death seems only a moment
"I think I'm afraid of dying, I mean like everyone else," Honnold said.
"Obviously, there are some climbing experiences that are scary and I
just have to manage my fear, the same as everyone else, take some deep
breaths and relax and try to perform anyway but I think the best
approach is to just not be afraid.
Honnold's preparation meant he knew what to do from the start.
"I was just executing, you know it's like auto-pilot, you just go and
do the thing you've been working toward," he said.
"Obviously a little
nervous just because it's big and I've never done it... but mostly just
"You know I was afraid of 'El Cap' for many years which is why it
took me two years preparation just to do the climb. If I didn't feel
fear I would've done it on the first day. If you don't feel fear you just
go for it."
As he neared the top, his mood changed.
"The last 100m get easier as you finish so I'd sort of already
started the celebration, not celebrating, but the last 50m are
pretty easy so I was just like running up like 'Oh! I did it, this is
"Incredible satisfaction," he said. "I was on top sitting in the sun
with no shirt on for like an hour and a half just being like 'what an
amazing day' and we took pictures, all hung out and we were all
Honnold takes pride in the awards the film is collecting.
"Climbing is fundamentally more satisfying because it's an object in
nature that you can go and see every year - it's always the same, it's
unchanging, it's basically like a set level of challenge that you have
to rise to."
So what comes next?
"I don't know, we'll see," he said.
"I would go to Yosemite again in May and go climb outside again for a while."