A Record-Setting Climb in Yosemite

June 5, 2017

Rock climbing. Heard of the sport? It’s the sport of trying to climb up the face of a rock, often with the help of special equipment like ropes, carabiners, and pulleys. One of the greatest challenges of a rock climber is climbing up El Capitan.

Mike Murphy [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
El Capitan is a granite rock that’s about 3,000 feet straight up and sits in the heart of Yosemite National Park in California. Let’s just say that the Empire State Building in New York, which is about 1,250 feet tall is “short” compared to this rock! Every year, climbers flock to this iconic rock for a chance to climb it, but few have ever made it to the very top.

On Saturday, June 3rd, 31-year old Alex Honnold became the first person to ever make it to the top of El Capitan without any equipment besides some nice grippy shoes and some chalk so his hands would stay dry. But if that wasn’t impressive enough, Alex did it in record time: 3 hours and 56 minutes!

Alex Honnold free-solo on Sentinel 2011 photo by Pete Mortimer via @Flickr CC BY 2.0

So how did Alex conquer El Capitan? He didn’t just wake up one day and say to himself, “I think I’ll eat breakfast and then climb El Capitan.” Oh no, no, no. Alex trained for over a year climbing rocks around the world, building up strength in every muscle (including his finger muscles!), and mentally preparing himself for this ultimate climb. He mapped out his climb, climbed it with ropes beforehand, marked out his route, and even practiced the way he would position his body on certain parts of the climb.

How did he prepare himself the morning of the climb? He ate a healthy breakfast, got to the base before all of the other climbers, and just started climbing.