3 Lessons to Learn from Alex Honnold the World Best Free Solo Climber for a Student


Alex Honnold is well recognized as the world’s best free solo climber.
He has successfully overcome El Capitan, a 2,308m vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park that is one of the most technical routes in the world.

El Cap
Size Comparison of El Capitan Against Other Tall Buildings

Where expert climbers will typically take days to reach the summit, Alex achieved in just under 4 hours.

Free solo climbing, also known as free soloing, is a form of technical rock climbing where free soloists climb alone without the help of any ropes, harnesses, or other protective equipment.

This forces them to rely entirely on their preparation, strength, technical skills, wits, and guts.

Here’s what distinguishes Alex from other pro-climbers, and enables him to conquer El Capitan.

Practice, practice, practice.

Alex Honnold 1

Alex focuses a lot on preparation before the climb. Alex has practiced climbing El Capitan about 50 times for 10 years before he has done his free soloing off the rock formation on July 3 in 2017.

He spent 99% of his time on the wall roped up, practicing the moves and getting very familiarised with the route he is going to take. He knows his terrain, the tiny cracks, nubs, indentations, and edges that he needs to maintain his hold on the wall.

When it rained just before the day of the climb, Alex rappelled down the rock face to ensure the chalk marks he had placed to guide himself are still present.

He also ensured that the wall remains dry and nothing will threaten what he was trying to attempt.

How many of you will map out the details of your impending challenges that well?

As a studemt, you can excel in your exams by doing all the necessary groundwork.

Look through all the learning objectives and ensure you can answer all of them without any gaps.

Control the risks you can; anticipate the risks you can’t

Alex certainly has no death wish.

He did a very detailed study in mitigating the risks and controlling the hazards that can be done.

Before the epic climb, he went up with his partner with empty backpacks to remove rocks from a crack that could potentially come loose.

The filming crew also ensure that their presence did not increase the risks for Alex. According to his friend and film co-director Jimmy Chin: “I’m aware that a camera changes the dynamic in some small way, and when the margins of success and failure are very, very thin, you just don’t know what it’s going to be that might tip the scales. Part of being a professional climber is identifying and acknowledging the risks, assessing them, minimizing them, and then moving on.”

He has to think through the possible mishaps that can happen along the way.

In a previous climb, a sharp piece or rock sliced open one of his sole, leaving a flapping hole. In an interview, Alex told ultrarunner Rich Roll in a March 2018 interview. “You may not be able to control them, but at least think them through, so that if they happen, it’s not like ‘Oh, no!’”

Whatever content is in your notes, you should know it extremely well.

Yes, it is true that while questions can vary a lot in the actual examinations – you can’t prevent them from appearing.

If there are many such weird questiosn appearing in your examinations, this just means that you have a badly-set paper.

However, you should prepare yourself to tackle any regular questions whom answers can be easily found in your notes with standard explanations.

Seek mastery, not luck.

Alex Honnold 4

Alex changed his approach after he nearly falls from free soloing Yosemite’s Half Dome in September 2008 with nothing like the preparations he made for El Capitan.
He skipped his preparations and just go up there and have an adventure.

Although he completed the climb, it was not the experience he wanted. “I was disappointed in my performance because I’d gotten away with something,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a lucky climber. I wanted to be a great climber.”

He gained a lot of confidence from all the practices.

Alex memorized the entire route and his moves in a methodical fashion to ensure everything feels automatic and there is no possibility of error.

Alex Honnold 2

On the day of the climb, the weather was not in its best condition.

According to Alex, “but then I’m like, ‘Who cares?’ I’ve climbed on the route in so many different conditions, I was like, ‘It can be 10 degrees warmer, it can be slightly humid. That doesn’t matter.’”

To him, “there was no uncertainty on this. I knew exactly what to do the whole way. A lot of the handholds feel like old friends.”

There are no “hacks.” Alex explained in a TED Talk: “That stuff drives me crazy – that idea of, ‘What’s the ‘life-hack to mastery?’ By definition, mastery takes years and years. You don’t just ‘life-hack’ it. . . . If there were an easy way to do it, then everyone would do it. . . . Some things just require time and work and effort.”

Set up your studying methods to ensure competency.

Not to spot questions and identify topics that might potentially appear in your examinations.

You can be lucky once, but you cannot be lucky everytime.

Alex Honnold 3



See his TED Talk here.

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