A climber pauses on the cliff face scanning the rock for his path, before continuing, alone on the face, free solo – no ropes or harness.
As he enters the crux of the climb he squeezes his fingers into tiny openings while his feet push off invisible holds, essentially levitating up the face. His life rests on those minor connections between him and the cliff. Failure means certain death, being smashed to bits on the rocks hundreds of metres below.
Meet American Alex Honnold, the foremost free soloist in the world, a man so mellow you might think he is stoned, but who has done some of the most extreme free solos in the history of climbing.
Honnold is most famous for his free solo of a 600-metre high climb called Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in California’s Yosemite Valley, a climb that saves its hardest sections for up high where the stomach-churning suck of gravity feels like it is pulling you into the void. On the Australian scale of difficulty the climb is given the grade of 25.
Soloing is one of those aspects of climbing that people struggle to understand – even climbers – because it is so dangerous……….