Did Rivalry Inspire Honnold to Free Solo El Capitan?

Before ‘Free Solo’ ushered Alex Honnold from the van to the limelight, he was just a rock-thirsty dirtbag. But what drove him to go ropeless on El Cap in the first place?

By now, nearly everybody on the planet has some idea of how hard Alex Honnold studied, practiced, and prepared to free solo El Capitan. But beyond the how: why? What compelled the world’s most famous rock climber to execute (arguably) the world’s most famous climb?

One theory: rivalry.

This short explainer from Climbers Crag dives into Honnold’s connection to the late (and legendary) free soloist, Dean Potter. Turns out they’re both pretty competitive guys.

Honnold is notoriously low-key, sure. But let there be no doubt that he’s as human as the rest of us, and some of the same things turn him on.

Runtime: 10 minutes

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Jilli Cluff
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Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.

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