Thursday, September 27, 2012
The video hit the Internet on June 11 and quickly went viral: Rock climber Alex Honnold, who has achieved widespread fame both inside and outside the climbing world for his fearless “free solo” ascents – climbing without the aid of ropes or equipment – slips. Given that he is hundreds of feet off the Yosemite Valley floor with nothing to stop him if he falls, the moment steals your breath away. But Honnold recovers instantly – staying stuck to the wall with a deft adjustment – and as he exhales in relief, it’s hard not to do the same.
That footage ultimately became part of Honnold 3.0, a 23-minute film about his historic link-up of Mt. Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome, known as the Yosemite Triple Crown, which he completed on June 5 and 6 in under 19 hours, 95 percent of it free solo. No one before Honnold had ever even attempted to solo the triple, let alone done it that fast. With a total ascent of nearly 7,000 feet, as well as travel time in between the three formations, the feat dropped jaws and shook heads.
Honnold 3.0 headlines this year’s Reel Rock tour, which screens at the Henry Miller Memorial Library this Saturday at 8pm. Founded and organized by adventure filmmakers Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell, Reel Rock is an annual compilation of climbing films that highlight the most extreme accomplishments in the sport, and has achieved notoriety not just for the subjects on the screen, but for the outstanding cinematography and high production values.
Given the popularity of rock climbing in the area, that Reel Rock would play in Monterey County this year seemed fait accompli, but when Big Sur resident (and Weekly contributor) Gabriel Skvor checked the tour schedule in mid-August, he saw there was nothing on the calendar for the area. He contacted HMML’s director Magnus Toren and proposed the idea of the screening Reel Rock at the Library, and when Toren gave it a green light, Skvor got to work: After licensing the films, he recruited local rockers Mozzo Kush, who graciously agreed to play a free set before the films starts (all proceeds for the screening go to the cash-strapped library, to assist with their county-mandated retrofit).
This year’s lineup opens with The Dura Dura, featuring Santa Cruz-born Chris Sharma – arguably the sport’s greatest climber – in his attempt to pull off the hardest rock climb the world has seen. Next up is The Shark’s Fin, which chronicles legendary alpinist Conrad Anker’s return to the yet-unclimbed Indian peak that has repelled him once before and gives the film its name. A bit of playfulness arrives with the third film, Wide Boys, about a pair of British climbers who come to Utah to tackle the U.S.’s hardest off-width crack climbs (off-width cracks are wider than a fist or a foot, and require very painful jamming of limbs into the rock).
As great as these films will prove to be, few would disagree that Honnold 3.0 will offer the climax, and Skvor articulates just why: “I have this sensation that I’m going to want to hold my breath through the entire thing. It’s crazy – no ropes, no harness, going up thousand-foot faces? Just thinking about that elevates my heartbeat.”
The Weekly had a chance to catch up with Honnold last week, as he was watching the sunset over Yosemite Valley from the inside of his van. Not only is he human, he is humble:
On gym climbing: “It’s super hard for me. There are a lot of 16-year-old gym rats who are way stronger than I am on plastic.”
On rock climber Sharma, the Santa Cruz native who’s been putting up world class first ascents in Spain for several years, setting the standard for what is possible in the sport: “He’s an infinitely stronger climber [than I am]… He’s at the cutting edge of the whole game of climbing… He’s pushed the sport several grades further. Even if I applied myself 100 percent to it, I still don’t think I’d be able to climb that hard. He’s gifted.”
On “The Slip”: “In a big link-up like the triple you have tons of little moments like that. That just happened to be a very dramatic looking slip because it was on film, and the guy who was filming it was like five feet away from me… But there were probably 20 incidents like that on the triple that just weren’t captured. That kind of stuff happens all the time. It might not always be a slip… it might be a hold crumbling a little bit, or stepping on a bug.”
On the heights – or at least whether he enjoys looking down: “Yeah. I think it’s amazing… I love the position.”
REEL ROCK FILM TOUR rolls into Big Sur Saturday, Sept. 29 at Henry Miller Library, 48603 Highway 1, Big Sur. Gates open at 7pm, Mozzo Kush plays thereafter, films start at 8pm. By-donation beer and popcorn, and raffle with prizes from local businesses. Pre-sale: $8/student; $10/general; at the door: $15. 667-2574. www.henrymiller.org