Nerveless rock climber Alex Honnold watches adventure films with the same awe and wonder as the
rest of us.
The Californian is known around the world for his epic free-solo ascents of big walls - climbing sheer
mountain faces without ropes.
He’s in Queenstown today as keynote speaker for the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival.
And while climbing a thousand metres up with nothing to rely on but skill must take guts beyond measure, Honnold’s still easy to impress.
“For sure, I was watching the ski series at the festival last night and, oh my gosh, that is so sketchy,” he says.
“I’d spent the day skiing at TC [Treble Cone] and was barely in control.
“Then I watch these guys skiing 60 degree faces in Greenland and I’m like ‘that’s messed up’.
Honnold’s most celebrated achievements include the first and only free-solos of the Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, Utah, and the Northwest Face of Half Dome in California’s Yosemite.
In 2012, he somehow achieved Yosemite’s first Triple Solo - climbing, again without ropes, the
national park’s three largest faces in just under 19 hours.
“I definitely think about whether or not it’s worth it.
“There are some climbs where the risk of falling off is low but they’re just not that cool of a climb.
“But then there are other routes that are super amazing and I’m willing to push a lot further because
it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
But free-soloing represents only “about five per cent” of the 29-year-old’s climbing life, with bouldering
and sport climbing achievements equalling his big wall adventures.
And he can now add a Wanaka first ascent to the haul. He found a route up the difficult Chop Suey climb at the Hospital Flat rock climbing area at the weekend.
He’s not too impressed with the schist rock though.
“The rock is sort of indecent but the climbing has been super fun.
“Every crag I’ve been out to has actually climbed better than it looked.
“I’ve had a really nice time.”
Honnold talks at the Memorial Centre tonight, from 7pm, before 45-minute film Myanmar: Bridges to
Change and a selection of short films.
More than two dozen adventure films will be shown at the centre over the festival’s three-day run, with
avalanche awareness, ski touring and photography workshops also on offer.
Session prices vary.